- Rev. Michelle Vernone
We Can’t Go Back, We Can Only Go Forward...
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
As we approach Easter Sunday, I find I am thinking on, pressing into the meaning and
possibilities of “resurrection” more deeply than I have before. There is no denying that COVID changed everything. Churches and faith communities made radical changes to continue to do ministry while unable to meet in person. Now, churches and faith communities are struggling to find their way forward and reestablish in person community. But if we’re being honest, churches and faith communities were facing shifts in attendance, giving, and general decline long before the pandemic. Clergy were attending conferences and reading different books that were intended to help us become and lead resilient communities, reimagine “church”, and find new ways to reach people. I’ll be honest. It was… unnerving, intimidating, overwhelming, and sometimes down right discouraging. However, what man intends, or perhaps perceives as, “bad”, God will use for GOOD! This is why I often think of the pandemic as a gift and as a means by which God started to set his Church, as manifested in the local church, free. We can’t go back. We can only go forward and the possibilities are as vast and limitless as the God we love.
As I pray and try to discern God’s heart for myself - who I am called to be as a whole person, as a (your) pastor, as a clergy person in a denomination in process of becoming something else, I keep coming back to our “year of Jubilee”. Jubilee is all about redemption and restoration. But perhaps in this season we also have to include resurrection. We are promised that in resurrection we are made NEW!! Christ is RISEN and we are NOT THE SAME!! Death gives way to life. Mourning gives way to dancing. The old gives way to the new thing God is doing! That gives me more than hope, that gives me JOY!!! The beauty of doing the new thing is that it doesn’t mean villainizing the past or the old way of doing things. It means carrying the best, most beautiful pieces of our history with us into the future. It provides the foundation for the new thing God is calling us to do with HIM. It is our altar to God’s faithfulness to us in every part of our journey and life as a faith community.
Joining God in the new thing doesn’t mean abandoning the pieces of our history that we love. It just means reimagining how we practice them. I’ve heard many say they’re ready for our fellowship/hospitality events and practices again. You know we Methodists love our potlucks. So how do we do them now? Offer outdoor seating? Move them to Friday or Saturday evenings and invite the neighborhood at large as well our church family? Is it time to restart VBS? But instead of a week of 2 or 3 hours an evening, perhaps we do it one day a week for an entire month or the summer and pair it with something for parents? The opportunities to love each other, love our neighbors, love our enemies are as vast and limitless as the God who loves us.
Starting this month, a group of our church leaders will be participating in an initiative out of TMF Leadership Ministry Team called Courageous
Congregations Collaborative. During these sessions, we’ll be learning about different “muscles” strong, vital congregations need and discerning what God might have in store for EFUMC and how we move in that direction. Though it is a small team participating in the initiative, ALL of EFUMC MUST be a part of the conversation and work of discerning. I ask each of you to begin praying for EFUMC specifically during this time. Ask God to show us, the whole church, how God wants us to move forward into this new era of Kingdom living and community. Ask God what we need to release and celebrate so that we can receive the new thing God has for us. Ask God how you can be a part of what God is doing through EFUMC. Ask God to show us what our neighbors/community need and how we can move in that. Ask God to provide the right leadership. Ask God to provide all the resources we need – both people and financial. Ask God to teach us how to dream and believe God will equip us to make the dream a reality. Ask God to bring forth paths in the wilderness, streams in the desert, and JOY as we see God bring forth the miracle of resurrection in each of us.