Good morning, Beloved,This week I was blessed to be invited to participate in an all-day continuing education seminar by Tod Bolsinger, the author of Canoeing the Mountains, Tempered Resilience and Leadership for a Time of Pandemic.
Canoeing the Mountains refers to the expedition of Lewis and Clark seeking a practical route across the western half of the continent. They set out in canoes thinking that their route would be via a waterway that they would follow up the Missouri River and then easily downward toward the Pacific Ocean. Instead, upon reaching the Lemhi Pass, all that lay before them were the Rocky Mountains.
Imagine reaching a point in your journey where you thought, "it will all be downstream from here" and instead you see these insurmountable obstacles ahead.
You are not prepared mentally.
You are not prepared in any way. This is 1804. You are a canoeist and these are 14,000 ft mountains.
Now think about Wesley. We are really very good at being the church for a certain time in a certain place.
But along comes COVID and we are plunged into an unknown territory with tools that are honed for a different type of work.
Make no mistake, those mountains existed before Lewis and Clark's journey and the future of the church was going to be different even before the pandemic, but we have been accelerated into a place where we need to think deeply about how to adapt to the change that is necessary to be the church for the future. Just as Lewis and Clark had to dismantle their canoes and fashion walking sticks to climb those peaks, so we need to let go of old systems that are no longer useful and imagine ways to survive and thrive in a whole new environment.
The mission is still the same, for Lewis and Clark to explore the West and for Wesley to Grow with God so that we can Go to Serve.
So that Wesley can strive to quiet the conflict among all people by creating a compelling environment that fosters spirituality, community engagement, and social justice.
So that Wesley can welcome persons of all races, ages, abilities, and sexual orientations as full participants in the life and mission of this congregation.
So that Wesley can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
To be resilient in this time of deep change we must recognize the need to adapt to an ever-changing world, valuing our heritage AND ready to move into a very different future.
Change hurts because it is the loss of the way we knew and loved but I believe we can still love the past building on the foundation that has been laid and also love the future just as we love our childhood selves of the past and love our grandchildren, seeing great potential in the future through their precious eyes. The parts of our faith that are real and true, God-inspired, God-created and God-sustained will drive the transformation of the world.
We are already seeing incredible strides as society awakens to its own sinfulness with respect to 400 years of treating people of color as less-than. Programs that Wesley is involved in like the Friendly Kitchen, Family Promise and the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness are real and tangible efforts to bring an end to the injustice of poverty and hunger in our world. These are the very things Jesus taught us to pay attention to in Matthew 25: Feed the hungry! Welcome the stranger! Visit the prisoner!
We're also exhausted from all this change, all this COVID quarantining, all this bad news all the time. This is a time when our spiritual disciplines are more important than ever. By spiritual disciplines I do mean things like prayer, scripture, journaling, fasting and more, but I also mean Sabbath time, down time, time with God, rest. It is more important than ever before that we let go of fear and anxiety and simply "rest in the Lord, wait patiently on God and God shall give you rest." Ps. 37:7
And, it is critical that we take care of each other...that we CARE for each other, that we give each other space, always considering that the other person is going through things you have no idea they are going through AND that we draw close to each other in a virtual embrace, entering into each other's space ready to listen, ready to care, ready to help.
Know that I am ready to lead you in this time.
Know that the leaders of this church are inspired, compassionate, God-loving people who are particularly equipped and called by God to the work that is before us.
Know that like Moses against the Amalekites in Exodus 17:8-16, where Aaron and Hur stood by his side to hold his arms high when he was exhausted, we will stand side by side supporting and edifying each other as we do the work of the church in the world.
Know that God has called us, like Esther, to such a time as this and has equipped us. In fact, Jesus reminds us in Luke 9:1-5 MSG that we are called to this work, but need not bring canoes or hiking boots, that "we ARE the equipment."
One of the key components of my faith, is faith itself, faith in the unknown, unseen, faith even in this time of unknowing. God who made the Missouri River, Lemhi Pass and the Rocky Mountains and God who made Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea, God who made Wesley and God who "created a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." Philippians 1:6
Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
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