The Pastor’s Message for October 2016

It was a joy on 24 September to attend the recognition of our new bishop, David Bard. Bishop Bard, a native of Duluth, Minnesota where he had been serving as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church, was elected to the episcopacy and consecrated as a bishop this past July and assigned to the Michigan area. One of his major tasks will be to oversee the continuing development of the future Michigan Annual Conference which is projected to replace the Detroit and West Michigan Annual Conferences on 1 January 2019.

In his introductory sermon, Bishop Bard identified four marks of the Christian life; joy, wisdom, creativity, and hope. As our church’s leadership begins to work on the Vital Church Initiative this month, those four marks seem to me to be a good measure of the vitality of our congregation. Understand, they are not the cause, but the result of faithful discipleship. And while they are present to some degree in almost every church, they are more present in congregations where people are practicing a vital Christianity.

I see joy in our congregation in the generous and unhurried fellowship of our coffee hour. After spending an hour or so in worship, it seems like most of our people are ready to spend almost another hour socializing together over snacks and beverages. I see it also in the sharing of family news of births and weddings amongst the grandchildren of our congregation. But I also see anxiety particularly about our church’s finances and the condition of our former building. If we can grow in vitality, we will honestly assess our stewardship of finance and building so that we can move forward in confidence in both areas.

I see wisdom in our congregation in the way our adult Sunday School listens deeply to the words of scripture and to each other as they open the Gospel of Luke together. I have seen it also in the conversations people have at the annual luncheon served at Cass Community Services when we get the chance to serve their clients. There is an abundance of knowledge and understanding for us to gain when we take the time to listen to unexpected perspectives. But I also know that when we face the challenges of declining participation in church events and worship, we are quick to dismiss responses that would make us look in fresh ways at the resources we have at our disposal.

I see creativity in our congregation through the work of our administrator, Linda Owulette, who responds from a depth of knowledge, compassion, and experience to a multitude of questions that come through the church office in the regular course of a week. But I also know there is a range of people with talent in the arts in the community of Wayne that simply does not expect the church to be a place that values their contribution. How many more dimensions could be added to the expression of our faith if this creativity was drawn to the vitality of our faith practice?

I see hope in our congregation because the leadership of the Administrative Board has seen fit to accept the challenge inherent in the Vital Church Initiative. To be renewed in vitality, we will need to draw closer to God and to one another. We will need to explore new aspects of old friendships and hear unexpected tones from familiar voices and this will mean change that none of us can know right now. It is an act of hope and of courage for the church to start on this path.. I was pleased to hear Bishop Bard’s thoughts. I look forward to seeing how our congregation can pursue greater vitality in the months to come.

Pastor Carter