I’ve learned much in my first nine months as a district superintendent. Having listened to many clergy and lay people and having attended worship in different churches across the district (I’m about halfway through the 69 churches), I’ve concluded that among our greatest needs as a district are better communication and a deeper sense of connection with each other.
I appreciate the many churches that open up prayer concerns to the congregation on Sunday morning. Hearing others share from the depths of their heart never fails to touch me, and I also find it a powerful way to build community. At the same time, I lament that we currently don’t have a good way in the district for clergy to share ongoing prayer concerns with one another.
I love receiving your church newsletters (if I’m not on your mailing list, please include me!) I am inspired by the incredible ideas, programs and ministries going on in our local churches. At the same time, I lament that there is no vehicle by which we can share these wonderful ideas and ministries with each another.
It’s wonderful that some of our pastors and churches cooperate with one another for special worship services and events. At the same time, I lament that pastors and churches that are not geographically close to one another often feel isolated and disconnected. I also lament that even churches just a few miles from one another often have no idea what is going on in their sister congregations.
There are outstanding events going on all the time sponsored by district churches. At the same time, I lament that the other district churches don’t often hear about them or have an opportunity to participate.
To that end, the district office is going to begin sending out a weekly email newsletter every Wednesday called The Grand Rapids District Connection. This newsletter will replace The Rapper, which is sent out once a month in written form and which focuses primarily on all-district events. It also does not replace the conference Weekly News, which cannot include many items specifically related to the Grand Rapids District. Nor will it replace Leading From the Heart, which is not meant to be a newsletter.
The Connection will have 4 parts:
- Prayer Requests (clergy family and church concerns; in addition, every week we’ll include a specific district church for which to pray)
- Celebrations (interesting things that are happening in your church; updates on building projects, etc.),
- Upcoming Events (concerts; mission trips; coming events about which you would like other district churches to know)
- It Worked for Us! (successful programs or ideas that other churches might be able to use in their ministries)
We’re going to have to rely on you or your office staff to email your items to Sue Wright in the district office (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Monday of each week so she can get the email news out by Wednesday.
Technology can help us be each alive in Christ, all connected in mission. I hope that through this weekly email newsletter, we will learn from each other, be inspired by the example of our sister churches, and bear each other’s burdens through intercessory prayer. My hope is that as The Connection gets off the ground, we will eventually create a more interactive forum where district pastors can communicate with each other on the Internet. Although I am not a techie, I am eager to learn and use the expertise of professionals in the district to create such a forum. I welcome your ideas.
Our first weekly Grand Rapids District Connection will be sent out on Wednesday, April 25. I look forward to your participation!
P.S. Wednesday, April 25, has been designated Africa Malaria Day and, for the first time in the United States, President Bush has proclaimed a Malaria Awareness Day that same day. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the Council of Bishops, is asking United Methodists and others to skip lunch on Africa Malaria Day and use their lunch money to buy a lifesaving mosquito bed net. United Methodist Communications and The Upper Room Living Prayer Center are also encouraging people to join in a continuous 24-hour period of prayer that day for the children of Africa, those suffering with malaria and for global health. For each $10 donation, a bed net is purchased and distributed to Africa, where education also is provided about its use. A challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match contributions up to $3 million, dollar for dollar. For more information and worship resources, go to www.UMC.org/nets.