Benjamin Franklin is often cited as the source for the oft-referred quote, “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.” I guess if you are a UM pastor, you can add Charge Conference to the list. While I realize there is much to be done to prepare for charge conference, I hope this annual event isn’t perceived with the same feeling as death and taxes.
I find that the regularity of charge conference is a reminder of the consistency of God’s grace. Though our world has changed radically from last year’s charge conference season, the local church still exists. Yes, but it is more than mere existence. The church is alive, still functioning, still sharing God’s grace, still participating in Christ’s mission of sharing God’s outreaching mercy, compassion and justice. Like a shepherd seeking a lost lamb, a woman searching diligently for a lost coin, or a father ever-waiting for a lost child to return home, local churches are persevering in their work as a missional base for the gospel.
For this reason, I have found each charge conference to be a time of blessing. It has been encouraging to hear how pastors and congregations have met the challenges arising out of the pandemic. Though practices of local churches have changed, in some cases drastically, the work of the church has remained solid. Through adaptive practices, the gospel is still proclaimed in worship, members are still cared for, mission to the wider world still continues. In the process, creativity has blossomed and, in many cases, local congregations have realized that the church is not the building, but the work of the people of God. This reminds me of the tagline from the Rethink Church campaign, “What if church wasn’t just a place to go, but something we do?”
Even while each church is addressing ongoing issues related to the pandemic and seeking ways to enhance their witness to the community, many are also taking on difficult conversations of race. Book readings, small group gatherings, and open discussions are leaning into how we, as a people of faith, can recognize our own bias, affirm the dignity of all persons, and work towards equity for everyone.
For all who have completed their charge conference, thank you for the work you have done. For all of you preparing for charge conference, thank you for the work you are doing. More importantly, for your leadership and for the faithful responses of each congregation, I am grateful. May God continue to bless our common labors to share the gospel in word and deed.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/