Ann Marie Carley

The Force is With You! Fresh Expressions and a New Hope

Don’t hate me, but I’ve never been a huge Star Wars fan.

However, I recently saw The Rise of Skywalker and as I have been trying to wrap my head around all that is going on in the world today the words of Princess Leia to Rey somehow bring me hope.

Her words?

“Don’t be afraid of who you are!” 

How does Star Wars fit into Fresh Expressions?

Instead of diving directly into my writing this morning, I opened social media instead. I had already seen the news about Iran and I felt I needed to check in on some of my military friends. This is always a bad idea! I repeat, it is a bad idea to open social media instead of focusing on the task at hand. The intent may have been good. However, unfortunately I didn’t heed my own warning this morning and there it was at the top of my news feed an article published about my denomination, the United Methodist Church. A denomination I grew up in, left, returned to and am currently awaiting decision on my ordination into the order of Deacon. A denomination that appears to be on the verge of extinction.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that as I read this article my heart broke. It broke for the people I serve as I know how they will feel about it. It broke for my friends who have fought hard to be seen, heard and recognized by this denomination. It broke for my own family as I know that although we have worshipped together for years as United Methodists, when the dust settles, we will be in two different types of congregations. Don’t get me wrong, I also believe this is what is best for all parties, however it feels like darkness is taking over unity and the galaxy wars are about to begin.

The end of an Era and Hope for tomorrow

As I sat in my grief for a bit, I realized that although there is an uncertain future for my denomination, there is still hope. Click To Tweet

As I sat in my grief for a bit, I realized that although there is an uncertain future for my denomination, there is still hope. You see, I was supposed to be putting the finishing touches on my sermon this morning. A sermon about the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure of faithfully following Jesus Christ. A sermon that would help us remember how our own journey of faith began and how we are all called to bring others along in the faith as we grow. A sermon that would set up a series highlighting how far we have come as a church in our own journey of being disciples who make disciples through Fresh Expressions of Church.

As I watch the denominational structures crumble around me, Fresh Expressions bring me hope.

This Fresh Expressions movement that has started is rooted in the depths of love and grace my congregation was founded upon. Love and grace that is not just those founding members, but us today and all those we come in contact with along our own adventure of a lifetime thanks to Jesus. Those are strong roots and that is who we are!

As I watch the denominational structures crumble around me, Fresh Expressions bring me hope. Click To Tweet

Against All Odds

These roots, thanks to a whole lot of prayer and hard work, have become the branches for a network of Fresh Expressions of Church in just twelve months. A network that is connected by one heartbeat, a heartbeat for our city. A city that has seen a 400% increase in drug overdoses in recent years. A city where 82% of our children have no idea where their next meal is coming from and a city where 62% of our neighbors reject the idea of an established church. The odds were stacked against our old roots, but the odds don’t have Jesus on their side. In the past year we have seen the development of over 16 Fresh Expressions of Church!

Remember your roots

I can tell you that if you asked me a year ago where we would be in this Fresh Expressions journey, I would have never imagined we would be this far. We simply had to start and now, we simply have to keep going.

So, if you’re like me and feeling a little overwhelmed by the news around you, whatever day it may be and whatever is going on in the world, remember the roots of your faith.

As Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (CEB)

 “Timothy, my child, I’m giving you these instructions based on the prophecies that were once made about you. So, if you follow them, you can wage a good war because you have faith and a good conscience.” 

Paul didn’t promise Timothy it would be easy. It’s as though he’s telling him, “don’t be afraid of who you are.” Nurturing a congregation and birthing a network of Fresh Expressions is not easy. However, I know my roots and I cannot, with good conscience, give up on the new thing that God is doing in and through my congregation.

The Force is with you

If you’re reading this you probably have similar faith roots to mine. People along your faith journey have poured into you in a way that has made being a Jesus follower a way of life and everything in you knows you are supposed to do the same. If you aren’t currently discouraged, you’ll hit a time soon, I can guarantee it. However, you’ve got good roots.

Don’t be afraid of who you are and know that you have a force stronger than death working on your side!

 

Ann Marie Carley

Ann Marie Carley

As a UMC Deacon Ann Marie’s ministry focus is helping churches walk through sacred change. She is currently living out this call by serving as the Executive Pastor (and overseeing Fresh Expressions) at Trinity Church in Chillicothe, Ohio. She and her husband are passionate about sharing Jesus, cycling, cycling to tacos and exploring new ways to connect with others.

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