As we enter Holy Week, I remember the last thirty-two Holy weeks of my ministry. They were all characterized by my deep hope for the week, the incredible times of high demand -- both of energy, time and details, and the sense of the weight of what we do.
If you pastor a church, I hope this Sunday each of you will have new faces, people who don't normally attend whom we affectionately call our C&E people. Alongside the new clothes, children excited by sticky Easter baskets and melted chocolates, and Easter lilies with their heady scent, are the people who come to worship with us. Some come out of a deep, abiding faith; some come out of habit or duty. I think all of them come, though, with this desperate hope: that the gospel we proclaim is really true. Even those who scoff, even those who are indifferent, underneath the jadedness is still the deeper hope that the message of resurrection and new life is real. The atheist hopes to see her dead mother again; and the agnostic hopes to see a lost sibling. All parents who have lost children or spouses, believers and non believers alike, hope the wildest hope of all - that they will hear their child's voice, and they will touch their beloved's face.
It's sobering to realize they come first wanting to know if we believe it's true. If you struggle with this, it's no time for feeling guilty. Each path of faith contains its own trajectory; trust that you are on yours. We all know doubt is a part of faith, so preach the risen Christ through your own doubts and in the face of your own fears. As Wesley himself said, preach it till you believe it. But preach and lead with that hope first in your mind. Above all, be authentic. This is the missing element in so much organized religion today, so surprise them with your authenticity.
I am praying for each of you during this time, church pastors as well as extension appointments, leaves and retired pastors. Because we carry this Sunday together, I am counting on this fact - when services are over, and your lunch is digesting, that you will not do a lick of work. None. Rest, relax and recreate yourself into the evening with deep breaths and laughter. I will make as many services as I can, but I wish I could be in every church with each of you. Peace, Karen Vannoy