As I write this I am looking out my hotel window at Epworth By The Sea. We have completed three days of training with Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and Dean Elaine Heath. The theme was Wisdom from the Galatians for the Anxious Church. I will confess to you that it was great material. I was charged by Bishop Morgan Ward's sermons, and I was made most uncomfortable by Dean Heath's understanding of the future church (that is here today).
Bishop Morgan Ward reminded us that we are the light and cannot hide under baskets or behind traditions. Dean Heath told us that the church as we know it may not be here much longer as it must be replaced with new seeds spread in the most unusual places with many who have never known church as we know church.
Encouragement and Disappointment, Hope and Fear, Light and a dimly-lit Future. How was this possible to live into all of this in three days. So I began to think; this is exactly how the Christian life is, ups and downs, and we live in the midst somehow. As pastors we are not exempt from such mixed feelings. Yet, before we can deal with our own and begin to get a handle on understanding them, we must help those in our care to deal with them and to come through to the other side.
Change can bring about such a dichotomy of emotions. Yes, I talked about change two weeks ago, but life is still changing, and we still struggle with the changes. Some will be encouraged, and others disappointed. Some will be filled with hope, while others experience fear. The future may be bright, or it may be dim and uncertain.
Allow me to ease you mind on one important change. The Rev. Dr. Mike Long will be a fantastic Chief Missional Strategist for the Atlanta Emory District. He will guide you through the bright days ahead and through those dimly-lit moments of the future. He has wisdom as well as a heart for thinking strategically. Mike already loves this district. He served as pastor at Lawrenceville First UMC for many years, and he knows the ins and outs of our region. He will give his all to task of leading you to a stronger tomorrow. He will be led by the Holy Spirit, and he will speak with boldness and courage. Yes, some difficult choices will have to be made, but he will do so with a heart for all involved. Mike is a great choice, and I'm so honored to have him follow me.
I don't know about tomorrow, the old gospel song states, but I know who holds the future. God has been holding it, God is holding it, and God will continue to hold the future. No matter what happens to the Church, you and I are still called to let our light shine in the darkness and to bring light to those dimly-lit corners of the future.
Jesus told us that we are the light to the world. Our work is continuing regardless of the changes. Our call is to shine. Shine on, beloved, shine on!