Inhaling Hope, Exhaling Gratitude

November 02, 2022
Delegates and alternate delegates from the Minnesota Conference gather on day one of 2022 NCJ. Cindy Saufferer is on the far right.

This is the beginning. Inhale, open us. Exhale, hold us. Inhale, love. Exhale, peace.

This is how I started my first North Central Jurisdictional Conference. A simple early morning walk around the space where worship and business were to co-exist. A small group of friends, walking and praying for open hearts where God’s vision might become evident.

We, as a people of faith, acknowledge the power of prayer, but today I experienced it. The Spirit moved so freely, beginning with worship carrying the message of grace and wholeness for all. We lifted those places of despair within the denomination and lamented whether “life can be breathed into those dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:3) to the knowledge that “Christ (has) grabbed hold of me (us) for just this purpose” (Philippians 3:12).

The gathered community shared in communion and entered a dedicated time of prayer. Within this prayer time, we focused on our identity in Christ, rooted in our baptism. Utilizing labyrinths, we considered our journey deepening our awareness of God’s presence and guidance as we claimed God’s calling on our life through anointment with oil. The morning, in its wholeness, was held in prayer which set the stage for the sacred task of the business.

Inhale, give us wisdom. Exhale, show us your vision.

Ten candidates for the episcopacy stood before us, asking for personal privilege, standing in solidarity, not in competition, praying in full support of each other. This incredible group of servants taught us what it looks like to lead with love. I am humbled as our first ballot elected Rev. Kennetha Bingham-Tsai of the Michigan Conference, followed by the election of Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck of the Iowa Conference.

It has been a full day and, in a time when our denomination continues to feel so fragile, Bishop Ough reminded us of the words of Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” As I close, reflecting on this day, I inhale, hope, exhale, gratitude.

Cindy Saufferer is a deaconess in the Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC and an alternate delegate to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. She is a member of Blooming Grove UMC in Morristown.

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