As The United Methodist Church’s special called session of General Conference approaches, my mind moves back and forth from what I’ve experienced in the past to what I anticipate for the future. I do not have extensive General Conference experience, but I have some. I attended the 2008 General Conference as the first reserve delegate from the Southwest Texas Conference. I served as a delegate in 2016 for the Rio Texas Conference and will head to St. Louis later this month as a delegate.
In recent days, I find myself reflecting on past experiences and wondering about the future. I know I’m not alone in my thinking back and looking ahead. Here I join the many different people from many different places who are sharing their thoughts and hopes. I will meet some of you face to face in St. Louis. Others of you can meet me right here in this blog where I will share a few of my reflections over the next few weeks.
As I write these words, I’m taken back to memories from my childhood. Long before I ever knew what General Conference is, I knew about the beauty and power of worship. I grew up at Ingleside United Methodist Church. Among my many memories of worship is one preacher who loved the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” so much he made us sing a verse every Sunday morning:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
holy, holy holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
My home church was no grand cathedral, but in my child’s mind it was magnificent. Participating with the community in weekly worship was a discipline I enjoyed. Singing hymns together, approaching the communion rail for bread and cup, reciting affirmations, and passing the peace - I looked forward to it all. I have come to believe that the power of my experience in worship was shaped as much by the people present as the building itself.
At General Conference, it is worship that I look forward to the most. When we say we are a global church, it is worship that celebrates some of the best of who we are together. One of my favorite memories from 2016 was when the Danish choir KEFAS sang. You can hear that offering of theirs here. Look for opportunities to experience some of the worship at General Conference 2019 through UM Communications’ live-streaming services.
When leaving worship at Ingleside UMC, one is met with the stained glass image of Jesus shown here. He is so many things to me in this image. He is a peaceful presence. He is open and receptive. He is moving towards me. He is alive, in healed and resurrected form. And He is holy, with halo aglow.
While I can’t predict what will happen in St. Louis, I pray God might work within my own hardened heart to make me more like Jesus. A peaceful presence. Open and receptive. Moving towards others. I pray I approach General Conference as the holy work that it is. And I pray I have the eyes to see the resurrected Christ in our midst.