Dear Church –
My heart is still singing from the holy time we shared in Des Moines last month. The Spirit was present and real in worship. The discussions were deep in the workshops. The joy was tangible at the meal events. Our programming for youth and young adults included education about the governance of the church, and we saw how important multi-generational worship is when we gather. Many of those gathered spoke strongly for justice in the business sessions, at the candlelight vigil and the post-assembly rally. As the General Youth Council reminded us with their resolution, we must continue to invite one another to listen and discuss, even when we disagree. To walk together in love even when we disagree is at the heart of being “Disciple”.
I am genuinely hopeful for the future of this Church. I saw signs of life and growth everywhere, of Disciples who are learning to abide whether that means waiting with expectation or tarrying a while in the Presence. While we spent some time celebrating our past, I also heard from many dedicated Disciples that we are a group whose time has come in this fragmented world. A look at the MissionFest projects made me both proud and excited about the ministry that Disciples are engaged in across the US and Canada. To quote the Week of Compassion team, “Good work, Church!”
In partnership with the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, we celebrated the 50th Anniversaries of The Design and the Merger Agreement, two documents which shaped our current manifestation as church together. As many of us gathered to look forward in the “Design at 100” and “Second 50” workshops, I was encouraged by the presence of two of our former GMPS, Sharon Watkins and Dick Hamm, as they facilitated a conversation about what our church needs to look like in the next 50 years. Disciples from across our church stood to speak truth into the room, naming both our challenges as well as our hopes. This kind of real talk must continue to be part of our work as we move forward together. The conversations revealed that we are not as afraid of change, and that we are confident in God’s ability to empower us for ministry.
In the midst of the celebrations, we marked two very important occasions. One was the culmination of a major part of the 2020 Vision. Former General Minister and President Dick Hamm set the vision before us in the 1990s and he was there to announce the achievement of one of the goals of beginning more than 1,000 new faith communities. While not every start continued, we have more than 60 percent who did. But another effect of those planting operations was to work new church ministry into our DNA, to make the planting embedded in who we are today.
We were also blessed to affirm our full communion agreement with The United Church of Canada. We were already in partnership through two of our Canadian congregations and our shared relationship with the United Church of Christ. This agreement closed the triangle to make all three denominations stronger with shared ministry. Not a merger, but a partnership, this agreement will be celebrated in October in Winnepeg.
Disciples, while we are primed for growing into what the Lord has in mind for us – to become a healing, helping force for good in this fragmented world – we must make it a priority to be connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ, through the disciplines of prayer and Bible study. We must be strengthened in our spiritual beings in order to bear the fruit that is only possible through Christ. I invite you to do that work together, wherever you are, wherever you serve. We will be stronger as a church because of it. We must continue to abide, to remain, to persist.
I am looking forward to what we can accomplish before we meet again in Louisville, KY, in 2021. I am honored to be on this journey with you.
With God’s love,