This week I am at the Council of Conference Ministers meeting in Atlanta and by the time you read this I will be in the midst of the Authorizing Ministry for the 21st Century (AM21) gathering.
The CCM retreat was such a gift—a time with colleagues to reflect on the importance of this ministry we do with and on behalf of local churches and in support of our authorized ministers. We talked about the pain that we are all feeling in our various contexts. We talked about the hope that is also showing up within our settings. We talked about possibilities and challenges; feelings of helplessness in the face of some situations and feelings of hope in others; and we talked about what we can do to support one another as we seek to support our churches and ministers.
During an afternoon break one day, four of us went on a walk down to the river near the Retreat House. It was raining and the path we were on was slippery. We helped one another in the most difficult spots. At one point, one member of our group went on ahead. When she turned around, she saw the rest of us holding hands, helping each other down a particularly slippery spot. We all started laughing as she said, “Look at you! I just blaze on ahead and then I turn around to see you all helping one another.” We laughed and joked about it for the rest of the way down the path, comparing it to the charge we are given in our faith communities.
Since then, this memory keeps returning to me as I reflect on what it means to be Church. We all need a little help sometimes. It’s not always easy to ask for help and often we get so busy with what we are doing that we don’t recognize that others could use a hand. Other times we may blaze ahead only to realize that we are way out ahead of the rest of the group, who is needing a little more time to get their feet underneath them. They need our patience and support in order to catch up and be ready to walk alongside us. There is nothing wrong with needing more time. Within our communities, people are in different places and spaces and that is something to celebrate, not something to be afraid of.
Living our faith means we take the time to reach out and offer a hand. It means that we trust in God’s presence with us so much that we don’t have to be afraid of anything. We feel the strength of community when we are struggling with the big things of life. It also means not being afraid to step out in faith, especially when we don’t even know what to ask for or where we might be going.
As we discovered in our CCM conversations this week, the struggles that our churches are facing are not isolated—many of our churches are looking for support in this tender time regardless of our geographic location. No individual and no community should feel alone. We can reach out and offer a hand or, if needed, reach out and grab a hand.
This time is like no other. The grief and anxiety in our systems is real. So is the hope and the anticipation of potential. When it feels most overwhelming, find a friend and grab their hand. Together there is nothing we cannot do.