Finding belonging in new places
When Roger Parker was part of the transition team for churches wishing to disaffiliate with the UMC, he and the other members of the team realized that most of those congregations had a number of people wishing to stay with the UMC.
Out of those meetings, the conference saw the need for a pastor to help all of those “orphaned” members to still come together as United Methodists.
Parker sees his job as two-fold: to help members join another United Methodist congregation and get connected with a study or prayer group; or to help with online worship and pastoral support as members who don’t have a nearby church navigate the next steps.
“I’m meeting with small groups and individuals, in person or sometimes on the phone, to help with their grief work and to help them think about the next chapter of their lives,” said Parker.
With the livestream of The Gathering, which can be played any time after its initial posting on Sunday mornings to YouTube, small groups can gather at a member’s home or another creative meeting space. Groups can come together and worship, and then meet again for Bible study if they’d like.
“We want them to know we are aware of them, we care about them, and we want to give them support,” said Parker. “There are lots of ways churches can meet and still be a church. They can choose a ministry, like a reading program or a food pantry, or anything that they find as a need.”
Parker added, “Church can happen anywhere. They can hold hands in a circle and pray and then get to work serving.”
The Advent series is on belonging, as many displaced members may not feel as though they belong to their churches anymore.