We did all the usual things at the North GA Annual Conference this week including breaking in a new bishop to our conference! I find conference to be a strange mix of institutional routine and reports, some times of intense boredom and "chair exhaustion" (I don't sit well!), and other times in worship, singing, and in visiting that are profound and inspiring. With a nod to the Methodist circuit riders of old, who endured much with joy yet were surprised to survive from one conference to the next, we started out by singing "And Are We Yet Alive?" It's a good historic question, and more relevant than ever as we assess our lives and ministry.
On Wednesday I tried a little bit of an experiment. My quest was to look for Jesus even in all the business and pace of conference. I admit I often forget this part of the adventure of life and faith. I had some fun that day as I caught glimpses of Jesus in Athens GA:
-in the beautiful variety of a gathered people- I REALLY like the diversity of people and opinions and expressions- most of the time! I'm still learning about "conferencing" and the idea we might best be a people of faith and the Church as we work this out together.
-in an old preacher who woke me to the moment with a one line introduction to a Scripture reading- "Listen behind the sound you hear for the voice Isaiah heard."
-in an old preacher who preached in a way that engaged my head, heart, and life. I've known Al from a distance the last few years, though he's retired now and doesn't know this mid career clergy. It's a powerful thing when a preacher can break through to people, especially to some of us who are jaded, cynical, and think we've seen it all and heard it all!
-with a group of young campus ministers who do tough work with little recognition but love what God is doing on campuses. This interesting group willing to risk sharing their faith and encouraging young adults in faith is an exciting arena for ministry. These folk don't tend to be the "ladder climbing" type of clergy, but have a calling which is comfortable in expressing faith in a challenging climate often with little support.
-in an old preacher carrying a baby around a local restaurant. It turns out he was walking his granddaughter as practice for her baptism this Sunday!
-in a meal with a good friend as we shared thoughts & dreamed dreams-- think I sensed the Wesley brothers too as we ate dinner and shared our lives and ministries!
-in a storm in the middle of the night as the thunder cracked, the wind rattled the windows, and the rain came down in torrents. Sometimes middle of the night thoughts, reflections, and prayers are the best! Sometimes even in the storm their can be a sense of peace and joy which is beyond words.
So, it's not the half million for mission given, or the amendment rhetoric or votes, or the pain of de-funding some social ministries due to the economy and lack of funding that I'll remember of this conference. Here's the official wrap up if you want those details.
What I'll best remember is meeting the Living God in some unexpected people and places, and being inspired and renewed because of those encounters. I hope your Holy Conferencing worked as well for you!
And are we yet alive,
And see each other's face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give
For His almighty grace!