At annual conference this year, they posted my picture and announced my appointment for the next year. Our conference was online, and I didn’t see myself in the list. They posted the appointments around the dinner hour, and I had broken away from being online to make dinner and sit down with my family for a moment. Jean texted to say, “nice picture.” And my friend Leroy also texted me, to congratulate me. I have known Leroy for about 17 years. When I was still in my twenties, my wife and I did a year-long-urban mission where I lived in intentional Christian community in an at-risk Atlanta neighborhood, worked a volunteer job, attended a local church in the neighborhood, and got intentional about loving that community. Leroy was our program director in Atlanta and became something of a mentor. I was not connected to the Methodist world then. Neither was Leroy.

But all these years later, I have begun my second year as your pastor, and Leroy has been serving our denomination for the past several years. He is the director of Innovation and Disruption for our conference and has worked alongside new congregations, coaching church planters, and helping our conference dream new Kingdom possibilities in their community. Additionally, Leroy and his wife Donna, have been actively raising up leaders of color both in our denomination and beyond.

So, when Leroy texted me, I texted back and said “we can use some innovation and disruption down here.”  I got a text back, “Invite me this summer and I will make a weekend of it.” We did some back and forth around preaching dates before settling on July 18th, as a weekend that worked for him. As luck would have it, this is the week that we are scheduled for church at Wiard Park. “Great, I will talk about community engagement,” Leroy texted me back. This is something that Leroy is uniquely gifted and qualified to speak about.

I was excited about Worship in the Park anyway. Food, fellowship, and fresh air are always a good combination. But as we have been dreaming together, with our Restart book discussion, what sort of church we want to be and what kind of mission we want to live into, Leroy’s coming makes this a great opportunity. Plus, that man can preach! This is not a service you will want to miss, and it is a service you will want to invite people to!  You will not want to miss it!

Pastor James