Dear Partners in Ministry,
As I write this, we are two days away from the start of a new year and a new decade. Traditionally, this is a time when we review the past year and make resolutions, plans, or set goals for the upcoming year (or decade).
I always find it interesting to review what I have written in my journals in previous years. Most of the time, I find (much to my chagrin) that my intentions were good and noble but the follow-through and commitment came up short. I know that I am not alone in this. Experts say that most of us give up on our lofty resolutions by the middle of January. Health clubs and sports stores know this to be true, too. The offers are incredible and tempting in early January. They lure us with promises of “a new, healthier, more fit you.” We buy health equipment we won’t use. We join gyms we won’t attend. We sign up for classes we won’t complete. We start diets we won’t stick to.
I think one of the main reasons for this high rate of failure, at least I know this is true for me, is that we are attempting to do them as a solo, individual pursuit. Research has proven that if we are serious about our plans to live differently in the new year, we would do well to find an accountability partner. Someone who is on the same or similar path as are we. Together we can challenge and support one another to stay the course or to get back on course if we have veered off the path. Together we can hold one another accountable for doing what we said we were going to do. I got a new treadmill for Christmas, and I am actively recruiting accountability partners. I know I will need them.
During worship this week, we will share communion. A meal that binds us together with Christ and with one another. At the conclusion of sharing the bread and cup, we will join together in what has come to be called Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. It is a powerful liturgy in which we promise to give ourselves completely over to God to be used by God for God’s purposes in whatever God sees fit. I always encourage people to take that prayer home with them and put it where they can see it on a daily basis, to remind them of the promise and commitment that they have made.
But John Wesley knew that would not be enough. The faith we are called to live cannot be, and will not be, lived out on an individual level. Our faith is an inherently relational and communal faith. The early Methodist Movement was organized around small group meetings, what Wesley called Class Meetings. These meetings were a weekly gathering where people would gather for prayer, Bible study, a simple meal, and a time of commitment and accountability. Each week participants would make a vow to do so some of act of justice or kindness in the week ahead. Usually, those were to focus on the poor, children, the persecuted or the marginalized. The following week, when they gathered again, they would be asked to give an account of what they did and how it went. In this way, they deepened in their faith journey and their connection to one another. The focus now shifted away from faith as a verbal confession recited once a week to how it was lived out on a daily basis.
`In the new year, one of my goals as your pastor, is to begin the process of forming small groups where we too can share and grow in our faith, challenging one another to put our faith into practice in real, practical, and transformative ways, and where we can support and encourage one another along the way. If you would be interested in participating in or leading one of these groups, please let me know. The focus of these groups will be different, so let me know what would be most helpful and interesting to you.
This year, let us commit to working together to deepen our faith, our sense of connection to one another, and our commitment to transforming the world around us.
Your Partner in Ministry,