This is a day of new beginnings. This line from a fairly new hymn is appropriate for North Georgia United Methodists.
Yesterday over 100 congregations shared worship with their new pastor as they began a new phase of ministry together.
Last Thursday, June 23, was "Move Day," the official day when clergy who received new appointments last week at Annual Conference changed locations. It is a strange phenomenon that only United Methodists can fully understand. U-Haul trucks and moving vans carrying the belongings of all clergy moving from one appointment to another are on the road across the northern half of the state on the same day. Housing allowances and other factors have altered this experience in many instances but it is still a strange occurrence.
Methodist clergy have been itinerant since the days of John Wesley in the 18th century. Unlike many other denominations, United Methodist preachers are appointed by a bishop rather than "called" by a congregation. The needs of the local congregation, the clergy family, and the Annual Conference all contribute to the decision to "move a pastor." Despite many changes, the "willingness to move" continues to be a crucial factor in the life of a United Methodist preacher.
Although the appointive process deploys clergy, the chance of new beginnings is not unique to United Methodist preachers and churches. Weddings, divorces, births, deaths, employment changes, home purchases, relocations, graduations, and many other factors provide opportunities for a new beginning. In fact, every day offers that possibility.
The lyrics to the hymn, This Is a Day of New Beginnings, were written by Brian Wren in 1978. Carlton R. Young added the music in 1984. Both of these gifted individuals have strong ties to Atlanta and to the United Methodist Church. One line in that hymn found in the United Methodist Hymnal (#383) has words that should encourage everyone when new doors open and new options are presented. "Christ is alive and goes before us to show and share what love can do."
It is reassuring to know that we do not walk the road of life alone. As we seek to follow Christ, we can have confidence that God always goes before us to guide us and guard us. We are not alone.
When God presented a new opportunity and challenge to Abram God instructed him to go "to a land that I will show you" (Gen 12). Abram did not have to know the end from the beginning because God was leading the way. The adventure began with that assurance.
The life of faith continues with Jesus' promise that "I will be with you always" (Matthew 28:20). As long as we faithfully follow the Lord we can welcome every day as a new beginning. We can walk in confidence knowing that "with God on our side, how can we lose?" (Romans 8:31, The Message).
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," June 27, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]