More wisdom for leading in this time

May 28, 2019

We recently asked some clergy in our conference, “How are you living and leading during this uncertain time in The United Methodist Church?” Their responses were beautiful and thoughtful. All of them provide helpful wisdom for being church at such a time as this. Half of the responses were shared last week, and the other half are shared here. How are you living and leading during this time? Email so we can feature your wisdom in a future article or newsletter.
Rev. Paul Woolverton Jr., Bethlehem UMC (Hutchinson):
“God has always been about radical hospitality and transformative love and grace! Personally, I have felt the timing within our own United Methodist system has been interesting. During Lent, we were recalling the abuse of certain religious and power systems and the extent to which those systems will go to hold onto control, causing a blindness from being able to see something new about God’s desire for humanity. And then moving through Easter, celebrating resurrection—new life and possibility in the face of death, overcoming all that would try to hold it back to no avail! So I see the results of the special session of General Conference being a reminder of that part of ourselves that tries to hold back the surge of the grace-filled love God is bringing to our world, and new life, new outlook, new hope, and new call to love everyone is rising up as a huge groundswell that cannot be stopped—because it is a God thing! So, locally, we have been preaching good news of grace and love for all—an ongoing Easter message of life beyond death. This is our mission: to love unconditionally! And we are reminding those who are struggling that it is time to trust and lean into our faith, that this God who can bring about such amazing transformative miracles is the same God who can also change our hearts to love more openly and to give us eyes to see more clearly the face of the Christ in one another. And whenever we question, we only need to look around and see God’s transformative love at work everywhere.”

Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, Christ UMC (Rochester):
“During a sermon following the Judicial Council decision, I named the almost-relief of no longer needing to pretend that we are a united church. With clarity comes energy for the building of the new. In the midst of the chaos of that creation, Jesus continues to arrive at our church. On a recent Wednesday night community meal, a family of eight arrived. They are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their interpreter explained that they had been living in a refugee camp in Tanzania since 1996. The only life the children know is the life of a refugee camp. Two days after leaving that place, with Swahili as their only language, they are now residents of Rochester, Minnesota. After the interpreter introduced me, the father took out a carefully folded piece of paper to show me that all eight of his family’s names are listed on a baptismal certificate with a United Methodist cross and flame on it. In all of the overwhelming challenge of their journey, that piece of paper was sacred passport. A man and his wife had the courage to move their family to a life built upon promise. In the many things needed for that to happen, he carried with him a reminder and proclamation: He and his loves are part of a global movement proclaiming release to the captives and good news meant to be shared with all people. So they reminded me. So Christ United Methodist Church seeks to do—perhaps most especially in liminal time.”

Rev. Kali Christensen, Communities of Faith Parish (Clarissa, Clotho, and Eagle Bend):
“I stay focused on relationship...with God and with others. I think we are being refined. Are we the people we say we are—open in our hearts and minds and through our doors? This is an opportunity to evaluate, to take an inventory, to really get to know one another and see each other as children of God, not as labels. I stay in today striving to live and lead by the golden rule.”

Rev. Steve Richards, Messiah UMC (Plymouth):
“The people of Messiah Church are keenly aware of the denominational debate with many expressing bewilderment that in 2019 we are even having such a debate. And yet, not everyone agrees on the outcomes. My role has been to provide clarity on what happened at General Conference and the subsequent Judicial Council decisions. I am careful not to promise what will happen in the future. Instead, we are focusing on what we can control—which is who we are as a congregation. Through the years, my statement has been “everyone is welcome here.” Two of the worship services in April were devoted to this theme. We printed our own signs, purposefully branding a message of inclusivity. We have been clear that it is not necessary to agree on biblical interpretation or specific beliefs. Even those who disagree are welcome here as long as everyone is treated as a person of sacred worth who is loved by God and loved by Messiah Church. We want to broaden our statement to include racial, ethnic, age, gender, political, theological, and yes, sexual orientation differences. There is certainly a nervousness about the future and the implications for Messiah Church. And not everyone is willing to wait. Some on both sides of the LGBTQ debate have left to find another church. But the overwhelming majority see the value in remaining together.”

Rev. Kevin Fox, Freshwaters UMC (Princeton):
“We have been encouraged by Bishop Ough to lead boldly and courageously as we seek to live out our evangelical task. As pastor of Freshwaters, I can truly say that we are striving to do exactly that as we are moving forward with the consolidation of our three-campus ministry into one location for the purpose of developing a truly unified, mission-minded congregation. Our purpose is to come together so that we can be strong in developing relationships around the person of Jesus Christ and multiplying that mission beyond our walls. Our vision scripture is John 4:14; our mission is to be the place where men, women, children, and families burned out with life can find real relationships and refreshment for life—so much so that they, too, go out with fresh living water, as the woman at the well, to share the experience of meeting Jesus Christ. No matter what happens, despite the shifting sands of the culture, we stand on Jesus Christ who is always our solid rock!”

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