15 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that16 I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers.17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you.18 I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers,19 and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. – Eph 1:15-19 (CEB)
As I prepare to travel to my family for Thanksgiving, I pause to give thanks for the people and churches of our Conference and for the powerful ways that God is working among us believers here in Maine. I have recently preached at two of our many churches with Part-time Pastors, whose ministries are not defined by how much time their Pastor is present. In Standish, with its populous location in Cumberland County and in Machias, in very challenged Washington County, I found the same Spirit of collaboration, hopeful pragmatism and future-focus. They have strong lay leaders, dedicated and skillful Pastors and history that has taught them that they can transform adversity into new life. Standish Congregational re-built after fire destroyed their building about 10 years ago. They know they are resilient and capable. Centre Street Congregational ministers daily in the midst of poverty that is some of the worst in our nation- a hub of support and leadership for their community. I could describe many of our Maine Conference congregations with these same words, including those who still have full-time Pastors. We are resilient and resourceful people. For this, I give thanks.
In each case, I led an Asset Mapping exercise after church, which is designed to help people discover hidden assets in their congregation and surrounding community. By the end of our time, each had discovered new resources and begun to think of new ministries. The excitement was palpable. The Spirit was strong! How about a community center for elders and others with nowhere to go? What if we helped young mothers learn how to make something out of almost nothing? A lecture series? A ministry to help elders learn how to use their computers better? I give thanks for creativity and vision and willingness to try something new!
I give thanks for the “overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers.” Out here on the margins of our country, with lots of edges for God, and us with God, to work in we are finding a way into the evolving next Church. We have The Gift of Desperation in many instances. Often, we won’t change until we absolutely have to. Many of our churches have reached that point and are rising to the occasion. When we change our perspectives and do a new thing, God is with us in powerful ways.
I give thanks for each person, each congregation, each Pastor who allows the eyes of your heart to open to the light, follow the Spirit and do a new thing.
I give thanks for our common life together – the ways we support and nurture one another in these anxious times – seeking God’s leading and connecting with God’s power.
I give thanks even for the hard lessons and messiness of being Church, for we grow into our better selves as we face our challenges together.
I give thanks most of all for the faithfulness of our congregations who gather to worship God every Sunday, who lead their communities, speak out for justice, show God’s love to those in need – for Pastors who care for their people, preach the Gospel and do the work of justice and peace – and for God who gives us a spirit of wisdom and who lights our way into the future.
Wishing all a blessed, warm and loving Thanksgiving.
Deborah J. Blood