As we have encountered the Holy Scriptures together in worship over the past several weeks, they keep reminding us of God’s intention to establish a new day, the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This concept comes through most clearly in the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
We’ve been talking a great deal at FUMC about the future, especially in light of the recent decisions of the Special Called General Conference session in St. Louis in February and the Judicial Council rulings that affirmed much, though not all, of what General Conference approved. Many of our people have been deeply upset by the work of the General Church: Some are upset by the decisions that were made, while many are upset by the lack of voice they have felt throughout the process. Additionally, the realities of our decline in participation and giving have us wondering what the next phase of our congregation’s history will look like.
It’s important for us to remember a couple of things as we experience what the scriptures often call the “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
First, we must remember the good things that we have accomplished together over the past three years:
We have restructured the worship life of our congregation to offer a greater diversity of experience; we have negotiated new partnerships with VISTO and other community organizations that will serve the needs of our community; we have renewed the ministry of Second Time Around Resale, not only doubling the revenue it generates, but establishing it as a true ministry of hospitality that is welcoming more new persons into the life of our church than any other ministry we offer; and we have opened the possibility of reallocating financial resources toward ministry by eliminating our debt.
We should be proud of all of these incredible accomplishments, especially since any one of them could have taken much longer to complete than they did.
Second, and more importantly to be honest, we must remember the promises God makes to us in the Scriptures, promises of hope and renewal even—or especially—in the midst of devastation. The message of hope God shared through Isaiah, for instance, came to the people of Israel in the midst of total devastation during the Babylonian conquest of Israel and the decades of captivity they experienced.
The challenges we face are real—there is no denying it. In fact, one of the things I would argue is that times like these strip away the false sense of security we often embrace when we are able to cover up what’s going on underneath the surface.
We can enter into the future with one of two basic perspectives:
- A theology of scarcity in which our decisions are grounded in a sense of despair and panic; or
- A theology of hope in which our decisions are grounded in God’s promise of a new day.
I am pleased that at our April meeting of the Administrative Council, we approved a proposal to create a Reorganization Task Force (RTF) charged with forming a plan for the future. This group will lead a collaborative process that will hopefully result in what one of our younger members recently called the “radical change” we will need to become a vital congregation whose presence in the community brings a sense of hope in the years to come.
The RTF will be intentionally solicit input from the congregation, both through individual conversation with those who have experience in reorganizing businesses and other groups and through Town Hall Meetings that will offer everyone a voice who chooses to participate.
I’d like for you to mark you calendars now for three important dates:
- Sunday, May 12, at 4:00 PM will be our first Town Hall Meeting in the Fellowship Center;
- Wednesday, June 5, at 6:00 PM will be our second Town Hall Meeting in the Fellowship Center; and
- Sunday, June 16, at 5:00 PM will be a called meeting of the Administrative Council to which everyone will be invited for the purpose of considering and approving the plan submitted by the RTF.
In times like these, the church has the opportunity to demonstrate our faith in the promises of God. This is our new day, friends.
Grace and peace, Pastor John