June Message from Rev. Coplin & Newsletter
I pray these words find you well! Ready or not, we are nearing the halfway mark of 2023. If you have been part of our last six months, then you know that our Spring season has come with tradition, trial, and transition. We began the season together with the solemnity of Lent and Holy Week. Then, we welcomed Easter with hallelujahs and great joy. Just one week later, a momentous vote concluded months of discernment and tested our unity as a church. Then, our morning Bible study in the book of Jonah enticed hearts and minds to consider the transformative power of God’s unrelenting grace.
While denominational strife continues to cast a long shadow nationally, there are flashes of genuine excitement for the approaching summer here at First UMC Many. Vacation Bible School will soon kick off our summertime ministry, featuring a revamped format to better accommodate busy lives of families. Other emerging opportunities for children’s and youth discipleship will allow us to equip and encourage the faith journeys of our younger generation in Sabine Parish. And, as leadership begins to look toward Fall and beyond, we are envisioning ways to nurture growth within our walls and renew our ministry to the wider community. With this new chapter as the UMC in Many, there are new opportunities emerging for Kingdom work! Yet, with the conclusion of our most recent dilemma, we find ourselves facing some of the same old challenges: Expenses continue to outpace income, fewer people are available to carry out the same number of regular church duties, and attendance continues to lag while pastoral need continues to rise. While these may seem bleak, it is crucial to recognize that, these days, many congregations like ours have need to adapt and overcome such challenges. The good news is that we continue to find advantage and opportunity in the “new.”
You have likely heard me say that this time is one of transition from the-Church-which-was to the-Church-to be. Whether or not you agree with this claim, it should be apparent that the Church’s place in American society is changing and that she cannot return to an idealized time of the past. While lamentable, this changing landscape is also brimming with potential. I know that even now God is doing something new, because that is just what God does. The question is, what are we willing to do to join him in his work? Jesus teaches, “No one sews a (new) patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).
While the excitement and potential of something new are undeniable, we also acknowledge that the cost of embracing the new often means letting go of the old. Yet, honoring our tradition and embracing change are not “either-or,” because we can be more fruitful with “both-and!” A high regard for our heritage and for the work of our predecessors in their time only strengthens our desire to be effective and relevant in our time. As we continue on as the Methodist Church in Many, be assured that the Holy Spirit continues to illuminate our path. May the love of Christ fill our hearts and bind us to one another as we embark on this path of renewal. Together, let us work with one mind and heart for the Kingdom, embracing the new while honoring our tradition.