We are in a glorious time of transition. In the church, we move through the Lenten season toward Holy Week and Easter. In our communities, we move from the dark and cold days of winter to the warmer, brighter days of spring. And in our Wisconsin Conference we move from scarcity thinking and anxiety to a deep place of faith and abundance. Do you believe me? Do you feel the shift? If so, I celebrate with you! If not, I challenge you – why not? Signs of abundance and God’s awesome providence are all around us. See the whole creation erupt with new life in Wisconsin. The ground softens and receives the nurturing rain and nutrients from the soil. The sun warms and invites rebirth. Seeds sprout, buds open, blossoms burst forth, and green explodes everywhere.
As we continue Imagining Wisconsin Anew, we can learn from the amazing dynamic of nature – for new life to emerge and thrive, feeding must occur. And this is the heart of our “Soul Food” focus in our conference. It is so much more than physical food that we talk about, though food to feed the body is an important part of it. We encourage every one of our churches and congregations to engage in some form of ministry to feed the hungry – food pantries, community meals, relief programs, community farming and gardening projects, and collaborative feeding programs. But we also challenge everyone to be creative and expansive in their thinking, not just addressing the ongoing symptoms of hungry people, but to address root problems that starve the soul. Those things that work to make people feel poor and anxious starve the soul. Clothing closets and programs to support families in poverty with children, day care and community development projects can give people hope and relief. Such things are soul food. For people struggling with addictions and alcohol abuse, a support network or 12-step program can be soul food. Programs that focus on “greening” Wisconsin and environmental sustainability, economic justice for urban and rural communities, and the special needs of farm families can be soul food. Anything we can do to feed the heart, soul, mind, body, spirit and strength of the people of Wisconsin is Soul Food. Soul Food is our shared answer to Jesus’ teaching that whenever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoner or the sick, or open our circle to receive and welcome the least in our community, we are doing these things to Jesus as well.
Ours is a time of transition – from scarcity to abundance. As people of God and people of faith we know that there is always enough, and to share. As we are blessed, we are a blessing – giving to all as we have been given, feeding the soul in body, mind and spirit. Thanks be to God!
Grace and Peace,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).