|"Precious memories, unseen angels, sent from somewhere to my soul; how they linger, ever near me, and the sacred past unfold. Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul; in the stillness of the midnight, precious, sacred scenes unfold." (Music and lyrics by J.B.F. Wright, 1925)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
Even now I can close my eyes and again hear my mother, Dorothy, singing this hymn as tears of joy roll down her cheeks. It’s that kind of a song. Eight years of memories as your bishop recently have flooded my soul and, just like my mother, I am moved to tears as I recall the journey that has brought me to today.
In the July 23, 2004, Contact, published right after my election to the episcopacy, the front-page
headline boldly proclaimed: "Bishop Hayes assigned to Oklahoma Area." In the next issue, the top headline announced, "Statewide gathering welcomes Bishop Hayes." And in a November edition that year, the front page reported my enthusiastic proclamation that being in Oklahoma "feels like home."
I vividly recall the joy Dee and I experienced as we visited churches and met the people called United Methodists throughout this great state during those first weeks and months. Every night before bed, I praised God for the blessing of being assigned to a place I have loved from the moment I arrived.
Fast-forward with me to July 20, 2012. That night in Oklahoma City also will be forever etched in my memory. At the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, an official called out my assignment for 2013-2016: "Robert Hayes, the Oklahoma Area!" Suddenly I realized I had been blessed yet again. Moments later, the words I shared with the Oklahoma delegations were, "My joy has been fulfilled!"
That announcement ensures I will complete my ministry career here with you in Oklahoma. It is so reassuring to know those four years of my episcopacy service will be spent among people who have shown me and my wife extraordinary kindness and genuine Christian love.
I never will forget the celebration at the 2012 Oklahoma Annual Conference in late May and the overwhelming support demonstrated going into the July jurisdictional conference.
The amazing extent of your thoughtfulness
makes me determined that this third term will be the best in my 12-year episcopacy.
I resolve to continue giving you all I have to offer, for I have discovered that in the giving I receive so much from all of you.
In my sermon given at my Investiture Service on Oct. 17, 2004, I said, "I come to you today in the spirit of cooperation, hoping to build bridges, to open some doors, to establish new relationships, to mend some fences… to heal and restore anyone who may be wounded or hurt.
I want this episcopacy to build up the body of Christ; to bind together those disciples who support and serve the church through their prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service.
"And lastly, I want you to identify me as a child of God who can proudly look you in the face and say to each and every one of you: I love you, and there is nothing you can do about it!"
Moving forward into this next chapter that God is writing through us, I know there are many people whose path I have yet to cross, who need to hear a healing word from our Lord, and who are seeking to be
made whole. Again, I thank God for allowing me to be here! I still have many churches to visit, many sermons to preach, more bridges to build, doors to open, relationships to establish, and fences to mend…
I am aware there are churches of all sizes concerned about their futures while treasuring the memo-
ries and guiding principles given to us by those who came before us.
Today I say to all of you: Don’t give up! Don’t give in to the forces that seek to undo what has been accomplished by those who introduced us to a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, by those faithful followers who also sacrificed for us.
There is so much to do, plenty to accomplish! My sleeves are rolled up for God’s work! I invite each of you to join me in our ongoing crusade of discovery, seeking the paths God lays out for us and following with enthusiasm, excitement, obedience, and joy. Oklahoma, it’s good to be back!
I repeat what I said in 2004: "I love you!" And this time I add that the last eight years have proven you have chosen to love me in return. Thank you, and may God bless you all!