A few months ago, in my weekly letter I talked about the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've been thinking about that saying often lately as we are beginning to see positive changes in the effort to control COVID-19 in the U.S. The positive changes we are seeing in COVID statistics are encouraging. We are incrementally increasing activity in our church facility, and the same is happening in other segments of our lives. There is much to celebrate!
When we went into the shutdown of 2020, we felt we were entering an emergency situation that, after a while, seemed to have no end. When our bodies enter an emergency situation, certain systems kick into an increased response. Adrenaline gives us strength to do physical tasks we aren't normally able to do. When emotional emergencies happen, we compartmentalize feelings and assure ourselves that it's only temporary. We can do anything for a defined, usually short amount of time. But the COVID emergency turned into a never-ending state of adrenaline and compartmentalizing. As a result, in many areas of life, we have lost focus on the future or worse: we have become afraid of what the post-COVID future might look like.
This is where the gift of faith is transformational. Faith can transform a difficult situation into an opportunity for growth by helping us lean on stories from the Bible, our own experience, the best of the Christian tradition, and our ability to think rationally and deeply about life--in short, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral! Though John Wesley did not coin the term (that honor belongs to the late Dr. Albert Outler of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University), his way of thinking about faith and life definitely followed this system of thinking. It is a helpful framework for understanding the past and envisioning the future, and it is available to us now as we begin to imagine a new life for Embry Hills UMC.
Don't get me wrong: I realize the pandemic is not over. I understand that major issues and challenges face the United Methodist Church that will affect our life as a congregation in one way or another. As Americans we are a divided people. Things are not rosy because the CDC made a new statement on May 13, 2021. And, there is also a future right in front of us no matter the outcome of any of those conditions I just listed. We have a future story as Christians. Embry Hills has a future story as a congregation. You have a future story as a Child of God. What will those future stories bring, and how will they be woven together?
In January, a group of ten people started meeting monthly with our District Superintendent, Dr. Quincy Brown, on a "3D Journey Team" to begin, with God's help, to Dream, Discern, and Develop the future story of Embry Hills UMC. Building on the core values reflected in our mission statement, we have begun to look ahead at new ways to connect with new people as we continue the work of God at and beyond 3304 Henderson Mill Road. One of the things I take from this work is a statement Quincy made in one of our meetings: the vision for any congregation's future should be large enough that people who aren't part of the church yet can see themselves in it when they first encounter that church. The work this team has done is a big step toward developing that kind of vision around the work and life of Embry Hills UMC, and it's very exciting!
On Wednesday, May 26 at 7 pm, Quincy will lead an in-person Town Hall style meeting for any who are interested to come and hear more about the work of this team and how Embry Hills can begin to put new plans in place to more fully live into our mission statement and start to make new places for new people as we move forward into the future. Reservations for this event can be made here: www.embryhillsumc.org/event-details/town-hall-meeting or by calling Laura in the church office at 770-938-0661, ext 121.
And one more thing: we are intentionally including the in-coming pastor, Dr. Jordan Thrasher, in this meeting. He will be here for an informal meet-and-greet time at 6:30 pm before the Town Hall meeting starts at 7 pm. Please be sure you make your reservation for this important event in the life of the church.
The future of Embry Hills UMC is bright and expansive and so hopeful. Though I won't move into it with you as your pastor, I'll be cheering for you from a distance, continuing to give God thanks for you and all the ways that we have learned and grown together. Thanks be to God for this church, this community, the work of this team, and all that the future holds.
See you on the 26th!