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A close-up view and a big picture

by Rev. Dan Morley, North District Superintendent

We are deep into Church Conference season. As I travel the circuit and gather with leaders for our annual church meetings, I am able to take close up “snap-shots” of each charge and then see the blessing of a panoramic view from the collection of snaps.

On many evenings, I take a familiar walking route. I head south out of the neighborhood and onto a trail along the northern edge of Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area in Henderson, Nevada. The trail takes me east toward the western slopes of Black Mountain and then forks to the north and up the steep hill of the Powerline Trail. As I climb, I take in the lights of the Las Vegas Valley and the silhouettes of the Spring Mountains to the west.

It is a beautiful panoramic view which is even more magnificent because of the close up and personal experience.

In the church conference journey across our district, close-up snap shots reveal loss during the Pandemic. Membership reports show Covid related deaths. Other membership loss is from relocation due to employment changes during Covid. Other member loss is a result of persons who “fell-away” during change of worship and gatherings because of safety protocols.

When I step back for a more panoramic view, I can see that loss through this past year has been real and significant. I can also see that there is deep care, compassion, and faithfulness within the congregations. Folks are deeply touched by the absence of beloved members. They also trust in the presence of the Spirit to guide them through the valley. I have heard members acknowledge that they have been making the best decisions they can as they try to make their church a safe place while respecting others who choose to separate; knowing they, too, are making decisions which are best for them.

A close-up snap shot reveals many challenges facing churches. Ministries, staffing, and budgets are needing to be realigned because of shifts and declines. How to manage in-person and online worship simultaneous. Reaching and connecting with the online community in meaningful and significant ways of offering the experience of Christian community.

The panoramic view gives a perspective of churches persevering, being innovative, and reflecting the light of Christ in new ways. Some ministries which were suspended during the time of isolation, have been re-evaluated and determined that they have completed their useful life and are now finished. Some ministries have been re-formed into something new and with greater purpose in fulfilling the church’s mission. Other ministries have found new life by expanding into community partnerships. Bell choirs have become a community venture. Pumpkin patches are now a shared enterprise with service groups, other churches, and school sport teams. Plans are being made for uniting with neighboring churches in Thanksgiving Day worship and mid-week Advent gatherings.

In coming out of a period of isolation, many congregations are going out into the community in meaningful partnerships of shared ministries. Churches are discovering that in their “weakness” they are made strong because they are now including even more persons in the body. Being the body of Christ is more than membership, more than location, and more than prescribed beliefs — it is discovering and living-out that we are all God’s children and need to serve together — for each other and with each other.

Through the journey across the District during this conference season, I have seen up-close hardships within our churches. There are many uphill struggles. I have also seen the panoramic vistas which show the potential and the shining light of Christ out of dark and difficult places. I have hope and confidence in our churches because I see faithful servants in Christ reflecting the grace and love, and trusting that is sufficient in this time and for all time.

Your Servant in Christ,
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Christ said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)

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