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An Update of the Discernment Process

At a recent retreat I attended, I learned of Howard Thurman, an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader, and a prominent religious figure.

Today, I’d like to share with you one of Thurman’s meditations entitle “I will sing a new song.” It captures for me the struggle many of us are going through as we seek to find our footing in the new world in which we live. The new world where churches will have two congregations: one in the church building, the other attending from homes spread across the USA, indeed the world.

The new world where meetings and Bible study are held on Zoom.

How are we to adapt to all the changes?
I don’t see how we can go back.
The path I see is forward.
Forward with God’s help and, as difficult as it may be, by learning to sing a new song.

Thurman wrote: “As difficult as it is, I must learn the new song that is capable of meeting the new need. I must fashion new words born of all the new growth of my life, my mind, and my spirit. I must prepare for new melodies that have never been mine before, that all that is within me may lift my voice unto God. How I love the old familiarity of the wearied melody how I shrink from the harsh discords of the new untried harmonies. Teach me, my Father, that I might learn with the abandonment and enthusiasm of Jesus, the fresh and new accent, the untried melody, to meet the need of the untried morrow. Thus, I may rejoice with each new day and delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.  I will sing, this day, a new song unto Thee, 0 God.”

As you think about the changes you have made and are making and your new song, I want you to consider three questions:

  1. When was it in 2020 when you knew that in spite of your circumstances that everything was going to be OK?
  2. What keeps me from singing a new song?
  3. What makes me come alive so I can sing a new song?

2021 will have its challenges too, but I see hope. I see people learning to sing a new song. Not just one, but many new songs. I see people working together in churches and in the Presbytery to do ministry in new ways. I see congregations reaching out in new ways to the unchurched, helping them know the love of God.

What is the new song that you’re singing to God?
Some of us are still finding our voice, still searching for a new melody. It will come. God will get you there. As each church in this Presbytery is learning new melodies, new songs to sing, your Presbytery is also learning to sing a new song, one that is in harmony with the churches in this Presbytery. Yes, a song that is in harmony with the churches in the Presbytery.

How does your Presbytery sing in harmony with each of you?
Well, I believe that involves listening for God’s direction. And that is exactly what we’re doing with the Discernment Process. Last fall, as a part of my interim work, I realized we didn’t need another reorganization. We didn’t need another study. We needed to listen for what God wants for the Presbytery – how the Presbytery can sing a new song that is in harmony with each of your churches – how together we can sing in harmony. At the last Presbytery meeting, I proposed a plan (that was accepted) to involve many folks in the Presbytery in a discernment process, listening for God’s direction for the Presbytery. Implementation of the plan is in progress.

Thanks to Ralph Mueller and Rob Stewart who have been working with me to implement the plan.

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