Greetings from the Staunton District Office, where I began my role as the District Superintendent of this additional district on July 1. I was recently asked by a District Lay Leader from another part of the Conference how laity and lay leadership could help make this new arrangement work. My thoughts are below.
This new arrangement will rise and fall on patience, grace, and cooperation between clergy, laity, lay leadership and district superintendents. I have been in the Staunton office since Sunday and I am already noticing how my meeting scheduling has changed. What used to be "Can you meet at the end of the week?" or "Can you meet early next week?" has become "Can you meet two weeks from tomorrow?" This is simply because of my physical location at any given time. Of course, Zoom meetings help meetings happen sooner, but for those who wish for meetings in person, the process will naturally take longer than before.
Ultimately, our present reality is going to reward creativity and teamwork. Not only is it a good idea for congregations to face challenges and work through differences together, it is congruent with the gospel to do so. It is more efficient as well.
The more churches rely upon their DS, the more we can find ourselves as superintendents functioning as the narrow "pinch point" of the hourglass that can potentially slow things down. Of course, we are always willing to help and equip. It is what we are here for. Yet the more congregational leaders and clergy can do in their context, the freer we are to do this missional strategist work that will enable us to be as empowering as possible for the people on our Districts.
If the pandemic showed nothing else, it showed us just how dependent the people of the congregation are in making the church the church. The laity have an opportunity to be present and help birth into being what God is doing next in the church right here in our midst, and the more our lay leadership can model and emphasize a ministry of presence, unity, and teamwork, the better-realized the kingdom will be in our midst.
I recently told a group of lay leaders on the Roanoke District that when I was in the local church, the most important thing that my lay leaders did was to embody the mission of the church that I was preaching and towards which we were leading the congregation, because in so doing, they demonstrated that what the church was straining towards was possible, attainable, and real because God was with us and we were sojourning with Christ in whom all things are possible.
Grace and peace, Doug