Monday Reflection - May 22, 2017

By Darren McClellan

published 5/22/2017
Dear Friends,
No place is so dear to my childhood as that little (white) church in the vale…

Such was the witness of those gathered yesterday morning at the 122nd Homecoming at Hopewell United Methodist Church.  It was a wonderful occasion, filled with the classic images of historic Methodism in the rural South.  We shared memories of saints who had gone before, prayers for the present community, hymn requests called out by the congregation from the old Cokesbury Hymnal, and fried chicken under the tent in the church lawn  It was a joy to hear the stories of those who had come ‘home’ to Hopewell.   How grateful I am to Rev. Kevin Holland and Ms. Janet Twitty for their invitation to bring the message for this special Sunday.  It was a great day to be a DS!    

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living; and has not let our feet slip (Ps. 66:8-9).

In these changing times, many fear that rich traditions like these may be dwindling or even lost due to the general decline of small membership churches across the country.  Here in the Baypines District, for example, we experienced a 15% decline in worship attendance from 2005-2015.  We might choose to explain this dilemma by pointing to a myriad of factors, as our region is no stranger to the challenges created by transitioning economies, diminished educational systems, and the virtual ruin of once vibrant communities.  Without warning, our once familiar landscape has changed beyond the point of recognition.  Is this not grounds for despair?  By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion (Ps. 137:1).

For a time, yes.  However, such realities may also lead us to engage new possibilities as leaders; to ask new and better questions regarding the who, what, and why of the church’s mission in the present age. 

For instance,

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?  (Psalm 137:4)

This evening, May 22, clergy and lay members from 9 different churches in the district will be gathering with myself and Dr. Vic Dingus of Next Step Ministry to begin asking this question of God for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  This will be the first of what I hope will be many cohorts of its kind, focused and intentional in offering the best of ourselves in ministry together.  We covet your prayers as we embark on this journey together.
Grace to You,