As a local church pastor, any major season of the church year I am in is full throttle. But also, there is always the reality the next major church season is close at hand. Here it is Advent/Christmas and I have already been thinking of Lent/Easter. Always one foot in the current, one foot in the “next place”. I once went to a seminar that suggested, “…if you (pastor) aren’t out 18 months in worship planning you are behind”.
While my personality is most definitely not the 18 months out kind, I have been taught by others who know the value of looking forward; that having a plan, a roadmap, to help frame the journey ahead is valuable. So yes, I have been thinking about Easter, and next summer, and even next Christmas. Of course, no one really knows what a post Covid vaccine world will look like in a year any more than we can guess what the very next month will look like. But we plan…in hope…and waiting…much in the spirit of this and future Advents.
For your Conference, the next steps in our journey together have begun to take shape. For instance, after 5 years we are reintegrating all our Outdoor Ministry functions under the Conference direction, having cut the ties with the UCCR which helped us manage our grounds. For instance, the work of the One Heart working group, the Executive Teams of each Association/Conference, the Leadership Staff of each, and the Board of Directors have been meeting regularly to put clear and decisive change into place. This led to decisions such as going to virtual offices, making use of a partnership with United Church Homes to provide our booking services, and co-investing all our energies to aid SONKA in the challenge of reorganizing. For instance, it means the tasks of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a clear vision/mission and collaborative style of organization that crosses over all our perceived boundaries is moving towards being fully put in writing in 2021 so that we have the clear “plan” for the journey ahead. For instance, it means taking some of the initiatives that have begun via our formed and forming networks on Anti-Racism, Faith Formation, Communication, Stewardship and Healthy Practices in Ministry: gathering people together for conversations and, proceeding with meaningful impact that will help change the lives of individuals and churches.
Folks, my “for instances” could go on and on because so much good is happening that it is easy to lose sight of it in the blur of the moment. With much of the last few years being about deciding what kind of journey we want to undertake, with a major interruption and learning curve thrown in by Covid, now comes the time to make specific, concrete, future plans. While I am not 100% confident that we will have an “in person” Annual meeting next year, I am confident that we will have a specific roadmap for our journey ahead so that everyone can easily know how they are going to be part of the journey that is ours, the body of Christ, in the Heartland Conference.
As we journey toward Bethlehem knowing that destination is clearly in front of us for the next 20 days, perhaps we can take additional comfort knowing that Bethlehem for Joseph and Mary was only a beginning to a much larger journey. We too can appreciate that journeys begun are not journeys done. Even if I am correct that by our next Annual Gathering we will have a roadmap laid out with great detail it will simply mean the journey is fully engaged and we will see where it ultimately leads us.