So, yes. Bishop Laurie Haller will appoint me to be the next District Superintendent of the North Central District in Iowa. Wow, just typing those words causes me to swallow hard and blink twice. There were few things the Bishop could offer to me that might cause me to consider leaving Gladbrook. But God showed her one.

The five years I have spent here have been good years for me and, I pray, also for you. You have risen to some interesting challenges and taken on a few new projects. God has called us to venture outside of the church doors and to be his agents in this community. We have touched new lives and hearts with the love of Jesus. It seems like the light is a little brighter. (And that’s not just because the Trustees have found out the best bulbs to use here.) I believe the church is growing toward the Light.

The lighted city upon a hill is a descriptive phrase found in the beatitudes. Jesus tells his listeners, ‘You are the light of the world, a city that is set upon a hill cannot be hidden.’ (Mt. 5) This verse was used by John Winthrop, the 17th century Puritan, as he cast his vision of a new society for the colonists who were leaving ship and setting foot on American soil. While anchored in Boston Harbor, on the Arbella, Winthrop shared that vision. He saw their new city becoming a Christian model of communal charity, affection and unity for all the world to see. We may not use the same terms, but we understand their meaning. Charity is an old word for aiding or assisting one who needs help or support. Affection describes a gentle feeling of fondness within a relationship. And unity is a desire for all people to be included, respected and protected.
I think it’s interesting that John Winthrop, known as a great Puritan preacher, focused his vision upon the way society should be ordered but he did not speak of a personal relationship with God. Maybe he did that in other speeches. Or he believed that the way Christians treat other is a clear indicator of their relationship with God.
If John Winthrop came to Gladbrook, I think he would cast a similar vision for the church. He would call you a shining city upon a hill. Returning to those old terms he would see you as Christ’s agents of charity, affection and unity right now. Surely we can agree that these qualities are desperately needed as darker forces try to pull us apart. Furthermore, he would add a word in the description of our church. He would describe you as a ‘shining’ city. He would use the term in the way of preachers. Objects do not shine on their own, they need a source of energy and light. Our source is the glorified Christ. Scripture states that Jesus is the light of the world. “He is the real light – the light that comes into the world and shines on all humanity.” (John 1:9) Without this source of light, the city grows dim.

My goodness, we have taken such a journey together. I believe our church has the capability to just keep serving as agents of charity, affection and unity in the manner that John Winthrop envisioned for the Puritans and the City of Boston. We need to continue to draw closer to the love-light whose name is Jesus Christ. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a members of a vast legion of city lamp lighters who are shining lights so that all the world can see. A change in our connection may be coming, but we have many reasons to rejoice.
In Christian Love –
Rev Carol Kress

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