Dear South East District Friends,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus our Lord!
I write to you just days before leaving for St. Simon’s Island, Georgia and Epworth by the Sea, a beautiful retreat center on the grounds where John and Charles Wesley first made their marks in America. By the time you read this our event will be over and I’ll be on my way back home (thankfully, it looks to be quite cold up there!).
The event is a “Winter Conference” where the keynote speaker is The Rev. Tod Bolsinger. He is the author of Canoeing the Mountains, a book that has made a tremendous impact (earthquake, shall we say?) on the church in the last couple of years. I have recommended it to many of you and do believe all lay and clergy leaders in the church can benefit from its teachings. In a nutshell, Bolsinger relates the current experience of being a leader in the church to the famous explorers Lewis and Clark when they arrived at what they thought was the water route connecting the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and actually found a chain of mountains to be called the Rockies. They had been canoeing their way to what they hoped would be the Northwest Passage, anticipating an ocean. Instead, they found enormous snow-capped peaks. They had to trade their canoes for horses and they had to leave their trusted maps behind in order to go “off the map” and chart a new course.
Bolsinger believes the religious landscape in North America is like this right now in contemporary life. We are using canoes and old maps to try and navigate through unknown mountains. Does this sound familiar? It sure feels like my life from day to day and I sense it feels the same for you. We are in uncharted territory, my friends.
At the heart of Bolsinger’s work is the need to be adaptive leaders. This is what we will be learning about this week at Epworth by the Sea. Adapting our leadership, our churches, our current ways of operating into the next natural adaptation will be the key to our churches’ futures in this district, conference and throughout our country. Some of you already see this at work when you say to yourself, “We have never done this before!” (That is good, it means your church is adapting to something new….trading canoes for horses.) We will continue to share ideas for how to adapt to new challenges and opportunities together. I am grateful that there are many explorers on this journey – all of us together, praying and learning and diving into what lies ahead.
I hope you will begin this new year at our District Training Event on February 9. The details and registration are below. I believe this will be the best training event yet! It is a great opportunity to begin to put into practice a desire to learn and grow as church leaders. Additionally, encourage those who work with your youth to attend our District-wide Youth Event in the evening of February 9. Details for that are also below. I am so excited for both of these events!
Grace and peace to you, my sisters and brothers. May God continue to guide our journeys.
Grace and peace,
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin L King Jr Ave
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011