Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon asks you to read this message of thanks and challenge in worship or at another church event, or share it in your local church newsletter. Please find a way to make it widely available to your congregation’s members.
As the first bits of fiery red and orange appear on the leaves of trees and the length of each day shortens, many of your schedules will return to the usual busy-ness of a congregation’s program year. Worship attendance will increase, committees will resume their work, faith formation programs will commence with new energy, and the calendars of your church life will fill with new initiatives, fresh commitment, and all the things you treasure about your faith community. It seems like a wonderful time for me to say thank you.
Thank you for all the ways you embody, day to day, what it means to be the Church at its best…
- For creating space to explore the mysteries and wonders of our faith;
- For carving out time in busy lives to dive into Holy Scripture and discover there the marvelous relevance those ancient texts still have to our modern circumstance;
- For caring for one another within your congregation, extending love and understanding in times of loss, transition, and uncertainty and celebrating with one another in times of joy;
- For extending that same love to others outside your church walls, as you engage in mission, seek justice, and build peace ;
- For sending up prayers, for each other and for our world, inviting God’s transforming power and presence to enter in;
- For being a living witness to Christ-like mercy, grace, and compassion in a world that craves hope and goodness.
I truly believe that the world needs what we have to offer, dear Church. And so I follow my thanks with this bit of commissioning:
- Be bold and be of good courage. There’s a lot about our church lives and our world that are challenging in these days, but let the same boldness and courage that was in Christ Jesus be in you. Try something new. Take a courageous stand. And remember the steady counsel of our scriptures to “fear not”.
- Love fiercely and often. Love seems such a rare commodity these days in our social and political spheres. But we know that loving our neighbor is an inescapable requirement of our faith. Be that church in your community that everyone knows because of your unceasing ways of love. Find a million ways to share it. And never give in to the ugly hatred and cynicism that surrounds us.
- Make a difference. Find some way for your congregation to make a real difference in an individual’s life, in your community, and in this hurting world. Pay attention to the needs around you. Be prayerful and purposeful about how you respond. Be the Church at work in the world.
- Persevere in faith. Whatever challenges may confront you, whatever despair you may feel about our world, trust that God is with you. Lean on God’s wisdom and guidance when things get messy. Pray without ceasing. And trust God to travel with you as you navigate difficult decisions and set out into uncharted territory.
I am so grateful for all of you! I am constantly inspired by the love and faith I see at work in you. Know that you are always in my prayers. May God continue to strengthen and uphold you in the good and blessed work in front of you. And may the peace and grace of Christ surround you, each and every day.
With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister