“Faithful in Every Good Work”
As one year turns to another, our minds often fill with the regrets that have slowly accumulated over the 12 months past. This is true for us in our individual lives and in our congregational experiences. Our liturgical confessions give us some words for this, when we say: “We have sinned against you…by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”
In our church life, perhaps we have failed to summon the courage to tackle some of the more difficult questions or challenges facing us. Maybe we have handled a congregational conflict with something less than grace and kindness. It might be that we have chosen to do things “the way they’ve always been done” rather than boldly risk something new. The church, while holding a most sacred calling, is nonetheless a human enterprise; we fall short of fully embracing that sacred calling again and again.
Yet this Church we cherish also has the boundless capacity to do good in the world and to be astonishingly faithful. And so as this new year begins, I’m reflecting on the beautiful glimpses I’ve witnessed of the Church stepping into our holy work with grace and grit, right here in the Minnesota Conference UCC.
I’ve seen some of you faced with painfully difficult decisions about the future of your congregation, questions of sheer survival. You’ve wrestled with questions about how it is God is calling you to be the church in new ways in this moment, or how you might ensure a legacy that will survive even if your congregation does not. That is the Church faithfully at work.
I’ve seen others of you live into your prophetic calling with amazing passion and intention, protesting and organizing and creating change one determined step at a time, holding fast to the cause of justice and peace. That is the Church faithfully at work.
I’ve watched students in seminary and clergy already serving who are so diligently working to discern God’s call upon their lives. And I’ve seen how our Committee on Ministry and our staff accompany folk in their discernment with exquisite care. That is the Church faithfully at work.
I’ve marveled at the work of our chaplains in hospitals and hospice programs and jails and other settings, where they share the love and healing powers of God with the most vulnerable amongst us. That is the Church faithfully at work.
I’ve sat with our Board of Directors as it encounters each question that comes to it with a love for our collective ministry, a deep devotion to Christ’s Church, and with a sense of serious responsibility for wisely stewarding God’s good gifts. That is the Church faithfully at work.
And I’ve experienced joy each time I see a congregation or a Conference committee or our staff dare to open themselves to the Spirit’s unfolding work amid a religious landscape that is profoundly changing right before our eyes. That is the Church faithfully at work.
I am so very grateful for all the ways we are faithfully being the Church together, hard at work in these dazzling times of change and challenge and possibility. May we always remember that the work we do today lays a foundation for those who will follow us. May they find us faithful in every good work.
Your partner in this sacred calling,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister