From the District Superintendent

Longing for Clear Focus

Posted 14 January, 2020 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

I long for clear focus in this Epiphany 2020 season. Perhaps you do as well.

I had to get bifocals following my first semester at Duke Divinity School. [I had used glasses since I was 13. But this was before progressive lenses so it felt markedly unfair to have "lined glasses" at age 21! My optometrist showed little sympathy, only remarking that at least I had made it through college at William and Mary without needing them; evidently he had first gotten them as undergrad.]

I have a clear memory from my second semester, of attending a theology class taught by Professor Tom Langford and moving my eyes from my notebook on my desk to him as he paced across the front of the room while he lectured to the blackboard when he had written notes and back and forth. I felt sea-sick as I navigated learning to see clearly through the new lenses. Not surprisingly, when I was able to get progressive lenses some years later, I had a similar experience, navigating how to see clearly in a different way. Both times there were some mechanics to it that were different for each type of lens: to move only my eyes above and below "the line" for clarity or turn my whole head in the direction and angle of what I was seeing. But as challenging as it was to get the hang of them each time, what a difference they made. I could see clearly. What had seemed fuzzy was distinct, clear, and crisp. All was in focus. 

I long for clear focus in this Epiphany 2020 season. Apostle Paul gives us a template for such clarity in his letter to the Philippians: 

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad!  Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.  Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
(4:4-9, Common English Bible)

As this year unfolds, through General Conference and national elections, amid signs of war and violence, in the face of injustice and inequity, let our hearts and minds remain focused on Jesus. Then we will truly reflect Jesus in our words and actions.

In all your living and through your loving, Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom,

From Shalom to You by Elise Eslinger

In Christ's peace and hope,


In December, I: 

  • Preached for Trinity (Roanoke) UMC
  • Attended Bishop's Strategic Visioning Steering Team and  VITAL Team meetings
  • Led District Clergy Day Apart
  • Participated in December Cabinet meeting and Christmas Dinner
  • Held annual consultations with 27 District Clergy
  • Enjoyed Annual District Office Open House
  • Consulted with laity and clergy in person, by phone, and through email 
  • Enjoyed vacation and holiday with family