Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strategic Service?

Good afternoon God,
I’ve been trying to reflect theologically on matters of strategy – to be exact, I have been trying to determine the place of strategic thinking and strategic management in the life of the Church. That it has a place, I have no doubt, a chaotic Church makes nonsense out of the relationship between faith and order, it disturbs the balance between law and grace so that accountability before you and the faithful for the bountiful resources you provide for the proclamation of the Gospel becomes impossible.

But when the life of your Church is determined by adherence to strategy as the best or only proper means of achieving priorities, it is evident that there is an even greater disruption of the means of grace.
Faith and Order – both are needed – Law and Grace together enable your kingdom to flourish – but surely, God, in your Church, final authority should lie with the Spiritual leader, not with the strategic manager?

What would be the difference?

Strategy and resources belong together and it is natural for the strategic leader to mete out the resources of your church, both financial and personnel, based on a budgeting strategy which naturally includes balancing the books.
You however, repeatedly create something out of nothing, and encourage us to join with you. You take phenomenal risks for the sake of your people and the Kingdom of justice and peace. In fact – I don’t know you as anything other than the risk-taking God.
So I am concerned about the proposed ‘clarification’ of the role of the SRC (strategy and resources committee). as recommended in the Council's report

I am concerned because, whether intentional or not,  it places, at the head of our Church, a body which is, by its own description un-representative, and unelected. The changes in the standing orders do more than ‘clarify’ they change the POWER and the AUTHORITY of this small unrepresentative group, making them, in effect, the gatekeepers rather than the servants of the work of your Church. 
It gives the SRC the power to act with regard to finances, personnel and the Church's other assets such as buildings, colleges etc without necessarily firstly consulting with the Council or the Conference in each instance. (2b)

According to para (4) It will be the SRC’s interpretation of the mission strategies of the Methodist Church that will form the rationale for the Church’s budget – not Conference’s or the President’s, or the General Secretary’s. (Neither Conference nor Council need necessarily be informed of the projects etc. which have not been allocated resources because they fall outside of the SRC’s interpretation).

The largest percentage of the committee will be chosen, not for their spiritual insight or their ability to discern your vision for our Church, but for their skills and experience in the specific items of governance. That’s fine, the committee has a particular task to do. It does mean however that there is even less surety that the committee will be able to hold before it, the risky nature of the body of Christ, and the necessity of being willing, if called upon, to ‘give all that we have to the poor’ in order to follow Christ, rather than just balancing the books.

Even more distressing is the idea in (4B) that this committee will be responsible for implementing the Church’s duty of care to some ministers and deacons. The Church has a duty of ‘Pastoral Care’ not  ‘Strategic care’, and Ministers and Deacons, are in a COVENANT relationship with the Church – even if they do work for the Council or are a part of the Connexional Team. As is hinted at in the preamble to the recommendations, this is an area of some controversy – not least the perverse reluctance to allow ministers to be known by the title Rev when they work for the Connexional Team.

All of which leads me to say, I want strategy in SERVICE to the Church, not GOVERNING or LEADING the Church. Jesus did not call us to preach, baptize and make disciples of all nations according to how much money the SRC is prepared to allocate to that particular task according to its interpretation of our priorities and when balanced against the other priorities such as teaching them all that Jesus has said, or enabling them to love you God, and their neighbours as themselves.

It is worth reminding ourselves sometimes that Methodism began with nothing. That the greatest gift to Methodism’s early growth, the class system, came about because we had nothing and needed to work together to make something out of nothing!  That Methodism’s decline, like that of so many other Churches and Denominations may have more to do with the emphasis we place on balancing the books, compared to proclaiming the Word.

The SRC may be frustrated by the fact that it cannot do as much as it would like to in holding the Church to the priorities it has set itself, but the existing standing orders do necessitate the SRC serving the Church as the Church decides – not as the SRC interprets past decisions.

The existing standing orders serve us well. I agree with the need for an SRC. The proposed standing orders changes however, could make the Church a servant of the Connexional Team – rather than the other way around. In so doing it makes us all slaves to limited human strategy instead of obedient to your vision for us all.  Worse, it is unwittingly predicated on the belief that we must act, because you will not. We have to have a strategy for dealing with your absence God.  Only then can we be confident that we will continue to exist to fulfill OUR priorities. I think it’s time we remembered that we exist to serve YOUR priorities and that strategies might need to change according to YOUR will, not the budget.

After reflection therefore God, I really do think that Conference should resist the changes to these particular standing orders on the basis that they redefine rather than clarify the role of the SRC so that it lies outside of our faith and order.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Christian Conferring and misplaced loyalty.

Good morning God,
There are times when I really wish you hadn't made me a Methodist - usually just before Conference. It's not about whether I agree or disagree with the contents of the reports that are being brought, or the recommendations that are being made; some are outstanding and a real credit to the revelation of faith that you have shared with us. Some however are so contrary to the Methodism you called me to serve, that I wonder if there hasn't already been a serious breach of the 'Covenant relationship' we are supposed to share as Church and minister.
The problem is that few people realize that the theology and doctrines of the Church are not just carried by the 'God bits' or 'Scriptural content' of what we write, debate and agree upon. There is as much, if not more theology in our so called governance, our structures and budgets, 'strategies' and management.
Yet all too often, since the team focus process started, this side of Conference's business is seen as just that -  'business' and the complaint is made - and often agreed upon - that Conference is no way to run a business - sorry - church.

But it is this area of our Church's life that has led and is continuing to lead to the loss of what were once considered core doctrines and principles of the people called Methodist.

Our Church structures, our governance, our polity - are part of the visible proclamation of the Gospel as you have revealed it to us, and that you call us to preach. In much the same way that many Anglicans think of their Church as the via-media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,  you seem to have placed the Methodist Church as a bridge between the established and the non-conformist churches, allowing the best of both to flow in either direction. So Methodists have been willing to act 'pragmatically' if it has been deemed right to do so,  whilst at the same time maintaining sufficient 'orthodoxy' to be able to speak to the 'un-reformed' traditions with an authentic voice.

Theologically, our calling was once defined as being to spread Scriptural holiness and to  reform the Church - the reform was as important as Spreading Scriptural holiness, for the lack of reform hindered growth in grace and holiness. It is therefore decidedly worrying when what Conference is presented with are recommendations and resolutions that seem to offer only the possibility of aping, rather than reforming the Church. It is even more worrying when those recommendations and resolutions that will change our theology the most - or those that highlight the shift in our theology that has already taken place - are effectively buried in the more 'business-like' sections of the Conference Agenda.

I know, I know, you have to be 'touched' in a very odd way to be the sort of sad soul who avidly reads the report of the law and polity committee with as much enthusiasm as the brilliantly written Big Society report, or who does more than skim through the Methodist Council report and the standing order changes proposed in it.  But that seems to be how you have made me. Which is why around this time of the year, I have a very Jeremiah style love hate relationship with my Church.

I am all too aware that some of the things that I feel called to say about the proposed changes to our structures will not be welcomed by those who wrote the reports - or whose interests they serve. I am aware that much of what I expect to write over the next two weeks will be seen as being 'personal' (a phenomenal shift from how Conference and Christian conferring used to be recognized and actively encouraged in our Church) I know that the things I intend to write will leave me open to accusations of disloyalty and 'team bashing'. So let me say just this - I consider myself part of the people called Methodist, and I recognize NO distinction between the 'team' and any other Methodist. The fact that there is such a high proportion of non-Methodists in the 'team' is irrelevant as all are required to sign up to the Priorities of the Methodist Church.
Fear of disloyalty and of creating/maintaining a 'Them and Us' mentality can no longer be allowed to silence the debates we need to be having as a whole Church.  The agenda before Conference is NOT the 'precious work 'of members of the Connexional Team - it is the offering of the people called Methodists to you God as together we seek to discern a way forward for the future.
It is not 'disloyal' to disagree - it is not disloyal to critique what is set before us, it is not disloyal to say thank you. but no thank you, that recommendation is denied. It is not disloyal or 'team bashing' to not be willing as a Church to be led in certain areas particularly when the body of the Church feels it is not the will of the Spirit for us to go there.

Conference is the only opportunity the Church has to express an honest, prayerful opinion of the direction the Church is moving in and the theology it is proclaiming by its actions: Now more than ever, Conference cannot afford to be silenced or subdued out of misplaced 'loyalty' or 'respect' or 'courtesy' to our 'strategic leaders'. Conference is presided over by those we have elected to that post - but let us not forget as we explore, examine and debate its agenda that the aim of Conference is to give you glory God, to fulfill our calling before you and to serve your interests, which may not necessarily be the same as those envisaged by the report writers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Consulting on Worship

Good afternoon God,
I well remember the first time that I tried to persuade members of a congregation to assist in the planning and preparation of worship 'Does that mean you've run out of ideas' someone asked! No, I explained, but worship shouldn't be something that just happens to you, or is 'done to you'. Worship at its best is a corporate act, from start to finish.
Hence the worship consultation meeting; once a quarter, those who are interested in the worship of the Church gather to plan our worship for that 'Season' in accordance with the mission of the Church.

We have been using 'Season's of the Spirit' to help us plan and prepare worship that enables the whole Church to grow in grace. It follows the revised common lectionary and provides a staggering range of resources for different age groups, including prayers, liturgy, modern art, modern music from around the world, home Bible reading notes, poetry, articles, web-based games, resource sheets, etc.. It's not the cheapest resource available, but the language is inclusive and contemporary and the ideas always fresh and pertinent. It actually makes me believe that Worship is a part of modern life and that it isn't necessary  to step back in time to fuzzy felt and children's addresses, or throw away your brain in order to worship and pray effectively!

But resources can only take you so far - they have to be used to be effective, and sometimes, the more people that are involved in the planning, preparation, and even the delivery of an act of worship, the better it can be as a means of grace. This is not always easy in Methodism where we seem (peculiarly) to have adopted the bizarre notion that the right to determine how a Church will worship belongs to the local preacher - not the congregation. Over time this has led to a terrifying congregational passivity;  all that is required of a those who attend worship is to sit and listen, sing a few hymns and say whatever is printed in bold. It's no wonder fewer and fewer young people feel called to ministry or preaching - what experience do we give them of leading or participating in worship? Putting the occasional 'LA' on the plan is not enough!

Last night the consultation agreed to explore different ways of using  evening worship so that the Church might serve the needs of the whole congregation and perhaps even attract others! Currently evening services tend to be 'traditional' Methodist hymn prayer sandwich services. Depending on the preacher however, the congregation can fall to as few as 8 people (including organist and stewards!)

The consultation therefore decided to try replacing those services by a combination of:-
  • 'Church lite' - a half an hour service consisting mainly of praise and prayer with space for a short reflection. 
  • 'Opening the Word'  an hour of interactive Bible Study on the set Lectionary for the week (similar in style to the sort of studies that were part of the Lent BigRead.) 
  • Cafe Church - a meal of Scripture, politics, social justice and contemporary affairs which currently provides our largest evening congregation in spite of the fact that it has no hymns or sermons or even 'talks'. 
  • Holy Communion - a reflective quiet service using (for example) Iona or Celtic liturgies as well as those 'in the book'.
The joy for me as the minister is that Church lite - aimed at teenagers and young adults will primarily be planned and delivered by people of that age group. Who knows God, maybe one or more of them will enjoy it so much that they might hear a call to minister or preach. It's certainly a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The sins of the Fathers...

Good afternoon God,
I had always puzzled at how a loving God could, as Scripture so often tells us, visit the iniquity of the father onto the Children to the third and fourth generation.. sadly I now understand that what is meant is that the consequences of the initial 'sin' will reverberate and enslave subsequent generations.
It is in that light that I have come to view our current ecumenical situation.

I fully understand the origin of the dreams of ecumenism that once fired the young ministers of the Methodist and Anglican Churches during the 1960's and 70's - especially following the 'death of God debate'. I appreciate all that they managed to achieve with their zeal and enthusiasm.. but I have also come to believe you gave your answer - firmly and emphatically.  You have made it clear that your 'broken body' is not ours to try and lump together again by our petty politics and power games. It is broken - to serve your purposes, not ours.

But the next generation of ministers, and those that have followed have nonetheless had to pay the price of those dreams. The amount of energy and money that has been spent on seeking so called 'Church unity' - ie on Church order, instead of on evangelism, social justice and pastoral care is - quite simply - frightening - and sinful.

And no - I do not understand it.

I am repeatedly told that full organic unity will better serve the mission of your Church - but the fastest growing churches in the world, both historically, and currently are those interested in mission and ministry, not those obsessed with bishops and clerics.  They are those with people and salvation in mind, not Church order and interchangability of ministry. They are focused on worship and discipleship, not with whether a service of the Eucharist is 'proper' or 'authorized'.
The Pentecostal Church today is not interested in whether the world thinks it is 'orthodox' or 'respectable' it IS interested in saving souls. In Asia and Africa the Methodist Church is not concerned with whether it is part of the apostolic succession or not,  it IS concerned with saving souls..

I am tired of being told that the Methodist Church once claimed that it was willing to take the historic episcope into its system - we once claimed a lot of things! Wesley believed in Witches, and thought tea was the devil's brew - we no longer do. British Methodists were once almost all members of the Temperance society - few are today, we once thought Roman Catholics were not even Christian - we no longer think so today - we MAKE MISTAKES in our discernment!
At the start of this century, we made it clear that we were no longer so willing to take the historic episcope into our system when Conference and the Methodist people declared that NONE of the possible options presented (including that of the president of Conference being made a Bishop) was acceptable.

Surprisingly God, you have shared with us some crucial revelations: You have shown us that that there is no difference in your eyes between laity and clergy, and that the Church really does not need bishops to engage in mission and ministry. You have revealed to us that the diaconate is a separate unique and complementary form of ordained ministry; that the laity can baptise and preside over the Lord's table without either acts losing their sacramentality or efficacy before You. That discipline and discipleship belong together. That Christian perfection is the goal you set before us, and most of all - that predestination in any form is not part of your Gospel of love and grace.

The longing of some Methodist men to be Bishops was/is I believe, another sickness and a sin in our church that some in this generation are growing a little tired of paying for.  I believe you have made it clear that churches can work together without denying the gifts of grace that you have given to each. It should be possible for any church seriously committed to your gospel, to work for your glory without being made to adopt Bishops first!

So - yes, I am appalled at the re-writing of Methodist History in the JIC report coming before our Conference - Methodism divided after Wesley's death over church structure - and in particular over the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers - ie over the equality before you, God of the laity and the clergy.  Once again, our history is paraded as something shameful, when the truth is quite the opposite.
Lay and clerical equality is not an event in our past, but in our present. We have only recently finished restructuring our own Conference so that there is parity of representation between clergy and laity.

And where in the report is the recent Anglican history over this same period ? What of the flying bishops from other parts of the Anglican world brought in by London Churches to ordain the homophobic, or the success of the ordinariate and the dissent against women bishops -
The JIC report dares to suggest that the Covenant is a plan for greater Church unity but the Anglican Church has demonstrated a frightening inability to maintain its own internal unity.

A large part of what distresses me is the ignorance that has been perpetrated by our ecumenical work leading to the lie that there is little difference between Methodists and Anglicans. Most Methodists and Anglicans have no idea that the Church of England does not recognise Methodist orders. They have no idea that the Church of England will only allow a Methodist minister to conduct a 'Methodist' service in an Anglican Church - that we are not deemed worthy or 'holy' or 'ordained' enough to lead an Anglican rite - even though we train with Anglicans, share in various mission and social justice programs with Anglicans. And few will know - especially if these new ecumenical areas are implemented - that the difference is based not just on canon law - but on theology and doctrine.

I suspect that the proposed 'ecumenical areas' or 'local covenants' are intended to lead still more people to believe that there is no difference really - even though the actual difference cripples Methodist ministry and mission, further erodes Methodist identity and negates the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and the revelation Methodism has received of the equality of lay and ordained. (To say nothing of gender equality)

I do not want to be a part of a church where so called 'unity' is more important than equality before you God. Please God, is there no way you can persuade the Anglican Church to focus on sorting out its own divisions and schisms and let this be the last generation required to wrestle with the consequences of the 1972 debacle?

Can we not just get on with the task of saving souls?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ministerial Extensions.

Good afternoon God,
It's that time in ministry again when I am trying to discern my calling - where do you want me to minister, what am I called to do next.. what is best for the circuit, what is best for me? (And by best I mean what is right by you!)
It's not easy - and I am grateful that I do not have to do it alone.
I have already met with the District chair and soon I will meet with the circuit stewards and they, in turn will discuss with the people I have been ministering too, all so that together we can discern your will.
It's a good system, at its best  it can be supportive and affirming, albeit challenging and humbling. It's part of what it means to me to be an itinerant Presbyter in your service. The same process is used throughout the Methodist Church, whether the presbyter is a circuit minister, superintendent or district chair. It is a consultative process that provides feedback from which the minister can learn and grow in grace and holiness. The fact that it is a shared process throughout the ministry is important to maintaining trust and confidence in the system.

So I am somewhat saddened to learn from our Conference reports that the same process appears to have been  short-circuited in the case of our General Secretary. The most important stage of all - the consultation with those being ministered to, has been compromised. The conversation with the equivalent of the Circuit Stewards has happened, and Conference will play the equivalent role of the Circuit meeting in either accepting or rejecting the recommendation being brought to them - but the recommendation does not appear to come on the basis of feedback from a full representative range of those that the General Secretary is called to minister to. If the report is to be believed, the ordinary members of the Connexion (and by Connexion I mean Connexion not Connexional Team) were not consulted.

The report tells us that

First, soundings were taken from those who work most closely with Martyn
in the Connexional Team and from Chairs of Districts. A process was
then put in place whereby comments could be obtained from other Church
leaders in the United Kingdom, from the leaders of a number of partner
Methodist Churches and from other organisations and individuals with
which the Methodist Church works in close co-operation.

If the General Secretary is to do his job well, shouldn't some of the 'rank and file' of the Methodist Church have also been consulted? The long list of the great and good who were consulted makes me uneasy - is there really now such a division between our 'leadership' and our people?

If the only people to be consulted in the process of stationing a circuit minister were the district chairs and circuit stewards and their ecumenical equivalents - would the Church members be happy?

What a missed opportunity for the General Secretary (and Conference) to receive some feedback about his ministry from the people who will be most affected by the changes he suggests we adopt. I am aware that often members of the Connexional team receive negative emails, hate letters etc - but here was a chance for the Church to offer affirmation, and positive comments.

The General Secretary is much loved in the Connexion - surely he had the right to hear that?
His ministry has been appreciated by many - surely he had the right to learn why and discover what people have valued the most?

I have no doubt that those who were considering how best to do this whole process had the Church's best interests at heart - but on this occasion, I think they got it seriously wrong. It leaves me with the uneasy impression that the opinions of  'ordinary' rank and file Methodists don't count. Something I don't for one second believe to be the case.

I can only hope that it is the report, not the process that was flawed, and that a full range of Methodist members including those without 'rank' or office.. were indeed seriously consulted. It's only the General Secretary's right as a Presbyter in the Methodist Church seeking an extension to his appointment after all.

For what its worth - The General Secretary would have received my vote.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A discpleship movement shaped for mission

Good afternoon God,
I have been reflecting further on the new direction for British Methodism being presented to the Conference this year in the hope of unpacking what it might mean for the ordinary church member.
The report states that 'The big theme of Connexionalism sets the context' in which all the remainder of the report must be read.

The argument is that Connexionalism is 'a Spiritual commitment' before it is a descriptor of Methodist 'structures, processes and systems'.
This understanding allows us to loosen the bonds that hold circuits and local churches together in such a way that

1) We can be more flexible about who is 'in full Connexion' with us - and why!
2) We can be more flexible about what a 'local Church', 'circuit' or even a 'District' is
3) We can redefine how Connexionalism is applied across the connexion.

How might this change things..
A fresh expression of Church might well become a part of the Connexion - but not necessarily a part of a circuit on the circuit plan.

A circuit or district could be created which is not defined according to geography but according to (for example) churchmanship.. so a network of fresh expressions across the country could become the equivalent of a 'District' or 'Circuit'. An ethnic fellowship could become the equivalent of a 'Circuit' etc. This makes it possible for forms of spirituality to flourish regardless of geography. So a youth church in an existing local Methodist Circuit might be part of a much larger national youth circuit and so would not be  dependent on the presbyters and local preachers of their local circuit, but on those already engaged in similar work and worship.

The current principle that all Churches in full connexion are under the same 'discipline' and have access the same resources would no longer necessarily hold, meaning that the Connexion could decide where to focus and allocate resources (such as ministers, deacons, finance etc) according to where and how it is discerned that the Spirit is moving.

Ethnic groups/fellowships/churches can be part of the Connexion, as Districts or Circuits or churches allowing the richness of diversity to  become a real factor in shaping Methodist mission and understanding.

For all this to happen - the Connexion rather than the local church, will need to become the primary body deciding what happens with our buildings and our boundaries.

Yes of course some of this could be seen negatively. It could be argued that introducing such phenomenal diversity  will destroy what little is left of a distinctive Methodist identity, or that such diverse connexionalism will be impossible to 'discipline'. Small rural churches and circuits could well feel threatened or even abandoned. 'Traditional' Methodists who insist that we have always done it this way and so must always do it this way will undoubtedly feel threatened! But truth be told - this vision of Methodism is much much closer to the origins of Methodism than what we currently have.

Perhaps the most difficult change for some will be the loss of 'Church' in favour of 'movement'. This will undoubtedly affect our ecumenical relationships. Some of our existing ecumenical partners might balk at being so closely tied to a body that deliberately chooses to be in full Connexion (and hence - perhaps - full communion) with a Pentecostal 'circuit' or a Fresh expression youth 'District'.
It will be harder to define common ground when we are once again so diverse.

When we look less like Church because we are structured less like parishes and dioceses - we will however become more dependent on our theology and understanding of the movement of the Spirit to hold us together - we will need to draw more on you GOD than on CPD!

The potential - really is - staggering!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Methodism and the Nunc Dimittis

Good morning God,

It's an odd thing to say, but the General Secretary has helped me understand the Nunc Dimittis in a way I could never have believed possible before.. and its bitter-sweet. The same thing that makes me feel I really can die in peace, also energizes me and makes me long to live and see more of what you have granted us just a tiny glimpse of.  I wonder if Simeon felt that strange mix of elation and peace, excitement and anticipation, longing and regret on seeing Jesus?

Ok, Ok the General Secretary's report is not quite in the same league in one sense - but it DID let me see Jesus - it DID open my eyes and offer me a glimpse of your salvation and filled my heart with hope - and dread - for the future.

The report is written in clear and accessible Godly language that draws on the riches of our tradition and the experiences and inspiration of past presidents - yet is still clearly profoundly prophetic. That it is YOUR word I have no doubt. Yes, it shows evidence of careful editing, there is no desire here to upset or offend, but this report also makes no apologies for the fact that should the Connexion be persuaded to follow the vision that you have given to the General Secretary and the Connexional team, it will be radically changed from what it is now.


No minister likes to think that their ministry, their service to you God has been in vain. As with so many I have been more than disillusioned about the 'Church' and its seeming loss of passion for the gospel, commitment to mission, obsession with structure and form rather than Scripture and prayer.
The seemingly slow inexorable slide into Anglicanism, institutionalism, officialdom etc has depressed me beyond belief. The lack of godly language or the use of Scripture in our public communications, the absence of any real sense of direction other than a parroting of 'the priorities' had left me seriously questioning my vocation.

The words of the Easter liturgy spring to mind..
If we have fallen into despair. If we have failed to hope in you, If we have been fearful of death, If we we have forgotten the victory of Christ. Lord, forgive us.' 
But on the eve of Pentecost you have answered my prayer by giving me a glimpse of a possible future..
The General Secretary's report captures what Methodism once did best - move forward into the future, taking the risk of being different, radical, even passionate in a desire to serve You in obedience and truth. It then dares to spell out how that might still possible today before providing just a few small illustrations of what Methodism might look like if it chose to follow that route. And for the first time since the whole 'Team Focus' process started - I feel a part of the team again, as though the Connexion includes me in, rather than writes me off as a circuit minister.


Yes, I know, this will be incredibly risky and painful for many in our Church to accept and adopt.
Yes, this runs the risk of initially at least losing us almost as many members as it potentially creates,
yes this takes us further than ever away from the careful steering towards respectable ecclesiology that has eaten up so much of our energy and vitality over the last 30 years -
by grace, by your wonderful powerful spirit God, we could actually do this - we could actually become a mission minded people once again, more worried about You than about our committees, buildings, titles, and personnel departments!

Provided we don't procrastinate.

I really want to be a part of this Lord.. not just witness the birth of it!