He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be, still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
We picked the hymn for worship during Wednesday's Charge Conference from a list of great, traditional hymns that we sing in both our blended and traditional services. We sing great music. Music stirs our souls, and centers our vision. Joseph Gilmore's words from 1862 do just that.
My first thought is that the words to He Leadeth Me are more hoping than they are knowing. Too often it is not God who is leading. Too often, we are led by our own desires and base inclinations. My report would be remiss if I did not start there.
I have been slow in addressing some areas that need attention. We need to start our process for formally discerning God's vision; we need to pray and seek the words and images that capture the unique answer to the question of what does it mean to be Epworth. I have been able to ignite a sustainable emphasis in improving the efforts of our Sunday School classes in key areas. We need to be more intentional in inviting people who are not involved, to continually improve on our methods of teaching in engaging ways, to give engage in class-oriented, hands-on mission projects, and to take on the truth that our Sunday School groups are the central and best way people are connected in relationships in our church. These thing happen some, but not enough.
Yet, God works for good in spite of my faults. God works for good in the midst of my shortcomings. God is working for good, even now, in the midst of all of the things that our church people seem to be juggling at once. And, there are many things. God can do this because this is the way the world works. Through the power of Christ, delivered through the Holy Spirit, we become the hands and feet of the One true God. We re-present God to every person when we are in ministry. I am reminded of this through the words of affirmation that arrive throughout the year in response to the kindness shown by Epworth people. Our witness is being extended beyond just the scope of our families and our circumstances, and out in the community everyday. We are engaged in missions that call on the hands, the talents and gifts, and the monies of our people to care for the least of these around Columbus (Matthew 25). Our people, members and regular attenders, shine the very light and love of God into people's lives. It happens through our amazing ORANGE ministry with children and families, through our neighborhood-oriented events that attracts hundreds, through our ministry of hospitality with families around funerals, and through our people at work and play around town. Also, our buildings continue to see small projects accomplished have been leaps forward in how we welcome people in style.
Lately, the Spirit had brought me to a deep peace and assurance in knowing that there is more going on. Our ministry is more than our best or our worst. This is true in my life, too. The truth is God is leading us. This is not just a song wishing it were true. It is true. God is working in our midst. Some of our plans have not happened as quickly as I have wished. The plan to acquire property on Manchester Expressway has been stymied by things out of our control. But, God is leading. Our intention to expand parking, long overdue, is still months from completion. But, God is faithful. Offerings are lagging behind where people pledged they would be. But, we still have enough to thrive on.
I am so blessed to serve in the midst of God's great work through the people of Epworth. I am humbled at how supportive this congregation is, in my best and in the rest of my efforts! You care for me and for my family. You are helping Julie and me to raise our boys in a place where disciples of Jesus are on display. In addition, Epworth allows me to work every day alongside the best staff and get away a few days a year to pursue a great education in my Doctoral studies. For all of this, I say thank you.
Grace and Peace, Scott