The Charles Wesley hymn “And Are We Yet Alive” is one that traditionally opens the annual conferences of the United Methodist Church, across this country and around the world. It’s a powerful message, one that is especially suited for such annual gatherings.
Understand, I’m not a big fan of leaving home for four days and attending a big conference with about 1,700 folks. Yet, each June I am required as a Methodist pastor to attend Missouri Annual Conference in Springfield. In addition to Methodist pastors, many churches also send lay people.
Even though I’m not a fan, I never fail to return home uplifted, excited, and blessed by the experience. The same was true this year.
Of course, seeing all these Methodists gathered in one hall is pretty exciting. Hearing from our new bishop, Bob Farr, was worthwhile — especially since he has a fine sense of humor that he is unafraid to practice. Frequently.
The worship throughout the Conference was powerful, the speakers and presenters exciting, and the reports about the work of the Methodist Church promising. I also had the chance to see five of my former pastors who have served Ashland United Methodist (my home church). And I was delighted to see two lay women who had attended Methodist Lay Servant workshops that I had organized over the past two years. Both are attending Licensing School and will become Licensed Local Pastors, serving churches in the Northwest District. I’m proud of their responding to God’s call to serve in such a special way.
I was blessed in being chosen to help serve communion on Monday morning, the last day of the Conference, and I received communion from Bishop Farr.
Finally, I attended several workshops during Conference, each focused on rural and small member churches. I brought home lots of ideas from others for how we might be stronger and more successful in our community outreach and discipleship. Those I’ll be sharing with my congregation, and together we’ll prioritize the activities and then make plans to go to work on each.