There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV)
It is that challenging, transitioning time of year again in the United Methodist Church. Some pastors are changing, ALL our Districts are changing, and we are closing our official appointment year with our Annual Conference. Starting July 1, 2021, we will have a fresh new calendar for worship, discipleship, evangelism, and community, and some new pastors, leadership, and membership too!
By now, many of our churches are at least planning their first in person indoor worship, if they haven’t had one already. Our wonderful technological opportunities in this area, including widespread broadband, have made our ability to worship online very vibrant and personal – I hope we don’t lose that ability. Many plans for hybrid style worship, both online and in person, are crossing my desk, and we just finished a round of grants to help with some digital evangelism plans. I have also been delighted to be preaching without a mask, now that I am fully vaccinated! Maybe I’ll be in your church worship soon?
No, we will never go back to ‘normal’ – we have a “new normal”, or even a “new abnormal”, as one of my favorite new podcasts calls it. Moving into this new season, as District Superintendent of both Arlington and Alexandria, I hope to be able to use some of our new ways to stay connected, streamline administration, and get resources into the local churches. While we may have less in person work, we hope to make the work we do face to face more vital and purposeful, so that it is worthy of all your time and effort.
What will not be changing is our theme of Leading in Love. We will continue to emphasize that our love for our communities and those that don’t yet know God’s love will always be our focus. We will continue to lead in love, a love that directs us to work cross racially and cross culturally, across languages and with those in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as with anyone who desires to know more about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Church, and the God we represent, is for all – and leading in love means ALL! That is not seasonal or changeable – it is who we are, and how God is shaping us.
I pray for you, your church, our clergy and our lay leadership as our season of change and transition begins – may the journeys be blessed, and may we see the fingerprints of God all over Northern Virginia.
As always, stay calm, stay connected, and stay focused on God’s mission!