From the District Superintendent

New Ways of Telling the Old, Old Story

Posted 15 April, 2020 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

My mileage log shows when it all changed: the demarcation line is so sharp and well-defined. From March 1st through the 17th I drove 1318 miles in my work. Since March 18, zero miles. Most of my meetings haven't been canceled but instead of in-person gatherings around a conference table they migrated to virtual spaces hosted by ZOOM (and occasionally WebEx). I had already discovered that earbuds helped me concentrate on the conversation itself instead of listening to the phone call in the other room. Still no matter which room, or desk, or chair I use or computer adjustments I make, the light never seems ideal for a video call; my face is often in shadow. It's easy to tell I am not a digital native.

It has been really amazing to watch, from a safe and virtual distance, the many ways you, clergy and laity, have been church in new ways. Though we have all sung  "the church is not the building" I doubt any of us expected to find ourselves where we are today. And yet we have and you have. Churches that were used to livestreaming worship from a sanctuary with a full choir and musicians have learned how to do so remotely. Those who have never even attended a brief on-line meeting are leading ZOOM Bible studies and prayer group on Facebook. I have seen your creativity, awareness of your context, and your deep faith. You have shared your "this worked so well" and your "we wish we had" experiences with each other. Everyone has been learning new ways to tell the old, old story. 

I suspect much of what you are learning in this moment will continue to be put to use long after we have ceased to practice distancing. I imagine many of these on-line options for worship, learning, connection, and even service will become primary ways of being church well into the future. Even as the great toll of the hardships of this shut-down grows exponentially, so also does the possibility for your church to reach the hearts and lives of those who most need to know the love of the risen Christ. 

"Christ is alive! No longer bound to distant years in Palestine, but saving, healing, here and now, and touching every place and time"  from Christ is Alive by Brian Wren

In the hope Christ, crucified and risen,


In March, I: 

  • Worshiped in person with Thrasher Memorial UMC and with multiple district churches online
  • Attended Conference Board of Ordained Ministry Meeting focused on Commissioning Interviews and two Board of Ordained Ministry Advisory Committee Meetings
  • Participated in Annual Conference Common Table Meeting and a Common Table Personnel Committee meeting
  • Participated in March Cabinet meeting 
  • Convened Board of Missions Annual Meeting
  • Conducted two Meet Your Pastor Sessions with Staff-Pastor Parish Committees
  • Participated in two Table Talk conversations 
  • Consulted with laity and clergy in person, by phone, and through email