Time to Make Lemonade

"When life gives you lemons..."

Do you feel like you are up to your armpits in lemons now?? We are struggling to meet an ever-changing new normal. Thousands have died from the virus, many, many more are suffering, medical resources and staff are stretched thin, the economy fell apart. People are struggling. So many lemons! Let's see if we can make some lemonade out of them.

Last Sunday we moved our Disciple Bible Study, shut down three weeks ago, to a video call. It was fairly bumpy; not everyone was able to make the technology work. But we'll give it another go this week. Those who were able to join in the discussion enjoyed it. We are looking to expand our online ministry opportunities to include:
  • a weekly prayer group led by Stephen Ministers
  • The Mom Hour, a weekly video call with, you guessed it, moms with school-aged, and younger, kids
  • an eight-week study of the Book of Psalms led by yours truly
These are all in development for now, but you should see these and other new ministries blossoming in the next week or two. Many years ago I visited Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, AL. Their congregation was unique for a couple of reasons:
  1. 90% of the church was involved in weekly ministry
  2. at the end of a long list of available ministries was "Other ______________."
They created space for new ideas to spring up. There was a culture in the church, an expectation, that everyone served somewhere. It wasn't left to the clergy or leadership. Instead of complaining about being left out, or waiting to be recruited for something, people stepped up on their own to fill in gaps when they saw them. It made everything healthier.

The other day, I received a phone call out of the blue: from Lynne Hinckley. She's sitting at home, wanting to serve in some way. So she called me to ask if there were people she could call and check up on them. I knew she was great on the phone, because she led our calling ministry during the Capital Campaign last fall. So she called a few people, including some she didn't know. She made new friends. This morning she texted again: who else could she call? She created a ministry where she is giving and receiving blessings. Same thing for families who are sewing homemade masks to prevent spread of the virus.

When we moved to a new leadership structure for the church January 1, we knew adjustments to how we did ministry needed to happen. We created totally new leadership positions: Nurturing ministries, led by Jane and John White, and Witnessing ministries, led by Sidney Avlos. They are each learning "on the fly" how to serve the congregation. Sidney and SueAnn Spencer, our Lay Leader, printed copies of my sermon and mailed it to people without email or internet. John and Jane organized new small groups, which then had to be postponed because of the virus. But that doesn't mean the ministry needs to stop.

Read Acts 6:1-7. Widows and orphans in the early church needed food. The apostles could not continue their preaching ministry and serve these hungry people, so they encouraged the congregation to find those with a servant heart and give them the responsibility. The result? "God's word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly."

We are living in challenging times-- lemons everywhere! God didn't cause the virus, and God isn't punishing anyone with the virus. If you hear someone say that on TV, change the channel immediately. But just because we are unable to meet in person doesn't mean the ministry has to stop. Time to make some lemonade. So be creative. What skills do you have that could bless and serve?

One last note: I'll miss seeing you on Easter Sunday. I will. This has been the hardest thing for me so far. Missing out on the pageantry of Easter worship. What we offer online Sunday will be great, I promise that; but being with people you love makes Easter more joyful. I remember Easter, the year 2000. Christy and I lived in England. That Easter was cold and lonely. It was, I believe, the first Easter I ever celebrated away from family. I'm pretty sure we called home-- I know we called either on Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter. I don't remember. But the separation was hard. As thankful and joyful as it was, celebrating with new Easter family, the grief of distance on the holiest day of the year was real. Still, the Glory of Christ shines through the darkness. Through technology, we still affirm: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! So even while we are apart, know the risen Christ still meets us, saying "Peace be with you."