United Methodist Brother and Sisters, I Have Traveled This Road

Partir en Vacances, Sur la Route

I am always excited to travel down a new road as a journey begins. The allure of beginning a trip to unknown places is enticing and intoxicating. Yet, every trip has a middle. The middle is the actual part of the trip, the liminal space that exists between the time of departure and arrival. I feel compelled to offer some observations from my recent travels on my new road, in light of the United Methodist quadrennial event called General Conference.

What I know for sure is, this road has been traveled before. In 1989, I witnessed an event at Cafe de Monde’ in the French Quarter of New Orleans that was a snapshot of the eventual schism that took place in my previous denomination, Southern Baptists. Fundamental leaders presented speeches and symbols of victory, celebrating the accomplishment of electing leaders who would only appoint like-minded persons to control boards and agencies. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach as winners were celebrated and losers were denigrated. I remember because I was one of the identified losers. Most importantly, I remember the feeling of not knowing what road I would travel in days beyond this D-Day.Open Hearts

Despite the usual feelings of anxiety that arise because of the unknown, I chose to lean into the feelings of anticipation that also existed because of the possibilities of a new day and way. The middle part of this new journey consisted of a few years of traveling down unfamiliar roads to explore new places. Along the way, came my new Methodist friends who welcomed me in ways that I would learn later were a bit unusual in our polity. Yet, I arrived at my destination, my first annual conference, and was received with a Wesleyan grace I could only fully appreciate years later.

Coffee-House-MeetingSix months ago, I began a new journey with the same excitement that accompanies the launch of any new endeavor. My energy for this new journey revved up my human spirit and the RPMs of my soul were red-lining. This level of exhilaration has sustained me for a period of months throughout the middle part of this journey. Like any trip, I have had to reevaluate and make changes in both direction and pace. The journey has been good. I would not trade what I have learned from my travels, it has prepared me for whatever is next.

As the General Conference of United Methodist Church comes to a close this week, it seems, once again, we will hear victory speeches and plans of secession made by the artificial winners and losers. Again, persons, like myself, will be thrust on a new road toward a new place. While I may be just a few steps ahead of some others on this road of change, I have yet to arrive, so my observations are incomplete.  Road Less Traveled

Personally, my soul and body say, it is time for me to arrive. I need to find stable ground where I can place my feet and enter into relationships with persons whom I can count on. Only fixed destinations can provide these necessary human commodities. Allow me to humbly share three lessons from this road I have traveled before and now. I share these simple platitudes with those who are ahead, beside or behind me on any road of uncertainty:

  1. There is more than one right path. Let’s not assume Robert Frost poetic plea to take the road less traveled is the absolute right road for us. We can confidently step onto any new road, trusting it will lead us to places that need who we are and what we have to offer. We need many persons traveling down many roads to fully complete and represent the Body of Christ in the world.
  2. Many good voices will beckon us to take differing routes. These voices are important. Some will lead us down the new road while other’s counsel will help us navigate our own journey, though these other voices traveled a different route. Our Voice must lead us to our path, there is no other authentic way. May all voices find a sounding board, a person(s), (per sonare“, a sounding through) that properly reflects the full and necessary call toward the new day needed for our times.
  3. We will arrive. Every journey has an end. No person has the energy to wander down roads without coming to a destination. The human spirit can only travel an unknown road for so long before it longs to land. The longing to land is a determinative force that will lead us to the next place. While we all may land in new places at differing times, new outposts will be established and the new ground shall be tilled, planted and harvested.

Message-in-a-BottleTo my United Methodist sisters and brothers with me on this road, I have nothing profound to offer. I can offer these few notes from my own travelogue to those who feel like they are being thrust onto a new road. I offer them to the Wind that blows where it will and trust like a message in a bottle they will wash ashore to the right place and the right time. Every journey has a beginning, middle, and end; the grace we so often speak is among all along the roads we travel.