Something Brand-New. A New Thing.
Arlington District Superintendent, Rev. Cathy Abbott, is currently on renewal leave. She has asked clergy from her district to write guest columns for the monthly Arlington District Newsletter while she is away. Rev. Beth LaBella-Foster serves with Our Common Life – an Extension Ministry. Beth provides the September guest column below.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Isaiah 43:19 (The Message)
For the last four years, that is what God has been telling me God was going to do. Something different than what I had been doing, something desperately needed, something that seeks to expand the kingdom of God. Something that remained clouded for what seemed like forever, something that would take me completely outside of my comfort zone, something that would require great faith as I sailed into uncharted waters. A new thing.
I will be the first to tell you that this message of “a new thing” wasn’t really what I saw myself doing. As an ordained elder, I had always pastored at the local church level and loved it. I loved preaching, I loved teaching, I loved serving, I loved the people, I loved the atmosphere, and I even (most of the time) loved the meetings. So this “new thing” message wasn’t really what I wanted to hear. But as is usually the case when God is involved, the message still came.
At first it came as a small sense that, even though I had always been fulfilled by serving the local church, something was missing in my ministry. After a while, a growing sense of anguish over the people the Church wasn’t reaching began to fill the space once occupied by the missing ministry piece. It was then I knew God was up to something and asking me to join in, even though I still had no idea what that “thing” would be. Through it all, prayer was my constant companion. Prayers that I would be open to receiving whatever it was God was placing before me. Prayers that I could discern where the Spirit was asking me to go. Prayers that I would have the courage to say “yes” and “use me as you will,” even if it meant turning my plans for my life upside down.
Finally, and in God’s time, I came to understand that God was asking me to be in community with the group who had been so strongly on my heart during my period of discernment: those who have left the church and those who have never been to church at all. Together we will share who we are, how we see God in our lives, and how we can be in service to the world. It is a ministry completely outside the walls of the local church and completely different than where I ever thought I would serve, but I know it is where God wants me to be.
Our Creating God is always doing something new and inviting us to not only see it, but to join in. As the body of Christ on earth, I pray we all will dare to walk on the roads God is making through the desert as we work together to make God’s vision for the world a reality.
Rev. Beth LaBella-Foster
Our Common Life – an Extension Ministry