Sunday, January 02, 2005

Opening Day

“By what name shall this church be known?” I said, sweat dripping down my face, in my big, black, bulky robe.

Pastor Jean-Daniel Billong responded, “It shall be called the John Wesley United Methodist Church.”

When they heard it, the congregation erupted into applause. I grinned, then went on to say, “In accordance with the laws and Discipline of The United Methodist Church,
I hereby declare that John Wesley United Methodist Church is duly constituted and organized for the glory of God, the proclamation of the gospel, and the service of humanity.”

Another round of applause. Then I had the pleasure of introducing Pastors David Sen and Rosalie Nzie as co-pastors of the newly-formed John Wesley UMC.

The first service, held this morning, was full. Over 70 people showed up to celebrate the new congregation. The pastors had done quite a bit of work over the last two weeks to get the space into shape. There is a new wooden platform, about a foot and a half high, which covers the entire front of the sanctuary. A large metal sign advertising worship and Bible study times sits out on the road, featuring a familiar black-and-red cross.

I had the privilege of preaching the service. I spoke on Psalm 1, on the subject, “How to Grow a Big Tree.” I’ll post the sermon a little later …

At the end of the service, with the church named and pastoral appointments made, I opened the church to membership. Nineteen people came forward and pledged their loyalty and support to the church.

It was a beautiful service, entirely appropriate to the Sunday known to Christians as Epiphany Sunday, a day of light and glorious remembrance of the star that shone above the Christmas stable.

This morning’s Old Testament reading comes from Isaiah 60, which is also applicable to the opening of this new church: “Jerusalem, stand up! Shine! Your new day is dawning. The glory of the Lord shines brightly on you. The earth and its people are covered with darkness, but the glory of the Lord is shining upon you. Nations and kings will come to the light of your dawning day.”

A glorious light now emanates from the a nestled between car repair shops on Hysacam Street in Yaounde. It’s not the light of gold or silver or any sort of material wealth. It’s not the light of intellect, experience, or education. It’s simply reflected light … the reflection of God’s own brilliance and love.

May John Wesley UMC continue to shine!