In May of 2019, I attended an event called UMC-Next which hoped to bring progressive and moderate United Methodists together to dream about the future of the Methodist Church. Our denomination has been in a deadlock for decades over the issue of LGBTQ+ inclusion. After an intense 3 days of conversations I found myself driving down the I-81 corridor after midnight having a discussion with Yahweh. You see, the future seemed difficult, even with the best possible outcomes. We’d spent the week dreaming about what we’d like our church to be like but I had a hard time feeling excited about continuing to “do” church, even in the best case scenarios. I felt frustrated. And then I felt God suggest,
You know, you could build a new church.
Uh, no thanks, God. I am not a church planter, I have no desire to go through all that. Probably couldn’t even do it anyway.
I mean, what would that even look like? It’d be cool but, no it’s too hard.
Needless to say, the thought wouldn’t leave me alone. But every idea I came up with just felt forced and disingenuous. After about a month of mental punting of idea after idea, I heard myself say the words, “I just want to be a pastor at Sky Lake.” Sky Lake has long been MY place (along with many others who feel the same way). I describe it as my soul’s home and in fact I had lived there longer than anywhere else during my college years on summer staff. It is my Holy Land, filled with landmarks and artifacts of a faith-filled legacy. As soon as I heard those words leave my mouth I also heard:
There it is.
Suddenly, it was as if every color of food coloring got squeezed into the water of my brain all at once. Ideas and visions began swirling and transforming right before my mind’s eye. I could hardly believe it. I was stunned and terrified because this was a good idea, it just might work, and I had no idea what I was doing.
For those who’ve experienced pregnancy, it felt very similar to those early days. I was carrying the potential for a new life inside of me and no one else knew. The excitement and terror is enough to make you queasy. A couple weeks later, the director of New Faith Communities of the Upper NY Conference sent me an email about something totally unrelated, but when I saw Dave’s name pop up in my inbox, my heart skipped a beat. I knew it was time to tell someone about my vision of Church in the Wild.
From there, I felt like I just grabbed on and went for the ride. Each new person I told got excited and interested and gave me more people to talk to. Eventually we had a team of people from various backgrounds excited to continue discerning and visioning this thing to life. And then, what was scheduled to be our last meeting before taking a break (because I was due to birth a human life in April) also became our last meeting before “The Great Pause” as Matt Williams calls it.
As stressful and challenging as birthing a baby during a pandemic was, I couldn’t imagine what birthing a new church would be like. But I figured, I was already in uncharted territory personally, now the rest of the world was just catching up. When the team reconnected a few months later, none of the passion, vision, or clear sense of the Spirit’s guidance had been lost.
So here we are. In the liminal space of birthing. And not just for Church in the Wild, but for all of us. There is a brave new world on the other side of this space. And there is a new kind of church coming to life at the same time. With more unknowns than knowns ahead of us, it might seem like a bad time to try to start something new. But I’ve learned our Creator rarely waits for the right time, rather They make the time right. And what is more audaciously hopeful than planting a new church amid a global pandemic?
We are a people of hope. We believe Church in the Wild can be a part of the world’s healing. We don’t know what the future holds but we know this is the church we’ve needed our whole lives, so we’re sure as hell gonna need it now.
I hope you’ll join us as we follow the Spirit, care for Creation, and connect with our Creator.