“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only creation, but we ourselves…” Romans 8:22a
Transition Labor and the Art of Remembering…
I have often found it striking that the Apostle Paul uses the language of childbirth to describe the now and not-yet-ness of the fullness of God’s reign of love. There is a groaning that accompanies the transition labor necessary for new birth. True with human beings and other creatures and true, Paul writes, of the whole creation. This space between gestation and arrival often (usually) has pain attached to it as one thing that is known gives way to the urge for new life to come forth.
So, it seems we have been and are in the groaning phase of the new thing that yearns to be born in the human family as we engage the labor of shedding racism and COVID 19. This birthing of the new thing often to take much longer than we want it to. And yet, there is more than just waiting, there is a process of learning how to breathe in the midst of all that the Spirit yearns to bring forth.
We may wonder in the midst of the systemic crush of racism or the extraordinary challenges of COVID 19 if there is a way to tend the transition labor in ways that are life-giving. It is with this in mind that I want to offer several reminders.
Remember that you are not alone…join in the 2020 Heartland Conference Annual Gathering!
This year, the Annual Gathering will be completely online from 9 am to noon on Saturday, September 26th. This year’s theme is “From Pandemics to Possibilities”. Using the rubric of orientation, disorientation, re-orientation, we will celebrate, lament, and look forward together. More information will be coming soon but mark September 26th on your calendar today! I want you to know that we were to have shared our annual gathering with the Ohio Region of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. However, due to COVID 19 that was not possible this year. We do hope to engage this plan in 2021.
Remember that I am glad to offer rest by guest preaching!
I am especially aware that this season has created an exhaustion for all who are engaged in any form of ministry. I give thanks to God for you and for all that God is doing through you. I hold you in my prayers. For those of you pastoring in local church settings, I am glad to continue to offer myself for preaching if this could be a help to you to catch your spiritual breath. I have done this already virtually and would be delighted to be of help. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Remember that you count…spiritually…and literally!
First, I want to remind you of your beloved identity in Christ Jesus. Beneath all other ways of naming or identifying ourselves, God has given us a primary identity. It is that we are beloved – not because of anything we have done, but because of who God is. Second, in the season of taking the census in our country you count! One of the easiest and yet most profound acts of working toward a more just word is to be sure you are counted in the census. This is not a small thing as the census determines so much for the next decade in terms of how our government organizes itself and also how the tremendous resources of our nation are apportioned. If you have not yet filled out the census, please do so now by clicking here.
Remember that your voice matters!
In our country, one of the ways our voices get heard is through the ballot box. This year, the election process will likely offer new challenges. I encourage you and your church to become involved in the “Our Faith, Our Vote” campaign. This nonpartisan initiative recognizes that voting one of the most powerful ways policy gets shaped. Even more, it is one of the most powerful ways we can allow our faith to have a voice in the public arena. In this season of eager longing, be sure you and those in your circle are registered to vote and then make a plan for how you will vote given the challenges which COVID 19 presents.
Remember that worship joins us even when we are separated physically!
You likely know this already. In fact, you may have already experienced the joy of connecting with folks through virtual worship all over the country. There is one special opportunity I want you to be aware of when it comes to worship. The Ohio Council of Churches is currently developing resources for ecumenical worship identifying September 20th as Anti-Racism Sunday. Those resources will be forthcoming around the theme “Building the Beloved Community”. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
Remember to give thanks…which I will do right now!
This can be hard to remember when transition labor is full tilt for all kinds of obvious reasons. Yet, the Apostle Paul, reminds us that thanksgiving shifts the heart and reframes the mind. It fosters openings and hope in places and spaces that seem closed off to the possibility of any new things. So, I would remind us all to stop, look, give thanks and breathe.
As I do this, I want to say a special word of thanks to Carolyn Cobbien who has served as our Conference Business manager for many years. As you will read in David Plant’s update, we are engaging an offer from United Church Homes Management which will save the conference $30-40,000 annually in the accounting area of our life together. Even as we are glad for this stewardship opportunity, we are also thankful for Carolyn’s years of service as her employment with the Conference comes to a close. Thanks, so much Carolyn, for your sharing your gifts with us. Blessings on you!
In this time when the labor of the new thing that yearns to be born – a world free of COVID 19, free of racism, free of the fear that keeps all God’s children from flourishing, may we remember that God is holding our lives and will not leave us alone. I hold you in my prayers. May the blessing of God who created us, who continually grants us a redemption that heals, and a sustaining power beyond our imagining rest on you all. Blessings and Godspeed!
-Pastor Dave Long-Higgins