Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 1: Southwest Texas Annual Conference

      I have no idea why, but I am one of the biggest nerds when it comes to being a United Methodist, I believe the term for it is being a "Methodork". When the pastor of my home church, Servant Church (a new church plant of the UMC in Austin) asked me to be the alternate lay delegate for our church at annual conference I jumped at the chance. Unlike most people I love keeping up with the inner workings of the church, and how legislation shapes the Church and its ministry. I love the idea of General and Annual Conferences because as an extrovert it means another opportunity to meet a ton of new friends. 
      Day one for me starting at 6:30AM in Round Rock, I got ready and drove down to Austin to meet with my pastor and the lay delegate. We then left from Austin to drive 3.5-4 hours to Corpus Christi. On the way we almost ran out of gas so that was a fun little detour, but we made it to a gas station in the middle of nowhere on fumes. We arrived at Corpus after making great time, and we were greeted by a ton of Methodists with big smiles and warm hugs and handshakes. The best part of day one was that there was no business meeting, only one really great worship service and clergy/laity gatherings. There was a chance to sit in on a question and answer session concerning our vote that would take place on Friday on the unification of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference with the Rio Grande Annual Conference, which is not geographically-based. The information session was rather uneventful and filled with a lot of questions about money (of course). I was slightly irritated by the focus on fiances and the lack of focus on Jesus Christ and His kingdom. 
      The worship service was absolutely amazing, the Grace UMC choirs were absolutely breathtaking, and the service of remembrance was both somber and holy.Bishop Minerva Carcano was there to preach, and boy did she preach. She told these two seemingly unrelated stories, one about a church that was unwilling to reach outward of its building to minister to its community, and the other about a man from the Assemblies of God church who planted over 200 churches. She spoke about how she and the pastor tried to get that church to focus its ministry outward to bring in the community and the church did not, while the man from the Assemblies of God church lived in that neighborhood and even attended that church as a little boy. While he and his mother lived in that neighborhood, when he was young she got sick, and they couldn't attend the church, for weeks they were gone and no one from that UMC church called or came to see about them. But two ladies from the local Assemblies of God church showed up and prayed for them, the next day those ladies returned with food, and cleaning supplies and cleaned their house while his mother was sick. They returned everyday to see about her until she fully recovered. When his mother got better they started attending the Assemblies of God church and never looked back. These stories broke my heart in many ways, but what was most important for me to take away from the message was this: God has blessed me with a chance to be His hands and feet, and I would be a fool to refuse to do it. The church in the story was foolish because it refused to be God's tool, instead of being used by God that church decided to stay in the shed, I pray that the UMC as a whole, never allows that to become true of us.