Ann Marie Carley

Standing the Tables Back Up

Hey, you! Yes, you, Pastor and ministry leader who is trying to figure out this new normal.

I see you!

What you need to know is that these words have been rumbling around in my mind over the last several days, but finding enough time to write them down has been next to impossible. Like so many of us, I’ve been consumed by creating unexpected content to help my local congregation stay informed, connected and worshipful. My fur babies are about to revolt because I’ve not spent a whole lot of time with them. I barely survived one trip to the store three days ago. My house is a disaster, except for my designated sacred space that has now been used for church. Out of the last five, five have been 12+ hour workdays. I don’t tell you all of this to brag or boast. I tell you because I know what exhaustion feels like and my February blog alludes to how exhausting swimming in uncharted waters can be. I see you!

The last large gathering I attended was Wednesday of last week. During this gathering pastors and ministry leaders from across The West Ohio Conference of the UMC came together to learn from those of us in the conference who have been multiplying our local congregation in innovative ways as well as some national speakers as well. Each speaker or group gave a TEDTalk style presentation. You could feel the energy in the room. An energy that was filled with hope. Hope for their church and hope for the Church.

Golden Nugget

One of the most powerful messages I heard was a message from Christian Coon from Urban Village Chicago, IL. He had so many golden nuggets in his talk, however, the one that hit me right between the eyes centered around Jesus turning over tables in the synagogue (Matthew 21:12). I think it stood out most to me because normally I’m the one rooting on Jesus as he flipped over tables. Who doesn’t like the Jesus who comes in and does something to make a point? I mean, he’s just trying to get people to see things in a new way. However, this wasn’t the point Rev. Coon was making. He challenged us to ponder a bit. Might we be the ones called to put the tables back up?

Might we be the ones called to put the tables back up? Click To Tweet

As I have pondered this, something has become increasingly more and more clear. I needed to hear this Jesus story with new ears. Nowhere in the gospels do we hear about the person who came in after Jesus and picked the table up off the ground and stood it back upright. However, inevitably the table was set back up. It may or may not have been used in the same way again, but people wouldn’t have just let a good table go to waste and it was in the temple courts so you know it had to be a good table. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the message of Jesus coming to do a new thing, but that doesn’t change what I am truly being called to do as a follower of this bold and courageous world-changer named Jesus.

Where are you in the story?

If I truly believe Jesus is already at work in the world, tables are already turned over. What if Jesus is just waiting for us to do is simply stand the tables back up and use them for good? What if, instead of feeling as though we are burdened by all of these unchartered waters in the life of how we do church we simply looked at them as overturned tables to set back up again?

What if Jesus is just waiting for us to do is simply stand the tables back up and use them for good? Click To Tweet

Let’s stand the tables back up!

So, if you’re a pastor or ministry leader who is still trying to figure out ways to adjust to this “new normal,” congratulations- you are a pioneer! I know, you may not have ever wanted to be a pioneer, but maybe all it takes is standing one table back up at a time. If you’ve even attempted to become more digital in the last few days, you’ve helped someone feel more peace. If you are still trying to figure out how to keep your congregation connected as we show love by keeping our physical distance from each other, keep pioneering these new ways of connecting with others. Your efforts have undoubtedly provided hope.

The only way we fail in this is to not try- so keep trying. I see you! Imagine if maybe, as we are standing one overturned table back up at a time we are not just helping our established congregation sit in the presence of Jesus, but others as well- others who may have just been waiting for us to stand that one table back up again.

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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