Discernment and Adjustment

I gave an extemporaneous state of the church report to the Charge Conference on October 17.
Upon reflection, here’s a polished-up transcript of what I told the attendees that night.
At lunchtime, I was headed over to the campus to have lunch with the Calvinists like I try to do Mondays when I can. As a
Wesleyan, I sometimes have to stomach some irritating Calvinist doctrine (as I did that Monday as the attendees spoke
supportively about Limited Atonement) as we read over the Institutes, but hey, the lunch is free, and it is a good opportunity
to reflect on theology. If you’re unaware, John Wesley wasn’t a big fan of some of the key principles of Calvinism, but that’s
material for another article. The point is, on my way out the courtyard, I passed a student and her mother. As our paths
intersected, I heard her turn to her mother as the courtyard caught their eye, “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked. I smiled to
myself and I agree. But I get to make that observation on the inside of the church, when I look at the inner workings of actual
church which meets inside this beautiful building. When I consider the supportive relationships, the loving instruction, the
caring acts of service, I echo the student’s observation, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
Now, as for the state of this beautiful church, I’d say two words characterize the past couple years of activity: discernment
and adjustment.
We started 2018 making adjustment to our leadership boards after years of discernment showed the reliance on the same
people for multiple tasks. After discernment and planning, we moved to the Single Board model of church administration,
and in the ensuing 2 years, other churches have called on us for advice as they discern the same conditions and consider the
same adaptation of our model.
After discerning the need to hallow the Sabbath during sermons and an evening small group study, we made the adjustment
to no longer hold church meetings on Sunday afternoons.
Anticipating the big changes to the United Methodist Denomination that were on the table for the 2019 Called General
Conference, we studied together in discernment the different “Plans for a Way Forward” and then considered how our local
church might adjust to the decisions made at that Conference. We continue the work of discernment as more plans for
change (including disillusion or reconstitution of the UMC) are being proposed to the 2020 General Conference.
After discerning feedback on our Holy Week activities along with the commitment to have a service oriented worship
experience on Maundy Thursday, we decided to have a Maundy Thursday “Service of Service” including the putting together
of “blessing bags” as an act of worship around the communion table. It was a meaningful service, well attended and well
supported for us to make over 100 blessing bags that benefited people on the streets as well as Family Promise.
As we have entered a five year period of preparation for our centennial, we have discerned the value of small group
gatherings and had developed a plan for the Stone Soup gatherings that will generate even more discernment and adjustment
to this Body of Christ.
In these months of financial preparation for our 2020 budget, we have asked for the support of the Council Oak District and
Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church and have begun the “Conversations in Church Potential” discernment
and consulting process aided by objective insights. These conversations might lead to adjustments in the way we do things at
UUMC—we’ll see!
God calls us to be people of discernment, meaning we attentively and prayerfully consider our circumstances. And while
adjustment is never comfortable, sometimes (just like at the chiropractor) it is just what the body needs to move more freely
and capably in the world around us.
May our discernment and adjustment continue to bear fruit.