Sometimes I am like the heron in this picture. To many I seem like an extrovert willing to jump either into life’s frays or frivolities. The real me is more introverted. I take solace on Mt. Mitchell or the sofa. I need my “cave time” more than I would like to admit. I can and will get involved, but my energy is replenished when I’m absolutely alone. I look forward to walking every morning in the darkness when it’s only me and God, no cars, and only the faint shadow of a heron in the rapids.
Today I got off my rock and headed down town to Zion Baptist and marched to the Statehouse for King Day at the Dome. MLK, Jr. could have stayed in “his place” on his rock, but he got involved. We need to do the same in South Carolina about the deplorable schools in the “Corridor of Shame,” payday lending abuses, the lowest cigarette tax in the US, and many more justice issues. I am grateful for those who have the led the rest of us by example.
For instance, I was glad last night when Sandra Bullock won a Golden Globe award for her performance in the movie, “The Blind Side.” It’s a great film that depicts a family that isn’t about blood or color. My mother came to mind as I watched the movie and last night. My mother became the legal guardian for an older African-American gentleman, Frank Arthur, before I was even born. He lived with us. We were his family and he was one of us. My mother’s adoption of Frank saved my life in high school at Strom Thurmond H.S. I was the only non-African American in Phys. Ed. class, and I didn’t know when to keep my mouth shut sometimes. I remember one occasion when I said something stupid and some of the bigger guys came to my rescue saying, “Leave Tim alone, he’s ‘Miss Sadie Emma’s’ son.” Her fair treatment of Frank and others protected me from myself.
I’m grateful for Mother’s witness about race. Thank God she got off her perch and did something for Frank and others. On this MLK Day I am reminded to do my part, too.
Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “I’m Diving In” is going round and round in my head. I’m back in the office after two great weeks at Emory. My blog went down due to technical difficulties for a week, and our phone system in the UM Center has been upgraded but not working. Nevertheless, it’s been a joy to be back in SC with my colleagues. Literally dozens of people have expressed their mixed emotions of my not being elected a bishop, but glad I’m back in Columbia as District Superintendent. I have thanked them for their wonderful support. I have also put myself and whomever else on notice that things will not be business as usual. If we believe that sanctification is our most distinctive Wesleyan doctrine: That God doesn’t save us through Jesus to leave us the way God found us but to transform us and the world; then things are going to get better and better around here.
To prove this to myself and the Columbia District Council on Ministries, in our meeting yesterday afternoon I lifted up new ventures that I hoped we would address this coming year. I want us to empower the laity more with an exciting Lay Leadership Workshop in January. I will also spend time with the lay leadership of each church, utilizing our new District Lay Leader in Charge Conferences and in meeting with local church lay leaders like I do with each pastor for consultation. The three questions will be, although put in mercantile terms: “What business are we in?”; “How’s business?”; and “How can we help?” I want to use the wonderful cadre of Columbia District Lay Speakers more effectively. I would like for us to get on board with every church embracing Natural Church Development and especially looking for ways to find out people’s spiritual gifts so they can be better used in the local church and community.
I also lifted up evangelism opportunities. I’m woefully tried of our Igniting Ministries’ ads that don’t even mention Jesus. We can pool our district monies and place ads in all the cinemas in the metro area at Christmas and Easter at least. We have to be relevant! So in addition, we are going to pump up our existing district-wide youth events and add a service component. We did a district project last year between clergy and laity that were primarily adults. We did have one youth. I also asked the DCOM to ponder helping me figure out an effective way for us to set up two large parishes for the churches within 5 miles of the UM Center that could benefit from expanded ministry. These churches would share pastoral and lay leadership across two groupings of 7 churches each so that different portfolios of ministry can be deployed and thriving relevant churches be the result.
We also talked about being the capital city district and that means personal piety and social holiness should be hand-in-hand. What are things that we can do to shape the General Assembly? Of course, about everyone knows my passion to get the Confederate flag off the Statehouse grounds, but we have much more to do with homelessness, the Hispanic needs in our area, school buses, the cigarette tax, etc. I promised that I will continue to spend 3 hours with each clergy, and pop in on church council meetings to build relationships. We will be part of a conflict mediation effort so that we can help people survive their differences. I also told the DCOM that I want some sort of forum to teach “Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit,” one of the courses I teach at Emory and have done in a Sunday School class. We have a lot of people from other faith backgrounds or who present the embedded theology of our Baptist/Calvinistic society and don’t understand who we are and why it’s good!
Anyway, there’s much to be done. I won’t be coasting into the future, whatever it may hold. I’m looking forward to our clergy set-up meeting this Thursday. We have a District Clergy camping trip set up for August 25-27 that will help forge relationships. I pray that God will inspire us to get out of the boats we’re in!