Dear Centenary Family,
I hope this finds you safe, well, and not too stir-crazy yet!
I don’t know how you are feeling about our sheltering in place, but I’ve heard from some of you and from other clergy that, at least for us church folks, we were approaching these times with a sense of energy and enthusiasm in our initial days of confinement. We wanted to show ourselves we could handle this challenge. Many of us had Easter on our horizon. We were preoccupied with figuring out how to find new ways to worship and care and even serve as we anticipated celebrating Easter together, even if that celebration was online.
But the reality that is sinking in for many of us, is that even though there may be the loosening of some restrictions on our moving about, working, and gathering, there is a strong possibility that in some form or fashion, the Coronavirus is going to be causing us to adjust our behavior for anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
Now, the question for many of us is, “How do we adjust our thinking and behavior, if that is even a remote possibility?”
In the midst of this uncertainty, frustration, impatience, and even fear, I also hear people affirming their conviction that though God is not the cause of our problems at this point in history, God is still with us, guiding us and all creation toward God’s ultimate purpose for all of us.
I want to invite each of you to think of yourself as a leader right now—a leader in your family, your sphere of friends and acquaintances, a leader in this congregation. Now, I know we all lead in different ways, some of us verbally and some of us by quiet example.
So, if you and I are called to be leaders in this time, what does leadership look like?
Many of us think that leaders are people who have answers and give those answers with authority to others who follow. But if we are honest, even the smartest among us do not have all the answers about the future.
But there is good news! This is not a new problem.
Several months ago, I started (and need to finish) a book by Gil Rendle who is a United Methodist expert on leadership. He’s recently written a book entitled
Quietly Courageous: Leading the Church in an Unchanging World.
Now, keep in mind, this book was written before the current pandemic. Early in his book Rendle affirms something he’s believed for some years about the church—that the church right now is in the wilderness. He writes: “I still believe that the wilderness changes people for God’s purpose. If we have been in the wilderness in the past, we are in the wilderness once again. If we knew how to manage in the wilderness in the past, we are learning how to do it again. But the wilderness is a curious place for leaders to lead. By definition, one must lead without being sure where one is going. Again, if to be called to lead is a blessing, it is a complicated one.”
Rendle goes on to argue that such times call for quietly courageous leaders that acknowledge what they do not know, are open to constantly learning from their experiences and from others, and have an unshakable confidence that God is with them just as God was with the people of Israel as the wandered in the wilderness or lived their lives in a foreign land during the exile.
My hope is that we can be a congregation that offers courage to a world in a difficult place by being a place where we help each other to find the way forward, living lives of quiet courage and faithfulness, trusting that God is with us and will guide us through this time.