Pastor's Note

Pastor's Note

Senior Pastor, Reverend Madeline Baum
Pastor Madeline Baum

I'm writing this week's message from Lakeland FL. Two hundred and eighty of us "clergy folk" are here for the Clergy Day Apart with Bishop Berlin, the appointive cabinet, and staff of the Florida Conference of the UMC! I love being here with these peeps. I didn't realize it until I got here, but I really needed this day to recharge my "spiritual batteries" and hang out with some really cool people! It was well worth the 7.5-hour drive each way!

Bishop Berlin spoke in both the morning and the afternoon. I could listen to him forever - he is an awesome speaker. What strikes me the most about him is that he is, genuine, funny, humble, and has a heart for all people. He will be visiting us in Key West and preaching for us the weekend of January 14, 2024. I can't wait for you to all meet him and hear him preach.

Today, Bishop Berlin's purpose was to encourage us and thank us for staying committed and faithful to God and the United Methodist Church. He acknowledged that this has been a tough season in ministry over the past few years. Covid, political division, wars, and a congregational split (which has been contentious at times) has left us all a bit weary and worn out. A day of awesome worship with inspirational praise music, Bishop Berlin's words, sharing communion together, and being with friends who we don't get to see often enough was just what we needed!

The Bishop told us about some research he had recently done about the decline of the citrus industry in Florida. Researchers have identified various causes, including a certain insect that is killing the trees (I did not write down the name of the bug). Instead of trying to eradicate the insect, which they believe is impossible, they are working on ways to work around the bug by genetically fortifying the trees or coming up with minerals that make the bug less destructive to the orange, grapefruit, and other citrus trees. You may wonder, what this has to do with us. Well, here is a quote from the Bishop's PowerPoint presentation, where he quotes the researchers from the citrus council who are working on this problem;

"We had to figure out how to grow a citrus tree in the presence of this disease because there is no known cure."

Bishop Berlin suggested to us, that this is what we (the church) must do also. In a world where hatred, division, war, hunger, discrimination, injustice and inequality surround us and seek to work against the Gospel message, we must find new ways to work around the "diseases of the world". And how do we do that?  We show the world a different way of living. A way in which, love, compassion, respect, grace, and standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves is our norm. When we live out the greatest commandments of loving God and neighbors as ourselves, we offer the world a different way of living and being in the presence of "the disease". The point is, that we cannot allow the ugliness of the world to infect the church. We are called to offer the world a different Way….and that Way is Jesus!

This week, as you continue to prayerfully consider how you will pledge your time, talents, presence, gifts, and witness to the church this coming year, I pray that you will consider this call on our lives and our community of faith. Working together we can accomplish the mission to which God has called us, no matter what is happening around us.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

Grace and Peace
- Pastor Madeline