· Church Renewal


By Bishop Gary Mueller

I will always remember Wednesday, March 11, 2020. That was the day it became clear COVID-19 was becoming so dangerous I immediately needed to cancel all in-person events for the Arkansas Annual Conference. It was the beginning of a pandemic that has turned lives upside down.

I have been amazed (but not surprised) by the response of United Methodists over the last 11 months. You have demonstrated courage, creativity, and compassion. You have been resilient and innovative, even learning how to use technology more than you ever imagined possible. You have responded with integrity in the face of pressure to act as if the pandemic is not real and deadly. It has been difficult.

You have been stellar.

All of this, however, has taken its toll. You are exhausted with a weariness that penetrates to the core of your soul. You are concerned about the future of your congregation and whether people will return once you begin a full offering of in-person activities. There are days you are not sure how you can pivot from the survival mode in which you find yourself to full speed ahead with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities, and the world.

The way so many of you feel right now reminds me of something I became acquainted with several years ago: Seasonal Affective Disorder, with its acronym of SAD. It is the result of a drop in the serotonin level caused by reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter. SAD can trigger depression or, at least, a case of the blues. Thankfully, the cure for SAD is simple.

Spend time in the sun.

Recently, I realized the pandemic has spawned a new affective disorder: COVID Affective Disorder, with its acronym of CAD. While this disorder has not yet been officially recognized, it is real. The result of COVID’s prolonged disruption, deep pain, grief, forced isolation, and theft of your ability to do many of the things that bring you meaning and hope. CAD can lead to severe depression, loss of energy, cynicism, anger, and hopelessness. Thank God, however, it does have a cure.

Spend some time in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

The Good News is that you don’t need to find the Light of the World because Jesus is already waiting for you. In fact, he’s doing everything possible to make it easy to join him. The Light he offers is a powerful unconditional, invitational and transformational love that will never dim regardless of what happens because of COVID. When you double down on dwelling in his Light (even if you know your faith is far from being fully mature) you will discover that Jesus will restore the purpose, joy, compassion, passion for God’s justice and hope that COVID Affective Disorder has depleted. Don’t wait any longer.

Start spending some time in the Light of the World today!

Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president

General Commission on UM Men



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