As we begin Week 2 of General Conference, East Ohio Conference delegates share their thoughts/observations on an experience that stands out to them from Week 1 here in Portland:
“Well, for me the morning worship services stood out for me during the first week of the General Conference. Worshiping God in many languages and creative expressions is always a Pentecost experience for me.” – Rev. Armando Arellano
“During worship on Thursday morning the choir sang the hymn “Blessed be the Rock.” The only time I had ever heard this sung was during the 2000 General Conference. I was working at what was then The Oaks at Medina and we hosted a Swedish choir, Kefas, that was performing for the conference. Just as I made all of these connections in my mind the video screen identified this group as Kefas. A group I had spent a couple of days with 16 years ago was back on the General Conference platform and I was thrilled to hear them again.” – Brian Sheetz
“My observations concerning General Conference are the myriad of complex issues and processes delegates grapple with on any given day on a number of fronts. Incredible amounts of energy, patience, and focus are required on the part of each General Conference delegate, the presiding bishops, and the many others who provide support to this every-four-year, global gathering of United Methodists.
I am grateful for the prayers that have sustained us, the worship that feeds our souls, and the grace and kindness of the members of the East Ohio delegation for each other and to others. As we begin the second week of General Conference, I think about and appreciate our churches, people, and pastors back home who faithfully live out our mission. – Rev. Dr. Gary George
“In the first week, I feel the Lord opened opportunities for me to talk one-on-one with different people about the deep issues before the UMC. Some of these conversations were shared in tears, some were words of encouragement to me, and others continue to keep my mind thinking.” – Holly Grant
“What struck me as I walked through the Oregon Convention Center (after arriving in Portland on Saturday) was the palpable sense of deflation. People were obviously weary, but that is part of the expectation after three days of legislative committee work. But this was different. It was as though people had begun to lose heart.
I ran into a friend I had met in Tampa, and he said the word that is synonymous with the fears of many UMs this time of the quadrennium: schism. It is not only a possibility, but a real possibility. Not only are we not moving forward in legislation, we are actually moving further apart. And people are weary of it, perhaps even resigned that things will not get better.
Things often move to a more moderate place in plenary business session, so hope remains. But it feels like a fragile hope. Let us pray – that all delegates find renewed desire to hold the connection together and that the Holy Spirit moves as it will.” – Rev. Andy Call
“Amidst the many valleys of emotions that lead to hopelessness, I was blessed by the faithful witness of a young woman who was elected secretary of our Faith and Order Legislative Committee. Carlene is a law student scheduled to graduate May 14 from Law School and she loves the church enough to forego her long-sought-after ceremony and receive her degree in person.
As we concluded our legislative business on Saturday, she shared that at that moment the ceremony was taking place back home in Mississippi. One delegate went to her table and handed her a flower. She looked up and the entire committee sounded the graduation song and Carlene cried tears of joy that we were there with her walking in spirit with her. God showed up in a Pentecost moment as all various voices and opinions united in one language of love to this young woman who loves the Lord so much that God came first!
As you read about the struggles and, often-times, seemingly impossible way forward, may we find hope in our young people who don’t want us to give up!
Praise God, and I’m encouraged always.” – Rev. Dan Bryant
“General Conference is wonderful. Working together for Unity and Serving and Praising our Lord daily. Blessings to all and keep those prayers going.” – Kathy Palmer
“I attended the worship service sponsored by COSROW on Sunday morning. We were asked to turn and share with a neighbor how we had experienced God so far at this General Conference. The young pastor that I was speaking with said she experienced God in the individuals she had met and talked to. I shared how I experienced God in hearing and seeing the multitudes of people from around the world. In other words, in the body of the church we have known the Body of Christ. It is communal. It is corporate. It is real, and beautiful and so much larger than me.” – Rev. Karen Oehl