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Unprecedented times parallel crossing the Jordan: Bishop Ough’s state of the church address

By: Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area


As part of his State of the Church Address during this unpredented time, Bishop Bruce R. Ough shares a prayer and draws our attention to the book of Joshua, to a time when the Hebrew tribes were crossing the Jordan River led by Joshua. The Hebrews were walking by faith, through unprecedented times, to the promise land.

We invite you to read and hear these words from Bishop Ough as he opens the State of the Church address with prayer and scripture.

Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, and the Lord Jesus Christ, risen and present with us every moment of every day, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I thank you for the privilege of sharing some reflections on the state of the church in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the postponements of the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Bishop Ough Opening Prayer


The word “unprecedented” became overworked and tiresome weeks ago! I have used this term countless times to describe our current reality. As overworked and tiresome as it has become, it is our go-to descriptor because none of us have previously experienced such a rapid onslaught of a disease and consequent economic collapse. None of us in The United Methodist Church has previously experienced a postponement of General Conference or Jurisdictional Conference. We have never been called upon to lead through a pandemic of this magnitude or postponement of this consequence. In an overused and tiresome word – we are in an “unprecedented” season in our journey. This is the state of the Dakotas Conference.

But, as we know, this is not the first time the people of God have confronted unprecedented circumstances. As Joshua prepared to lead the Hebrew tribes in an unprecedented crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God gives orders for how to cross over. The Lord says to Joshua:

I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, CEB) 

And, as Joshua’s officers move among the people giving final directions for crossing the Jordan, they conclude with these words which are instructive for people of faith in any unprecedented age or circumstance:

You will know the way you should go, even though you have never traveled this way before.  (Joshua 3:4b, CEB)

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