By Jessica Brodie
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”—Isaiah 43:19a (NIV)
“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”—Mark 2:22 (NIV)
As I write this, a new year is on the horizon, and my soul stirs in response.
Like many of us, I’m hoping and praying 2024 will be a new start, a new chapter in my life, as well as a time of renewal and reset for us in the church. I know God has extraordinary things planned for his church, things so incredibly beautiful and righteous and good we cannot even begin to imagine them. I look forward to discovering these plans and, I hope, playing a part in helping some of them come to fruition.
The last several years have been difficult. From strife in the church over sexuality and how the denomination is handling it to frustration over the long pause between sessions of General Conference, at first things felt like they were on hold. Yet for some, that pause enabled discontentment to fester and explode. Last year, 12 percent of the churches in the South Carolina Conference left The United Methodist Church. This year, a new set of churches is pondering what they wish to do regarding their denominational affiliation. While like last year, the conference is not releasing names or numbers, electing to let these churches discern their path with the grace of privacy, many of us have heard the rumors. We know some are in the discernment process. I am praying for these churches. It’s a difficult thing to experience that shaky ground of exploration. I hope they will choose to remain in the UMC, for I believe our church is better when we can all bring our differences to the table. Our differences truly do make each other better.
My hope for the new year is that we all keep our focus on the main purpose of our existence—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—no matter what we face as a church.
In Jesus, walls fall. Mountains crumble and rise again, new and glorious. Miracles happen.
Will you join me in prayer that God helps us set arguments and worries and fears and discontentment aside so we can all work together for the glory of his kingdom?
This is my hope for the new year. Amen.