Reflection - April 24, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 4/24/2017
Dear Friends,
Greetings to you in the name of the resurrected Christ!

What a joy it has been for me to behold the witness of this Easter season across the many churches of the Baypines District!  With every medium of witness imaginable we are celebrating Jesus’ victory over the forces of sin and death, the Spirit that raised him from the dead, and the everlasting Father who continues to make all things new.  This triumph of God is infiltrating many of our communities and churches as well, as evidenced by the testimony of those who have shared such good news with me.

As the different responses to the empty tomb illustrate, we know that our reactions to unexpected change—even God initiated change—can be nonetheless fraught with anxiety.  This reality does not automatically disqualify us from being a disciple of Jesus, but it does call us to slow down, catch our breath, and listen to those voices around us (and especially the angels in our midst).

As the announcement of new pastoral appointments swept across the conference last week, the initial reactions have been equally varied.  Some experience a deep suspicion of conspiracy and disbelief: what have they done with my pastor’s body?  This immediate response is born of love and a sense of fidelity, but often accompanied by feelings of rage and even guilt.  Some in the church may naturally wish to turn the unwanted circumstance into a crime scene investigation.  This is certainly one way to go.  Then there are others who will pause to remember that itineracy is just as our Methodist ancestors and former prophets said it would be.  This acknowledgment often requires time in reflection and further fellowship at the table, but it is believed that the Kingdom yet to come is well worth the continued engagement.  Eventually, there are a few (in Atmore, for instance) who will say of their pastor, she’s not here!  She must have risen!  I’m not sure how I like it personally, but God must be up to something new!  The simplicity of that declaration will always be enough for the church of Jesus Christ.

The announcement that God is at work was certainly evident in yesterday’s gathering at Spanish Fort UMC of Hispanic/Latino churches held by Bishop Graves and others from the Conference Office.  Approximately 100 clergy and laity gathered from across our Annual Conference in what was an inspirational exchange of listening, encouragement, conviction, and prayer.  It was thrilling for me to witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving beyond the barriers of language, culture, perception, history, etc. and toward a new and improved future in ministry together, for the sake of all.  Special thanks to our Conference Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministries, Martha Rovira, for her leadership in this event.

Next week I will be meeting with Rev. Enrique Escobar, and a team of leaders from within the Baypines District to move forward in the purchase of property for our own San Pedro Mission.  Please be in prayer for this development as we seek the glory of God.

Lastly, I would call your attention back to the correspondence of Bishop Graves regarding the pending ruling of our Judicial Council this week.  Regardless of how that announcement is to be received, let us remain confident that God is still at work.  No matter how unsettling our initial (and often short-sighted) conclusions may be, we are still called to be disciples of Jesus.  Therefore, let us boldly affirm that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ and there is nothing that the Spirit of the living God cannot raise from the dead.