It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of 2021, and what a year it has been. We continue to navigate the complexities of Covid-19. The United Methodist Church’s future continues to remain afar, as convening a General Conference this year did not prove possible. The church-life rhythms have not returned to the familiar, and it is causing many concerns for congregations. There are many people battling isolation, many losses, deaths, and unknowns. I would suggest with all that is occurring in these ever-evolving times, there are fears escalating, and it is palpable. So, during this season of Advent and nearing the end of 2021, a question keeps swirling within me, “how can there we hope when we are laden with fear?”

After all, it is during this time of the year where we are encouraged to reclaim the true meaning of the season and turn our focus on the important aspects of Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope! And then I am reminded of the words, from a faithful peasant girl, lifted from Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” I believe as we are experiencing a major shift in our ways of living, both in life and in the life of The Church, and are being pressed to remain steadfast in believing in The One who is The Light amidst the dark times. I believe, with all that is going on among us, this is an opportunity to remind ourselves of The One for whom we serve, and the reason for why we serve. Yes, it is easy to get caught up in the conspiracies, misconceptions, and the co-opted Jesus. Yes, I understand that people are giving but not pledging. I have heard that people are engaging but not coming. I know that people want connection, but it may not be in our buildings. Yes, I have heard, but complaining and circulating these narratives, I would suggest, does serve God’s Kin-dom well and it does not draw others into this love of God found in Jesus Christ.

I just wonder what it would be, if we as faithful Christ-followers, committed in this new year of 2022 to turn our hearts in humility and profess with our mouths boldly, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”  I just wonder what type of impact we could have on the world, to be known for who Jesus is rather than how we fight about him. I just wonder what type of message could be spread if our service shifted from being self-seeking to seeking to serve others. I just wonder how the love of Jesus could be shared more broadly when we live out the legacy of Jesus Christ rather than trying to fit Christ into our compartmentalized understandings.

Friends, as we turn the calendar into the year 2022, I intend to elevate The Message of Jesus Christ and rally for a recommitment of our service to Christ. We can remain laden with fears, but that will only hold us back from truly being the servants of God, who are needed in a world that is desperately looking for Hope! So, I invite you to join me in being Bearers of Hope, living as Beneficiaries of God’s Grace, and declaring how we are Benefactors of God’s Love in 2022 and beyond.

Are you willing to commit to the change we seek in 2022?

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