By the Rev. J. Douglas Forrester, District Superintendent
Dear Coworkers in Christ,
I pray you are well and full of God’s blessings as we move into the new season of spring and the liturgical season of Lent. It is in the spirit of newness that I am writing to you today.
I have been truly blessed this year by the opportunities God has given me to begin to know the congregations and clergy of the Staunton District while simultaneously affording me the opportunity to know the congregations of the Roanoke District more deeply. What I have found in my travels within both districts is a remarkable resilience – a desire to know Christ and make Christ and his kingdom known on earth, even in the midst of significant challenges from a global pandemic.
What has been the most consistent and significant source of pride for me since I became a District Superintendent is how clergy and laity have demonstrated such remarkable adaptability during these difficult days of COVID. You have learned to record and edit video, develop streaming services, create a social media presence. One 84-year-old pastor serving in his 20th year of retirement even taught himself to create a website for his church. You have learned to have virtual meetings and Bible studies. You have persisted for the sake of the gospel in myriad ways, all to the glory of God.
It is my belief that God is doing yet another new thing in our midst here in the Virginia Conference, and that new thing is what is called our District Initiative Project, whereby our conference will transition from 16 districts to eight.
I love so many things about this project. I love how it will ease resource-sharing, as there are things in the Staunton District that will bless the Roanoke District, and things in the Roanoke District that will bless the Staunton District. Most of all, I love how this project offers us an opportunity to recreate our district structure so that it serves our present reality. We can begin anew, start from scratch, and build something new and wonderful that works for us, today, where we are now.
The bi-district team that includes clergy and laity from the Roanoke and Staunton districts began meeting weekly and now convenes every couple of weeks. Right now, we are working on planning virtual listening sessions that will occur in March so that we can present our work to you, work about which are both excited and proud. Throughout this process, there has been a palpable sense that God is in our midst, bringing something new to bear, as our creative and creating God is, as always, making all things new.
It is such an honor to be your District Superintendent and partner in ministry. I am excited to serve you and to join with you in all that is to come. Come what may, we have the hope and the power of the One whose name means “God is with us.” We are not alone. We live in God’s world, and we have each other. As iron sharpens iron, so shall we continue to bless each other as together, we journey the narrow paths of discipleship, all for the glory of God and God’s Kingdom.
Grace and peace,