Opportunity …

Brothers and Sisters,

Can you believe we are already over halfway through 2021? I know that, for me, a lot has happened since the year began! I started out the year working with the City of Raleigh’s Parks department, answering phones and assisting guests. Eventually, I began speaking with the Pastor Search Team here at Hope Valley about the possibility of serving this church as Senior Pastor. And now, after two months as your Senior Pastor, I ask myself, “What defined the first half of 2021 for me? How would I describe it?”

For me, the word that comes to mind is opportunity. During the first half of this year, I had the opportunity to read widely about all manner of subjects from American history to writing to technical religious scholarship. I had the opportunity to read and reread works of fiction that re-minded me of how wonderful and creative we can be as human beings. And as I did that, it gave me the chance to take a step back and ask myself about my own spiritual, theological, and vocational passions. I was reminded of the wonder of God’s creation as these different authors wrote so beautifully about the world around them or about the worlds they saw in their imaginations. I was reminded of the wonderful community of God as I worked at the community center, as families and groups of friends would come in after spending the day together, as strangers struck up conversations, and I got to know new people. And when the opportunity to serve God’s people at Hope Valley came, I heard my call to ministry spoken to me in new, refreshing ways. I heard that call spoken to me in ways that were good and life-giving. I felt good about the opportunity to dive back into church-work, to begin serving God through ministry with God’s people once again.

I tell you all that in part because I want you all to know me better and have a better understanding of where I continue to feel my call to ministry coming from. It continues to come from God and it continues to come through my own interactions with other people. And now, at the beginning of July, I ask my-self, “What will the second half of 2021 be for me? What will it be for us at Hope Valley Baptist Church? What word will I associate with it?” As I think about the ministries we are already engaged in—the Summer Snacks Program and Hope House—and I consider our most recent event, Lemonade on the Lawn, my hope is that word will be “hospitality.” As the world continues to struggle with the pandemic, I am encouraged by the way that people in different communities, including our own, are reaching out and helping one another. I hope that we, as a church family, will continue to reach out to folks. I hope that we will continue to look for the image of God in each other and in our neighbors. I hope we will seek creative ways to love God’s people during this second half of the year.

I hope you will take some time to reflect on this year—what it has been and what it can be. I hope you will join me in striving to be more hospitable to people. And I hope you will look for little ways to be good and kind to others. You may want to call a friend or neighbor to check on them. You may want to make a donation to a local non-profit. You may want to just spend some time in fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ over lemonade and cookies. Regardless, know that God goes with you through it all, faithfully calling you to do the work of God’s kingdom.

Grace and peace to you all,
Pastor Ben