It was just after the stirring episcopal address given by Bishop Gregory Palmer that I saw her walk by—a mother carrying a young boy. When I saw them, I had Bishop Palmer’s words echoing in my ears: What we need to be doing here at General Conference is listening to God for the next faithful step we are to take as the United Methodist Church in our mission and ministry. And I thought: What kind of church will we be for this child?
Twenty years from now, when this child is a young adult, will he claim the name "Christian"? Will he tell stories of how he was shaped by the United Methodist Church, and will this United Methodist Church still be a vibrant force for Jesus Christ? Will he talk about how he was at that historic General Conference where the Holy Spirit moved and we got over ourselves and our debates on Rule 44, and simply embraced being the church? When "Therefore Go" wasn’t just a conference theme but our practice and commitment?
That afternoon, I decided to escape the convention center for some Portland sunshine. I am sitting on a bench outside of Voodoo Doughnut, indulging in an afternoon treat. Two young women ask if they can share the shade of our table. Absolutely…there is room at the table for everyone.
Since I don’t need a Rule 44 to have permission to engage in holy conferencing, I strike up a conversation. It turns out they are recent college graduates giving themselves a celebration trip before graduation. I ask them their plans for the next year. One wants to work on bat research. (Did you know that there are 12 species of bats but you can only find a couple of them anymore? There is trouble in the bat world.) Anyway, she is off to Kentucky to pursue her work of making the world a better place for the created order. The other is going to graduate school. She wants to work in the area of public policy around energy.
Two people, whose paths I crossed, who have a commitment to do good in the world. It was a good reminder to me that ministry most always happens out there, and there are lots of people who care about the world and making a difference. So what kind of church will we be for these two young adults who are clearly on a mission?
What gives me hope is that God is so much bigger than General Conference and our legislative maneuvering. God is showing up, doing stuff in people like the ones I met today. We just need to get out there and see what is possible.
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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