The very mention of The Oregon Trial conjures up stories of settlers moving West enduring the ravages of travel in the early 1800s toward their hope of a better life. Diaries held notes: “Wagon caught fire today,” “Uncle died of dysentery this morning,” “Six oxen drowned in the river,” and on and on.
In 2016 many persons who identify themselves as United Methodists will traverse their own versions of the Oregon Trail to Portland from all parts of the world with comparative ease.
In earlier days of desktop computers a game called “The Oregon Trail” appeared. While it was conceived as a game to pass the time away, it was used by schools to teach life-lessons. Authors like Morgan Moore have offered some assumed instructions for wagon trains headed west:
- “The better prepared you are for the journey, the more likely you’ll succeed.”
- “Only take what you need.”
- “When you get to a deep river, don’t try to ford it by yourself.”
- “Don’t go too slow, but don’t go too fast either.”
When you reach important crossroads, you should get out and look around.”
As United Methodists we consider ourselves to be a journeying people. We might find value in imagining ourselves a wagon train on the Oregon Trail to extract some grains of thought that have ponder-value as we continue to order our corporate life.
Five tag words for the five instructions to the wagon trains may be of help:
Preparation: The success of conferencing and decision-making hinges on adequate preparation by those on every level of the enterprise. Will we all arrive in Portland...ready?
Capacity: Can we do everything that we see could, or should, be done. The Oregon Trail was strewn with the likes of Grandma’s valuable china, too heavy to allow the wagon to make it to the dreamed destination.
Connection: Deep corporate rivers may be looming in our future. In light of our metaphor, every “muscle and ox” must be engaged. Our route will be God-breathed conjecture, but we will travel into our future together. It’s how we United Methodists do things best.
Pace: Are we called to a more contracted patience? Change is important and studied timing may be crucial. And sometimes the path to change is best made in long turns rather than sharp turns. Fewer things “fall off the wagon.”
Discernment: Might a more extended effort in planning be to our advantage? Larger planning efforts make for smaller efforts of execution. Small planning efforts make for large execution efforts with frequent returns to the planning table. Might the best product of our planning extend to a Plan B, C, and even D?