New Year’s Day 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! It seems like the whole world is breathing a sign of relief as we turn the corner and begin a new year. The losses and stress of living with COVID-19 continue to wear on us individually and as a global community, and we are ready for a new start.

At the same time, we know that we won’t be able to simply step back into life before COVID. As always in this life of change, there are new challenges to deal with – and new opportunities to pursue, new roads to travel, even if we feel we have moved backwards, and even if we cannot yet imagine how they will all unfold.

The first time I flew into Kona International Airport (now Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole) on the Big Island of Hawai’i, I felt like I was landing on the moon. The airport is surrounded by a lava flow from 1801, and it seemed the dark, barren expanses of lava stretched for miles. When lava flows over land, it takes over everything. Even wildfires and volcanoes that spew out tons of ash can leave surviving trees or nutritious material that supports new growth. But lava, with its 2000-degree temperatures and inexorable engulfment of everything in its path, leaves nothing behind.

And yet that land is not lost forever. Dirt and water collect in small crevices, and there seeds and spores find places to start new life. Over more time, the lava breaks down, providing even more openings for plants and eventually becoming part of fertile soil where life thrives once again.

Our “COVID year” might seem dark and barren, and we might look ahead wondering how our church will recover from our own disruption, from our own losses. We remember, however, that that there is always hope, always more with God. In Revelation 21:5 the writer says, “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” In God’s loving mercy and presence, there are always opportunities and even growth, both in our environment and in ourselves, even if they are not be readily visible to our weary and grieving eyes. Opportunities for relationship-building, for spiritual growth, for becoming part of the continuing work of advocacy and social justice, for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood and beyond. We might not know how to do it all, but we are aware of the need, and we want to learn.

In this new year, in this new landscape, we look forward in faith to continue the work of Jesus’ Church and specifically of San Luis Rey Valley United Methodist Church. We pray that our experiences of the past year have given us insight and awareness about ourselves, our community large and small, and our faith. We seek God’s guidance and prepare to respond with creativity, diligence, and obedience as we move with faith and boldness into the future.

Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Michelle