Yesterday afternoon, we had an all-church conversation at Berryton United Methodist Church to process the 2019 special session of the General Conference. I put it on the calendar about a month ago. While it was, of course, impossible to predict how things would go, I did figure that we would need some time and space to process whatever it was that was passed. This was true.
The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing for the first part of the morning with about 3 inches accumulated before the first worship service ended. It was the second lowest in-person worship attendance in the last two years. In spite of the conditions, we had a great turnout on Sunday afternoon to talk about General Conference.
I shared these documents with those that were gathered:
The first document was a statement that I shared in worship and the second was shared at the meeting in the afternoon. Both were adapted from resources provided by the Great Plains Annual Conference.
I am glad that people gathered and were willing to share their pain, questions, confusion, and hope. It felt inadequate. There needs to be and will continue to be more conversations in local congregations just like ours across the United States and around the world. People are moved to take action.
On Monday, we enrolled our children in First and Second Grade at Berryton Elementary School. While we have driven by the building, this was our very first time inside. We filled out all the papers, received a quick tour of the building and found their classrooms. It was another milestone in our season of transition and putting down roots in the community.
I am looking forward to being close to their school. The property of Berryton United Methodist Church and Berryton Elementary are adjoining and the building and playground are clearly visible from my office window. Also, the congregation has developed a partnership of support and care over the years. I am looking forward to the year ahead!
Today is my 32nd day as the preacher assigned to Berryton United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, sharing, and welcome. I am so grateful for the warm welcome that we have received from the congregation and community. One of the ways that I have been learning about the congregation is something that I am calling 100 Conversations in 100 Days.
I hope to share a one-on-one conversation with 100 people so that I can hear their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the church and community. My hope is to get this accomplished in my first 100 days, which gives me until October 8. As of today, I have four down and ninety-six to go. If you live in the Berryton area, would you be willing to share a conversation with me about the church? Visit www.calendly.com/AndrewConard and click on “100 Conversations” to set up a time to meet.
I have been updating and adapting questions from Eleven Questions for Getting to Know a New Congregation. Here is the original list:
- Tell me about a time when you felt especially proud of some members or leaders of your congregation, when you felt they were really following Christ. What makes this incident stand out in your mind?
- Whom do you especially respect as leaders? Why do you hold them in high regard?
- Tell me why you’re glad you are a member of this congregation. Why did you join this congregation instead of another one?
- How has being part of this congregation helped you and members of your family grow in faith? Please give me some examples of experiences or classes that made a difference. How did you change?
- Tell me a story about when congregation members resolved a conflict or difference effectively. What do you think the congregation learned from this experience? How effectively do leaders and members handle differences now?
- What have you especially valued about your pastors and other congregational staff? (Be specific.) Do any sermons, initiatives, or attributes of your previous pastors come to mind?
- Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with members or leaders. What happened?
- Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”
- What do you think God wants your congregation to emphasize in the next three to five years?
- What else do I need to know in order to thrive in this congregation and community?
- Do you have any other concerns or suggestions?
What strategies or techniques have you used to learn about the congregation and community in a new appointment?
Several months ago, we made the decision to be homeowners, as Berryton UMC does not currently own a parsonage. The real estate search has been a bit of a challenge, as there was not an overly abundant selection of homes available in the Shawnee Heights School District. We did find a home that I believe will be great for our family and closed on Thursday.
On Wednesday evening we packed up our van with a variety of items that we wanted to move ourselves – picture frames, breakable items, and a welcome stone. I was about to close the trunk when I paused to look at this view. It struck me that we were literally packing up a sign of welcome from one home that will be going to another. But that’s all that it is – a sign of welcome.
God’s welcome has preceded our family’s transition to Topeka.
God’s welcome continues to be present in El Dorado.
I am grateful for the opportunities I have had and will continue to have to share God’s welcome with all people – no matter who they are or where they live.