Dear Hyde Park Family,
Today’s Midweek Message contains a final update and word of celebration about our visioning process, a link to an important announcement video sharing some exciting news, the latest update on resuming indoor ministries on campus, and finally, a personal word from me.
SHIPS INTO SUBMARINES
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was bemoaning the state of the Christian church in our country and our world. It was hard to avoid the statistics of membership decline, the loss of the church’s significance in our culture, and the general indifference people have toward organized religion.
“It feels like a sinking ship,” my friend said.
After a bit of a pause, searching for something to say that was both authentic and hopeful, I replied with a statement that I didn’t quite understand, even as I was saying it.
“Well, maybe the church isn’t a sinking ship, as much as it is God’s way of transforming it into a submarine.”
We looked at each other, my face just as puzzled as his.
Since then, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I said, and frankly, it seems truer now than when I first said it. What if God is calling the church to change, not just in response to a pandemic (which is temporary) but in order to reach vast oceans of new people? People who live in a culture far below the surface of where the church has been operating? People who live, breathe, and view the world in such a different way that the only way to reach them is through risk and adaptation?
These were the kinds of questions that were in our minds back in 2016, as we laid the groundwork for what would be the start of our visioning process the following year. We then adopted a vision plan in December 2018 that would frame our future around four pillars: 1) deepen the discipleship of our congregation, 2) widen the reach of God’s love to new people, 3) unite together in common purpose, and 4) adapt to changes in our culture.
In 2019, a team of gifted and committed lay people got to work as our Vision Implementation Team, working steadily and deliberately, organizing more than 80 people in 12 initiative teams to fulfill the charge of the vision plan.
And even when the pandemic hit us in early 2020, we were already discovering ways to adapt that would enable us to not only survive but thrive during such a season of uncertainty.
Now, after two years of prayer and hard work, this week our Vision Implementation Team is sharing its final reports, which chronicle all that we have achieved as a church and the exciting plans that will guide us into the future.
You can visit the Vision page of our website, where you will see the report in three forms:
- A brief, one-page set of bullet points that highlight the results of the Implementation Team’s work;
- A ten-page executive summary, with further details about each of the initiative teams’ activities and actions;
- A 70-page full report, with full narratives about the work of each team.
And, you can watch a recently produced 20-minute video that announces many of the exciting changes we are working on as we prepare to return to indoor, in-person ministries.
Our Executive Team, made up mostly of lay people serving as chairs of our major committees, continues to monitor the latest COVID statistics in our area. Like all of us, the team is happy to see the steady and clear decline in our local positivity rate, which is our chief criteria for deciding when to resume onsite ministries. The rate was 14% last month, is currently between 7-8%, and we are hopeful that it will continue to trend toward the consistent sub-5% threshold advised by the Centers for Disease Control. So, while we can’t yet predict when that will be, we are accelerating our preparations for that joyous return.
A PERSONAL WORD
Oh, friends. I know this has been a long, hard season for all of us. We are all experiencing grief and fear in some way, and adaptive change of any kind is itself a kind of loss. We find ourselves digging for resolve from reserves we never knew we had. That is true for all of us, including myself. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this has been the most challenging season of ministry I have ever faced. But I’m heartened by the thought that we are in this together, praying for each other, working through the hard stuff together, and looking forward to a future with hope. Perhaps John Wesley said it best: “The best of all is, God is with us.”
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist