WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
“Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No: I am going to live to God, and to bring others so to do.”
Francis Asbury wrote this while sailing to the New World in 1771.
Welcome to the “New Normal.” This phrase has been used often in the last few months – at times a little too often – to describe current extraordinary events. However, it’s wrong on both counts. These days are neither new nor normal. Cue my favorite tagline: What’s Old Is New Again.
Let’s travel back in time to 1771 and join Francis Asbury on the bow of a ship sailing to his “new normal.” Asbury had volunteered to leave his home, his family, and his friends and take a dangerous voyage across the sea to a land he had never seen to minister to people he had never met. He does not know what his future might look like or what it might hold, but he knows himself and is thereby able to define his purpose. Is Asbury sailing to the New World for glory or financial gain? No. He is going “to live to God, and to bring others to do so.”
For the next 45 years, this was his daily task and his words and actions certainly show this to be true. He continued to push into unchartered territories and unknown regions. When he became comfortable with cities, he ventured into the wilderness, and when he became accustomed to the north, he traveled to the south. He traveled more than 6,000 miles by horseback each year – the equivalent of riding from the Moore Methodist Museum to Seattle, Wash. and back to the Museum again. Francis Asbury’s “new normal” happened almost daily in his effort to “live to God, and bring others to do so.”
So, how might this trip into the Ministry of Memory help us in these extraordinary times? Well, like Francis Asbury, we are sailing into unchartered territories. It’s a wilderness filled with face masks and hand sanitizer and temperature checks. It’s a wilderness where singing may not be healthy and where hugs are discouraged. It’s a wilderness where life is uncertain and we may not be fully prepared. Are we sailing into the unknown for glory or financial gain? I think not. The South Georgia Conference moves forward to live to God and bring others to do so. This is our eternal daily task, even if other aspects change.
So please take heart, dearest Conference, and know that you stand with the finest of those in the Methodist movement who have sailed into unchartered waters. Keep the task at the top of your to- do list and remember that, no matter what the future has in store, we live to God and bring others to do so.
Anne Packard serves as Conference Historian and director of the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum on St. Simons Island. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.