Much is still possible for our church

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Key points:

  • Maintaining Ministers In Ministry, or 3M, is an ongoing network of United Methodist clergy mentors, leadership professionals and spiritual guides.
  • At its recent annual gathering, the group chose as its theme, “STILL POSSIBLE,” inspired by a book of poems by David Whyte.
  • In this time of change for The United Methodist Church, the group discerned that much is STILL POSSIBLE for the denomination.

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Our beloved United Methodist Church is going through some vexing changes. I am in a longstanding network of clergy mentors, leadership professionals and spiritual guides who met recently seeking signs of hope. 

We were trying to discern what is STILL POSSIBLE in our church's quest to help each person live the fullest life possible. I thought you might like to see our statement and our hopeful list.  Feel free to add any "STILL POSSIBLES" that come to mind and to share with others:

IT IS STILL POSSIBLE
3M Network 2022

When you do it right, Christian ministry is always a daunting task, especially these days in our United Methodist denomination, which appears to be having a nervous breakdown. Maintaining Ministers In Ministry, affectionately known as 3M, is an ongoing network of United Methodist clergy mentors, leadership professionals and spiritual guides. Every jurisdiction in The United Methodist Church is represented in our membership.

We have gathered annually for over 20 years to help each other remain on the cutting edge in helping Christian ministers on their journey toward excellence. United Methodist congregations come from every walk of life, and their diversity is often their best source of energy and innovation, when creatively led by self-defined, less anxious pastors, who are capable of staying connected even with members who might be disagreeable. It helps, too, if the pastors continually work at discerning a vision of what might be the best future for their particular appointment.

For the year 2022, we chose as our theme “STILL POSSIBLE,” inspired by the title of a recent book of poems by David Whyte. The title poem alone is worth the cost of the book, which served as our preparatory reading. 

We pondered what is STILL POSSIBLE for our personal lives and our professional calling. We found ourselves spending the most time, though, pondering what might be STILL POSSIBLE for our beloved denomination. There were moments when John Wesley himself seemed present. A flood of heartfelt possibilities burst forth from the group.  

In no special order here are some of them. Feel free to add to them. Select the eight or 10 that glisten off the page to you. 

Time is short. There is much that is STILL POSSIBLE. Let's get to work on it — NOW:     

  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to be in a process through which the invisible bond to the past can be relinquished to free those in the present to create a new story.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for a voice of clarity to come from an unexpected source.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to gather with our tools at a natural tragedy and work together to rebuild and renew what has been damaged or torn down.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to breathe some grace into our sacred system.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE that all the people who come to our door will be welcomed and included.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to experience a sense of playfulness and adventure.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to experience The United Methodist Church as a safe sanctuary. 
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for leaders in the church and congregants to genuinely listen to each other, seeking to understand each other without needing to change the other.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for graceful relationships to reduce anxiety and enable church leaders and members to live together peacefully, lovingly and supportively.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to care enough about the Gospel that we continue to offer resources to help clergy and churches grow in their maturity and effectiveness and develop resilience — regardless of their theological stance.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to work together to address a variety of unresolved issues, like the climate crisis, poverty, racism, war. We are a people with more than one issue.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for God to work in and through us.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to trust God to lure (instead of bring) us to a new and more holy way of being — to trust enough that we can live and minister by replacing fear and reactivity with grace, love and courage.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to love our neighbors and to remember we are all God’s children.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for me to acknowledge my short-sightedness, my prejudices and my poor choices and, with God’s help, look at how I can do better, be better.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for us to get to know one another better.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to courageously and playfully disrupt the serious and anxious game of “us vs. them.”
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to communicate love in a world of pain and anxiety.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to support pastors who seek to be leaders in the midst of change.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to experience Christ in the personal: as guide, teacher, comforter and source of hope.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for annual conferences to be a place of grace.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE that something can happen without planning it, and even in spite of planning it.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for the personal relationship to be the most emotionally powerful on earth.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for people to stay emotionally connected in a love process while totally disagreeing on the content.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE for the mysterious love of God to shine through, in spite of human behavior.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to relieve some of the toxicity and reactivity in our ecclesiastical system, creating greater capacity for grace, compassion, curiosity, creativity and responsiveness.
  • I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE to imagine the upset homeostasis of The United Methodist Church as an INVITATION to a new way of doing, being and connecting that broadens and deepens the scope, meaning and possibilities of our journey together.

Hope whispers, “Look closely,
I am in it all
waiting to be found.”

I believe it is STILL POSSIBLE that God — whose middle name is Surprise and shows up in the most unusual places, spaces and faces — is still at work in the midst of it all, including the anxiety and chaos.

Winn is a retired ordained elder in the Louisiana Conference, having served as a pastor for more than 40 years, and the creator and mentor emeritus of the Louisiana Conference Center for Pastoral Excellence. He is also the convener of the Maintaining Ministers in Ministry network.

News contact: Joey Butler or Tim Tanton at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Friday (weekly) Digests.


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