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DYK - Connecting the dots

Posted: September 18 2020 at 05:59 PM
Author: By Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Asst. to the Bishop/Dir. of Connectional Ministries

Sitting in the back pew of our home church, my mother would struggle to keep her five children quiet during worship. We were bribed with pink peppermint candies and allowed to play quiet games. Tic tac toe and connect the dots were two of our favorites. You might remember connect the dots. Drawing a grid of dots on a piece of paper, each player takes a turn drawing a line from one dot to the next. The goal is to prevent your opponent from completing a square while creating as many squares as you can for yourself. Once a square is completed, the box is yours. When all the squares are completed, the player with the most boxes wins the game.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and son of an Anglican priest, saw the Church of England folding in on itself in the early 18th century. Congregations were only interested in their own wellbeing. Classicism was rampant in England at the time and only the literate, who could dress the part and read the Scriptures, were welcomed into the church. Wesley was disturbed by this trend. He wanted to scatter God’s word beyond the pulpit. He wanted to offer hope and care for the physical needs of the masses as part of his Christian witness. Wesley left the pulpit and went into the streets, devising ways to bring the message of Christ to those outside the church. He wasn’t always successful. He failed miserably as a missionary to the colonies in the Americas. But Wesley was determined and he grounded his actions in deep faith.

Today dozens of branches of Methodism can be found around the world, all the way from the Salvation Army to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, with United Methodists somewhere in-between. One of Wesley’s strengths was in making connections. Wesley knew how to “connect the dots.” He created small groups that helped people form community; he created missions and orphanages and literacy programs and infirmaries.

As Methodism spread across the United States in the frontier days; we founded hospitals and universities, addressing the needs of the poor and those on the margins of society. John Wesley’s ability to knit together groups of people through faith and call them into action remains a constant in our DNA as Methodists today.

Today’s virtual church, forced upon us by the COVID19 pandemic, has pushed us back in time to claim the future. We are moving out of our pews and into the world, bringing our faith and our invitation to discipleship to the masses in a 21st century “virtual” way.

When I “connect the dots,” I think of the ways in which 352 United Methodist Churches across Northern Illinois are linking with one another to strengthen their communities. Supporting parents as some communities engage in virtual school, strengthening food pantries in light of growing poverty, caring for the homebound who are at the most risk.

As United Methodists, we also connect the dots beyond our community and our conference. We do not always see the results of these connections up close, but as part of a connectional church, we are responding to disasters in our southern and western United States, bringing pandemic support to Africa, and offering education and financial opportunities around the globe.

Can you see the dots being connected and the sense of abundance that is multiplied across Northern Illinois to Haiti, to Africa, to the Philippines, to Eastern Europe? When we feel isolated in these days of social distancing, give God thanks that the reality is far different – we are connected. The church left the building in the 1750s and built a movement. We are doing it again.

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