11 I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11 Common English Bible
What a Whirlwind!
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to stop by all 77 churches on the Northern Waters District this summer – and I had a blast!
I am excited and encouraged by all the ministries our churches are engaged in. (A snapshot of each is on the Northern Waters District Facebook page. From time to time I have “unplugged from Facebook”, so I understand if you are not on Facebook … But, I bet you know someone who is 😊. And, who knows, asking for their help may be an easy way to start a conversation about faith and / or what you love about your church home).
I witnessed many ways churches are creating welcome: Making sure buildings are accessible, signage is clear, and refreshing the look inside and out; intentionally reaching out to new people, new pastors, and travelers; engaging with “summer folks”, retirees, and the most vulnerable in our communities; including children and youth in worship in real ways; making quilts to embrace people with warmth; and, tending gardens (both memorial and produce).
I witnessed churches that are open to community: creating and rebuilding playgrounds; hosting community meals (we so love to eat 😊); supporting and celebrating local fire departments and schools; starting small pantries that outgrow the church space and need buildings of their own; creating space for annual and year-round music classes; reaching out to jails and bars; forming community partnerships to open teen centers. It is so important that we continue to live out the Gospel in tangible ways, especially because in many of our communities our church is the only church in town, maybe the only gathering place in town, or, perhaps one of the only places that intentionally committed to locating downtown when others have left.
I believe God gives each one of us, each one of our churches, and, each one of our regions a vision that’s bigger than us – a vision that is so far beyond our reach that we must get outside ourselves to fulfill it. This nudges us, and even pushes us, to be intentional in forming partnerships with others. We will be sharing about these partnerships at our HUB Church Conferences this fall. These partnerships are yet another opportunity to be invitational, and, more importantly, to welcome the gifts that God has blessed “others” with – an invitation by God to be blessed by those we do not yet know.
We are all becoming increasingly aware that the United Methodist Church faces some challenging decisions in the days ahead. But, I have confidence that in the midst of this (confirmed by my brief time with you so far this summer) that the Northern Waters UMCs will continue to Be The Church in each of our unique contexts – sharing the love of Jesus Christ in real ways so that lives inside and outside of the church are transformed.
Jodie R. Flessner