Pastor Steve Brown
Greetings to the Saints of St. Mark!
17 Jesus himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven . . .. (Colossians 1:17-20)
In the United Methodist Church, we pastors talk a lot about “the connection.” It is a way of saying that our churches and our pastors are joined together in a ministry and life as we follow Jesus. For example, United Methodist pastors are appointed by the Bishop in consultation with the District Superintendents. We are not called by an individual church but collectively assigned throughout South Carolina based on the needs of the churches. Our ministries as pastors flow one after another, connected by calling and purpose to serve a local church. When we arrive at a church, we know someone came before us – and someone will come after us. We are connected.
Churches, too, within the United Methodist Church, are seen to be connected to one another. We share pastors, we share opportunities and funding for missions and ministries through our financial apportionments, and we share a common “method” (we are Methodists) through The Book of Discipline that guides us in our “doing” as a church even as we are “being” the church. We even gather once a year (okay, virtually, for another year) for Annual Conference to pray, share, legislate, act, and encourage one another as churches connected together.
Of course, we know about being connected in our own lives when we think about our family. Heritage, traditions, stories, and shared life experiences make a family as well as a church. We know about the connection as citizens in a common geography and government as Americans. The fact that we are so splintered as a society causes us pain as our connections are frayed and stretched thin, and in some cases, we feel they are broken. Even a pandemic that reminded us we are in the same boat and need to care for one another has no proved sufficient to help us bridge our gaps. And as human beings, connected as the human race on this planet we all call home calls for us to live our connectedness wisely in the face of the reality that one industry does in polluting, one nation does with weaponry, and even what one does in positively caring for the planet and each other can affect us all.
I think this connectivity is God’s idea. Jesus’ heartbeat is for unity and togetherness. He holds all things together and wants all things to be together – especially we humans. This God-connection is demonstrated by words used for that connection like church, body, and family. And because God is eternal we should not be surprised that these same words are not limited to life and then but carry over through resurrection into the ages to come.
Because we are connected, we experience pain when those connections feel broken. This month we are saying “goodbye’s” to Pastor Dan and Pastor John. Dan is retiring from his position as a pastor with St. Mark but will be staying in our community (and St. Mark community, too). Pastor John has been appointed to Holly Hill UMC to share his gifts and graces there even as he did here. But even if they are not here where we are, in Christ we are always connected. And, in Christ, all goodbye’s are ever and always “see you later’s.”