New Readings

I am engaged in some reading that has both stimulated and reinforced much of my current reflection.  As a part of my devotional life, I am reading Bishop Will Willimon’s new book Why Jesus?  It contains the fresh (that is, seen from a different angle) reflection on Jesus that is common to Bishop Willimon.  I will be sharing it with friends who have doubts about the place and role of Jesus (including some beloved agnostics and atheists). The other book that I am almost finished reading is Journey in the Wilderness: New Life for Mainline Churches by Gil Rendle.  It will become a part of our collective reading in 2011 as a Cabinet.  For those familiar with Gil’s work, the book will represent a restatement and fleshing out of many of the themes he has shared in his speaking.  Whether as a deepening and clarification or new information, it is extremely worthwhile reading!  (For those readers not familiar with Dr. Gil Rendle, he is Senior Consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation and serves as a consultant for many denominations and conferences – including the Central Texas Conference – on change and engagement in the new post-Christendom world.) Like my Wilderness Way columns, Gil employs the exodus imagery for what the church is going through.  In the opening chapter he notes a number of helpful and hopeful insights:
  • He is hopeful.  “I do not despair of the fundamental connection between God and the people.” (p. 2)
  • He is encouraging.  “Above all else the wilderness is a place to learn.” (p. 2)
  • He is insightful.  “We have been here before. We are a people of the original Exodus and Exile.” (p. 3)
  • He is practical.  “Being able to see the normal and natural within our communities as living systems in the midst of change allows anxiety to transform into energy and worry to turn into hope.” (p.11)
As I am reading, I find myself in Nashville, Tennessee. In approximately 2 hours I will convene a meeting of leading practitioners in church transformation (renewal and revitalization) as a part of the Council of Bishop’s Four Focus Areas (New Places for New People ~ new and existing congregations).  As we (the UMC as a whole) lean into a new future, we are seeking to live Romans 12:1-2 as a people transformed by God’s grace and God’s purpose as revealed in Christ though the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is an exciting time!  It is also a challenging time!