Dear Friendship and Heath Memorial UMC Families,
Are there phone numbers you just don’t like to see show up on your caller id? If you’re like me there are. Last week one of those numbers showed up on the caller id of my cell phone. As the phone rang the caller id showed “District Office.” One would think since I’m an adult, and I have been in ministry for 39 years, this would not be a problem. But, I can’t help it. As soon as I see those words on my screen I think, “what am I in trouble for?” Doing
my best to suppress my “inner child” I answered with what I suspect was a less than enthusiastic, “hello.” I was greeted with, “Karen, Anthony Hodge. I was calling to check and see how you were doing.” Rev. Anthony Hodge is our new Rock Hill District Superintendent. Since joining us the first of July this is his second phone call checking
on his pastors. (I do appreciate these calls. Now, if I can just convince myself to stop reacting like a child who assumes they’re in trouble.) After I caught him up on how I was doing and what’s happening with our two churches I mentioned I had just read the email about the upcoming District Clergy Zoom meeting. He replied, “As
I begin planning the District Clergy meetings is there anything that’s been on your mind, any question where you think, ‘I wish they would talk about that.” I thought about it for a few seconds and shared some thoughts I’d been having during the pandemic based upon the webinars I had attended. Apparently I really warmed up and became
enthusiastic about it while sharing. The next thing I heard was, “How are you at facilitating, leading a meeting?” My next answer was not as enthusiastic, “fine,” I said. “I’m going to put this topic down for you to present at the January District Clergy meeting. Can you do that for me Karen?” (Please stop laughing.) My thoughts were, “Oh help me, Jesus, what have I done?” My answer was, “Yes, I can do that.” Can I? I hear more than my District
Superintendent asking me if I can do something for him. I hear God asking me if I can do this for Him. I hear God asking us if we can do this for Him. Can we? (John 3:1-8)
Annual Conference has several key components which have been a part of it for as long as I have been attending. One of those is the Retirement Service where the ministers retiring are recognized for their years of service. Years ago each retiring minister was allowed to make a short video where he/she shared thoughts with the Conference.
These videos ranged the gamut from gratitude for having served, humor – no more PPRC, Trustees, Finance . . . meetings, to some moments of profound insight. In 2010 one video showed a minister sitting in his study. He talked about all the times he had sat in this study and presided over a delivery room. A room in which he had, on behalf of God, delivered grace, forgiveness, love, hope . . . When God places any of these elements in the human
heart they struggle to be born and we are called upon to deliver them to the world. Today, God still places hope, grace, forgiveness and love in the human heart. Our lives are delivery rooms. There is always something struggling to be born and delivered at different stages of our lives. There is always something struggling to be born and delivered at different stages in the life of the church. Can we do that? Can we deliver God’s love and
presence, His hope, to others?  Maybe we think we’re like the retiring minister in the video. I’ve done my part, it’s someone else’s turn. I have no more work to be done. Or, maybe, we think there is no more work to be done. Or, that no more work can be done in today’s church, or, today’s world! If the truth be known, we’re probably a lot more like Nicodemus. “I
don’t understand this . . . I’m too old for this.” As this pandemic started and we were told we could not hold “inperson worship” services we all said, “okay, this won’t last long.” But then it became evident it would last longer and we all had to make choices and decisions. My desire/need to avoid being seen and heard on camera/by video had to be sacrificed because my churches needed me to get God’s word out and that was the only way I could do it. With Nicodemus I was dragged into something I really thought I was much too old for, did not like, and did not totally understand. And, if I’m being totally honest, admit that I fast forward through every part of the worship video I’m in. Sorry, Pam. Yet, with Nicodemus, I hear my Lord’s words, “You must be born again.” In the midst of
this on-going pandemic the Lord says to all of us, and His church, “You must be born again.” There are births occurring every day. 244 years ago a “Declaration of Independence” was given to Great Britain and with those words a hope, a spirit, and courage, were delivered to colonists who would go on to give birth to a
great nation, the United States of America. In May of 1738 John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” and went on to give birth to what we know as the Methodist Church. In 1887 Methodists took over a one-room wooden building and gave birth to the church which would eventually be named Heath Memorial United Methodist Church. In 1869 a group of people gathered and gave birth to the church we know today as Friendship
United Methodist Church. Together, these two churches, through the years, have faithfully given birth to, and delivered, God’s word, His presence, His grace, His hope, and His love, to their communities. And now God is asking us, in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of this troubled world, in the midst of this divided nation, if we can be born again and deliver for Him. Can we? With Nicodemus we wonder, “how is this possible?” I’m willing to be that’s what you’re saying and thinking about your own lives, our world, our nation,
and our Church, right now. How is this possible, especially now? Now, what? Now that things have gotten so bad, people have become so unkind, we’ve gotten so tired, and we have so little to offer? How was it possible in 1776, 1869, 1887, 1945, 2001, and how is it possible in 2020? It is though. We are in charge of what is being born, what’s being delivered, in our lives. We can choose to deliver apathy, bitterness, grief, anger and confusion, or, we can deliver faith, hope, courage, love and compassion. I promise you it is possible. By the grace of God, we can give birth to something wonderful and we can deliver to this world the hope which is Jesus Christ.
In Christ’s Love,