This afternoon I went to Walmart, and along with some assorted items, I bought some galvanized hardware cloth. We’ve been getting by with some hastily engineered stopgap measures to keep my puppies in the fence. I’ve been telling myself that I was going to do this for some time and finally found the material I needed to make the repair. It took all of 30 minutes to complete the work. There is nothing like assessing a problem, planning the repair and executing the plan.

Deep in my heart of heart, I am a person who enjoys tackling problems. Problem-solving is a great tool to have in a pastor’s skillset. Problems are a normal part of life and ministry. It usually is enough to assess, make a plan, and follow-through. Problem solved, experience logged, and on to the next challenge.

Ministry has been a great set of experiences. In my first appointment, during a long spell of single-digit temperatures, the main sprinkler froze and burst in a second story attic. Sprinkler systems come off of unmetered connections and can pour water out at a phenomenal rate. It resulted in a flood of biblical proportions, and right before Christmas Eve Candlelight. I still recall the chaos that included the fire department, insurance adjusters, remediation companies, and the security alarm company. Despite the challenges, Christmas Eve Candlelight was beautiful.

My second appointment was to the Pontiac Church. That mission congregation moved into an old UPS building that was drafty, dusty, and had only one bathroom, and it was upstairs. There was no shortage of problems to tackle. I loved getting to be part of creative solutions to what seemed like almost insurmountable problems. Samantha still has a “lovey” that a saint in that church made for her.

My first fulltime appointment to Berryville taught me a lot about how to minister to people in need. Penny built a Kids Ministry from the ground up and learned first-hand how difficult it can be to minister to broken families. We installed Wi-Fi, a new AV computer, remodeled the fellowship hall and paved a parking lot there.

Our previous assignment was in a community that was in a state of urban decline and needed neighborhood partners. In our second year, there was a small fire in a second story mechanical room that could have burned the sanctuary down. It took all summer negotiating with insurance adjusters and waiting on contractors to install new equipment. While we were worshipping in the Family Life Center, a creative technical person helped us to add projection to our worship. Later that same person helped us to start live streaming worship.

Now here we are in a place we love, amid salt of the earth people ready to do the work of the kingdom. I kept pinching myself, thinking I must be dreaming. You are all such good Methodists and know how to be in ministry to your neighbors. The future is pregnant with possibility. We are doing ministry in creative new ways, and together we’ve opened a new front door to the church in the virtual world.

What we’ve discovered pretty quickly how difficult it is to foster and maintain relationships via the internet. As social beings, we all hunger for the comfort of the community. Some of our congregation adjusted to virtual Sunday School quickly with the help of a seasoned facilitator. Yet others are waiting patiently for things to return to something more organic. Perhaps there are leaders out there waiting to tackle the challenge of being a facilitator for a new class?

Jesus was very creative in finding new ways to minister to people and new ways of interpreting the biblical text. There were times when he preached and taught in synagogues and the Temple, but he also preached from lakeshores, boats, mountaintops, in homes, and borrowed rooms. Jesus did not try to fix the religious system; he began a movement that went on to change the world.  Christ is leading us to new places, to find new ways,  to reach new people. Problems can often open the door for new opportunities to love God and neighbor. Jesus reminds us, “…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Pastor Kenny