What Have We Become?

Protests abound and it becomes clear to me how divided we are as a church. As I look out on the body I see worried faces, delegates crying, and a general weariness that permeates those doing the difficult work of the General Conference. How is the Holy Spirit supposed to blow freely in a body that is in so much pain?

I am the Minister of Congregational Care for a large church in the Western North Carolina Conference and by nature of my vocation spend a good amount of time with people who are sick. Illness and pain can be so consuming. Anyone who has suffered from a migraine to cancer knows that pain canbecometheprimary preoccupation ofthe mind, body, and soul. Slowly, if that is the only thing that a person thinks about it becomes the thing they are. They become the very pain that invades their body, mind, and soul. What pastor hasn’t visited a member who only talks about their innumerable pains and ailments? The conversation is stifled and governed only by the whims of their suffering. Generally, my visits are brief and exhausting. Without a doubt, very little conversation happens.

I have also been around people who suffer yet tap into a power and hope that supersedes human ability. In spite of the suffering they endure, they are led by a force that is holy and great, a force that spreads to all those that visit with them. I have been inspired by those who allow their pain to be witness of God’s power.

I wonder about our church and the pain that seems to have become the preoccupation of our body, mind, and soul. We have been divided on several of the difficult decisions that have come to the plenary floor. I fear that our pain will shape us into a body that is marred and unrecognizable. But we have another choice. We can allow our pain to be a place for God to dwell and breathe new life into our pain. We can choose to be a different witness. We can choose to not allow our pain to define the United Methodist Church. We are to be the church to a really hurting world that needs to see us deal with our pain as Easter people. After all, we must not forget that our pain is not ours alone but our Creator’s too.For whatever you bound on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth while be loosed in heaven(Matthew 18:18).

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The Rev. Michael Kurtz. Photo courtesy of the Western North Carolina Conference.

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