WE friends,

As I noted on Sunday, it has been quite a humbling week to be a United Methodist pastor. Personally, I have focused most of my time listening to many of you, former students, friends and even some family who have been asking a variety of hard, fair questions about decisions made at the Special General Conference in St. Louis. These words of the Psalmist have been a great source of comfort:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains tremble with its tumult.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:1-3, 10

And as the week progressed, I began to be more and more grateful that these struggles were coinciding with one of my favorite seasons of the year: Lent. The purpose of this letter is to share some thoughts on both subjects as we prepare ourselves for this high and holy season.General Conference 2019
A week ago the Special General Conference for the UMC wrapped up in St. Louis. It was a difficult few days for the 850+ delegates, and it’s been a difficult time for many of the more than 12 million United Methodists around the world ever since.In short, the General Conference reaffirmed the Church’s historic stance on same-gender marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ persons, both of which are against church rules. While many in our Church are happy that these policies were not changed, others, including me, were hoping that the Church might find a way forward that would allow progressives, centrists and traditionalists to remain unified and strong in our shared mission. Sadly, the spirit of much of what was said and done has created some deep wounds and mistrust, especially within the LGBTQ community and those who advocate for their place in the Church.

While these are not simple theological questions, we all – no matter how we might feel about these questions – have a responsibility to make sure that any and every person who walks through our doors here at WE is made to feel loved, welcome and wanted. And I know you know that! Waters Edge – from the earliest formational meetings til today – has always sought to be this kind of place. And I thank God for everyone that God has brought to us over the years.

Later this spring, I plan to revisit our Mission Statement and Core Values with our Church Council as we consider our ministry plans for the next academic year. The last time we edited and affirmed these statements was over two years ago. In the coming days and weeks, I invite you to pray and meditate about these statements (see below for a copy). What needs to change? What needs to be added? What needs to stay exactly the same? My personal, upcoming Lenten discipline will center around these questions. I would love to hear how the Holy Spirit is speaking to you over the next forty days as well.

As challenging as this week has been for our greater Church, I believe that God is already at work shaping and molding WE into a stronger, more loving community. As we move forward, I challenge us to commit ourselves to the four Guiding Principles for Dialogue that I shared on Sunday:

  • We will hold high those who think differently than us.
  • We will be humble and listen to one another.
  • Though we will not always agree, we will love.
  • We will work to prevent disagreement from becoming division.

If you would like to explore some of these questions with others during the Lenten season, please let me know.

Season of Lent
The 40 day Season of Lent will begin tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. It is designed to be a season of spiritual renewal and preparation for the most holy of all Christian days: Easter.

It’s strange to admit this, but Ash Wednesday has always been one of my favorite days of the Christian year. One would think that having burnt ashes smeared on your forehead would not be something that anyone would look forward to! But when you struggle with the sins of inflated ego and pride like I do, Ash Wednesday has always been one of those stark reminders of my own frailty, mortality and need for God.

As in previous years, we will celebrate Shrove/Fat Tuesday tonight with a pancake supper from 5 – 6pm. Tomorrow, we’ll offer two, identical Ash Wednesday services. The first will take place overlooking the Bluff downtown (near Bay and Adventure) at 12:30pm (weather permitting). The second will take place at the church at 6pm. Each service will offer readings, prayers, a homily and the imposition of ashes.

Traditionally Lent is a time to focus on three spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Once again this year WE will share in two church-wide almsgiving projects during Lent. Like the last two years, we have the goal of collecting 120 health kits for farmworker families who will be arriving shortly after Easter for the spring/summer picking season. In addition, we have the goal of collecting 250 new or gently used children’s books in support of Born to Read, a local charity that provides a book bag to each new mother at the hospital. We will begin collecting items this Sunday and will continue through Easter Sunday (4.21).

Our Shared Life Together
As I noted during worship on Sunday, this past week has been one of my most challenging since the week of 9/11 nearly two decades ago. So many hard questions…not so many easy answers…combined with a temptation to say or do things that might prove more hurtful than helpful in the long run. I’m especially grateful for how the rhythm of the Church’s calendar provides us with a season of intentional prayer, study and discernment, beginning with having these sobering words pronounced over us tomorrow:

Remember that you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.
Repent…and believe the Gospel.

May God lead us into a Holy Lent…and may we (re)discover who and whose we are in the coming weeks.With eyes toward Good Friday, lane

WE’s Mission Statement
Waters Edge is a community of faith which seeks to worship God,
love one another and serve all…with joy.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it
again – rejoice! Philippians 4:4, NLT
WE’s Core Values

Waters Edge UMC (WE) is filled with a mix of folks from various backgrounds, traditions and places that seek to be family for one another and a force for good in greater Beaufort. WE is filled with imperfect, real people who yearn to live out and share the joy that we have experienced in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, WE seeks to be a community…
  • that loves God (through worship, prayer, study), one another (through fellowship) and our neighbors (through service and outreach) in authentic and compassionate ways.
  • that is highly hospitable, safe and non-judgmental where people of all ages and walks of life feel both welcomed and loved.
  • that reaches the “disconnected and unconnected,” including (1) those who have never considered themselves people of faith, (2) those who used to be active in their faith and want to re-engage, (3) those new to our area, and (4) those who are skeptical of the Church given their past experiences.
  • that utilizes a casual, more-contemporary-than-not approach to worship where traditional elements, when utilized, are accompanied with adequate explanation and teaching.
  • that avoids the use of tired, trite or overly traditional language in talking about God and the Christian faith.
  • that embraces and values our connection to the UMC and our Wesleyan theological heritage while avoiding language and posturing that might create barriers.
  • where all ages are both encouraged and challenged to grow in their faith through worship, prayer, study, fellowship and service with the goal of “doing all the good we can,” both individually and collectively.
  • where children and youth are central to our mission.
  • that reflects the diversity of Greater Beaufort.
  • where lives are changed, where healing is experienced and where transformation occurs.
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