In the District
Dear NC District Pastors and Leaders,
It’s October 1st and there’s a hint of fall in the air. A cool, refreshing change that holds the promise of relief from the heat and humidity that has seemed to last so long and has been so oppressive. We look for those signs to signal that change is coming, that the earth and its recurring cycles of winter, spring, summer and fall—of death, life and resurrection are still at work offering needed change and renewal for nature and for all of us. We welcome the sign of some sense of normalcy in what has been, and continues to be, a long season of ‘not normal.’ Our patience, our faith and our hope has been stretched to the max with the challenges of Covid-19, of the stark reality of Systemic Racism before us and the chaotic and divisive political reality in our nation. We long for ‘normal.’ We are challenged to examine our faith in the light of such ongoing upheaval.
I continue to be drawn to the prophets of the Old Testament calling God’s people to self-examination, accountability, identity and hope. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet writes a letter from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon. It is a letter of direction and encouragement. Beginning in vs 4 he writes:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
It can feel as though we have been under siege or even in exile as we have not been able to gather for worship or do the work we normally do as the church, the body of Christ. But as Jeremiah called to the people of Israel, so we are called not to give up. Rather, we are called to keep on living our lives, planting our gardens, tending to our families, praying for and working in our communities. We are to doggedly live into our faith and demonstrate to the world and to our neighbors that we are not left to our own devices, that God is with us and there is hope. So many of you have reconfigured distributing food from your food pantries, hosting drive through dinner churches, sending worship packets to children and those who do not have computers, making calls, writing notes. So many acts of ministry and kindness abound! Continuing on in vs 11 we find:
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
It is with hope we continue on with demonstrating love for neighbor by safely worshipping virtually and in person. It is with hope that we seek the welfare of our community by naming the systemic racism that is present among us and within us and working to make the changes that are required in our churches and communities. It is with hope in Christ we claim that the kingdom of God has arrived and we boldly imagine a future where it is fulfilled among us.
Do not give up. Keep praying and working and planting and living. God is with us.
I look forward to being with you all virtually at the upcoming Charge Conferences!