It is the season of "thanksgiving" - A time to remember and give God thanks for the many blessings that are given and received in life. After several months of traveling, Leslie and I completed itineration throughout the New Mexico Conference and are now home in Albuquerque. We are ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with the many friends and family arriving this week. A Thanksgiving tradition in our family is to give each person seated at the table a chance to say what they are thankful for this year.
It amazes me that those who have had some challenges usually share their gratitude for the basic things of life like food, clothing, shelter, family and a place to belong.
I am so proud of the churches in the New Mexico Annual Conference. I offer my sincere thanks to all who attended and participated in our recent Itineration visits-we learned so much from the many gatherings across the area. Our Provost, Rev. Dr. Randall Partin mentioned that we sometimes get caught up in the narrative that our church is declining and dying and that we are too small and weak to do anything about it. That is certainly not the case. Our laity and clergy are working together around a common mission and vision. Although it is undeniable that we face challenges, we are thriving. Over 50% of our churches this past year showed stability or growth in worship attendance. We celebrated the opening of a brand new church facility called "The Bridge" in Odessa, Texas. Our churches gave over $150,000 to UMCOR for disaster relief and recovery. Many people have been fed by food pantries, helped by free stores, and have been prayed for in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. By working together and trusting in the promises of God, we indeed have a lot to be thankful for over these last five years.
We shared three questions at each of the itineration gatherings: (1) What is our common shared purpose in ministry? (2) What challenges in your local church context are you dealing with? (3) What are your hopes and dreams for your local church and what resources do you need from the district, conference and general church? We are compiling the responses and will share copies of the report once it is completed. This information will be shared with a "Discernment Team" that will be named next year to begin the work of discerning where we believe God is calling the New Mexico Conference beyond Vision 2020.
My prayer this Thanksgiving season is that we would all remain mindful of the vision of Jesus Christ - That God's Kingdom and will might be done on earth as it is in heaven and that we stay connected with one another. May you have a joy filled Thanksgiving as we give thanks for the many blessings given and received in our lives every day!
Bishop W. Earl & Leslie J. Bledsoe
Your Episcopal Family