The Rev. Benton Heisler invites pastors and laity to stay focused on our common mission as we approach the Virtual 2020 Michigan Annual Conference.
Director of Connectional Ministries
“Everything is changing… Yup… Maybe…” Doesn’t that about sum up the current reality in so many contexts? Life in so many ways is a series of “both/and” unless you only allow yourself to see simply “this or that.”
Covid-19 … Quarantines … Murder …Response … Black Lives Matter … State Flag changes … Monuments removed … Jobs lost … Stock Market rises … Politics that divide … The Church confined to “virtual” … People so in need of “real” … How will the children learn this fall …ALL the children …?
We have some work to do people!
I read this past week in one of the devotionals I use daily that, “At the core of the religion of the early people of Israel was the emphasis upon unity. And that unity, always preceded diversity.” You probably need to ponder that a while and then you will begin to sense the truth. It is only when we are most focused together on the common mission that the vast wealth of all the talent and diversity with which God has gifted us truly begins to bear fruit.
We are about to do a new thing … maybe several new things. A Virtual Annual Conference, share our bishop with Minnesota, adapt to continued limited capacities for large meetings, adjust to fewer resources being contributed to local congregations and the Conference, learn to experience “virtual” in a manner and depth that helps it begin to feel “real.”
These are no small feats, but we don’t serve a God who specializes in doing “little things.” We serve the Creator of the Universe, the Savior of the World, empowered by a Holy Spirit that will guide, sustain, and comfort us every step of the challenges and celebrations on this journey.
I encourage us to approach our time together in the Virtual Annual Conference with a great sense of openness, adventure, and kindness. One step may be to not try and expect it to be just like watching a live worship event in which you get to make comments and offer ideas that will impact how the sermon ends and what the final hymn will be. Instead, imagine you are helping to affirm and empower the key elements that will allow ministry to take place in a wide variety of contexts with varying anticipated outcomes in order to address all the challenges listed in the second paragraph of this article.
Linda and I recently attended a wedding in our extended family. Masks were on some of us. Most of us were socially distanced across the pews and then even more so in the large converted and improved barn where the reception was hosted. The barn now belongs to the grandson of the couple who had owned it for decades. That couple had been the first couple married in that church decades earlier. My cousin and his wife were the first couple to be married in the newly renovated church and the first reception in the “new” barn. My point? None of us know exactly what blessing or fruit the seeds that we have planted will produce or how they will influence another generation. But we can trust that God will use what we have offered to God’s glory.
I close with the keywords from the song by Tim McGraw to which the groom and his mother danced that “Mother/Son” dance. “Always be humble and kind.”