It felt a little different this year. Annual Conference took place last week at Lake Junaluska where United Methodist clergy and lay leaders from across Western North Carolina gathered to do some “holy conferencing” as is our tradition. This year was different for me. Partly because I am back in the local church from serving in an administrative
position on the Cabinet and I had far less responsibleness than I have had the past several years. Partly because I was staying in a very different location on the lake and was out of my typical routine. (Let’s just say that I hit 10,000 steps by 10:00 AM twice last week!) Partly because we spent a great deal of time saying goodbye to our Bishop who will be retiring in a couple of months so no new initiatives were unveiled or new challenges issued. We have to wait for the next person to point a new direction. So it was low key. And yet, some important things still took place.
Here are my take aways from having 3000 United Methodists gathered together.
-We do love to sing and worship! It’s the best part of Annual Conference. The preaching is always excellent. The altar and worship space always looks awesome. The diversity of worship leaders is Kingdom-like. But the music is so powerful and everyone sings their heart out. Beautiful to witness.
-Saying goodbye is not easy. Personally, Bishop Goodpaster has played a significant role in my life in the last 6 years. My last 3 appointments were made by him and showed a great deal of confidence and trust in my gifts and abilities. He took risks on me and I do not take that lightly. I am grateful for the opportunities I have experienced learning from him and because of him. I pray for a meaningful retirement and
discovery of the next chapter of his life. And I embrace the change that is coming as our top leader changes later in September.
-We can do more together than we ever can apart. I am always reminded that in our United Methodist world we are far more effective when we work together than any one church is on their own. When we come together with our people, our dollars, and our spirits, we can accomplish amazing things. Missionally we have people working to solve hunger and poverty issues all over Western North Carolina. We have churches with relationships in over 500 schools in North Carolina. We have the capacity to make a significant impact on this state if we work together.
-It’s good to see old friends. There is value in simply having time to catch up with colleagues in ministry or parishioners from former churches that I have served. To be able to hear how things are going in ministry in other places. To share ideas with one another.
To pray for and encourage one another. To hear exciting news that is happening in other communities. To be reminded we are not in this work alone.
I’m thankful for my United Methodist denomination. We have a lot to figure out at a national level, and it could be some of the most challenging years we have faced as a denomination since Civil War times. But I believe in our Wesleyan roots and that we will find a way to strike a balance between our ever contrasting sides of personal piety and social gospel. Come Holy Spirit, balance us!
Grace and Peace,