Next Year?

The other day, I heard a rendition of Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The lyrics of the first two verses read as follows-Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight. [Verse 2] Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Make the Yuletide gay. Next year all our troubles will be miles away. Of course, the last line of each verse that is most familiar to all of us reads, from now on your troubles will be out of sight and from now on your troubles will be miles away.

The words that specifically stood out to me were next year instead of from now on and our troubles instead of your troubles. After almost two years, the world is still navigating through COVID. Who needs vaccines, what percentage are vaccinated, what medications help if someone has the virus, do we need masks, do masks work? The list of questions and disagreements are endless, but one thing is certain. It is not your trouble or my trouble, it is our trouble. COVID affects each of us, whether it is through our mental or physical health, our job, school, finances, or something else.

My prayer is that next year all our troubles will be far away, at least the looming troubles of COVID and, of course, the upheaval in the United Methodist Church.

I’m not going to use this letter to ramble on about the future of the Church, but we do need to be in prayer for where we are headed. The Global Methodist Church (GMC) will be more evangelical, being in agreement with the Christian gospel as it is presented in the four Gospels in the Bible. The GMC will emphasize salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.

I have not found an official stance of the United Methodist Church (UMC) following the separation, but I would venture to say the UMC of the future will be more focused on aligning with culture, rather than with Scripture. The Bible will be questioned and even re-written to be what the progressives want it to be. I reiterate, this is what I envision, not anything that has been officially published.

I wrote to you in my newsletter submission last February, Beginning almost one year ago in March, 2020, turmoil seemed to envelop our country. Along with the usual physical ailments, the COVID-19 virus emerged. Political heat heightened. Violence as a result of societal differences escalated. And, you know what? At a time when people should have been turning to God for support and guidance, spirituality plummeted. Was it because Christians were asking the question, Where is God? I don’t know, but I do believe that we have to work at focusing more on our faith and witnessing to others about the love of Christ.

I put those words back in this letter because we continue to need to put our focus more on God and less on the troubles of the world. Some of the struggles we see in the United States remain the same, year after year, but new ones constantly emerge.

As we begin another new year, may we continue to focus on our faith, look to a future centered around Jesus Christ, and remain committed to the Covenant Prayer that our founder, John Wesley, penned in 1775.

I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, Praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things To your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, You are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.

 I just finished a rather lengthy letter to you that, as I review it, reads as a downer for the onset of 2022. So, I have decided to briefly share the joys of 2021, as well.

December, 2020, Christmas and New Year’s worship services were held virtually because I was with my family for the holidays in Florida. That said, I was back home on the second Sunday of January and we have been worshiping in person every Sunday since then. Our numbers have been averaging at about 70 at LeValley and 20 at Berlin Center. These numbers are almost where we were before COVID closed everything down in 2020. We have also had several at each church consistently worshiping with us virtually on Facebook Live. Facebook Live is one of the joys of the pandemic. The worship committee, our tech team (Adam Plett and Tim Heyboer), and I had been talking about on-line worship for a while and hadn’t implemented it. So, what is the old proverb, Necessity is the mother of invention? Virtual worship was now a necessity.

We had two drive-up soup luncheons at LeValley during the last year. People ordered a quart of soup, a loaf of bread, and six cookies. These were profitable fundraisers for LeValley missions. The LeValley missions did host its first in-person meal since the onset of COVID, The Bountiful Blessings soup luncheon to benefit our local VFW. Most of us are looking forward to a lasagna dinner and a pancake supper when organizers say it’s time to plan.

Our book club on Thursday mornings resumed. We finished the Sensible Shoes series and began the 7-book series, The Yada Yada Prayer Group.

After-church fellowship resumed at both churches with coffee, juice and treats. Bible Studies started again, with in-person and on-line participation. The LeValley United Methodist Women( UMW) hosted a District UMW event in the fall, in person! Our funeral luncheon committee was again able to host luncheons following services. We had two weddings in the LeValley church, and, most recently, we welcomed Becca Dickinson into the LeValley church family through baptism and affirmation of faith.

Berlin Center may not have enough man-power to host some of the events of the past, but they are still on the move. The church has welcomed a start-up church called Revival to worship in the Berlin Center building each Sunday at 11:00am. Berlin Center is grateful to be a part of the growth of a new church family.

The most exciting news is that after a one-year hiatus, the LeValley cookie walk was held again on the first Saturday of December. And, a larger profit was made than had been in recent years!

I’m sure as you read this, you will be looking for items I have neglected to include, but we can mention them next month. Please let me know what I’ve missed, and remember…

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13(NIV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.

Ephesians 6:10-14(NIV)

Pastor Nancy