2024 Intentions

I am not a resolutions person. Resolutions are easy to make and harder to keep, and goodness knows the last time I made a resolution was January 1, 2020, in which I resolved to not work at home whenever possible. Hah! The pandemic definitely made that impossible to keep.

Instead, I like the practice of intention and a word to focus on for the year. There are several word generators on the internet for the practice of intention that you can use if you want something random. Some churches do a practice called “Star Words,” in which, on Epiphany (January 6, or the Sunday closest), words are written on a paper star and you pick a star at random out of a basket. This practice is associated with the story of the Magi, who observed the star at its rising, and then, having been warned in a dream, returned home by another way. The idea is that the “Star Word” guides you on a new way in the coming year.

The last two years I have taken time out for a retreat to pray, reflect on the past year, and see where God is leading me into the next. The word that came to mind for 2023 was Joy, to find joy in all the work I do, and indeed, it has been a joyous year of ministry. The word that has come to me for 2024 is slow. Actually, it came to me in this form: S L O W. Notice the spaces between the letters.

I had the joy of attending with other denominational leaders a retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery the first week of December following the Wisconsin Council of Churches Annual Meeting. Holy Wisdom is an ecumenical monastery. While started by Roman Catholics, it now includes Protestants in their Benedictine practice. Benedictines are committed to ministry in their location and are very grounded in their practice. They deliberately slow down—even reading the written prayers in unison, they read slower, so that they take in every word. There is a rhythm to the day that begins with centering prayer in silence. As an extrovert, the practice of silence can be very hard for me at times—but also, one that I desperately need to quiet my heart and mind.

I am heading into 2024 with all the energy, enthusiasm and excitement of 2023, including all the joy. We will be launching new initiatives for youth and young adults. We will be starting our Leadership Training Academy for church members interested in learning more about leadership in the church, including a certificate program for lay ministers. We will also hold a two-day training event on Inclusive Hybrid Ministry, funded by the Palmer Grant we received this year. And in October, we will celebrate 180 years of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin with our Annual Gathering the 11th and 12th at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee.

Still, I intend to practice slowing down. I intend to guard my time off more carefully, to be present with my family and my church when I am not visiting other churches. To deliberately take time daily to be in touch with God, to turn off electronics and remind myself that the Word became Flesh and lived among us, and so I must also become an embodied person. I am not a machine, I am not a product, I am not an institution. I am a beloved child of God, as are you.

I hope you find ways of slowing down in this next year, and whatever intention or word God puts on your heart (or resolution, if it works for you), I hope it helps you follow Jesus more closely and deepens your relationship with our Savior.

Posted in News, Staff Articles.