Karen Thompson: God moments

May 14, 2016
A participant in a Thursday climate vigil outside of General Conference. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS

By Karen Thompson

At my church, Silver Lake United Methodist in Oakdale, we often begin and end meetings by reflecting on how we have seen God at work in our lives. I worried General Conference would be a time where “God moments” might be a little harder to find. But now that I'm here in Portland, I've experienced so many God moments that it might be difficult to mention them all.

God was at work before I even arrived in Portland; as sometimes happens before leaving the office, coworkers asked where I was going, and when I told them, they'd say “Portland—that should be really fun! There's so much to do and see there!” My answer: “I'm not sure how much sightseeing I'll be doing—I'm going to a church conference.” Some of my coworkers took the time to ask a little more. I pray that my example of using leave time for more than vacation fun might inspire them to do something more than a getaway.

Getting to the convention center was so easy, thanks to the help of a couple of fellow delegates from Minnesota. They guided me and showed me where to go, which allowed me to catch my breath when I arrived here. They are, for me, the hands of God. 

Karen Thompson at the climate vigil

God moments happen when I see people I've met before—and we're excited to be in this place together. They tell me about their lives and ask about mine. God is present when we're reconnecting.

It's true there is beauty in Portland—I see it in the blooming rhododendrons around the city. On Thursday night, some organized a climate vigil. The prayers and music were uplifting, but the best part was the lanterns decorated by countless people, especially children, lit and glowing in the darkness. The generous organizers encouraged us to bring some home. I started by not taking any and ended up with three! God is at work reminding us that we're all part of creation, and we all have a role in caring for our world.

When we are meeting as a whole group, (864, not counting observers and visitors) there are many people who are working to make this General Conference, this group of people from all over the world, effective in the work of The United Methodist Church. I see God in their faces, in their voices when they ask if I need help, when the speakers slow down so the translators can keep up so all can hear the words in the language of their hearts.

So far, most of the big, controversial issues facing General Conference haven't yet made it to the floor for delegates to discuss and vote on. I can see the rumblings of those issues like lightning and thunder in the distance. God is with us in the process. What The United Methodist Church will look like after they are discussed I don't know. Organizations are what we humans have made.

But I know that God will be with us always. For me, that's the biggest God moment of all.

Karen Thompson is an alternate lay delegate to General Conference. She's a member of Silver Lake United Methodist Church in Oakdale.

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