September 01, 2022 | by Bishop Sally Dyck
Dear Friends and Members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference:
Greetings to you on this Labor Day weekend! I have always said that once the alarm clock goes off on the day after Labor Day, the next thing you know, it’s Christmas!
Much will happen between now and Christmas for all of us. There will be Jurisdictional Conferences across the United States from November 2-5, 2022 where bishops will be elected and assigned. We don’t know if that will impact the Cal-Nev conference or not. Perhaps one or more of the candidates for bishop from this conference will be elected and assigned somewhere in the Western Jurisdiction. Please pray for these candidates as they engage in the process of discernment and election and for our conference as it might be affected. Click here to get updates on the episcopal discernment process and to see the current WJ slate of candidates. (Editor's note: The page will be populated on September 6th.)
Most students have gone back to school, at least those in K-12. Many of our college students are already hitting the books or soon will be. Especially during the college years, students become disconnected from their home church and with that, they also become less connected to a faith that many parents, Sunday School teachers, pastors and others have poured into them. So why let that happen? Find a way to connect with care packages and/or notes to let them know that you care for them, remember them, and want to encourage them.
Speaking of back to school, some of your churches are having “back to church” Sundays coming up. And if you’re not, I encourage you to do so. Yes, some people are still reluctant to meet in person (especially if there’s not the encouragement to mask) but many are also missing out on the “embodiment of Christ” as the church gathers in all its glory, foibles, smiling eyes (you’re masked, remember!), hugs/handshakes/fist bumps (depending upon your comfort level), and sense of community.
When we become disconnected from the embodied community of Christ, our spiritual tether grows weaker, too. I personally loved hiking on Sunday mornings but now I experience the embodiment of Christ in a local church. Even if your church isn’t having “back to church” Sunday, if at all possible, go back yourself and may every local church welcome everyone whom they haven’t seen for a while with open arms/smiling eyes/spiritual fist bumps!
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church met (virtually) in late August. While much of our discussion centered around many of the institutional challenges of our denomination, one important initiative was brought to us: “A Call to Prayer and Action in Response to Gun Violence.” (Document attached). In this call to prayer and as a letter to President Biden (delivered August 30, 2022 to the White House), we are reminded that as of June 2022, our country has experienced over 300 mass shootings (which mean 4 or more people were killed by gun violence at one time) in just half a year. Death by suicide is also a major result of the proliferation of guns (from 400 million owned before 2021 to 443 million to date).
This is not about legal, responsible gun ownership and use, such as for hunting. But automatic weapons have no place in our society and we have seen the devastation that they cause in the numerous mass shootings in all kinds of settings and throughout the US (and beyond). Gun violence has been both a personal as well pastoral reality and concern for me throughout my life and I have seen the wake of trauma that it brings to families, schools, churches, and communities. I dare say, the whole nation. It’s more than time for “a call to action for all to weep with those who weep and demand, insist on, and push for positive change (regarding gun violence) from our elected officials…this call to prayer is not a shallow request but one that firmly believes that collective prayers of God’s people will keep this issue in the forefront of our consciousness and guide our intentional discernment of the action needed to bring about change.” Please read the whole letter for ways to take action.
Perhaps this is an odd or seemingly disconnected set of matters to bring to your attention—upcoming Jurisdictional Conference, back to school, back to church, and a call to action against gun violence—but that’s what it means to be the church as we embrace the whole of life with our faith, hope and love…and then, next thing you know, it will be Christmas!
Blessings and peace,
Interim Bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference