My heart is full. As most of you know, I have been on Medical Leave since April 1, 2022, recovering from a shattered wrist and concussion. I am beginning to participate in meetings and will formally return to active ministry on October 1. At the end of 2022, I plan to retire. In the meantime, I hope to remain as connected as possible to the congregations and ministries of the Iowa Annual Conference. One way in which I can do that is by resuming my weekly blog.
Because of the intensity of our work as a Cabinet and mindful of my health, I have decided not to write any new blogs. Rather, from now until the end of the year, I will share with you some of my favorite blogs from the past seventeen years. Today’s blog is called Welcome to My World and was published on July 25, 2006, a few weeks after I began my ministry as a District Superintendent in Michigan.
July 25, 2006
Last week, for the first time in 25 years of ministry, I went to the health club on Sunday morning! I am now officially out of my normal Sunday routine. For years I got up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. on Sunday and went out for a run before the first worship service at 8:30 a.m.
I am not responsible for a specific church anymore. Now the Grand Rapids District Michigan) is my parish! I have made a commitment to visit each church on the district for Sunday worship. It’s going to take me a few years, but my first three Sundays have been wonderful. What a privilege it is to experience different forms of worship and be welcomed by United Methodists in cities, suburbs, small towns, villages, large churches, small churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, Anglo churches, and ethnic churches.
I’ve been very impressed so far by the quality of worship I’ve experienced. The preaching is inspired, parishioners are welcoming, there is a good spirit, and I have felt God’s presence. Worship planning and preaching is the lifeblood of the church, and it was always at the heart of my local church ministry. Yes, I already miss leading worship, but I am open to all of the wonderful things God will show me by visiting other United Methodist churches on Sunday morning.
Back to the health club. A few Sundays ago, I did not need to be in church till mid-morning, so I decided to check out the club and go for a swim. I admit I felt incredible guilt. I was looking around me all the time, afraid I’d run into someone I knew. I thought to myself, “This is not right! I shouldn’t be here!” I tried to hide in the women’s locker room when I heard a familiar voice, “Hey, Laurie!”
It was Jim, who is Jewish. He broke out into a big smile and said, “I didn’t think I’d ever see you here on Sunday morning. Welcome to my world.” Actually, few people were working out that day. I don’t know if it was because it was Sunday morning or the summer or a combination of both. Of course, I hope everyone is in church, but I know better.
There are as many unchurched people in Grand Rapids as anywhere else in the country. You and I are called to reach people for Jesus Christ and not just stay in our sanctuaries and wait for them to come to us. At our church conferences this fall, I look forward to hearing how you are reaching out to your communities and making disciples for the transformation of the world!