The first church I served, City Road United Methodist in Henderson, North Carolina, was a very self-sustaining congregation. Even though there were about 35 people in worship each week, there was a core group of people who participated in Bible studies, served on the leadership team, organized the events of the church, and even served as guest preachers. In a sense, the church could have run without me. They were extremely self-sufficient.
So, if I wasn't there to run the church, what was my role? My main spiritual gift is prophecy. Not a creepy, I'm going to predict the future prophecy, but more in the sense of doing some truth telling. The DS told me that the church would probably die within 10 years if things didn't change. Their survival was dependent on a renewal of mission. My work there was to help connect the church to a more diverse community and its mission with that community. The Holy Spirit moved the people in the church to partner with a Latino ministry and to welcome their first Latino pastor after I left. Many of those 35 faithful have passed away, but the church continues to thrive in its mission.
Like Mary Poppins, I arrived in town, became part of the family, and had the privilege of walking with them to a new mission. Then I flew away to become part of another family.
When pastors are appointed to a new church, they are given some hints as to what the ministry is, but there is also a lot to discover about how to move forward. So here we are coming into year 3 at Tuskawilla. The ministry is coming into focus.
I was told when I was appointed here that Tuskawilla was a wonderful church with a great deal of potential, but that the big challenge here was the crushing amount of debt. It is the elephant in the room every time we talk about ministry, mission, and budgets. At some point, we will need to decide how to take care of this debt, either by having a capital campaign, selling some property, or hanging in there for the 13 or so years that we have left on our loan.
As much as buildings and debt loom over our financial situation, we are thriving as a congregation. People have been faithful in their giving throughout the pandemic and our hearts seem to explode for missions. We have fully funded our commitment to ZOE Empowers for the year, along with supporting many other wonderful ministries here in our community and all over the world.
With our new family ministry team, we are working on plans to reach out into the community to share the love of Jesus. Kathryn Halterman, our new Family Ministries Director already has dates on the calendar for Story Time at the Park every week at Red Bug Lake Park to reach children and families in our community. Next week, the team will meet to form their plans to nurture children and youth in their discipleship.
Another way forward for us in the community is to look deeper into scripture to grow in our love and acceptance of others. Dr. Steve Harper has agreed to work with us again on the Faithful and Inclusive study, this time meeting monthly. We agreed that this work is a marathon, not a sprint.
My days are busy, but my heart is full. I love our church, our leadership teams, our staff, and the history of love and acceptance that is in the DNA of TUMC.
Today is Friday, my sabbath day. Even Mary Poppins had a little self care time with Bert the chimney sweep, so I will go for a bike ride, pick up the grandchildren from school, and later on, watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV. Tomorrow, I will pick back up with the work that God has laid out for me. Thank you for being such a wonderful community.