What makes the United Methodist Church different from other churches? John Wesley was a proponent of “being connected” as he met annually in the 1700s with the “traveling elders” and that sense of “being connected” has been foundational to United Methodists for holding one another accountable and for holding one another in supportive fellowship and love. As a United Methodist church, we are “connected” with other United Methodist churches to do more together than any of us could do alone and to support one another in ministry for God’s Kingdom.
“Annual Conference” is one of those ways we stay connected as each church in Indiana sends their pastors and an equal number of lay representatives to gather annually for worship, learning, fellowship, ordination and commissioning services and to do the legislative work of the conference. This year Pastor Cheryl, Pastor Mary, Galen Clodfelter and Dana Wyant represented CUMC in Indianapolis at the Indiana Annual Conference May 27-30. Sonnie Clodfelter and Doyle and Carolyn Ellis also attended as additional lay delegates. There is too much to tell you in a short article like this, but I will share with you three highlights.
First, one important action of the Indiana Annual Conference was to elect eight clergy and eight lay delegates to The United Methodist General Conference (held in Portland, Oregon in 2016). This is the governing body of the worldwide UMC and has ultimate legislative authority for the church and our Book of Discipline. For that reason, the delegates we select are very important and this year there was an emphasis on including some younger voices in the delegation. In addition, we elected eight clergy and eight lay delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference (held in Peoria, Illinois in 2016) and among its most important responsibilities will be to elect new bishops for our jurisdiction. This matters to Indiana since our Bishop Mike Coyner will retire at the end of August, 2016 and a new bishop will lead us beginning September 1, 2016.
The other two highlights for me were worship experiences. We gathered for a Memorial Service to remember United Methodist pastors or spouses who died during the past year. The evening message was offered by Rev. Carver McGriff, 90-year-old retired and former pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Rev. McGriff said: “Grief is the gift that we give to those that we have loved and lost.” We grieve deeply because we have loved deeply and that is our heart-felt gift! On Saturday morning at the Community Prayer Breakfast, the keynote speakers were Ed and Paula Kassig, who are members of Epworth United Methodist Church in Indy and whose only son Peter Kassig was brutally killed by ISIS. They shared about the power of prayer that gave them support and comfort during those terrible months. Knowing that others were praying for them gave them strength and Ed Kassig reminded us that our prayers do not need to be eloquent. He said his prayer is often: “Help me, God!”
We are United Methodists. We are connected… to God and to each other! Thank you for your prayers as we served Community United Methodist Church on your behalf.