My first time in as UMC service, I sat in the front row to make an announcement (Yepp. I was kind of in AP Methodism, once they got me in the door they let me do all kinds of stuff) and we started to pray and I frantically looked for the little step to kneel on. Maybe there just wasn’t one in the front row? I turned around extremely awkwardly and saw that no one was kneeling…uhm, okay…? I opened up the hymnal and the songs we sang had NO Latin in them. Pastor Sarah said “The lord be with you!” and everyone SAID “And Also with you.” …they didn’t SING it. I was still searching for the statue of St. Mary and waiting for communion when the service had ended. I was uneasy. I was confused. I was lost. And I really didn’t think I was happy about it.
That was roughly four years ago. Since then I have gone through confirmation in the UMC with my little brother, I have been to Glen Lake Camp, read sermons and journals by John Wesley, joined the Student Leadership Team, perfected my Cross-and-Flame doodle, been church creeping, preached in the church, addressed the Annual Conference, became a certified lay speaker, seen the movie Wesley, been called a “Methodork”, been adopted by my Preacher Mama Sarah Miller, become best friends with kids that Grace and Love just drip off of everywhere they go and in the end I finally realized my call into the Methodist ministry. 4 years ago, if you had told me that ANY of those things were going to happen, I would’ve told you that you were wrong and I didn’t want anything in my life to change. Because change is hard. And there is very often an easy option.
This morning, I sat in a Board of Laity meeting. Bishop Mike Lowry (another person I wouldn’t have ever thought I would be hanging out with on the weekends.) gave a report on a Call To Action. We talked about the 4 focuses the things vital churches do and how to equip our churches to build these things. We talked about strong and widespread lay leadership, passionate and inpisring preaching, multimedia in worship, building small groups, and different ways to reach the younger generation. All those wonderful things that are so hard to do but so hard NOT to do, too. Because if we don’t do those things, what are we going to do to stay alive?
When you’re in school, stuff changes all the time. You learn new ways to do math or write and at first it’s scary. Cursive was terrifying. I remember thinking “Whoa…whoa…whoa…HOLD UP! THESE are letters? And you want me to write them…without picking up my pen…huh?” I don’t want to talk about dimensional analysis, because I’m still grieving over that change from Chem 1 last year. Having to do ANYTHING a different way is hard and scary and sometimes it’s sad, too. But now I love cursive. it’s faster and it’s gorgeous and it’s fun.
Our church is changing. The church has always been changing and will always be changing, but right now it’s extremely visible. Lyrics are scrolling on screens on the walls, videos supplement sermons, things are not the same. Some of us see this and we are over the moon for the wonderful ministry that is happening and some of us are apprehensive. Some of us are scared. Some of us this is hard for. On November 13, things are going to change. no matter what is actually decided, things will be changing in our conference over the next year.
We might fail. But, as the Bishop pointed out to us today, as United Methodists, our theology is grace-based and we believe that things are alright even when they go wrong, that anything can become pleasing to God especially with a little work. Besides, what did we ever learn from smooth-sailing? The greatest things that we LEARN about how to do things is by finding out how NOT to do them. So if we find things that don’t work in our experimentation in the coming years, we will be better for our struggles-not worse.
I’m going to be around in this church for quite awhile. I’m in the generation that is going to have to take over the church someday and that is scary, too. So if you are looking at the changes in the conference and in church in general, and you’re scared then listen to what I have to say.
Thank you for making the sacrifices necessary for our church to grow and sustain itself so that when I grow up I will have a place to feel God and to help others do the same. Thank you for enduring scary changes. Thank you for letting me sing my songs that aren’t even in the hymnal. Thank you for putting the words on the walls. Thank you for working so hard to make our conference work. Thank you for giving me a place where I could change and for changing that place so that it will always be there for me.
It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be scary. And, even for me, it’s going to be sad. We’re all going to need to take some time to get acclimated to whatever change comes along. And we might need to grieve over some of the things that are going to happen during this change. But good things are coming, Central Texas, and the best of all is that God is with us.