Sunday, June 28, 2015

We Will Walk Hand in Hand: New England Annual Conference, Part 4

The morning of the last day of Annual Conference started with a worship service including the laity address. That service reinforced a lot of my feelings of unity and call from the night before. After that, we finished up the delegations (and alternates) for General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Most of Saturday, though, was problematic and frustrating, and the ending was far from satisfying.

And God's People Said: New England Annual Conference 2015, Part 3

Friday afternoon through evening at Annual Conference was probably my favorite part of all of AC. The business was pretty straightforward; what really stood out was the worship. The afternoon started with the Memorial Service, and we ended the day with the Service of Ordination and Commissioning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Through Dim and Bright: New England Annual Conference, Part 2

Circle of hope, circle of light
Guiding our days, guarding our nights
Sustaining love, through dim and bright
Circle of hope

Friday was, for me, the most meaningful day of Annual Conference. The day started off with an incredible Bible study with Bishop Gregory Palmer, and there were three really powerful worship services, one of which I'll talk about in this point. However, there was also a lot of frustration and pain, particularly around the conversation about camping ministry.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

With God's Help: New England Annual Conference 2015, Part 1

Listen to the word that God has spoken.
Listen to the One who is close at hand.
Listen to the voice that began creation.
Listen even if you don't understand.

This past week I attended my first Annual Conference. I'd been to an ordination service before and several years ago helped with childcare, but this was the first time I participated in the conferencing. I came in knowing that discernment, particularly discernment in the midst of politicking, can be hard, though I wasn't always prepared for exactly how hard and what form the problems took. At the same time, I wasn't fully prepared for the moments of great joy. This is the first of a few posts about how Conference went and what I took away from it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pre-Annual Conference Reading

New England Annual Conference starts tomorrow! I plan to be tweeting about it here, and the pre-conference booklet is here. Below is some of what I've been reading and thinking about leading up to conference.

Annual Conference and Connectionalism
Eric Little talks about the need for more evidence of our connexion throughout the year, not just at AC. He focuses on clergy but talks a little about how laity can contribute to this by carrying more of the load within the local church. But if we believe that connexionalism is one of the strengths of our structure, then we need laity engaged in the connexion as well.

Full Communion
This was about further conversations between the UMC and the Episcopal Church on forming a full communion relationship. It also mentions that the UMC is also working on entering into full communion with the Moravian Church. I don't have much to say on this, but I'm pretty excited.

The Church is not Glocal, It's Catholic
This semester, one of my Catholic friends asked me what I meant when I said I believed in the "holy catholic church" in the creed, and I responded that I meant the church universal, not just in the sense of all places but also all time. This post (and the three that follow it) talk about appropriate and inappropriate use of other languages and customs in worship, and a lot of the argument is based on that idea of the catholic church: "The Church's historic liturgy transcends time, space, culture, ethnicity, and language. That is, catholic worship is by its very nature multicultural." I'm not a huge fan of his recommendations for languages in the liturgy (so much Latin and Greek), but he makes good points.

The Global and the Local at Annual Conference
David Scott points out here the ways in which AC, which can seem pretty local, has elements of the global (especially with General Conference next May). Again, not much to say here, but I'll definitely have this in mind over the next few days.

And finally, a prayer for AC from Jeremy Steele:
A Prayer for the Methodist Church and Annual Conference

Monday, June 8, 2015

Young People as the Church

I've read a lot of posts over the past few weeks about reaching millennials and whether we focus too much on millennials in thinking about growing the church (probably prompted by responses to the Pew Report). But something that has come up in several places around me recently is how we treat the young people - children, youth, and young adults - in the church.

First of all, a reminder: children, youth, and young adults are not simply the future of the church. They are the present. They are part of the church today and have something to contribute today.

Stephen Rankin wrote about starting in ministry when he was 19, giving sermons weekly and leading the youth group. He comments that this level of responsibility is rarely given to young people now.

Youth should not just be leaders within the youth program but within the church as a whole; they shouldn't be cut off. College students shouldn't just be leading those younger than they are. All confirmed members of United Methodist congregations have pledged to support their congregations with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness. In being part of a community of faith, we take on responsibility to that community. Our confirmed young people (if not younger members as well) need to be on our committees, influencing matters within the church along with other members because they are part of the church. Children, youth, and young adults should be included in all aspects of church life. They should be at -- and be encouraged to participate in -- worship, studies, visioning meetings, church conferences, and mission activities.

The Oklahoma Conference is great in that it has a really active group of youth members at Annual Conference, but very few young lay delegates were elected to General or Jurisdictional Conference. (It was much better on the clergy side of things.) That's partially because people are less likely to know delegates who have been coming to AC for a couple of years compared to someone who has been coming for many years. Jeremy Steele touches on this and makes an argument for electing young people and gives a few suggestions for qualifications for young delegates. Robert E. Haynes responded with a suggested set of qualifications for any delegate and argues against focusing too much on age.

I think both suggested sets of qualifications are good ones, but I do think there is value in specifically considering electing young people. If we do not do it intentionally, then because they do not have all the same connections, they are far less likely to elected even if they have the qualities we look for in delegates. Are those connections relevant and beneficial? Yes, of course, and so is experience, yet there is value in new voices, too. Youth in and of itself is not a reason to vote for someone, but if young people are truly part of the church, then we must give them the opportunity to be active at all levels of the church, and that means not looking to only the familiar, experienced people to continue to lead. (And really, this applies to all new voices, regardless of age.)