Skip to Main Content

Bishop's Monday Message: Y Church?

Posted: April 27 2020 at 08:34 AM
Author: Bishop Sally Dyck

Leer En Español

The bars and restaurants have been closed for weeks now.  I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks, however, that some of them are doing renovation: pulling out all the glassware, removing the tables and chairs, working on light fixtures, upgrading décor, and often pulling up old flooring in order to put down new flooring.  These are things they can’t do easily when they have customers coming and going all day and night long.  This renovation also gives me hope that they expect to re-open after people can go back to bars and restaurants! 

Like some bars and restaurants, as churches we have take-out and delivery, if you will! We deliver online worship services going on, Bible studies, outreach ministries, and other essential ministries. And some of our outreach ministries to those who need food are literally “take out.”

But like these bars and restaurants going down to the flooring, this is a good time for churches to go down to the “foundation” of what it means to be a church. Ironically, our annual conference theme for this year is: Y Church?  Going down to the foundation of what it means to be a church is an essential task for this time. Why church?  In this time of being unable to gather, what have we learned about "why church?" What has it meant to you? Why worship?  Why fellowship? What part of a gathering body of followers do you miss the most? Why your church in your community? Clergy with laity: you need to meditate on this and have some conversations about why church. Go down to the foundation of your existence.

I always think that our mission statement as the UMC should be a question: Why make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? This is the key question for why church!  

But then the next question after "why" is "what." Once these bars and restaurants get their flooring in, they’ll begin to put in what it takes to run a bar or restaurant. Maybe some things will be new; others will be spruced up (deep- cleaned) and ready for us to return someday – essentials of being a bar or restaurant.

What are the essentials of your church? What difference does your church make in the lives of the membership of your church and beyond?  Some of you have widened your circle quite a bit!  What is essential in reaching out to them in going forward beyond this time of sheltering in place? 

And then, what’s non-essential?  What have you and the church been spending time and energy on, or maybe placed an over-emphasis on, that is really non-essential? It may or may not need to be eliminated but de-emphasized in importance compared to growing in faith and caring for the vulnerable.

After "why" and "what" comes "how." Too often we begin with "how," especially in our anxiety—how are we going to do things in this unprecedented time? "How" is probably the question I hear the most these days:

  • How are we going to be able to make our buildings safe when we can gather again?
  • How are we going to start up ministries to the most vulnerable again while keeping safe ourselves?
  • How are we going to have annual conference?
  • How will we be able to move by July 1?
  • How are we going to exist financially as individuals/families, local churches, the annual conference and even the denomination?
  • How, how, how?

Don’t think I’m dismissing 'how' questions – I have them myself!  Everything seems so hard these days! The Cabinet and I keep wrestling with whether we keep to a July 1 start date for new appointments; so far we are.  We keep trying to figure out what are the best educational webinars that people need—stewardship, online worship services, intentional discipleship systems, applying for CARES Act funds to ensure paying employees; these and more are some of the webinars we’ve had. Let us know what would help! A team of clergy is meeting (online of course) to glean best practices for the time when we can gather again, whether that’s in groups of 10, 50, 100, 250, or more. It’s called the  ReTurn Team, whose work will be available a little closer to the time we can gather. 

There are so many hows! And there are not easy and fast answers to them; sometimes our answers change as we learn more about COVID-19.  But keep asking the "why" questions!

Frankly, I find it’s easy to stress out on the "how" questions because the "why" questions are harder but in fact more pertinent at this time than ever before. Some say that after 9/11, people flocked back to churches…for about three weeks.  And there has been a precipitous drop in church attendance and affiliation ever since.  I often wonder about that and I wonder about it now because this is a critical time for us as people of faith to meet the spiritual needs and questions that are heightened at this time.  

The scriptural verse for our annual conference this year: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15b). Don’t let the bars and restaurants be the only place where people go to satisfy their hunger and thirst. Let others find in us a compelling hope, comforting love, and a profound spiritual depth that satisfies their spiritual hunger and thirst.

News & Announcements


Pastoral Letter from Bishop Dan Schwerin: Let Violence End

A pastoral letter on the assassination attempt on former president Donald Trump

Bishop Palmer Laughing Ncj2024sqshopped

Bishop Schwerin Extols the Courage of Retiring Bishops Palmer and Trimble

In his sermon honoring retiring Bishops Trimble and Palmer, Bishop Schwerin said that what he most appreciates about them—besides their tireless passio…

2024 Cob Assigned B50percent

NCJ Bishop Assignments Announced

The North Central Jurisdiction, meeting in conference in Sioux Falls, SD, announced the assignments of six bishops, effective Sept. 1, 2024.

Schwerindanncj2024 Waist Up 1

Bishop Dan Schwerin Assigned to Northern Illinois-Wisconsin Episcopal Area as of Sept. 1

Bishop Dan Schwerin has been assigned to serve Northern Illinois-Wisconsin Episcopal Area as bishop, effective Sept. 1, 2024.