A Moment for Mission
“We always give thanks to God for all of you … remembering … your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” —1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, NRSV
On Laity Sunday—and every other day of the year—we give thanks for committed, caring laity like Morgan Williams, children’s ministry director, and Tracy Thiel, family life director, at Christ United Methodist Church in Oregon, Ohio.
Since 2020 already would be remembered as The Year of the Pandemic, Williams and Thiel didn’t want to add the distinction of The Year of No Vacation Bible School. They decided to build on the drive-in worship concept already in place. “We wanted to include families,” Thiel said.
Families were invited to spend one hour a week in the parking lot to experience VBS while staying in their vehicles. Bags of snacks and activities were distributed as participants arrived. The evening included a skit with study characters, music and activities to be enjoyed as a family. At the end of the evening, each family received a bag to take home to build on the lesson.
The ministry team took seriously the restrictions presented by COVID-19 and kept the program engaging and fun. Crafts and snacks were purchased prepackaged. Vehicles were parked at a distance for safety; yet, friends could see one another.
Christ UMC-Oregon VBS reached 20 families and 40 children, most of whom were from the community and not church members.
Thiel said, “The personal connections we’ve been able to make is huge.”
On Laity Sunday, United Methodists celebrate the contributions of lay Christians like Williams, Thiel and many, many others.
—Amy Graham, West Ohio Annual Conference
Loving God, thank you for the many caring, committed laity, who share their faith and labor in love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost — God of Power and Glory, we come to your altar this morning, offering our gifts and praying for your presence in a world that is hurting and divided. Much of what we see is chaos, confusion, and anxiety – a world that desperately needs to glimpse your presence and your glory. More than just our gifts of money, we pray our lives might be a window into your love and compassion. We pray your light might shine through us to the world. Amen. (Exodus 33:12-23)
From United Methodist Men: Lord Jesus Christ, we praise Your Holy Name giving thanks for the privilege of speaking personally to the Creator. Your blood purchased our freedom, freedom from sin and death. Through Your blood we are granted the grace to become adopted into Your kingdom, to live eternally with You. Father, our work on earth is to be Your face, hands and voice for a hurting world. Fill us with an abundant measure of Your Holy Spirit that as we confess and turn from our personal sin, we might be fruitful in truly loving those around us. In You, through You, for You we seek to engage our brothers and sisters in loving and edifying ways. Bind us one to another through Your Holy Spirit so that our connection will not be based on frail flesh, but of Your Holy Spirit. Together in love we will overcome the darkness of this world shining Your Holy Light that casts away darkness. Amen and Amen. –Mark Lubbock, Baton Rouge, La.
Returning to the community after spending time in prison is tough. Doing so during a pandemic is an even bigger challenge.
But thanks to West Ohio laywoman Reba Collins, former prisoners are not forgotten. Collins and the conference’s All In Community team created COVID-19 Reentry Kits, a modified version of the UMCOR hygiene kit, adding shampoo, hand sanitizer, a face mask and an encouraging note.
“Through AIC,” Collins said, “we had been looking for an opportunity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a tangible way that fulfills our mission of restoring hope and providing healing in lives involved in the criminal justice system.” Joining the effort were the conference Disaster Response network and United Methodist Women. Nearly 2,400 completed kits from 65 churches and groups went to 10 local prisons.
“Hallelujah!” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer. “Jesus, the felon condemned to death, is rejoicing.”
On Laity Sunday, we celebrate the gifts of difference-making laypeople across the United Methodist connection.
—Mariellyn Grace, Mission and Communication Coordinator, West Ohio Conference. Adapted with permission.