Different Context – Common Underlying Issues

The last 10 days have been a whirlwind.  I started by flying first to Seattle and visiting with the Pacific Northwest Conference’s New Church Development Commission.  This was followed by a day long teaching in the Alaskan Missionary Conference and then preaching the opening worship service of the Alaskan Missionary Conference.  (Admittedly I did sneak in one day of hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park, up to the edge of Exit Glacier – absolutely stunning in its beauty and majesty.)  Upon completion of my time in Alaska, I flew back to Central Texas for our Annual Conference (beginning our 101st year!).  Preaching and presiding was stimulating and exhausting.  Following the Central Texas Conference, Jolynn and I drove to Corpus Christi, Texas where I preached in the Friday service to the Southwest Texas Conference.  It was a special delight and joy to be with friends of long standing. Time spent in four conferences leads to reflections of differences and similarities.  Each Conference has its own unique context.  On an obvious level, the context of living in the Pacific Northwest is very different from living in either Alaska or Texas.  (Alaskans couldn’t help but remind me that if “Alaska were cut in half, Texas could be the 3rd largest state.”)   There are both unique challenges and unique opportunities in each Conference.  Beyond context, each conference stop deepened my conviction that we face common underlying issues.  For instance, the dramatic change to a post-Christendom culture confronts us all.  Methodism as we have known it in the United States is in a period of great flux.  There is a renewed interest across the map on how we witness and share our faith in an increasingly non-Christian culture.  All conferences are wrestling with the implications of pensions, health insurance and financial viability.  Each conference was moving out in creative missional engagement.  In every case, healthy churches were outwardly focused in evangelism, mission and service under the lordship of Jesus Christ. There is much to be excited about.  God is at work, and God leading us across the face of the church!  There is much that challenges us to rely even further on the movement of the Holy Spirit.