Bishop Ward and Gil Wise, Beacon District Superintendent, talk about their vision for rural congregations in this Connections video.
Bishop: Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. We United Methodists have, from the very earliest of times, been a movement of small groups of people who gather to learn, to study, to worship and to serve.
I give thanks that Gil Wise has become the district superintendent of the Beacon District and the Beacon District is a district of many small-membership churches.
The Beacon District is my home area and recently, I was privileged to preach at the 200th anniversary of Parker’s United Methodist Church. My home church was founded by Bishop Asbury, who came through on his horse, and preached in the home of Thomas Parker in 1813.
Gil, what are your thoughts about serving as leader of many small-membership churches?
Gil: I too, Bishop, grew up in a small-membership church and so a lot is like going home and Sunday, as I was in Anderson United Methodist Church, I reflected much on my childhood, as the church was small, like my own, and very vibrant in the ministry that they were looking to accomplish in that area to reach others for Christ.
I think that it is the rural church that’s going to lead the way and give us examples of how we can do better ministry in this eastern part of North Carolina.
Bishop: We give thanks for the ministry we share with you in every place and we give thanks for ways that churches of small-membership will rise and shine as we serve Christ together.
Gil: One of the things that I talked about on Sunday was that Paul talked about God using the weak and the foolish things of this world, that those things was where God is operative. I pointed out to the folks that they are where God is happening, that it is in those places that we are going to see the moves of God begin to reach out to the rest of the world. You know, it was John, the Baptist, who was in the wilderness preaching.
It was where the Israelites found their preparation to go into the Promised Land, that was a wilderness place. So these wilderness places, these places that we sometimes count out or being too small, we find out that with God, small location really doesn’t matter.
Bishop: And as our churches grow and become larger, it’s within a small group that we find our true home, even in the midst of a larger membership church. So our vision, which we share with you, is a vision for vibrant groups, small groups of people, learning, serving, praying.
Gil: If anyone knows how to be in covenant relationship, as United Methodists, we should be able to model it for the Christian community and for the world – how we, together, in those small groups, holding each other accountable, living life along side of each other, allowing the disciples that we are to influence us to be greater disciples, can then be a part of what God’s called us to for this day.
Bishop: Amen! Amen! May God be with you today wherever you are in the North Carolina Conference.