Change, Thanksgiving and God’s Spirit of Joy
Paul opens his letter to the Philippians (1:3-6) with a greeting and then these words of affirmation:
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Our Wisconsin Conference staff, Program and Arrangements Committee, Board of Ordained Ministry, Board of Laity and many other conference leaders have been working for months in preparation for our delayed, virtual Annual Conference (October 24th), Laity Session (October 8th), and Clergy Session (today, October 1st). We had been planning for our in-person Annual Conference, usually held in June – and then, and then, and then. . .. COVID-19 pandemic quarantines and safety needs changed everything (including postponing General and Jurisdictional Conferences).
We gathered, discussed a variety of options for how we might proceed, and made new plans. We contracted with GNTV to be our primary host and coordinators. They have been wonderful to work with! We explored how we might plan our worship, memorial, ordination and commissioning services, and retiree recognition, and how we would present reports and vote. We realized that virtual meetings wear us out more quickly, so we decided to present only the absolute essential business for our clergy and Annual Conference sessions. We will be presenting other business via posted videos. More information for those will come as they are prepared and posted.
Everything is new. All the ways we work together as an Annual Conference – and as churches – have changed. We are learning as we go along – as author Patrick Lencioni named it, “We are building the bridge as we walk on it.” As we join together in these sessions, please extend grace and care to all involved. I thank God for all the people involved in this preparation and planning and implementing and coordinating of our Clergy, Laity and Annual Conference Sessions! We are sharing in the gospel and joy of knowing that Jesus Christ is working to bring all this to completion.
In this month of October, you are invited to offer your own daily prayers of thanksgiving and support for our Conference Sessions. We are preparing this for you (not only for participants, but for all our congregations, members, and friends) – preparing for all of us and our shared ministry as it is connected and interwoven together in the faith and spirit of Jesus Christ. I thank God for each and every one of you, for all the ways you live your faith through ministry and mission in your daily lives as God works through you in the healing, justice-oriented, compassionate, joy-filled spirit of Jesus Christ.
Today especially, please pray for our Board of Ordained Ministry and Bishop Jung as they lead the clergy session this evening. Pray for those being ordained and those being commissioned. Pray for our pastors who have been serving and caring for our congregations in so many new ways (October is also pastor appreciation month). Pray as well for those who work behind the scenes to help make this as good an experience as possible for everyone. I thank God for each of these people and the many ministries they represent, knowing that in the witness and spirit of Jesus Christ, God is beginning and continuing good work and great joy among us.
Let us pray: God of grace and hope, thank you for our United Methodist connection. Even when we cannot be physically located in the same place, we have faith that you knit us together as your body in Christ Jesus and that we are together in the blessing and energy of your Spirit. Guide us all this month as we plan, prepare, and meet together. May all that we do serve your work through us, in ministry and mission with all the world. As always, we offer our prayers in the name of the One who taught us how to live, Jesus our Christ. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.