Pastor’s e-Note – Rev. Jim Peich 5-9-23
Get Busy Living
In the movie Shawshank Redemption there’s a line where Tim Robbins says to Morgan Freeman, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying.”
As we enter into what many are calling a post-pandemic era, the Church is confronted with a population where strong feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety are now common in 2 out of every 3 people. These feelings are even more pervasive in younger and older demographics.
Add to this reality the growing group of “nones” (people with no religious affiliation), “dones” (people who are done with church based on their experiences), and “umms” (people who have become distanced from the church) and it’s clear that Christianity is facing an uphill battle to be relevant in the lives of people today.
No Quick Fixes
Unlike movies, where a hero comes along and provides a climactic solution before the final credits roll, there’s no quick fix to making the Church relevant today.
That said, I believe there are steps the Church, as the Body of Christ, can take in response to the circumstances we find ourselves experiencing at this time:
STEP ONE: Focus on Relationships
The two most important commands of the Christian faith are to love God and love each other. Put another way, when we fail to love the people in our communities, especially those who are different than us, we also fail to love God.
If the church is to survive, or even thrive, Christians need to get much more comfortable developing meaningful and loving relationships in the places where we live, work, learn, and play.
In a world where so many people are feeling lonely and anxious, the call for Christians to be an authentic and supportive presence in the lives of others (especially those outside of the church) has never been more important.
STEP TWO: Experiment
If we’re not willing to try new things, nothing new is likely to happen. Be vulnerable enough to explore new approaches to ministry. Accept upfront that not everything will go as you plan or hope (and that’s okay if you learn from the experience!). The beauty of “piloting” new ideas, or trying old ideas in new ways, is that it gives the Holy Spirit space to move in unexpected moments. It’s also a great way to practice humility since outcomes are often different than we anticipate.
For example, when Manchester UMC first experimented with drive-thru prayer and ashes for Ash Wednesday five years ago, no one was more nervous than me. Locating this new experience on Manchester Road instead of the church property also fostered some skepticism.
However, since launching this annual event, Ash & Dash has grown from serving under 200 people to more than 500 human beings, many of whom were lonely, isolated, and anxious with no one else to listen or pray with them. Look at God!
STEP THREE: Stay in Love with God
It can be easy in life, and in the church, to wake up one day and find ourselves simply going through the motions. Perhaps the most important ingredient to making the church relevant today is for each of us to keep doing our imperfect best to stay in love with God.
Remember that there is nothing you can do to cause God to love you any more, or any less, because God loves you completely already.
Our opportunity is to be intentional about the ways we seek to align our heart and behaviors with the will of our loving and grace-filled God. I have found the practices of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness (from our membership vows) to be a helpful framework for staying in love with God.
It has been an honor and joy to serve Christ with you these past six years. As I follow my pastoral calling and begin a new adventure at a different church, I am excited to see the ways that God continues to work in and through the people of Manchester UMC as you prepare to begin Century 3 together as a faith community.
My friends, we are Easter people and now is the time to get busy living!
Rev. Jim Peich
Note: Rev. Jim Peich will preach and celebrate Holy Communion at all worship services this coming weekend (May 13-14). A reception will be held in the main lobby for the Peich Family following both the 9a and 11a worship services on Sunday.