Brothers, sisters, siblings in Christ,
Yes, change is in the air. You began this journey long before I arrived. You have experienced loss along the way…loss of families who left because change didn’t come fast enough. There has also been a loss of those members who were dead set against change. Change is as inevitable as breathing in and out simply because everything that lives is always changing. We watch it year after year in the changing of the seasons.
It is now Spring, the time of Easter and celebrating new life. This is a different celebration than the new life of first birth that we often experience at Christmas. This is the new life that grows out of dead things. This is the sort of life that comes after a forest fire or flood. And you, dear church, have been on a journey toward life, new life. I am honored to have stepped onto the road with you as you decided to be a Spring, new life, church.
As you know, the Special General Conference of the UMC passed legislation that both kept and strengthened the UMC position on persons identified as LGBTQ. Rather than more fully embracing statements that all persons are of sacred worth, we instead strengthened the position that homosexuality is ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’. Here at New Covenant, we have decided that we will stand in ‘all persons are of sacred worth’. To that end, the Administrative Council voted at their last meeting (in April) to pursue and explore becoming a Reconciling Congregation. While it is admirable to say that we are inclusive, it is equally important that those who have been marginalized also experience us as inclusive. So how do we do that?
I have contacted the Reconciling Ministries Network and they will be guiding me. Some of their first steps are things that we have already accomplished since they begin with one or two members wanting to move a church toward greater inclusion. Our first step moving forward is the formation of a ‘task force’. This group will be the first study and explore just what it means to be a Reconciling Church before these same studies are encouraged church-wide. If I call and invite you to be a part of the task force, I hope you will say ‘yes’.
But before we move ahead too fast, I want to stop for a moment to make a few things very clear. While there are some people in our congregation who are ready for this change to have happened yesterday, others are being pushed far outside of their comfort zones. We must respect both positions as journeys in Christian faith. No matter where you fall of the spectrum, I am your pastor and I will care for and love you as your pastor. I will be there when you are in the hospital and when your loved ones pass through death into the fullness of new life. I will listen to you and strive to understand how you feel. I do not want to leave you behind.
No matter where you are on the spectrum of comfort in this time of change, I sincerely hope that you will participate when we begin learning together as a whole church about what it means to be a Reconciling Church. All voices will be important and your voice matters. Your journey matters. Change is painful. A butterfly breaking out of its cocoon struggles. But the struggle is necessary to the beauty and life that comes from the struggle.
So when you are overwhelmed, remember that you are not alone. Remember that you are a part of this community of faith and that you are loved. Remember that God is with all of us in this journey. And always, always know that my door is open to you and I welcome you. Come and talk to me. Let’s work through all of our struggles (not just this one) together.
Peace be with you,