A few months ago, my son strongly urged me to identify a hobby, as an outlet from work. To identify something that was not church related, for which I could have fun and stretch beyond my comfort zone. I began the research endeavor to see what piqued my interests and would be something I could maintain beyond this mandate from my son. So, last September, I decided on bowling, and committed to consistently show up in a bowling league.

So, every week, I bowl with people I do not know and only met because of the league. I am becoming more aware of each person, as we bowl each week, but what matters most is we all have a common love for bowling. Each week, we barely know each other’s names, and do not know one another’s stories, but we show up and have fun. We encourage one another when we are not bowling at our best. We challenge each other to advance in our games. And we celebrate when we are “striking” it out. Each week, we encourage, challenge, celebrate, and I imagine this will continue until the league’s conclusion in April.

It was not until recently, I began thinking about how my bowling experience could be related to our church life. I began pondering what would happen, in this new year of 2022, if we fostered a culture of encouragement, challenge, and celebration within our faith communities? This brought to mind the passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:11from The Message, “…So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”

Friends, 2022 is proving to be equally as difficult as the past two years, as we continue to navigate the complexities of Covid-19. We are still wrestling with the unknowns of United Methodism and its future. We continue see rally cries for justice as we possess a greater consciousness regarding the inequities the exists among us. There are so many things beyond our control and could begin to overwhelm us. However, in thinking about what we can do and the agency we have for change that can be enacted by all of us is this; we can encourage, challenge, and celebrate one another. We can continue to show Christ-like care for each other. We can continue to grow in our journeys of discipleship together. And we must not miss the opportunity to celebrate, even the small victories for the things we overcome! I just wonder, if we encouraged, challenged, and celebrated consistently, what type of impact we would experience among us…all of us!

So, I encourage you…and challenge you for the Year of 2022, let us build up hope, share encouraging words, and celebrate that together we can work in expanding God’s Kin-dom for the Good…May It Be So!

Cheers to a Blessed 2022…

Rev. Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Conference Superintendent serving Central and West District

P.S. If you are interested, there are many teams within the Indiana Annual Conference that will begin reading Our Purpose is Love; the Wesleyan Way to Be the Church by David N. Field. I would love for you to join us in this learning over the next several months.