Dear Brothers and Sisters,
When I last wrote to you in January on behalf of our church Board, the letter was titled, “A Time of Change.” Well, little did we know what a time of change it was going to be.
The World Health Organization declared on March 11 that we were experiencing a worldwide pandemic, and the past 13 weeks have required faithfulness, patience, creativity, initiative, and strength in ways most of us never imagined. Adding to that, we are facing the turmoil wrought by generations of injustice, hatred, and violence. The resulting chaos, confusion, anger, and so many other responses we're all experiencing can make it more difficult to remain centered on Christ's message of loving one another. Yet God is with us. We must pray and talk and act, in all of these situations, in the ways that Jesus has taught us – supporting and loving one another as best we can.
On this background, I confess to you the difficulty now in sharing what may seem like simple updates about our beloved church. And yet I know that you all feel – as I do – that it’s important that we stay in community and communication with one another, and so I ask that you receive the below information in that context.
I’d like to start by acknowledging that, through the pandemic thus far, our church and our church family have both persisted and thrived. Oakdale’s staff has never worked harder to ensure that our ministries and disciple-making efforts continue and even grow, all while ensuring the health and safety of all – thank you so much! And our members and volunteers have shown their faithfulness and resilience as well – serving each other and our community in many ways. As we look forward to slowly re-opening our buildings in the coming months, putting safety first, we are counting on rejoicing in reunions but also continuing to connect through many alternative methods.
I do want to sincerely ask you to please continue to support our church, however you may be able. We know this is a financially difficult time for many, as it is for our church, and this is requiring significant financial decisions. While we manage our funding as carefully as possible, exercising and stewarding every resource we can, the Board and I ask you, for those of us that are able, to give at or above God’s expectations so that Oakdale staff and volunteers can continue to serve our church and community and share God’s love and healing as widely as possible.
Importantly, we have been carefully thinking through not only what our church will look like as we navigate this pandemic and all current challenges, but also as we advance toward achieving our Wildly Important Goal of Sending out 1,200 Disciple-Makers by December 31, 2022. The Board and our pastors have spent much time considering how Oakdale will move deeper into our disciple-making ministries, making changes in some of the ways we do ministry, and building our momentum, in accordance with Matthew 28, to “spread the gospel to all the nations of the world.” We look forward to sharing more details with you in future communications.
Lastly, all of this is on the landscape of the coming changes in the United Methodist Church (UMC) denomination. In January, the Board and I promised to keep you informed about these changes, as we were expecting much activity in May and leading up to it. Most of that activity was delayed by the pandemic, although we *can* share a few key things. The UMC General Conference and denominational decisions were cancelled and are being rescheduled for late 2021. Yet discussions are continuing throughout our UMC community, and relationship-building, with neighbors both near and far, is ongoing to ensure that the way(s) forward can be as Kingdom-building as possible. This is indeed a time for faithfulness. As more information becomes available, we will share it and provide opportunities for congregational discussion.
I would like to end with an encouraging word from John 10:10 (NIV), “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What joy we can find in placing our faithfulness in that! God wants us to have abundant lives. He will be with us and carry us through loss, sorrow, fear, confusion, fatigue, and even persecution, and He will bless us beyond measure. He already has in so many ways. May you know His presence in every day and every way.