All of this goes to say the obvious; that I am committed to this congregation for the long term and my vision for this congregation is to become the leading congregation in Kalamazoo for ministries of Justice, and to grow in discipleship and in numbers significantly over the next several years. So you can imagine my surprise last week after worship when a member said to me,
“So I hear you’re leaving Sunnyside next year.”
“Um, where did you hear that?”
“Oh, my wife heard it from someone that you said you’re transitioning out of here next year.”
Let me make this very clear. I AM NOT MAKING ANY PLANS TO MOVE AND HAVE NO INTENTIONS OF LEAVING SUNNYSIDE. This is what I said a few weeks ago in worship which is the same thing I say every year after Annual Conference. “I am pleased to announce that the Bishop has appointed me to Sunnyside for one more year.”
That being said here is some basic United Methodism 101. Each year in the Winter and Springtime the Bishop and Cabinet appoint clergy to churches. Appointments in The United Methodist Church are made on a year to year basis meaning that, clergy are appointed ONE YEAR AT A TIME. No clergy at any time is ever given an appointment for more than one year. The cabinet simply renews our appointments year after year until a move comes up.
That does mean since I am itinerate the Bishop very well could call me up and say at any time, “Matt, you’re moving on.” That is the reality of an archaic system that needs to be reevaluated. However, I do not anticipate receiving that phone call any time soon.
Are we all clear? Let me reiterate the point: I AM NOT MAKING ANY PLANS TO MOVE AND HAVE NO INTENTIONS OF LEAVING SUNNYSIDE.
Enough said there. Now back to my earlier comments about my vision for this place. It is a two-fold vision of JUSTICE and DISCIPLESHIP. At the core of Wesleyan Theology is a balance between what John Wesley called personal piety and social holiness. Wesley believed that Christianity is only fully practiced when we give equal weight to our personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and our works of social justice in the community. We are doing well with the first part of this vision in terms of Justice work. Sunnyside has made a name for itself in the past few years particularly because of the Free Store, the Food Pantry, and our involvement with ISAAC. But please note that I am making the audacious statement that we are going to become the LEADERS in this work in Kalamazoo. I’ll write more about that next week…
In the meanwhile we have lots of work to do in regards to discipleship. Following Jesus is bigger than attending worship on Sunday, and occasionally volunteering in some capacity. Following Jesus is committing our lives to Spiritual growth through prayer, Bible Study, worship, justice, giving testimony, sharing our stories, and sharing our resources. There is again more to come about these things next week but I will say one thing: there is much work to be done on behalf of all of us in all of these areas.
Finally, the third piece of my vision is our physical growth: bodies in pews. We had a surge of new life and growth last year and that surge has plateaued and sadly we have also seen a number of members who have passed away, or transitioned into nursing homes or homebound life situations. It s an interesting place of tension for us all right now and less we become too comfortable with this newly evolved tight knit family it is time again to take some actions which will result in yet another surge of growth.
We will become the leading congregation in ministries of Justice, and we will grow in discipleship and in numbers. It’s going to take time, commitment, prayer, money, study, lots of love, probably some forgiveness, and a whole lot of audacious hope. But I am committed to the work and I am thrilled to join you all in the journey for yet, another year.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Matt.