Grace and peace to you from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In the days to come, you will hear more and more about the future of the Nashville Episcopal Area, the Tennessee and Memphis conferences – that we dreamed together about the possibilities of a new annual conference. Remember, in the district visits we talked extensively about what a new conference might look like. We realized that our future is unfolding before us and that we need to be positioned for a future that God is going to show us in the days to come.
We believe that we’re better together.
Indeed, over the last six years, we’ve talked about the mission. That, in fact, nothing is sacred but the mission and our call is to serve Christ in the world, reaching those who have not yet come to know Christ. We believe that we are better together to reach that mission.
I’m reminded of the story of Lewis and Clark when they explored a passageway to the Pacific Ocean through the Rocky Mountains. They had followed waterways up to the point that they reached the Rockies, and then they discovered there was, in fact, no river to follow. They came across a young Native American woman named Sacagawea, 14 years old, a mother, and she led them through the passageways, off the map, to a new future.
We are in that season in the church where we have to realize that we’re leading now into a new era. Where is God calling us? What will the maps look like? How will we get there?
We believe that we’re better together. These two conferences converging, finding a new future.
You will find resources on the conference website, a toolkit for communication that will give you more details about what this conversation will begin to look like. When we come to the annual conference session we expect to receive a resolution that will allow us to vote on our future.
I encourage you to explore the information that will be available to you on the website and use that information to prepare yourself to become a part of a new future in the Nashville Episcopal Area. God bless you.
Memphis Conference website (scroll down to “Business Items” under “Delegate Business Materials”)
As a boy, we would camp along the Tennessee River at a place we called “Sycamore Cove.” I used to sit on the banks of the river there between Pickwick Dam and JP Coleman State Park. I would watch the water glide by. It made its way downstream, gained speed and momentum, and disappeared out of sight. Around the bend the waters converged, becoming one.
This is where I fell in love with The River. Sometimes calm and sacred. Sometimes swift and turbulent. It is also where I learned to respect it after once being stranded in a storm.
The Bible is full of rivers. There is the Nile where Moses was adopted. There is the Jordan where Jesus was baptized. And there is The River of Life about which John of Patmos speaks in Revelation 22.
Water. River Water. Baptism.
A river runs through us. I’m told that the Tennessee River is a dividing line in this world I’ve come to inhabit. I hear folks speak of the “other side of the river,” and they mean the other Annual Conference, not theirs. But there is a song that has been sung on both sides of the river for longer than we can remember, “Shall We Gather at the River.”
Today, the river is calling me to it again – this time, with you.
Thank you for spending time with me in our 18 conversations across both conferences to discuss how we may partner in our growth and, indeed, in our future disciple-making.
You’ll see in the report that the financial implications, benefits, and clergy interests are top-of-mind topics, which are appropriate for a convergence such as the one we are proposing.
Together, we can become stronger, much like the rivers that converge around and through Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky. The Tennessee. The Cumberland. The Ohio. The Duck. And others. Flowing into the Mighty Mississippi. My hope is that we will work together with open hearts and open minds as we navigate these waters.
Shall we gather at the River?
Map Source: Robert Szucs, Hungarian cartographer, GrasshopperGeography (Etsy)