Meeting Beneath the Arch with a Dream General Conference 2019 by Alex Joyner
Today (Thurs., Feb. 21) we began to leave for St. Louis. Delegates, alternates (like myself), and observers are beginning to make the journey to the Called General Conference of The United Methodist Church, which will take up questions of human sexuality and the future structures of the denomination. I’m thirsty for this!
We will spend Saturday in prayer—a fitting way to begin an exercise that truly is beyond human capacity. From Sunday to Tuesday we will meet and confer and vote on plans that were prepared through the work of the Commission on A Way Forward. But if God doesn’t show up, it doesn’t matter what those days will bring. As our bishop, Sharma D. Lewis, likes to say, however, “Would you look at God!”
I’m thirsty because I know we need a new day, a fresh wind of the Spirit, and a foundation on which to ground this church other than the 40-year debate we have been having that has been poisoned by the same cultural and political currents that have led to our nation’s Great Divide. I am thirsty for a church that lives out of its knowledge of the grace of the cross and the communion of the saints. I am thirsty for what comes next!
If you’re thirsty, too, pray with me for the delegates from around the world who will be gathering at the General Conference. Pray for all of the people in this world for whom the United Methodist mission is meant. Pray for the joy and hope that can be unleashed by God.
St. Louis is known for its arch, a symbol of its identity as the Gateway to the West. The westward expansion of the United States has a troubled history, filled with violence and loss for the native Americans who lived there and for many of those who left their own troubled lands to settle there. But there was a dream embedded in that gateway, too—a dream that there was still an open place where a new day could dawn.
The United Methodist Church has it’s own troubled history, but this week we meet beneath the arch with a dream. And I look forward to what comes next.
As part of the Praying Our Way Forward process and the Opening of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, the prayer below has been written and will be part of the worship liturgy at General Conference. Churches are invited to use it during their worship services on Sunday, February 24:
"Sunday February 24, 2019 - Congregational Prayer for United Methodist Church
Gracious and loving God, who leads, teaches and guides,
You who offer compassion, grace and mercy, be with us now.
We passionately seek Your presence during challenging times and circumstances and we trust that you are moving in and around our lives.
We, as one part of your Body, the Church, go into the days and weeks ahead seeking to discern Your deep desire for us as The United Methodist Church.
Give us courage as we continue to live and respond to Your invitation to be Your hands, feet and voice.
We ask for a fresh wind of Your Spirit and guidance for each of us as individuals, for the faithful congregations, and for this global community of United Methodists.
We ask for Your wisdom and presence for those among us who have been called to serve as delegates as the Special Session of General Conference gathers today.
Grant them clarity and a discerning spirit as they seek to listen for You in their midst.
Reveal to them Your deep desire for our future as a church.
Give them and us the faith to lay aside our personal wants and needs so that we can be truly present to You, sit with You in reverence and awe, and listen deeply for the still small voice that woos us, comforts us, and invites us to that place where we can live fully and wholly into the Kingdom life that You desire for us.
We lay all this before You as the deep desire of our hearts and minds in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen"
2019 Special Session of General Conference
The Council of Bishops called a Special Session of the General Conference (the top policy-making body) of The United Methodist Church to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose will be to act on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward. The 32-member Commission was appointed to examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church.
Ways local churches aided during government shutdown
The government shutdown from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019 was the longest shutdown in United States history. For individuals affected it meant living with loss of payment which, in turn, affected their families and their livelihood. For churches, it meant finding a way to be the hands and feet of Christ to those affected. From Staunton to Virginia Beach to Northern Virginia, churches around the Virginia Conference found ways to be of service. From providing free community meals for furloughed workers to free haircuts, ways to give ramped up. Learn more at the links.More…Additional story...
Friday, Feb 22, 6-8pm, Downings UMC Social Hall on Lankford Highway in Oak Hall, VA is having a Chili Cook-Off. Cost is $8 per person --Includes All-you-can-eat chili (mild, medium and Blazing Hot), while supplies last, beverage and dessert. For tickets or to enter your award-winning crockpot of tasty chili contact Amy Eckard at 757-710-2490.
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