I am entering into the first Christmas week in almost twenty years that I won’t be preparing a sermon and leading worship on Christmas Eve. It feels weird! I always loved the challenge a Christmas Eve worship brought to my pastoral mind and heart – how to share a glimpse of God’s light to a congregation that includes people who rarely attend worship. I always felt great energy around this challenge. Will someone feel God’s love through our worship? Will the light and hope of Christ be evident? Will a visitor, or nominal Christian, come away from worship feeling more loved than when they entered?
Without an opportunity to create this kind of worship experience this year, I wondered how I might live out that challenge in my ministry.
Then the District Superintendent of our "sister district" in Cuba came to town and met with me. His name is the Rev. Yiordani Breffe and he is Superintendent of the district of Pinar del Rio in Cuba. As is often the case, he is also the pastor of a congregation in that district. As I met with Rev. Breffe several weeks ago, he shared with me some of what he does each year to encourage his pastors. One event is a "seminary" where a group of 90 or so pastors and lay people meet every third Friday-Saturday to learn and pray and worship together. Astonishingly, the persons in attendance sleep on the pews of his church on Friday night as there are no other lodging options for the group.
Another project of the district is an annual Christmas meal for the pastors and their families. The bishop comes to the meal and it is generally held the weekend before Christmas. This year it will be held on December 19. As I inquired more about the reason for this meal I discovered that pastors earn so little that it is difficult for each family to pay for a Christmas meal. The Superintendent feels it is a gift to the pastors’ families to join together, have a Christmas feast, and fellowship with one another.
I agreed with Rev. Breffe. This does sound like a gift to the pastors and their families.
Therefore, our District Leadership Council voted unanimously to send $1,000 to cover the expenses of this meal as a gesture of love and support for our sister district. This amount will actually cover far more than the meal, and can help to support the "seminary" training every three weeks that happens in the district as well.
So, friends, even in district leadership outside of a specific local church there is a way to shine the light of Christ at Christmas. Thanks be to God!
I am so honored to work beside you in this ministry and thank you for your commitment to ministries here and abroad. I pray for each of you to experience anew the peace and love of
Christ this Christmas season.
Grace and peace,