Fellow disciples in the Desert Southwest Conference and beyond,
Happy New Year!
Much joy and excitement surround the beginning of a new season. There is a renewed sense of hope and anticipation of possibilities. There is newness and freshness that is life-giving.
Yet there is also anxiety, fear, and grief that come with new beginnings. The transitions could feel unsettling, the unknowns could be unnerving, and the farewells will need time for processing and healing.
11 days ago, I crossed the threshold and officially assumed my role as your episcopal leader in the Desert Southwest Conference, having been elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church in November. I have stepped in with hope and joy and am thoroughly relishing getting to know people and starting the work with the different teams! It has been heart-warming.
Yet I will be honest and acknowledge that part of my heart is also unsettled, unnerved, and still processing. It has been a whirlwind month of goodbyes, figuring out the logistics of the move and onboarding conversations on top of celebrating the holidays. As I write this, I am still in our home in Alaska, working remotely until I fly to Phoenix on Saturday, as there are a number of transitional pieces for our family that necessitates my presence here. And while my previous ministry roles have prepared me well for the role of bishop, there is still much to learn, and the curve is steep. I have also been mindful of many “lasts” that I did in November and December and that new rhythms of life are about to be formed. There is also grief in that.
I am not sharing this to say I am having second thoughts about this call, for it is stronger than ever. I share this to be fully transparent and to give a word of hope.
Last Sunday, we concelebrated the Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord. In the Epiphany, we were reminded of the Magi who, being warned in a dream, were invited to start a new journey by another, possibly unknown road. A new beginning that brought both a sense of hope that they were following a call and saving a life but also had many unknowns.
In the Baptism of our Lord, we find Jesus about to begin his public ministry, a radical departure from his previous life as the son of a carpenter. I would like to believe that while there was excitement in him, there were also feelings of fear and anxiety about what was in store. And so to him, coming to be baptized was so important, not for the ritual act but for the affirming words that he heard after he broke the waters:
“You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
These words remind me of the affirming words of Mufasa to Simba in the movie, The Lion King, when Simba later found himself at an important threshold of life and anxious to proceed:
“Remember who you are!”
Before I left for the Western Jurisdictional Conference in Salt Lake City in November, I scheduled an appointment at our local tattoo parlor for when I got back. I needed an indelible message affirming me if I didn’t get elected and grounding me if I did. These words continue to speak to me every day.
Friend, what threshold do you find yourself in this new year? Know that I join you in your joy, hope, and anticipation! But I also join you in your grief, fear, and anxiety. May God’s words to Jesus at his baptism speak to us:
“You are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased!”
Remember who you are!
With hope and joy,