We live in a time of polarization, division, and conflict. In the world, in the church, and even in our personal lives it is becoming more and more difficult to be in community with people with whom we disagree. This does not mean that we should abandon this work, rather it is part of who we are in Christ’s Church, and this has always been a struggle for us as a people. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus and implored that unity was a mark of Christian discipleship. Paul writes “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Paul tells the church what truly unites us: our faith, our baptism, and the work God has done for all of us in Christ Jesus. No matter what worldly divisions and disagreements separate us from one another in this world, we are all made in the image and loved by Almighty God. In a time when a large portion of our politics is derived out of fear and division, why can't the church be the one that says that everyone belongs? Why cannot the church be the place that brings everyone together? Why cannot the Church be a place that says that every person matters and deserves to grow and be safe in this world? In the coming weeks, with the called General Conference in St. Louis the United Methodist Church will face conflict, as will our own congregation. John Wesley as Methodism pondered separation from the Church of England said, “It is evil in itself,” he preached. “To separate ourselves from a body of living Christian, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. ... It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren.” This modern conflict we face is also an opportunity to proclaim to the world, and to our own community who we are as a people of hope. We believe that First United Methodist in Dyersburg can still be a means of grace for our neighbors, and we can be a place that unites very different people in community rather pushing them apart. The love of Jesus Christ is stronger than whatever might keep us apart. Might that truly be what keeps us one, that we might be “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry with all the world, until Christ comes in final victory?” There are resources found at umcprays.org, as we move toward General Conference. Might we as a congregation be in prayer for the Church, not for our specific side to be victorious, but that we might remain in holy love with one another even in our disagreement.

Grace and Peace, Will, Ed, and FUMC family