"As laity of the church, our work matters more now than ever"Inclusivity Leadership Missions and Outreach
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tiding of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -- Luke 2:10-11
Could there be more timelier or needed words as we enter into this Advent season in this strange and liminal space of 2020? This past week I was reminded that the word Advent comes from the Latin term “ad venire” (ad meaning ‘to’ and venire meaning ‘come’) which translated means ‘to come’.
We use Advent in our language of faith as the time of the coming arrival of the Son of God, who was made flesh to dwell among us.
Hearing these words brings both anticipation and hope - both of which are welcomed as we draw towards the end of a year that most of us can honestly say we will be glad to bid farewell. But before we rush to this year’s ball drop and Watch Night service, we have to respond to the here and now.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the chance to talk with some of the laity and clergy in our conference. Some phrases that keep surfacing are “when will things get back to normal, and what will normal look like?”
Some aren't sure how to lead in this moment. There is uncertainty about what our church, conference, and denomination will look like a year from now.
These are valid questions and none of which have definitive answers.
As laity of the church, our work matters more now than ever. Our pastors and church staff are beyond stretched as they try to minister to our congregations in ways they’ve never thought of or been trained for (as far as I know there isn’t a “How to Pastor During a Pandemic” course in seminary).
Meanwhile, the needs of our communities and the world, are the greatest they’ve been in our lifetime. Many of us struggle with physical, emotional and spiritual vulnerabilities. So how do we lead, as members of the body of Christ, during this time?
Remember those vows we took when we became members of the church? They go something along the lines of upholding the church with “our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service."
So, first and foremost, pray.
It sounds simple and perhaps even trite, but as people of faith it is our source of strength, assurance, and guidance. Pray for healing, pray for your pastors and church staff. Pray for your communities and those most affected by the effects of the virus (health, finances, food insecurities, etc.…) and pray that God will show you how your gifts and graces can be used during this time.
Second, be present.
Whether it’s in person or not, most all of our churches have found ways for you to “be present” in worship, small groups and studies. You can also be present for each other by simply picking up the phone and calling or sending an email to check-in with those who are dealing with sickness, grief or just plain loneliness.
And by the way, your pastors and church staff could use a kind word or two right about now.
Third, your gifts.
This is where we move from “preachin” to “meddlin” but it is part of who we are as members of the UMC. If you’ve had the good fortune to be able to establish a rainy day fund now’s the time to use it. The skies have opened and, the flood waters they are a rising!
It’s no secret that many of our churches are struggling to make ends meet and more importantly, are struggling to help meet the needs of the communities around them. We are currently experiencing food insecurity in the U.S. at levels not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Programs such as Fill the Table and other food distribution initiatives are great ways you can help meet the growing need for food in our communities. Organizations like Salvation Army and UMCOR are still hard at work to provide assistance to those who need it most.
Lastly is your service.
Many of our churches continue to engage in acts of mercy and justice within our communities through food pantries, community gardens, limited worship experiences – all of which need volunteers who are able and willing to assist in safe ways.
My hope is that each of us will continue to seek ways we can be in service as the hands and feet of Christ to those around us – and to each other.
The start of 2021 holds much promise. A COVID-19 vaccine may soon be available to those who need it most. Our churches for the most part have figured out the nuances of virtual and socially distanced in-person worship, with the hope of more routine worship experiences resuming sometime in 2021.
And, if we can get the logistics of General Conference 2021 resolved, our denomination may actually be able to settle its decades long struggle with LGBTQ inclusion. Our call to justice continues to draw us to transformational conversations and action regarding racism.
While there’s much we can lament about 2020, we’ve been gifted with the promise of hope for 2021,
Please join me this Advent season as we celebrate the gift of light to a world in darkness, the birth of Jesus, prophesied in Isaiah 9:6: Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace!
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