Here we are ready to begin the Lenten season.  Lent is a time to reflect upon what we have done and what we have not done, or at least not done well,  as we prepare for Christ’s new kingdom of Easter resurrection.  For me it is also a time of reflection about myself as a pastor, this church we are a part of at Ely UMC, and the Larger United Methodist Church in the wake of this General Conference.  It seams to me there is so much that still is falling short, so much justice work I’ve left bottled up instead of shared, so much left to cultivate into growth, so much of the wilderness in the possible futures for our denomination left unexplored.
It was announced in church on the first sunday of March that the Bishop intends to appoint me to a new church beginning  July 1, 2019. So I will be leaving ElyUMC and will be moving to serve the Sierra Pines UMC in Grass Valley CA.   I really panicked for a little while when I found out, the questions kept circling in my head:  “What are the most important things for me to do in Ely before I leave? Where have I messed things up for the next pastor already ? What does the church need me to stop doing so that they will be ready to do for themselves the ministries we have started together? Who have I made feel unwelcome in the community or uninvited to this congregation? ”   Then the votes came out of general conference and my mind took another detour.
In the midst of all this mind wandering I was driving 10 hours across a snow covered wilderness of hwy with rarely another car on the road.  But as the snow got worse another car set pace with me. The snow, wind, and white out conditions were getting worse as the trip progressed.  Yet there was a real sense of security that even if I plummeted off the snow cover mountain someone would know I had been there.  The people in this other car behind me might even be able to get help.  In the end I only ended up in one snow bank momentarily and both my car and the one behind me made it off that mountain.
It occurred to me on that drive, the most important part of my pastoral ministry here in Ely is that we have travel it together;  God leading the way even when that way is unclear, painful, or lonely at times.  I know there is a future with hope coming, but I feel like my ministry, the Ely congregation, and the UMC are in the middle of that snow covered hwy in white out conditions right now.  I’m confident we will get out of the snow blizzard, but we might get turned around before the storm clears, we might meet companions we didn’t expect and find long the way (like the SUV with Ohio plates who followed me over a California mountain in the snow this week), we might even get relocated in the end.  So I’m trying not to panic about all the should  haves, could haves and have not finished’s of my ministry.  I am confident God is not done with me, with the Ely UMC , or the United Methodist denomination.  As I reflect on my ministry I hope every church I travel with will be able to show the  tire tread marks of where I have been for a while, but also not be afraid to let the new storms cover over them and make them once again just a part of the path we all travel in the storms of life.
How many times have you blazed a trail or journeyed with someone on the pathway to a future you would like to see when the sun starts shining again?
Have there been times when you have refused to be someones companion in the storm?
This Lenten season we are going to visit so pathways from our past as a UMC where we can become companions on the journey; is there an area of social justice you would like to journey with this Lenten season?
What does it mean, look like, feel like, to get off the snow covered road and into the resurrection light of Easter?
-Pastor Suzanne

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