Bread for the Journey
Letter to the Congregation
–Pastor Miriam Smith
Next year Central will celebrate its 125th birthday here in Decatur. What a marvelous sesquicentennial celebration that will be! Over the past century-and-a-quarter, the people of Central have baptized new members of the church family, laid loved ones to rest, married hundreds of people, started dozens of classes and small groups, shared an untold number of meals, and worshiped our wonderful God together.
I write this today to address something of an elephant in the room. When I first arrived at Central, conflict was surfacing regarding the future of our local church and how such decisions could be made. In the time since my arrival, we have maneuvered through a pandemic, worked out virtual worship and programming, come back into the building, continued our missions and ministry programs, seen the beginning of a new Sunday school class for young adults, replaced the sloped roof of our building, and witnessed many other encouraging signs of the Holy Spirit at work here. We have received new members, confirmed and baptized students, and mourned with families as we commended loved ones to God.
Yet the conflict and concerns that were here as I arrived have not simply dissipated in the past two years as we continued ministry together. There were, and are, faithful members of Central who have differing preferred futures for the congregation. Working out how to address these conflicts has been an ongoing concern of the church’s leadership. In the past, I have recommended that a church-wide vote on the preferred future for Central ought only to be done when it will have the ability to materially accomplish something. That time for such a vote is drawing near. This is not a cause for alarm, but an opportunity for our church to draw near to God and listen to what God is calling our church to do.
This will not be a quick process, nor is it a simple one. Rather, it is something that requires our sincere attention as members of this body of believers. As such, I am calling all of us to a season of prayer and listening for God’s will. The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church has asked churches working out what they are called to do regarding continued affiliation with the United Methodist Church or potential disaffiliation with the denomination to go through a formal discernment process. Our first meeting as a church family to begin the process will be Sunday, August 7 at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. In this meeting you will receive the most up to date timeline and overview of the model we will be using as we seek God’s will together. There will be time for prayer, time for learning, and time for answering questions.
In the meantime, and in the days that follow, I will be stopping and praying for our church and leaders, as well as the church around the world, every day at 5pm. It is my hope that you will join me.
This is an important time in the life of Central, and it is my prayer that we will be able to listen for God’s leading together. Please do not hesitate to send me your questions and concerns (firstname.lastname@example.org). May we trust in God’s plans for our future together.