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MI Conference following God’s lead

Michigan Conference following God

This is the third of three in a series of blogs by the Rev. Paul Perez, Director of Connectional Ministry for The Michigan Conference. He addresses the Strategic Directions of the UMC in the state.

PAUL PEREZ
Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference

This month I celebrated my one-year anniversary on the job as your Director of Connectional Ministry.

My, how time flies! And yet, how long ago a year feels.

Over the past year, the Strategic Task Force’s document has guided my work. I’ve used this blog space to reflect on the document’s missional and connectional challenges and vision these past two months.

The missional and connectional challenges – pandemic, racism, changing attitudes to institutional religion, denominational membership, financial decline, and eventual denominational split –are large enough and unresolvable enough to bring us to the admission of our own finitude and need for God’s infinite grace.

The encounter with God’s infinite grace does not leave us the same; it re-founds our lives, personally and communally. So, following the document’s vision, I suggest we Michigan United Methodists find ourselves in a re-founding moment where God is raising up ministries deepening the love of God and neighbor, compassionately meeting people in the intensities of life, and focusing on the most vulnerable among us first.

This month we conclude with the document’s Strategic Direction — sharing God’s love, building beloved community, developing leaders, and financial sustainability. These directions,  I want to suggest further, are processes or ways of responding to God’s gracious action among us Michigan United Methodists or, to put it in other words, follow God’s lead.

As DCM over the past year, I’ve seen many opportunities to follow this lead emerge. As I write this blog, three come to mind. There are certainly others, but I share these as examples: Ministry Incubation, French UMC, and Disaster Recovery Ministries. You can learn more about each by following the links. In each case, I sense Michigan United Methodists are discerning the next right “act of love” and then joining together to make it a reality.

They also exemplify what I consider the unique tasks of the Conference — forming leaders for ministry, forming faith communities, forming shared ministries that no one faith community could do on its own, by sharing our common resources.

Our Conference’s Ministry Incubation cohorts offer training, community, and coaching to young leaders discerning and incubating creative ministries. French UMC is a new church start supported by Conference staff and leaders in ministry with immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from French-speaking countries. Our Conference is the only organization in Michigan providing Disaster Case Management to communities recovering from flooding. Each of these examples uniquely shares God’s love, builds beloved community, develops leaders, seeks financial sustainability, and sparks generous sharing of resources within and outside United Methodism.

Forming leaders for ministry in the 21st century, forming a faith community in ministry with a vulnerable community, forming a shared ministry no one is doing in Michigan and no one church could do on their own – this, in my estimation, is the future of Michigan United Methodism’s shared life and ministry together. Following God through the challenges of pandemic, racism, and denominational decline and strife. Faithfully and joyfully responding to the next right “act of love” God is calling us to. This is what it means, for me, for us to re-found ourselves as a Conference.