September 2020
PEACEMAKERS IN THE MIDST OF THE PANDEMIC
By Superintendent Michael Traylor
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” 
Matthew 5:6-9 NRSV
 
“In place of the gospel of peace, the world preaches the gospel of power”
Howard Snyder in The Community of the King
 
2020 has been known for unprecedented anxiety, chaos, and polarization. The pandemic and its ensuing restrictions and quarantine have created an environment that has been an incubator for every type of fear, insecurity, and violence. Meanwhile, the Church has had a jarring disruption in its “status quo”. Not only were there changes to worship, facility usage, and ministry opportunities, but the communities around us also changed. Already politically polarized, now economically challenged, the amount of stress is palpable. In the midst of stress, a series of recorded demonstrations of police brutality lead to the single largest ongoing global protest in history. The protests themselves often increased the anxiety and the polarization. 
 
In the midst of such chaos, the church seeks to follow Jesus. Our times are not unlike the days of Jesus, when there was significant anxiety, frequent epidemics, political oppression, and violence was a daily expectation. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t endorse any of the major political ideologies or civic movements of the time. He offers his followers an alternative to the power and authorities of the world, in which he describes, using political terms, as the Kingdom of God. 
 
Jesus tells his followers, in what the Church would label as the beatitudes, that in the Kingdom, mourning, meekness, justice, righteousness and peace are the blessed way. The Kingdom of God advances through suffering and giving for others, not through the killing of others. Weakness triumphs over strength and humility over humiliation in the Kingdom. Power is replaced by peace as the currency of the Kingdom. Jesus embodied the way of the kingdom as a stark contrast to the kingdoms, nations, corporations, and dominating institutions of Jesus’ day and even our day. 
 
Throughout its history, the Church has been wooed and co-opted by powerful forces who seek to use it to further its interests. Beginning with Roman Emperor Constantine, the Church has been used to justify nationalistic and political agendas that employ activities that are antithetical to the Kingdom of God. Christian Philosopher Pascal once wrote “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”. More contemporarily, American President John Adams described the co-opting of religion for the purposes of wielding power this way:
 
“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all of God’s laws”
John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1816

Therefore, the Church must strongly adhere to the Kingdom of God, embodied by Jesus, or be used or commodified by political agendas based upon greed, domination, and exceptionalism. We must continue to be the prophetic voice to governments and authorities and never their agents. As a wise person once said, we must be the thermostat and never the thermometer. 
 
Mourning with those who suffer injustice, advocating from a position of humility (meekness), desperately desiring justice and rightness, demonstrating mercy, speaking truth and love in the midst of hostility, while being misunderstood and mistreated are signs of the Kingdom of God. Your participation in these things is literally a sign and symbol of the presence of the Kingdom of God among competing Kingdoms and ideologies. The Scripture tells us that peacemakers will be called children of God. Children of God because we are extensions of God’s character and a reflection of the mission of Jesus.
 
Let’s get back to being the announcers of the gospel of Peace. Let us demonstrate it so loudly that our communities will say about us:
 
Blessed are the peacemakers. They are the true Children of God!
Strategies for Personal Wellbeing
Dr. Chris Adams , APU Center for Vocational Ministry
Keep Perspective
  • God is with us, no matter what happens. The hope of Easter resurrection is alive!
  • The Christian Church is the most resilient movement in history, having survived and even thrived during wars, famine, persecution, and pandemics.
  • View difficulties as challenges, rather than threats.
  • Focus on what is in your control, rather than what is not in your control. When circumstances are out of our control, remember that we were designed and empowered by God for self-control.
  • Remind yourself that this is time limited, and this situation will pass. It will not be indefinitely uncertain.
  • If we live in a developed country, we are privileged with enormous resources – other parts of the world are not as fortunate. Practice gratitude daily.
  • Think about what has helped you and your church cope well with crises in the past.
  • When there are unknowns, our brains tend to fill in the unknown with the worst-case scenario. Resist the tendency to catastrophize, and focus on the known facts.
  • Reflect on a healthy theology of suffering. God is a suffering presence, who suffers with and for us. God is present.
  • Allow God to remind you that the basis of your identity has never really been defined by what you do for God, but rather is defined by being In Christ.

Process Your Feelings
  • Make sure to pause, step back, and check in with yourself several times per day. How are you feeling physically, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, and spiritually? What is accumulating in my inner life?
  • Give yourself permission to be a person, and have your own fears and anxieties. Allow yourself some limited time to dwell on your concerns, but do not remain stuck in a posture of fear.
  • Recognize the anxiety triggers in your own life that may be activated by this crisis, such as a history of trauma, and invite God into your fears.
  • We cannot grieve what we have not named. Acknowledge loss and grief for yourself and others, including anticipatory grief, and help create meaning and rituals to process through the grief – practice lament (which is not incompatible with hope).
  • Reach out for support frequently from family, close personal friends, clergy peers, and a coach or counselor.
  • Find other constructive ways to constructively express feelings, i.e. journaling, art, and music.
  • Ask for help and delegate some pastoral care. Ask God to use this season as a community building opportunity within your congregation.

Create a Consistent, Healthy Routine
  • As much as possible, establish regular ministry work hours similar to your typical schedule.
  • Revisit your rhythm of spiritual practices, and prayerfully consider some contemplative practices.
  • Make sure to take regular breaks away from crisis response, and completely focus on something else. Take a physical and mental break from pandemic response and other ministry work.
  • Exercise every day for at least 20 minutes, at least at a moderate level of intensity.
  • Spend some time outside every day if possible.
  • Practice a relaxation exercise regularly, such as deep breathing. For example, try the 4-7-8 exercise. Breath in through your nose to a slow count of four…hold the breath for a slow count of 7…exhale through your mouth for a slow count of 8…repeat a minimum of 4 times.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine use.
  • Limit the amount of news and social media you consume. Too much exposure can exacerbate anxiety and create vicarious trauma.
  • Make sure to get as much sleep as possible, and return to an average of 7-9 hours per night as soon as possible.

ATTENTION YOUTH PASTORS
Attached is a letter from Rev. Zach Fleming, Director of FM:Infuse, our student ministries oversight for the Free Methodist Church – USA. Please download the document below.

REGISTER NOW
FOR LEADERSHIP SUMMIT 2020 - ACT 2
Our Fall 2020 gatherings in each District are listed below. However, a decision has been made to hold the Colorado/New Mexico and Spokane Summits virtually due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in those districts. As we get closer to the other dates, we will make a decision as to the capabilities of hosting these in person. Look for more information in your email.

Our Colorado/New Mexico District's virtual Leadership Summit went well. We look forward to the remaining district events. Please make sure you register by clicking the appropriate event below.

DISTRICT / DATE / REGISTER







We encourage churches to invite their Staff, Board and other leaders to your District's gathering. Mark you calendars and plan on attending.
The Art of Neighboring
A copy of the book that we will discuss at our upcoming Leadership Summits was mailed to all TRC Lead Pastors. We are excited to delve into this topic and encourage you to read this book prior to your district's Summit.

If you are a lead pastor and have not received your book, please contact the conference office.
TRC signed up to take advantage of Amazon.com's "give back" campaign. Amazon Smile is a program where you can designate a charity to receive a percentage of any purchase made on Amazon.com.

If you buy things off Amazon, please consider designating TRC as your charity. How to get started:
www.smile.amazon.com - find The River Conference of the Free Methodist Church, Lakewood, CO on the charity list, select it. Now every time you order something from Amazon, you must enter through the smile.amazon.com website, you'll see what charity you're supporting in red letters. Then start shopping. Amazon will automatically deposit donations into our checking account.

If you buy things off Amazon, please consider designating TRC as your charity.
The Deacon's Bench
From time to time, we find articles in Brotherhood Mutual's monthly newsletter, The Deacon's Bench, that we think you might find useful. Please click on the picture to the left to download the entire article.

WHAT'S INSIDE
In this issue you’ll discover the steps you can take to protect ministry property from damage caused by wind, fire, water, and hail. While these types of events can be costly and disruptive, industry experts provide critical insight that can help your ministry today. Don’t forget to check out our COVID-19 resources at brotherhoodmutual.com/coronavirus.
Around the Conference
TRC COVID-19 State Resources
Below are the websites for all the states in The River Conference that have current information on COVID-19. Stay informed. These websites have the most current information for each state. Simply click on the state and it will take you to the corresponding website.
TRC DISTRICT LEADERS

ARIZONA
Ben Forsberg (Phoenix, Citizen's Church) ben@citizensofphoenix.org

BOISE
Ryan Stoops (Caldwell, Deer Flat Church) ryanstoops@deerflat.org

COLORADO/NEW MEXICO
Mark Douglas (Pueblo, Light & Life) pastor@pueblolightandlife.com

NORTH TEXAS
Ali Mitachi (Abilene, Portland Avenue) mitachilw@yahoo.com

SOUTH TEXAS
James Ford (Corpus Christi CPP) jesusandjames@yahoo.com

SPOKANE
James Leman (Spokane, First) james.leman@ffmwired.com
Upcoming Committee Meetings

Thursday, October 1
MEG Video Conference

Tuesday, October 6
MAC Video Conference
Thursday, October 8
Property Team Video Conference

Tuesday, October 13
Finance Team Video Conference
 
Thursday, October 15
Board of Video Conference
 
Tuesday, October 27
District Leaders Video Conference
Find out what is happening around the Free Methodist Church. Click below to view the respective newsletters
The River Conference | theriverconference.org