By Rev. Richenda Fairhurst
May 20, 2016 | Camas, Washington
I dreamed last night of people gathered around a table. They sat against earthy plush cushions—real people made of clay. Seating style was lounging, this was a nod, I believe, to those first suppers long ago when the disciples shared fellowship together and made plans to bring the Good News to the world. Some of those seated at the table were those I knew or recognized. Gathered together they represented the reminder that it is the people who are gathered who are the church.
There was a lot at General Conference we didn’t get to this time around, but we got some stuff right. We had the courage to look at the truth about Sand Creek. We celebrated inroads against Malaria—when we rally around something good, we make a difference! And the preaching! And the singing! The sound of our voices in song, at the pulpit, from the chancel, from around the tables, from the gathered arm-in-arm, stir the spirit within us.
I see hope ahead.
My dream was a reminder that the work of the church is still very much underway.
My dream was a reminder that the work of the church is still very much underway. My dream was a challenge to the rumor of our death, which is very much exaggerated. We are not at the end of time, but at its center. The table in my dream was set as much for conversation as for food. The lighting was soft, the gathered hushed, reverent, and hopeful. The table in my dream was an open one, with nothing yet laid upon it. The light alone illuminated its top. It was sturdy. It was lasting.
Rule 44 became a resurrection rule in General Conference this week. It died but it returned again and again. It was a rule I imagine was in play when the women gathered first around the cross, and then at the tomb. It was the rule of the small, hushed, clustered groups in the upper rooms of Jerusalem, then Galilee, as people shared stories of the risen Christ. The church, I am reminded, belongs to God. It is eternal. And it is right now.
This is the way forward for our church. Even as the legislative body tasked the bishops with forming a commission, in truth, each of us, we are that commission. It is the local church that will truly lead now.
Our work for the next two years is clear. We must gather round the tables of our local churches. We must greet each other gently and with love—and tell the truth, and listen. We much look each other in the eye. We must speak our witness. We must listen equally to all whom God does love, that means everyone—beggar, soldier, queer, merchant, Pharisee alike.
We have operated as a divided family. We are Esau and Jacob. We believe our brother has tried to steal our blessing, and we are angry. Indeed, some of us have been made to flee in the night. We believe that blessing can be stolen, that we will lose our chance. But the story of the stolen blessing tells of brothers divided, not God’s love. Both brothers are loved by God. Both brothers live lives of worth and honor. And when the brothers finally come together, their peace serves God’s plan for the world.
Blessing cannot be stolen from human hands. Blessings cannot be legislated away. We cannot hoard it or make it small enough to be a crown for our own heads. Blessing is given by God for the glory of God and the good of all.
In my dream there was a sense of expectation, the sense of conversation barely begun. Let us begin. Let us return to our local churches and have the courage to do this work together. We are the church. And it is time.
Rev. Richenda Fairhurst has a passion for renewing churches at the local level. She understands that the relevance and vitality of the local church is directly relational to the ability of that church to live its call to discipleship by loving and serving its neighbors locally, intergenerationally, and cross culturally. She serves in southwest Washington state at the Camas United Methodist Church. Follow her at @pastorrichenda