The Shape of Things to Come?

June 3, 2019

by Rev. Margaret Freeman, Minister of Discipleship, First UMC, Franklin.​

Where do we go from here? That is the question I have been asking myself often lately as I consider the future of the United Methodist Church. I don’t have the answers, but what I do know is that we must listen to God, both as individuals and as the Church. And we must listen to each other, as difficult as that may be.

Within our local church, we have tried to develop an atmosphere of “Holy Conversations,” where we intentionally spend time in prayer and provide opportunities for discussion on the issue of human sexuality. Our congregation covers the spectrum of positions on this issue, and even though I personally don’t agree with some, I have realized that most of us are trying hard to be faithful and to listen to what God is saying -  in scripture, in prayer, and in conversation with one another.

In our conversations, we have set the expectations to try to remember that we are all children of God and to speak in an attitude of love and humility, using words that help and heal, rather than words that hurt. We’ve also set the expectation that all voices are welcome, and we will carefully listen to one another, being careful not to judge one another. We ask questions, and we try to assume trust rather than suspicion. That has not always been easy to do, and I even have to ask myself when I disagree with what is being said, “What might God be saying to me in this?” Sometimes I realize that I need to broaden my own understanding or recognize that the person has also been faithfully studying scripture, or that they are attempting to do their best to live out their faith by following Jesus, just as I am.

As I ask myself, as someone trying to respond to God’s call on my life, “where do I go from here?”  I hope I can be a voice that through both words and actions can help lead others to a deeper understanding of what it means when we are told to love one another as Christ has loved us.

I have prayed this prayer from Thomas Merton often in recent months as I think about where we go from here:

My LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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