By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”—Philippians 6:1 (NRSV)
For 10 years now, we have been “seeking a more excellent way” as United Methodists in South Carolina. We have worked together to be strong in our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, partnering together as laity and clergy and seeking to align conference resources with the needs of each congregation.
In the midst of such challenges as gun violence, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, pandemic, civil unrest and rampant divisiveness, to name a few, our story has been written. This is a story of hope, a story of bold conversations and deep listening. Ours is a story of learning, forgiving, growing and relentlessly focusing on God’s purpose for our church.
We know that if it’s important to us, we can find a way. If it’s not, we will instead find an excuse. And so we have found a way. Even in the midst of uncertainty, even when the odds seemed stacked against what we were trying to do. With God’s help, we have persevered and made a difference in this world for the sake of Christ.
The late Maya Angelou once said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” With courage and a deep well of faith, we have listened to God and to our neighbors, seeking deeper relationships with Christ and creative ways to meet the evolving needs of those in our communities, being the hands and feet of Jesus.
And the best part of it all, is that we have done this work together. We have studied together, worked in mission together, traveled together, had some fun together and, most importantly, prayed together. We have taken each step in faith, trusting, believing and knowing that God is with us from anywhere to everywhere.
When we committed to seeking a more excellent way, doing things well became our standard. We know that the mission and ministry of the church is worth doing, and because of this recognition, we are willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Even when the task is complicated. Even when the best next step is unclear. Even when looking for an excuse might seem simpler. Even, and especially, when we feel like the deck is stacked against us.
One hundred twenty-five years ago, the Methodists of South Carolina took a step in faith, trusting, believing and knowing that God was with them, as they established what we now know as Epworth Children’s Home. Over the century-plus of Epworth’s existence, they have met the challenges they have faced with a willingness to overcome, and today they are strong in ministry.
During the summer of 2019, Epworth launched an ambitious multiyear capital campaign to position themselves to meet the current and future needs of children in South Carolina, also committing a tithe of the campaign earnings toward the ministry of Fairfield Children’s Home in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Epworth has been faithful, willing to share from the bountiful gifts they receive to broaden the impact on children’s lives around the world. Less than a year into this campaign, the COVID-19 pandemic began. Despite this seemingly unsurmountable obstacle, the United Methodists of South Carolina showed up to ensure the campaign goals were met.
There could have been a gear shift, or a pause because of the realities of living through uncertainty. There could have been a decision to lessen or cancel the partner tithe to the Fairfield Children’s Home. But instead, the Epworth team remained focused, leaning into God’s covenant promise and trusting what Paul teaches in Scripture, that God is faithful to complete the good work begun in us.
May we all continue to trust in God’s abundance, living our belief that God will, indeed, provide.