God’s new thing in 2012

by Ertell Whigham, Executive Minister, ewhigham@franconiaconference.org

As I think through all of the ways that we have heard and seen the testimony of God working among us in our communities and congregations in 2011, I continue to be encouraged by the unlimited possibilities of what can be accomplished when we share our God-given time, talent and resources with a genuine spirit of cooperation. In this issue we recount some of what has come about over the last year and I notice that God is continually calling some new movement forward.

Revelation 21:1-8 tells the story of God doing a new thing. It’s a new Heaven, new earth, new relationships and more. This is not merely recycled, but fresh, recent, unused, unworn. The basic message is that through an encounter with God–nothing has to remain the same. We are not merely stretched or reconstituted but transformed. It is important that we understand that my suggestion of a new experience is not in any way saying that what God is doing or has done needs to be updated or improved but should be seen as an invitation to allow our total being to be transformed by God’s new thing. We also know that God alone brings forth new creations, even in our new human inventions we are simply repurposing elements that God has made in the past. New creations require the Spirit to bring life.

This past year much has happened that has enabled us get a taste of God’s new thing. Sometimes what may seem to be the same experience is indeed new when we allow God to give us a new attitude or help us to see through new lenses. For example when I read the story of how the community worked together in Vermont following the devastation of Hurricane Irene, for me, it gave a new meaning to the history and tradition of “barnraising”. Or when I see the collaborative efforts of Plains and Perkasie congregations and our Conference partnership with Eastern District as we work through our shared vision for youth ministry, it opens the ways for many new possibilities and models for ministry. In reading of Indian Creek’s initiative and listening to the experiences of all of our CRM’s, I know that even with long and faithful ministries, it’s possible for God to interrupt and create something new.

In this issue, Jim Laverty and Rina Rampogu write of what Conference board and staff heard over this last year of listening carefully to the life of congregations in the Conference. We are a varied assortment of God’s expressions of love, struggle and faith. In this same struggle, a long struggle at that, we notice that congregations are also feeling God call forth new things from their midst. It is this very thing that Franconia Conference, as we are together, must nurture to call forth, to do our best to be prepared for and transformed by God’s new thing among us. This means new relationships. This means seeing differently. This means changed perspectives. This doesn’t mean that our past is discredited, but recognizes that God is in fact asking us in this space and time to be transformed, to let that new thing occur, to no longer simply be stretched like elastic only to snap back into the same shape, but to be transformed like alchemy through the touch of God that makes all things new.

The year 2012 is not an ending as the world claims around us, rather a beginning in which God makes everything fresh and full of hope again through the life of Christ, the power of the Spirit and the ongoing witness of God’s people. Isn’t it amazing, our God, the same yesterday, today and forever, makes every day new, can renew all things and is even expecting to transform our lives, our hearts, our congregations, our ministries, and our relationships so that the message of Jesus Christ might break forth through us even in 2012.