Adapting Our Faith and The Way We Live It Out
Are you old enough to remember when cameras contained film? Back then, we held the camera up to our face, looked through a little view-finder, and snapped our picture; hoping that we didn’t catch any-one with their eyes closed. Then we took our film to the store, and waited a week for it to be developed. When we finally got our prints back, the anticipation was so great that we ripped open the envelope and stood right there in the store looking at our photos. Eventually, one hour photo processing came along, and we thought that was the peak of photo technology! Imagine! Getting your film developed in one hour! And the industry leader for all of that was Kodak.
Whereas, at one time, Kodak was the worldwide industry leader and was recognized everywhere; today, Kodak is rarely seen or recognized. Digital photography replaced film, and the world passed Kodak by. Ironically, Kodak invented digital photography in 1975. But instead of embracing this new technology, they saw it as a threat to their film empire. In the meantime, others recognized the potential for digital photography, and the rest is history.
Sometimes people ask me what it is like to be appointed to serve as a superintendent. I answer that sometimes it feels like I’ve been made a middle manager at Kodak.
We in The United Methodist Church are a part of a rich heritage that changed the world. United Methodists introduced ways of talking about God’s grace, ways of living out our faith, and ways of living in community that transformed Christianity and made us the “industry leader.” The Methodist movement caught fire because the early Methodists saw the needs of the people of the 18th and 19th centuries, and adapted. When young children couldn’t go to school because they worked in factories 6 days a week, the early Methodists developed “Sunday Schools.” The early Methodists recognized that unless someone’s stomach is filled, they will not be able to hear about God's love; so they developed feeding programs.
Today, many of the non-denominational churches that are doing great things are doing what we Wesleyans “invented.” They have taken what we developed, adapted it for the 21st century, and are serving as powerful witnesses in their communities. Many of the effective and growing churches today are basing their ministries on Wesleyan principles.
Today, we in The United Methodist Church often view the very things that were responsible for our growth and development as threats. Asking each other “How is it with your soul?” and holding each other accountable is “getting too personal.” Engaging in ministry to/with the poor brings people into our midst who might “take advantage of our generosity.”
If we are going to survive and thrive in the 21st century, we need to do what our Wesley-an ancestors did: adapt our faith and the way we live it out, to the culture that surrounds us; not stand in opposition to it. How can we be in ministry to the families who are on sports practice fields on Sunday mornings? How can we hold each other accountable in a loving (not accusatory) way? How can we partner with other non-United Methodist churches in our communities?
Most days, serving as a superintendent is not so bad. In some ways, it is “middle management.” But it has enabled me to get to know extraordinary lay people and pastors, and I am humbled by your faithfulness.
Canal District Office:
Rev. Ed Peterson
800 E Market St.
Akron, OH 44305
Phone : 330-252-0299
Office Hours: Monday through Thursday
9;00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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