Sunday, April 21, 2013

A special kind of shepherd

Today my ward was combined with another ward and my bishopric was released. It's the fifth time in two years my ward has been shuffled to another building. Salt Lake singles wards tend to be quite a bit larger than BYU wards—alas, the ward boundaries actually cover more than half a block—but the Union YSA ward is one of the runts of the singles wards in the Salt Lake Valley, though its fierce "unicorn" pride makes it one of the more well-known wards of our stake. It's hard to forget the Union Unicorns when they show up to every basketball, football, kickball, and softball game wearing homemade unicorn headbands.

So today was a new beginning of sorts, and was filled with the nervous excitement that accompanies the beginning of every new singles ward. It's impossible not to be excited at the prospect of all that fresh new meat.

As each bishopric member being released, along with their wives, spoke to a congregation of snifflers, I thought about each of my singles wards bishops and how they helped shape me into the person I think God wants me to become.

Bishop Long, my first singles ward bishop, recognized that I was a brand new fish in an unusual and friendly pond and introduced himself to me on my very first Sunday. It took him a while to remember my name, but he always knew who I was. He entrusted me with a variety of callings and helped me grow from scared teenager to a competent adult.

Bishop Dort was the kind of person who could look straight into your soul and make you want to be a better person, without even saying anything to you.

Bishop Davis was integral in my preparing for the temple when I did. He knew before I did that it was time for me to get my endowments, that I would need those blessings well before I needed marriage.

Bishop Ayre, my bishop who was released today, was my bishop during some of the most tumultuous periods of my life. I wasn't well known throughout the ward and never had an "important" calling, but every week, without fail, Bishop Ayre was there to greet me with a smile and a "How are you?" During this time most of my spiritual growth happened independent of my role in the ward, but I never felt like a lost sheep and I know without a doubt that he prayed for me regularly.

Singles ward bishops are a special kind of shepherd. They are given the daunting task to act as counselor, father, teacher, disciplinarian, and servant in a way that is quite different from bishops of "normal" wards. They are in charge of an entire flock of young people who are trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world, who are making important decisions all the time that will affect the course of their lives. Without their parents' constant supervision, it is so easy for these young people to fall off the face of the earth. A singles ward bishop's job is to make sure that doesn't happen, and, in my experience, they do a spectacular job of it. Singles wards are a powerful testament to me that God loves each of his children, and is mindful of the unique challenges young single adults face in today's world.

Today I moved on to singles ward bishop number five. It's always hard to say good-bye to a beloved leader and accept someone else, but already it's apparent that the mantle has shifted. I'm looking forward to seeing what influence Bishop Beveridge will have on my life journey.

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