REFLECTIONS FROM PASTOR AMY JO
Healthy Church Initiative (HCI)
Growing Forward Together in the New Year
We begin the new year at Saint Paul’s by praying for blessings on the first Sunday of 2019, January 6. Worship will be a time of prayer for God’s blessings to be upon us individually, as a congregation, and on the Church universal throughout the world. Then, we follow worship on both January 6th and January 13th with town hall meetings to share the Five Recommendations of the Healthy Church Initiative process. These are recommendations by the consultants of the HCI Team on how our congregation can make healthy changes and become even stronger and more vital during the coming years. Please plan to stay for one of the Town Hall meetings, to hear all about the recommendations! Our final vote on whether or not to pursue the five recommendations will be following worship on February 10, 2019 at a Charge Conference.
The book of Ecclesiastes contains a well-known passage that helps us think about the different seasons of life:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
This passage was captured in the well-known folk rock song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and speaks the truth of what we experience in our lives. Understanding the current season of life, and knowing how to step forward in faith in keeping with where we are right now at this moment, is an important part of spiritual maturity. This idea is echoed in other religious traditions, too. One commentary on the Tao states:
“There is a joy to working in
harmony with the proper time. When we do things at just the right occasion and those efforts bear fruit later, the gratification is tremendous.”
As we begin the new year, we consider the season of life of our congregation and ask ourselves how we should grow forward together right now. The recommendations that we are receiving are each based on an understanding of who we are as a congregation at this moment. They are intended to help give us concrete ways to grow forward together, with God’s good timing!
In our individual lives, we can also be reflecting on how to grow spiritually in the new year. For those who participated in the Advent meditation practice of meditating on compassion and loving kindness, how did this exercise cause you to grow spiritually?
As a result, is God calling you into action in the new year, and if so, what are the next steps? For example, as you meditated on the love of God extending even to our enemies, did you feel God’s Spirit calling you to offer forgiveness in the new year to someone who has wronged you in the past? Or, as you meditated on extending
compassion and God’s love to all of the world, is God’s Spirit moving you to form a new relationship with someone of a different culture? Spiritual growth leads us to changed behavior. In the Methodist tradition, we talk about these changes of behavior as holiness—allowing God’s Spirit to shape us to be more and more like Christ.
One song captures it this way:
You are the potter; I am the clay
Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God. Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God. May I be like you.
A new year has arrived! May God continue to bless the people of Saint Paul’s UMC together and individually, as we seek new ways to grow in faith and be God’s people in the world.