See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
I drove away from Hampton after Annual Conference with with a renewed sense of energy and hope for the people called “Methodist” in Virginia. Those in attendance may have had different reactions to the spirited movement, as well as enthusiasm of our new Bishop, but I think all would agree that something new is about to happen in Virginia, and I say, “It’s about time!”
I don’t know exactly what this new thing will be, but I for one am ready for it, and I am ready to lead the James River District to be open to the Holy Spirit to make disciples in every possible way.
Here are just a few of the new ways in which we are seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ this year:
- This Annual Conference approved and blessed the new Wesley Foundation at Virginia State University in Ettrick. This is the first Wesley Foundation at one of the state’s historically African American universities. This is also a bigger partnership with Ettrick United Methodist Church seeking to bring new energy and growth to a congregation open to the Holy Spirit. Pastors Bob Lamb and Delano Douglas are working together on this adventure.
- A James River District Task Force has begun looking a new faith community in Windsor, Virginia, where there are no United Methodist churches. The new pastor of Grace Memorial UMC in Sedley, Will Sloan, has been appointed to initiate a ministry in a new venue (such as a coffee house) for those with questions about the Christian faith.
- The newly formed Prince George Cooperative Parish (Blandford, Gary’s, Salem) was created on our district to experiment and explore new ways for our churches to work together to share the Good News. Michael and Debbie Baugham will be the pastors.
- The James River District is beginning something new in Petersburg with the assignment of Alexander Davis to work with Pastor Tom Lester to begin a new worship experience at Washington Street UMC for those recently released from prison as well as those in recovery groups.
- Instead of 60+ Charge Conference, we will have 8 new Camp Meetings around the district this October to celebrate ministries, and oh yes, conduct some Charge Conference business. The focus will be Isaiah 43:19 and how each of our churches can be transformed into intentional disciple-making machines!
- Not to be left out, my wife and I have itinerated for the third time on the district (that’s got to be a new for a DS). We will be living in Newsoms on the southside, where Mary Alice will be the newly appointed pastor to the Newsoms Charge. I will have a southern office, plus I will be traveling more around the district.
And there’s more to come! To paraphrase Isaiah, Can you see it as it begins to spring forth? If not, hang in there, be patient and let me see it for you. The future of our denomination remains uncertain, and I am praying for the important work of the “Commission on a Way Forward.” Will we be able to continue “walking loosely” together or will God lead us to move along different paths? I haven’t a clue, but what is certain is the promise of our Lord to be with us always. What is certain is God’s glorious future. So, no matter what happens, I believe God will be doing “A New Thing,” and I not only want to be there when it happens, I want to be a part of it!
Seeking a new spirit,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
P.S. So to prepare for all this newness, I am going to…well, I am going to leave you for a little while. During the months of August and September, I am going to do a new thing and take a renewal leave. The James River District will be well monitored by Tish Borden and Jim O’Quinn, plus I will have three District Superintendents on call if needed. So if you need to meet or speak with me before then, please do so by July 20th. Also, please be in prayer as I step away to prepare my soul for all God is about to do and through the people called Methodists on the James River District.