These are unprecedented times. This year has been like no other year we can remember: many of us are spending much more time at home than is usual, attempting to stay safe from a pandemic that feels out of control. We have also witnessed the outcry at the way that black lives are treated as less-than. Natural disasters--earthquakes and hurricanes--threaten our safety as well. There have been consequences for us: for our city, our church, our community, and our friends. We aren't able to gather in the sanctuary. "Air hugs" have become too common. We haven't been able to embrace one another or share space with each other for quite some time. Our children are learning online, and we are noticing how systems of oppression keep those in racial minorities on the fringes of our institutions, society, and Church.
Do you remember the hymn: "The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people. I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together..."? What does it mean, when we can't be in our building with our two steeples, to 'be the church together'?
The church is at its best in circumstances like this. Even--and especially--in the midst of trying times, we are called to be the church. Jesus promises that where two or three gather, he is present and there is ‘church’. The Apostle Paul tells us we are God’s Temple, living and breathing sanctuaries.
As the stewardship campaign begins this year, I invite you to think about what it means to "be" the church. While acknowledging the difficulties of this year, we see signs of hope around us. Scientists and researchers of all kinds have come together across the globe like never before to create a vaccine to keep us safe. Hospital workers have put in long days and nights to care for the sick. Many have marched in the streets, and we rang our church bells to remember the dead and demand what is right for our black siblings. We have found ways to gather virtually in ways that are safe and provide Christian formation from the comfort of our own computer screens.
As you think about the commitments of your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness this year, I invite you to pray for our congregation and how you are called to participate this year. Ask God, what does it mean to be the church? Where is hope? What part will I take at DMUMC this year? Will I participate in something new? Increase my pledge? Pray in a new way? Offer my musical gift to the congregation?
We give thanks for all of the ways that God is already working through Duke Memorial, the Spirit enabling us to be light to a world in desperate need of it. We are looking forward to the ways that God will help us live into our mission in 2021, remembering that “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church, together.”
We are grateful for the time and support you've already given to Duke Memorial, and are hopeful for the future. This year, we invite you to participate in this "virtual" stewardship prayer and commitment experience. We will walk you through, step-by-step, the ways you can participate in what God is doing at DMUMC through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Begin by clicking on the "continue" button below.
Rev. Heather Rodrigues