As we begin the year 2019, I confess that in many ways I am both confronted by – and confounded by – much of the newness that I am experiencing. This month marks the last half of our fifth year together (remember, appointment years run from July to June), and while this congregation has enjoyed long Pastorates, this is longer than I have been in any single congregation.
Among some of the names I hear of previous pastors here at PB UMC, Paul Robison served for 7 years, Tom Rotthaar served for 7 years, and of course Pastor April served for 23 years! In contrast, I served as a Local Pastor at Fillmore UMC and Piru UMC for one year; an Assistant Pastor at Pasadena UMC for one year; a Pastoral Intern at La Habra UMC for 3 years; and an Associate Pastor at Trinity UMC and UM4GI in Grand Island, NE for 3 years. You may notice that this list shows that PB UMC is the first I’ve had the privilege to serve as a “solo” or “lead” Pastor on a full-time basis.
Because of all this, I feel as though I am still learning! I also think this means that this congregation is still teaching. In fact, PB UMC has been mentioned several times in various South District meetings as one that is an effective mentoring and teaching congregation. Indeed, we have helped a number of congregations enter into the Reconciling Ministry community. We have given guidance to congregations who are beginning ministries for the unhoused and underserved. We have also been selected for two years running to host and teach a Wesley Intern.
In the midst of all this newness, in the midst of all this learning, in the midst of all this teaching, what will be do next? I think this is a critical question. I would even go so far as to say that we should never stop asking what we will do next.
In the 43rd chapter of the book of Isaiah, the prophet writes, “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it (Isaiah 43:19a)?” I believe the continued determination to look for what we will do next falls in line with this text. And if we are open and aware and observant for where God call us to go and be and do next, we are following God into God’s new thing!
I realize that it is one thing to write all these things in a newsletter or to talk about them in church or in a meeting, and it’s another thing altogether to be lead into the next new and fantastic idea. In fact, we are not alone in wondering where God is calling us to go next. In a recent meeting about the 2019 Annual Conference, Bishop Hagiya was discussing the possibility of encouraging and enabling congregations to engage in a process by which we might envision where God might lead us. As it turns out, our own VUE (Visioning – Uniting – Expanding) Committee has already begun work on exactly this.
I have shared before that my academics were limited in my early college days because I lacked vision and therefor motivation. But when I understood God’s call and God’s vision for me, I found that I was able to accomplish much more than I had previously thought. It is time that we renew our focus on God’s vision!
In the coming months, the VUE Committee plans to gather the faith community of this congregation to seek God’s vision for what Pacific Beach United Methodist Church will do next. We will have the opportunity to pray, we will have the opportunity to dream, and we will have the opportunity to make goals and plan next steps. We will be led through a Spirit-filled process where – I believe – we can discover God’s call to do a new thing.
May we be guided in our discernment and may we follow God’s call. With gratitude and grace…