"The church needs to engage itself &ellipsis; to meet people where they are," said the Rev. Evan Young, newly appointed superintendent of the three-county United Methodist Annapolis District, Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference. "One way is through hobbies."
One of Young's hobbies is cycling, so he decided to try what he dubbed the "Prayer Bike Tour" of his district on Aug. 26. Traveling 55 miles in 4.5 hours from the district's southernmost church - Friendship United Methodist - to the northernmost, Linthicum Heights, he said the "object was to pray for churches and pastors in my district and for those who live in our mission field."
The Rev. Don Stewart, a retired clergy colleague of Young's, prayed with the biking D.S. as he began his journey.
Along the route, Young, a former Greater Washington District superintendent and veteran leader of new-church starts, met United Methodists and encouraged congregations to canvass their neighborhoods. "See who is in the neighborhood, and then have a conversation about who is missing," he said.
The ride reinforced Young's focus on evangelism.
"Many of our communities are in transition," Young explained. "They can't pull from the same pool. They must figure out what they need" to meet the changing community.
As an extension of this new kind of pilgrimage, he urged the 73 churches in his district to go out into their communities and interact with the people who live there.
Young is one of about 450 district superintendents in the United States who oversee the total ministry of the clergy and of the congregations in their missions of witness and service in the world. They are ordained elders appointed by the bishop to administer the work of the church within a particular geographic area.
When Young receives his official welcome to the district on Sept. 30, he has a special request. He invited the United Methodists he met on his bike tour to bring something to place on the altar as an act of praise and a living prayer to represent the new possibilities that occur when congregations venture outside the church walls. The object should symbolize "who is missing and (the congregation's) new mission field." He has no idea what to expect.
"I'm hoping the churches will follow through," he said.
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.