By Dr. Neil Tibbott, Executive Director of LeadershipOnRamp
One of the most famous coaching references you may have heard is the story about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who spoke to his team at the beginning of a season about the basics. At the first practice, he lifted a football for the entire team to see and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.”
In training for ministry, we sometimes skip important steps that help facilitate growth. If we miss those basic steps, then churches struggle to gain a foothold in the very communities they hope to serve.
During the two-year presidential campaign, tension built across our nation like it does as you wind up a jack-in-the-box. Then, SURPRISE, the polls closed and what seemed impossible had happened. Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. Half the country is elated beyond their wildest dreams. The other half is reeling in disbelief. Most of us on one side of the divide don’t know many people on the other side.
I’m less interested in what kind of president Donald Trump will be than in his election as a symptom of a grave illness in our nation.
Can it be in 21st century America, that many of us no longer have substantive conversations with anyone who isn’t very much like us in education, income and world view? Have we become separated, red from blue, without even realizing it until this most unexpected election?
On August 13, without fanfare, Clint and I crossed from Montana into Idaho on I-90. It was a pilgrimage from Denver to Seattle; from one rich chapter of life and ministry in the Mountain Sky Area into another, unknown chapter in the Greater Northwest Area.
How do you enter a new place? Or even, how do you re-enter a familiar place after many years? How does a leader join multiple teams each with its own habits and traditions, its quirks, taboos and preferences?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends his followers to places they had never been before with instructions to “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” (Luke 10:4). He tells them to offer only a blessing of peace and to receive the hospitality offered them by strangers who receive their blessing. They are to heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God “is right on your doorstep” (Luke 10:9, The Message). As you read the passage you wonder, what about teaching about Jesus, condemning wickedness, and baptizing converts?
Sounds like a gentle kind of evangelism, grounded in vulnerability, mutual respect, shared resources and healing relationships. Can it be that the Kingdom of God is there on the doorstep – the threshold – where guest and host exchange blessings and meet one another?
I’m thinking of this year as a threshold. Throughout the year I will travel to a variety of places for “threshold events” where we will meet and bless one another. In June, we’ll cross the threshold into new relationship with a service of installation during the joint Annual Conference session of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences, with representatives from Alaska joining us as well.
God’s at work in the world, sending us to new places to meet new people. We are blessed to be a blessing!
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
I’m Elaine Stanovsky and I’m the brand new bishop in the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, having just moved here from Denver, Colorado where I served for eight years. I can’t tell you how excited my husband Clint and I are to be in the Northwest, we came from the Northwest, we served all of our professional lives in the Northwest and its great to be back in the Pacific Northwest Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, and the Alaska Conference.
I believe to the core of my being that God is still at work in the world through the Church. And that the job of those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and who know the power of Christ’s life-giving work; our job is to figure out where God is at work, and how God is at work in the world, and to go join God in that work! I hope that all of you and all of your places are looking for that kind of new reengagement with your neighborhoods.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get to meet you as I begin to travel the Area, learn about the ministries you are involved in, and encourage you along the way. But for now I’m going to say:
God bless you, God keep you, and may God bring us together on the road.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area,
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator and Christ, our Redeemer. We, the members of the Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska Cabinets, write to you today as one voice, leaders who are adjusting to this time of transition. We speak as those committed to continuing the value of innovation, the formation of disciples for Jesus Christ, multiplication of faith communities, and the deepening of our relationships to God and neighbor in our Northwest context. Vitality, innovation and excellence were high values Bishop Grant Hagiya brought to us through his example, intellect, faith in Jesus, and servant leadership.