Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
I offer this greeting as a variation of the prayer of greeting offered by the Apostle Paul in his New Testament letters.
Behind me is a beautiful pattern offered by the Mississippi artist Walter Anderson. Walter Anderson lived on the Gulf Coast in Ocean Springs, MS. He was a keen observer of life around him, and you could observe the beautiful patterns which he drew in this wonderful painting.
We in the Wesleyan tradition also have patterns which guide our life. One of those patterns is the habit of conferencing in order to be renewed in our shared community, to be inspired afresh by God, and to make decisions essential for our shared life.
This year, we will meet for the first time virtually. The virtual meeting, of course, is the result of the pandemic and the necessity to guard the health and life and safety of all our lay and clergy members. On May 8, rules for the special session were released to you. I ask you to take time this week to review those rules and then to give your assent to them by mail or online. As we gather for the Annual Conference session virtually on June 18, this pre-approval of the Conference Rules will help us move through our session well together.
I ask you also to give attention to the pattern which we are commending to you as you, in your local church, plan toward gatherings in person for community and worship. The governor has offered a three-phase approach to renewing face to face gatherings. We will do this in a phased approach out of the motive of love, not fear. We want to protect the health and safety of all in our churches and in our communities, and we also want to build upon the discoveries we have made as we have engaged in virtual worship over the past two months. My prayers are with you as we do this wonderful work together.
The Psalm appointed for this week, Psalm 66, is another pattern, the pattern of praise acknowledging the challenges of this time and the assurance that God is with us. Let us all give praise to God, who has not let our feet slip. God indeed is with us though we have been challenged mightily in this time. God is bringing us out to a spacious place. May this be true in our lives today and always.