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Mark’s Musings – New Chapters

by | Apr 21, 2020 | South District Webpage

I’ve been thinking about the chapters in my life. When I was a little child, it was a huge chapter to start kindergarten. Mostly because I had not experienced many chapters. In the middle of my sixth decade of life, I struggle to determine what is the start of a new paragraph, versus what is truly the start of a new chapter.

Most of the new chapters in my life have come with warnings from other people not to do it. A couple of classics quickly come to my mind. When I decided to go to seminary, I was working for a large chemical company in California. I had already pastored two United Methodist churches while I was an under-graduate student in college, which is when I determined I wanted a “normal life”. I had recently been offered (and accepted) a new position from the chemical company in my Michigan hometown. It came as a huge shock to my “big” boss (my supervisor’s supervisor) when I went into his office to give notice of quitting my position so I could go to seminary. Since he was a United Methodist, I thought he might be excited. Instead, he personally offered to pay for counseling for me. He thought I needed help! That was a similar response I got from my D.S. years later when I told him I wanted to go to the Alaskan Missionary Conference. He drove to my church to let me know I would be ruining my career if we moved to Alaska. New chapters often come with critics who just don’t understand why this is happening.

Sometimes we initiate new chapters, and other times they are forced upon us. Either way, new chapters bring change. How do we respond to change? We can either embrace it or resent it. The choice we make impacts the way we experience life during this chapter.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new chapter to how we do “church” in our country. I have loved witnessing the level of creativity I’ve seen from churches all over our country. I’ve watched churches of all sizes step up to the challenge. For some churches, this has meant improving and modifying technology they were already using. For others, they have been immersed in technology they have never used. Has there been any frustration? Oh yeah! There has also been excitement, and a glimpse of new ways technology can be used beyond our walls once we get to worship “in-person” again. Will this help to create a revival? I hope so!

What about the churches who have chosen to resent the Covid-19 disruption? I saw on Facebook a non-denominational pastor complaining about our rights being taken away from us, and the essential need for in-person worship. I have not seen their church experimenting with any alternative ways of doing worship. They appear to be waiting for restrictions to be raised. I’m wondering if they are missing a blessing.

Covid-19 has certainly moved our denomination’s focus away from General Conference. GC 2020 will now be replaced with GC 2021. What will this future chapter look like for the United Methodist Church as a whole, and for our local congregations? Will we embrace new opportunities, or be filled with resentment? We get to choose.

What about in our personal lives? Anyone else experiencing new chapters? Are there new chapters you are dreaming about? I’m ten weeks away from the next big chapter in my life. “Retirement” is the name of my new chapter. For me, the goal is not to stop working. I want to find new ways of working and experiencing life. What will the details look like in this chapter? All of my other chapters have been filled with surprises, so I expect this one will too. I can’t see the future, so I’m going to live into it!

Every individual, and each church, has their own stories. No two are alike. My best advice is to follow the path God puts in front of us. We don’t need to be afraid to go where God is directing us. This is the route to the most fulfilling life, and the most interesting reading! Keep turning to God for guidance, inspiration, encouragement, and strength. Our next chapters might be the best ones yet!

Your brother on the journey, Mark

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