Summer is moving past us quickly. Soon Autumn will be upon us, and when this occurs, we will have entered our season of sabbatical. Preparations for this three-month period are well underway. Preachers have been recruited. Worship services are being prepared. Plans for workshops are coming together. Pastoral coverage in my absence is ready (thanks to Rick and the Elders). We’ve been through this before (six years ago). I’ll say more in my September Dispatch, but know that we can take confidence in the promise of God: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). Over the next several weeks, I will be lifting up some of the important readings that speak to the theme of “River Crossings,” beginning with the promise of Isaiah 43 (August 4). We will also be holding a special retreat on Saturday, August 24th (10-1), when we will gather for worship, including learning some of the songs and hymns that speak to the theme, we’ll introduce the theme, have a meal, and try to answer any questions that are on our minds.
With the Sabbatical front and center in our minds (at least in my mind), I’d like to reflect for a moment on the recent General Assembly. By my count, there were around 12 of us present, ranging from Richard Modglin-Green to our Regional Minister, the Rev. Eugene James. For some, this was a first-time experience (Ashley Balogh has lots of stories to tell) and for others, this was simply part of being Disciples (talk to Diana Payton). Each one who attended has their own story to tell. There were learning experiences (I joined Brett in learning more about possible service opportunities with Global Ministries). There was worship, both at the Assembly itself and on Sunday morning in the community. For me and for Cheryl, it was the Sunday morning experience that was most inspiring. There were meals to share in. Of course, for some of us, there were old friends to see and new friends to make. Oh, and Cheryl, Brett, and I got caught in a downpour that soaked us to the bone on Saturday evening. We were to wet to go out.
General Assemblies always have business items to consider. Because of the way our denomination is structured, most of what we vote on are senses of the Assembly that carry moral authority but not binding authority. That being said, moral authority is important. It helps us discern a path forward as one church that exists in three forms – congregations, regions, and the General Church. Regarding the business items: We voted first of all to enter full communion with the United Church of Canada. This act recognizes an important partnership between Canadian Disciples and another important denominational tradition (the United Church is composed of former Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist Churches). There was an item calling for the church to educate itself on what it means to welcome Transgender and Gender-Diverse persons in the church. Another resolution called for the recognition that “impartially providing for the basic human needs of others as a virtue consistent with Disciples tradition. . . FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that should a Disciples individual or ministry ever face criminal sanction or prosecution for giving humanitarian aid without partiality, this resolution stands as evidence that the 2019 General Assembly of the Christian Church regards such humanitarian assistance to be justifiably motivated by one’s faith in Jesus Christ as informed by historic practice and heritage of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).” You can find the full report at https://ga.disciples.org/business/. Diana Payton and Anne McCauslin represented the congregation as voting delegates, so you can talk with them about their experiences at the business portion.
Summer months are filled with travel and family outings. We’re not all in one place at one time. Pat is up north, but we are well served by those who step in. I want to thank Cole Yoakum and Greg Bryant for “filling the pulpit” during my July absences. Susan Menko will be preaching on August 18th. Then on September 1, when Rick fills the pulpit, the time of River Crossings will begin. Let us prepare for this moment, knowing that the Lord our God is with us.