Goodbye Portland, hello Minneapolis

May 20, 2016
Altar for morning worship. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

I am at the airport as I write this. I will not be there for day 10 of General Conference, but I do want to offer some reflections as I prepare to head home.

1. I loved Portland. Its mass transit is great; it was frequent, easy to navigate, and got you most any place you wanted to go. It is a walkable city. I got more than 10,000 steps every day, which is a good thing because the food was pretty amazing as well. I ate my fair share of desserts, donuts, and ice cream! People were so friendly. I am glad I had the chance to visit what is fast becoming a mecca for young adults, which is causing some consternation among the locals because housing prices are shooting up, homelessness is on the rise, and the city has growing pains—so Portland has its own challenges, but overall it's a very livable city.

2. Minnesota was well represented here, from the strong, steady leadership of Bishop Ough as president of the Council of Bishops, to an engaged, informed delegation that took its responsibilities very seriously. We had people leading as interpreters, marshals and recorders, committee chairs, Judicial Council members, and host team volunteers. We also had people speaking in videos, working the political processes, reporting the news, and being commissioned and consecrated as missionaries and deaconesses. You can be proud of the people you sent here. They showcased who we are in Minnesota: passionate, caring, thoughtful leaders. We may be a small conference, but we are making an impact!

3. We continue to deepen our relationships across the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Our communications team consisted of Christa Meland from Minnesota and Doreen Gosmire and Dave Stucke from the Dakotas. They were phenomenal and put out some of the best stuff that I saw during my time here. They embodied collaboration and team work—and what a work ethic—they put in some very long hours to bring you fresh and interesting coverage from a Dakotas-Minnesota perspective. It so happened that the Dakotas and Minnesota delegations were seated at the same tables, so friendships grew (there was some dancing, as some of you saw from my Facebook pic) and we held a joint area dinner. It is great to have partners in ministry!

4. Our Minneapolis Host Team is off to a great start. Jim and Carol Haun got here before it all began and are staying through the weekend to see it all wrap up. Gail Johnson, Kent Peterson, and Sheilah Kyburz worked multiple shifts as volunteers and took copious notes about what worked and what we need to figure out and how to make General Conference 2020 even better. The word on the street from General Conference staff members is that they have never seen a future host team that was there to dive in so completely and make themselves so available to work and help. They are excited to come to Minneapolis and work with us. We will need about 1,200 volunteers to be great hosts (Portland set the bar high!), so put May 5-15, 2020 on your calendar and come help us extend Minnesota and Dakotas hospitality and fulfill our desire to create a sanctuary where everyone can come together to be the church and pay attention to God’s leading.

5. Yesterday, as we ended plenary, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the full rights of clergywomen. That historic action occurred the last time General Conference was held in Minneapolis in 1956. It took 20 additional years for women to be seated as delegates to General Conference. That occurred in 1976 in Portland. Breakthrough moments. No coincidence, I think, that we had a breakthrough moment in Portland again this year when the church agreed to talk, really talk, about how we might find a way forward as a diverse, worldwide church, and we empowered our bishops, our spiritual leaders, to lead us as a church on this matter. I fully expect something as radical and significant to happen in Minneapolis in 2020. We are not just a flyover zone! The Spirit is moving here, and we will be ready to welcome all the people called United Methodist in 2020 for another historic gathering, and in the meantime, we will continue our ministry of offering Christ in all ways to all people, showing the world what it means to be a people of open hearts, engaged minds, and dismantled doors (to quote Bishop Yambasu).

Thank you for giving me the privilege to bear witness to the events of this week and to offer you my insights and perspective. It was a great learning experience. Yesterday, the two rows behind me during morning worship were filled with Global Mission Fellows…all young people, all wearing T-shirts proclaiming "Generation Transformation." Because of them, and many others like them whom I met here in Portland, I leave with hope! God is clearly calling new leaders for a new time, and I am so blessed to be a part of the new thing God is doing.

Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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