April 7, 2020
Rev. William Bills
Some years back, at a previous appointment, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee told me that they didn’t think the church could afford to increase my salary for the upcoming year. They asked if there was something else they might do that I would appreciate in lieu of money. It took me about one point five seconds to respond. I asked for Christmas Eve and Christmas off. The committee’s reaction was hilarious! None of them could ever remember having Christmas Eve without the pastor present. They started talking about ways they could come up with money for salary increase. The thought of Christmas Eve services without a pastor seemed inconceivable to them!
I assured them that they could handle Christmas Eve and the following Sunday just fine without me. After all, Christmas Eve is the one time (besides Easter) that everyone goes to church. And everyone pretty much knows what is going to happen. They pretty much know what to expect. I assured them that they had seen it done enough times that they could get themselves through a Christmas Eve service. Also, it would give me a chance to have Christmas Eve out of state with family in Ohio. My family would attend services at my father-in-law’s church. The kids would be with grandma and grandpa on Christmas Eve.
While that was certainly unexpected, the congregation said they had a great Christmas Eve service. I can imagine that some of them still remember it as well as I do. It was the one Christmas Eve out of thirty-two that I have had off. They made the necessary adjustments to what seemed like a big change and they not only survived, they did very well that Christmas Eve.
We find ourselves in an unexpected time right now. We seem to be making adjustments day by day. Today the governor is leaning towards keeping the “Shelter in Place” order in effect until mid-June. The legislature is saying the end of April. Bishop Bard has asked us not to gather at church again until after the end of April, at least. Who knows for sure what the future will bring?
One thing we do know is that the church has proven over time to be a very resilient institution. For two thousand years we have had our good centuries and our not so good centuries. We have endured difficult times and we have thrived in good times. We will continue to adjust, to learn new things. Someday this will end and we will be back together again. In the meantime, we learn how to do things in new ways. We have learned to hold meetings and classes online. We have learned how to worship remotely. We have learned how to pass out Easter dinners in a new way. We have learned how to stay safe while staying connected. We have learned a number of new things. One thing we appreciate that is not new, though, is that the church is a very resilient institution, able to remain faithful throughout the ages, no matter what.
At University United Methodist Church, we affirm that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are an open and inclusive congregation and welcome all persons into full participation regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic situation, age, ability, education, background and whether single or partnered.