I know that we are in the midst of Autumn. Right now, raking leaves is a daily chore for me. My next-door neighbor has two 60 foot maple trees in their yard, and they are just now beginning to drop their leaves. Soon, snow will begin in earnest. Even though that’s true, I am already thinking about which flowers I might plant next Spring.
I think my favorite plant is the Hosta. They are pretty resilient and easy to care for. Still, I believe it’s just a little too early to be planning for next Spring. Winter is coming. Right now, the ornamental grass plants in the backyard are blooming, though I think it might be a bit earlier than usual.
Once Spring approaches, I will start to visit websites more often and walk through the gardening section of stores as I consider what to plant for next year. Part of me doesn’t want to wait, but I know that this isn’t quite the time to start. The ground needs a while to rest, to recover, to replace the nutrients that were used up last Spring and Summer.
I want the seeds I plant to take root, grow, and flourish. I want them to add to the panoply of color that I hope my garden can be next year. But for now, it is time to do the research, create a plan and prepare for next Spring’s planting.
The same is true for our faith communities. We are still in a time of waiting. Many events have unfolded in the last few years which are causing us to rethink what it means to be active in our churches. Some are wrestling with what it means to be Methodist, acknowledging that there are issues that are dividing rather than uniting us.
Others are frustrated that the ways we have connected with one another socially still can’t happen. Not everyone has returned to Coffee Hours and in-person dinners. Small groups and Bible Studies have gone virtual. Our parking lots have become our most frequent gathering spaces. We may struggle with mask mandates and social distancing, as we watch the positive rate in our counties continue to rise.
Some have come to realize they are tired. Our time away and apart has shown us that the same people have been engaged in the mission and ministry of our faith communities for years and even decades. This unanticipated break, instead of being a time to renew and re-energize, has become a time to step away and to stop. Many of our faith communities are searching for those who will be the next person to care for the lost and the least, to share the Good News of our risen Savior, and to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
I know we want to begin. We want to restart, reset, renew, and repeat what we did before. Before General Conference 2019. Before the pandemic. Before George Floyd’s death. Before wildfires. Before earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding.
Spring is coming. But it has not arrived yet. We are still in that space where our faith communities need to prepare for what’s next. Some are caring for buildings, completing long-postponed repair and remodeling projects, in anticipation of when our doors will be open again.
If you have not already done so, I invite each faith community to have conversations about the missions and ministries which will be possible, what seeds of God’s love will be planted, nurtured, and cultivated in the days to come. The landscape of who we are and who we serve is changing. Hear the Good News! God is still with us in all that we do. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, helping the seeds of faith, love, and grace grow and blossom in ways yet to be revealed. May this time be a way to prepare ourselves and those we serve for the seeds which take root, grow and bear fruit. And Amen.