A Word from DS Laura Merrill- 01/24/22

The first month of this new year is nearly gone, and here we still are. I know better than to make resolutions anymore, but we often still hope for something to shift as the calendar turns. I’m not sure that hopeful shift has happened exactly, with Covid deaths and teachers and healthcare folks worn past the point of worn out. Some churches are back to a smattering of people in person for worship, and some of the activities we planned for this time are postponed or moved back online. I’m reminded of the cry of Jeremiah 8:20 – “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

But here’s what I also see. The people who are still engaged with the work and worship of our churches are there on purpose, not by habit. I hear from churches across the district that new people continue to arrive, whether online or walking in the actual door. While finances still feel tenuous, many congregations that struggled to pay their benevolences in 2020 offered the full gift in 2021 (thank you for that faithfulness!). Whereas church staff in some places is smaller than before, their job tasks have been assigned more intentionally, oriented toward the mission.

You’ve heard the word “liminality,” and I’m sure you’d agree that it would be nice to be out of that space, where the future and even the present don’t feel clear or secure, where we don’t always feel like we’re suspended between one thing and another. But the fluidity of this moment is causing us to take a good look at what’s important, what we know, what we truly need, and what is ours to do. It is my daily prayer that we, as Christ’s body in this part of the world, can stay connected to the Giver of Life. Our decisions and our actions will change shape, and so will the context around us. But if we stick together, if we give ourselves to prayer and worship and encounter with the scriptures, if we listen to the voices of our neighbors, God will grant us the way forward and the courage to follow it.

I’m so grateful for you and for the signs of true joy and creativity I see happening where you are. Now more than at any other time in recent history, your work matters. I hope you find joy in something today, that you stop to give God some praise, and that you can help someone else find joy, too.

Grace and peace,