United Methodists in the state have come through a year of change. Now January 1, 2019 is the official “first day” of the new Michigan Conference.
Director of Connectional Ministries
“Silent Night, Holy Night…All is calm…all is bright…”
There is a new stillness in our home and hearts this Christmas season. It has been a year of multiple changes. Through it all, we have sought to keep our eyes on Jesus and our hearts open to God’s guidance for every step. Change is never the hard part. The grief of letting go is where the human struggle is most evident. Precisely at those most challenging moments is also where the movement of the Holy Spirit is most profound. We have found this to be true time and again.
Joseph and a pregnant Mary, faced traveling 70 miles on a donkey, only to arrive in a town too bustling and full to receive them. That night the savior of the world entered our human existence in the humblest of places and was welcomed first by the social outcasts and angels. (Are they often not experienced as one and the same?) We pray that each of us welcomes the lost and the least with grace.
This year has been full of substantial change for all of us in the new Michigan Conference. Since this same time last year, there have been multiple changes in conference and district office locations, who occupy all those various conference roles in those offices, and many of those same persons have moved to different homes.
Through it all there has been steady ministry accomplished in congregations and through conference ministries over and over again. Thank you! Thank you for being the hands and feet and kind words that model Christ for the world and demonstrate his unfailing love.
“All is calm…”
As we made the decision to move from our parsonage in Grand Rapids to a parsonage in Dewitt, to be closer to the Area Office, we were most concerned about the impact on our two beloved companions, Pumpkin and Rocky. We were stunned when Pumpkin (14) died suddenly and 10 days later Rocky (11) had declined to such a point that putting him down was the most loving act. In their last few hours together, they sensed (knew?) something would be different. They spent it touching each other. These two Golden Retrievers have left a huge legacy of joy, grace, love and were a steady source of “…all is bright…”
Why mention two dogs in a conference-related article? In one way they are symbolic of the change we are all experiencing. West Michigan and Detroit Conferences are no more. January 1, 2019, begins the legal and organizational “first day” of The Michigan Conference. There is much that was “bright” about these two conferences. There are generosity and compassion in their DNA that caused each of them to frequently lead the denomination in total special giving and often in giving per capita. (Please see those totals in another article in this week’s MI Connect). Thank you all for your generosity and consistent pattern of giving beyond yourselves!
A special word of appreciation goes to the staff of the Conference Treasurer’s and Benefits Offices! For the past 12 months, they have managed two separate charts of accounts and accounting systems, all the while doing the necessary preparation for the new system to take effect on 1-1-19. Thank you for your patience as they learned new names, church locations, district assignments and tried to respond to your inquiries as quickly as possible. Please continue to treat them as part of “your team.” They are not unwanted solicitations barging into your home by phone. They are willing servants working to take the generous gifts you provide and move those gifts on to people and places around the state and across the globe where you bring hope and healing and restoration in the name of Christ. Please “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving each other as God in Christ also forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).”
There is a quiet in our home in the absence of Rocky and Pumpkin. It is an adjustment. They were dogs #3 and #4 across the past 20 years. We all knew “just how it goes” in our former conferences. Now it’s time to be the new conference God has led us to be at this moment in time. It will be an adjustment, but we are all up to it. God is up to help us through whatever challenge we may face, heartache we experience or lingering question that drifts through our mind.
There will come a day when we all will “sleep in heavenly peace.” Until then God has given us the responsibility, as disciples, to do all we can to help others experience that glimpse of heaven right here on earth. So, look in the unexpected places, welcome the stranger, give generously, love unconditionally and sing boldly, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”
Stay close to each other!
~ “If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)” Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories, and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.