September will be a Season of Renewal for NFUMC. Yes, we will be making commitments of time, talents, gifts, service and witness for 2020; but renewal is so much more than that.
According to the Oxford Dictionary a renewal is
- an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption,
- the action of extending a period of validity, or
- a repair/replacement of something that is broken, run down or worn out
Synonyms of renewal include resumption, renovation, restoration, improvement, reconditioning, rehabilitation, regeneration, overhauling, redevelopment, and rebuilding.
All of the definitions and synonyms can be applied to our renewal in September 2019. We will be renewing, so that we may resume, expand and extend our mission as a part of the body of Christ into the future.
During September we will be fostering renewal in worship and fellowship; and even in a meeting or two to chart a new and exciting path for fruitful ministries.
On Sunday mornings we will explore renewal from the perspective of a gardener or farmer. Since it is September, it is appropriate to talk about what happens after the crops are harvested. If you aren’t a gardener or farmer, you might not realize that the soil needs to be prepared for the next growing season; but there are things that are necessary to keep the soil and crops healthy and the harvest plentiful.
- Trees and vines are pruned.
- Weeds burned off of fields.
- The soil must be nourished and protected.
- Stones that seem to work their way to the top every year are removed.
- The hard earth of a new or neglected plot of land is turned and made ready to receive the new seeds and plantings.
On three Wednesday evenings we will meet for services of prayer. Change is scary and hard, and often involves pain. This pain can be inflicted by the process of change itself, or by people who – despite their better natures – destructively resist change. These realities make it doubly important to provide times of communion with God for healing and wholeness as well as for strength and direction. I hope and pray that everyone will be a part of these special services, and please, let me know if you need transportation.
There will also be two sessions explaining our move to the One Board Accountability Model of church administration during the Sunday School hour. This model isn’t just about reducing the number of administrative meetings – which it will – it involves changing our way of doing administration so that we are more focused and fruitful in mission and ministry, building upon what we have already begun.
In the past year:
- We have gained new members who are engaged in service.
- The 2018 5K day was the largest we have ever had, and 2020 should be bigger with more going on and more members involved in meaningful ways.
- The Firecrackers of Faith team made a record amount for Relay for Life in 2018, and has already exceeded that amount for this year.
- We have reached out to the community with a life-size nativity on our front lawn, and engaged members who had not found a way to become involved before.
- The Peachtree Wind Ensemble now makes their home with us, and together we are reaching out to our community with concerts that are standing room only. The July 4th cook out was fun and joining them for their “friends and family night” performance and covered dish was great.
- Grow Camp got off to a strong start, and we are on the list for 2020 because our members supported this new ministry in amazing ways.
- Our Girl Scout troop is growing with girls ages K – 9th grade in the existing group, and a new group (K – 2nd) that is forming now.
- Our support of Narcotics Anonymous now includes area gatherings and fellowship for families.
- We will be doing local missions again, beginning with service days once a quarter; continuing what we first experienced last year at the Mid-West Food Bank.
- We began a clothing ministry that addresses the needs of homeless people and support the efforts of clothing ministry from down the street to downtown Atlanta.
And yes, we have had losses. Some losses were people who supported the ministries of the church with their gifts and service, so they will be missed as fellow servants as well as friends who we saw most Sundays. Some moved to be closer to their grandchildren, worshipping with them on a weekly basis. Some are heart breaking, because their motivations for leaving were never shared with me, and so there were no opportunities to reach out, or attempt to mend or heal; even if their decision to go was firm.
Do you know of a book called A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens? The book was actually about two cities – Paris and London – and set during the period leading up to the French Revolution. The opening line is almost a cliché, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …”
When a church begins to change and turn outward, especially after a long period of anxiety and stasis, you have all of these contrasts and more within a single church; within the same congregation. The choice is which direction it will take, which one of two futures it will envision and move toward.
There are way too many things over which we have no control to fret about. There will always be bad things, patches of darkness, foolishness and doubt even when wonderful things are happening, the light is bright, and wisdom and faith are growing. It is the nature of living in this world; of being human.
There is one thing we can count on: we do not walk this path alone. We have a God who is always faithful, and we have each other. We have the teachings and example of Christ and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Our choice is whether we recognize and cooperate with the divine; or not. God leaves it up to us, but God never loses hope or walks away.
You are invited to be renewed next month: renewed in your spirit, renewed in your devotion, and renewed in your commitment to be a member of the body of Christ in union with Him, and in ministry to the world here at NFUMC.
May the blessings of light and hope be yours, Pastor Beverly
PS – Did I mention that there will be food? A Love Feast and a covered dish fellowship meal. Yum!