When I was a child I used to say that far in the future we would celebrate a new year called “2017.” Back then my 7 or 8-year-old speculations included that by now we would be flying cars and there would be an end to hunger. Neither of those things came true as far as I can tell, although the technology for one or both isn’t far from reality. Those who predict the future are usually either outright wrong about their musings, or they eventually become right. I think that we can hardly predict the next 24 hours, no less the year ahead, but it’s fun to consider what might be coming. And while big unpredictable changes are happening in our country, one thing we can count on is that our church will continue to be here, making meaning for spiritual lives, and trying to build our corner of heaven on earth.
Despite all this, I want to predict a few things for the coming year:
• First, we will engage in acts of resistance and sanctuary. Resistance comes in many forms, from marches to conversations that challenge the status quo. As our progressive values are challenged, we will have opportunities to engage them in public and stand up to defend ourselves and what we hope our world looks like. Sanctuary will be for hurting and vulnerable souls as well it could be for human beings seeking real protection from forces that want to demonize them.
• Second, we will celebrate! On February 4th my colleague and predecessor Laurel Hallman will join us for our “Love First” Campaign Kick-Off event at the Dallas Arboretum to celebrate the future of the church (details coming soon at dallasuu.org).
• Third, we will continue to grow and flourish in surprising ways. We now have almost 1100 members, 3000 official friends, and last year we served over 40,000 people online. We are at the beginning of seeing how church is done in the future, and we are growing into it with a sense of excitement.
• Fourth, the church will see itself differently as I go on sabbatical and we engage with scholars in residence who will preach and teach in my absence. I will leave for a fellowship at Harvard Divinity School mid-June and return January 1, 2018. My family will be coming with me on this adventure of study, rest, and exploration into a focus on non-profit management, which I hope to learn a lot about.
• Fifth, we will remain a strong and vibrant community that saves lives by articulating a loving faith. This is what we have always been and will always be… a safe but important prediction.
Maybe these predictions aren’t the end of world hunger and automated air-pressured cars, but they represent some of what I hope for and plans we have for the church. I hope you are as excited about the near future in church as I am, and I hope to see you soon.