Good Morning! For those who don’t know me, my name is Sara Kelley. My husband, Keith, and I have been members of Wesley for more than 25 years.
For the past month we have been hearing people talk about why they choose to be involved at Wesley. When Pastor Miriam approached me, I agreed to share my thoughts as this question frequently comes up in conversations with friends outside of church. When asked I typically share a litany of important attributes like thought-provoking sermons and bible study, an active student center, opportunities for meaningful fellowship and social action ministry, and a commitment to inclusiveness where all are welcome. But in speaking with those not familiar with Wesley, the word “relevant” always comes to mind. For me, Wesley provides the spiritual foundation to cope with our chaotic world and enrich it with Christ’s love. I tell them that Wesley is relevant not just on Sundays but every day.
When we look back at the last few years, there is no shortage of heartbreaking news coming from our community, nation, and world. I have often sympathized with how challenging it must be for our pastors to deliver a message of hope with a 24/7 news cycle that is so depressing and alarming. I am grateful for their willingness to address difficult issues and help us gain understanding, perspective, and guidance within a biblical context. Like the university community in which we live, I am grateful that Wesley challenges our thinking and supports dialogue on issues which may cause discomfort and even disagreement.
Our congregants (all of you) also bring relevance to this ministry through your diverse backgrounds along with your time, talents, and resources. Look around. It’s amazing. Because of you, Wesley’s impact is felt not only in this community but in our nation and world.
In reflecting on the word “relevant” it occurred to me that this has been Wesley’s strength throughout its history. When my father was a student at Illinois in the late 1930’s, the Great Hall at Wesley was not only a place to worship but a place to socialize and eat, especially on Sunday nights. Wesley was highly relevant in his academic experience as I know it was for others of his generation.
Six decades later, our daughter and her peer group had a different but equally impactful experience at Wesley. Here they had the opportunity to develop their faith through youth group, local service projects, and a life-changing mission trip to Africa University. They did so because it fed their desire to serve others while deepening their relationship with God. They also wanted to connect more closely with our global community, in ways that my father would not have envisioned when he was a student. It was highly relevant to our daughter and continues to be to this day.
When people tell me that their church or their religion no longer has relevance in their lives, I am both baffled and saddened. Wesley Church and Foundation is a blessing that I will never take for granted.
Of course, what is relevant to me may be very different for you. And what is relevant today may change over time. I encourage you to think about what it is about Wesley that brings relevance to your life. For those of you who are new to our church community, or perhaps you are here for the first time, I hope you will explore the many opportunities we offer.
I told Pastor Miriam that I was worried about being redundant as others might chose the same word in responding to “Why Wesley?” But there are so many words we can use. So far we have heard it described as “peace, home, community, hope, circle, sanctuary, and now relevant.” It is comforting to know that Wesley means so much to so many.