By Rev. David Saliba
It is the time of year when we ready our churches, our homes, and our hearts to experience again the Holiest of Nights. It is Advent, a time to celebrate the coming of Christ and to rejoice in His birth! It is precisely this time of year when we remember that “yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
I have always been a United Methodist. It is the church that birthed me, raised me, confirmed me, educated me, and it is now the home where my family and I have promised to serve Christ. Many of you know that our beloved church is approaching days of uncertainty as it labors to keep unity within a diverging group of believers. This is a challenge that emerges whenever humanity is involved in the work of God, but it is not a challenge larger than the work of God.
In 2006, when we were forming the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation, our denomination was facing a great challenge: we did not have enough pastors for our churches, and our pastors did not have enough support from our churches. Karl and Brenda Stegall, along with the founding members of the Foundation saw this challenge as an opportunity. Displaying adaptive leadership and a clear purpose we set out to “encourage more young men and women within our United Methodist Church to enter church related vocations; and to provide financial assistance for all seminary students from the Alabama-West Florida Conference that are enrolled in classes on campus.”
A God-sized vision emerged from our donors’ faithful response: “To one day fully-fund the seminary education of all students from the Alabama–West Florida Conference.” Persons with a great heart for furthering the mission of the church were matched with persons who felt the call to ordained ministry and a miracle occurred – we experience the thrilling hope of a new generation of church leaders called and ready to be equipped for ministry.
Is the United Methodist church facing disruptive forces that greatly challenge us? Yes. Is this challenge larger than the work of God? By no means! Our Foundation Board has recently spent an entire day with a professional strategist prayerfully discerning how we might once again meet the evolving challenges within our denomination. We again see these challenges as an opportunity to lead the Church in calling and equipping trained pastors within the Wesleyan tradition. Our students are confident that our Foundation stands with them, and that we are evermore committed to our mission. I am certain that our donors know their contributions will continue to be used to train women and men to lead the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
This weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn, and I have a thrill of hope when I think about what God has yet to do with us!