Every fall, our church has a “Charge conference” in which we present our slate of officers for the next year and next year’s proposed budget, we also vote on staff salaries, and turn in paperwork that is intended to satisfy our District Superintendent, Bishop, Annual Conference, the IRS, and other end of year housekeeping. As a part of that, I am asked to submit a “pastor’s report” outlining our activities for the year and my expectations for next year. It’s a lot like the “What I did last summer” reports that we wrote in the fall as school children. In any event, I wanted to share that report with you, so what follows is the report that I turned in at Charge conference last month.
Charge Conference 2018
Having arrived at Christ UMC only three months ago, I really don’t have a lot to reflect upon. But I can, at least, share my observations. Christ Church is a busy church with almost constant activity. We are deeply involved in the community at many levels, from our association with Habitat for Humanity, Men’s Challenge, and the Alliance of Churches, which have office space on our first floor, to our participation in local food pantries and “flight pack” food programs for school children, to the professional involvement of our members in the Chamber of Commerce, the Lion’s Club, and other organizations. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts meet here, are strongly supported and our own youth group, though small, has the deep and enthusiastic support of every member regardless of age. Not only does Christ Church host the weekly community dinner (which is averaging well over 100 people, and often 150), our church isn’t content to simply feed people, it is active in teaching life skills, such as cooking, so that many of those same people can become more independent and self-sufficient.
We have also found, that the people of Christ Church are not just supportive of local outreach efforts but are incredibly supportive of missions nationally and internationally. Two members of our church volunteered for our planned mission to Kentucky when we had only just arrived here, and they had hardly done more than met me. There were several others who expressed a sincere interest in going with us but who had scheduling conflicts that prevented it. I have no doubt that we will be successful in returning to Kentucky with another team at least once next year, and we are exploring the possibility of doing so cooperatively with the chaplain at the University of Mount Union. What’s more, since we arrived in Alliance and at Christ UMC so close to our planned mission trip to Liberia with the East Ohio Conference’s Farmer to Farmer mission, Patti and I understood that our ability to do fundraising would be limited. But what we found, was a church family who had already sent their lay leader to Sierra Leone, who was so incredibly supportive of our trip that they repeatedly asked us to do informational presentations, and who raised more support for our trip than we imagined possible even if we had done more extensive fundraising.
As if these things weren’t enough, despite everything that Christ Church and its people are doing, their passion, compassion, and enthusiasm are regularly causing them to ask, “What more can we do?” As such, this year Christ Church is taking over the Thanksgiving meal that had formerly been spearheaded by the United Church of Christ. Since last year’s project distributed approximately 1,500 meals, this is an enormous undertaking, but the evidence is that Christ Church, and our Alliance community, are rising to the challenge.
So, even though I have only been at Christ Church for a few months, several things seem clear. First, although the people of Christ Church sometimes seem a little weary, their enthusiasm, faith, compassion, and heart for Jesus fill them with an enthusiasm that other churches might envy. Second, as we see with people, and with churches everywhere, although there is a fondness for doing things that “we have always done,” the people of Christ Church are unafraid, open, and even eager, to try new things. Third, it is apparent from conversations in our community, that Christ Church is viewed by the people in and around Alliance in a very positive way.
Taken together, these things, and others, tell me that God isn’t done with Christ Church yet. There is much to be done, and the people of Christ Church are interested, and ready, to discover what God is calling us to do next. I am sure that, working together, we can find a way for Christ Church to be healthy, vital, and vibrant as we make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of Alliance, Ohio… and the world.