Vandalia United Methodist Church

Pastor's Perspective

Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

One year ago, Sherry and I were packing up the belongings in the Pontiac parsonage, preparing our Carlinville house for the market, saying good-bye to treasured friends in the Peoria area; and preparing for the unknown. We knew that Vandalia was a county seat town, surrounding by farms and light industry, on a busy interchange, and home to a prison (sounds a lot like Pontiac!) Our trip to Vandalia informed us that you had three Mexican restaurants, a Walmart, three grocery stores and a strange statue of a fire-breathing dragon! We knew little else.

The transition was made more complicated by the pandemic. Normally, pastors meet multiple times to share information about the church. Normally, there are opportunities shortly after the new pastor arrives for social gatherings where s/he can learn about the lives of the parishioners. Normally, the first few Sundays are packed with the faithful, those who might have strayed, and the curious. But in the pandemic, nothing was normal.

I remember well the first night I spent in the Vandalia parsonage flipping through my Bible and finding the verse from Joshua. "Be strong and courageous…God is with you." Sherry and I have experienced the presence of God every time we have "gone" as God directed. We experienced this in our move here. We love Vandalia, our church family, and the community. We are glad for the call to "go" to our new church and home.

Now that we are emerging from the pandemic together, we must hear God’s call to "go" again. Not to a new place, but to be a new church in the same place. How is God calling us to "go" to those who have strayed from church? How is God calling us to "go" to those who are still afraid? How is God calling us to "go" to those who are struggling with shame, in poverty, in isolation? Our church, and all churches, will never be the same again. We can be frightened of this reality, or we can seek where God is calling us to "go" now.

We remember the wisdom God gave to Abraham and Sarah shortly before He sent them on their journey of 1,000 miles. "Go, and if you go, I will go with you." The inference being that if they declined to go, they would not receive the blessing of God's presence and providence. I am excited about where God is calling us to "go" as a church and know you will be "going" with me and with God. So let's prepare to make a spiritual journey together. Amen.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Tom



9:30 AM Worship Service
10:40 AM Sunday School

First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684