Are We There Yet?

For Wilshire Baptist Church

The brochure said the hike to the Merced Sequoia Grove was 1.5 miles. No problem for us; just a walk in the woods. So we set out and walked a good long ways and thought we were almost there until we came to a sign that pointed to the grove, and that is where the 1.5 miles began.

We continued on, saw the magnificent trees, took some pictures, and then turned to go back to the car. That’s when we realized that in addition to a walk that was twice as long as described, the return trip was mostly uphill. Funny how you don’t notice that when you’re starting out on an adventure. We now understood why the people we passed coming back up as we went down had pulled off their jackets while we were still bundled up against the chilly October air. They were generating heat on the uphill climb back, and so did we. It wasn’t long before we were shedding jackets and rolling up sleeves.

That’s the way it often goes: We think we’re nearing our destination and then we discover the journey has just started. What’s more, the journey is longer, more demanding and requires more from us than we expected. We might have to roll up our sleeves and lean forward up the hill.

I’ve felt that way recently about our church. A few years ago we embarked on a Vision 20/20 strategic plan that set goals for our future together. It’s been exciting and challenging as we’ve explored and adopted new ways to worship, learn, give and serve together. It’s been a time of bold experimentation and stretching ourselves, and sometimes it’s been more work than we expected. Now as the year 2020 draws near we’re turning some of our outer energy inward; we want to engage as many people as possible in our shared mission in a real, hands-on way.

And last year we went through an arduous discernment process regarding diversity and inclusion of all members and specifically those who identify as LGBT. We decided as a congregation that all members would be regarded equally in all aspects of church life. Some longtime friends left us and that has been difficult, but we’ve welcomed many new members too, and in our 66th year the journey of being church together continues with no end in sight.

The Sequoias in the Merced grove have been welcoming visitors for ages. Some were standing where they are today when Christ walked the earth. His walk was not just a walk in the woods; he walked a rugged path to his death. He didn’t look at a mile marker, say “this is too far,” and turn around. He kept walking, and so we walk with him wherever he leads.

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