The Kingdom of God Becomes Near as We Gather and Cross Boundaries
The Capital District Charge Conference season is in full swing! We have held 12 gatherings and have nine more times of Holy Conferencing to go as we go about the work of the church, ratifying clergy compensation, and lay leadership for the coming year. Each gathering has been a blessing and we will eventually include all of the 100 congregations in our district. Each gathering is different, even though we use the same Order of Worship and Pastor Leonard preaches on the same text with the same basic outline.
As I reflect on what makes each of these times of worshipful work unique, I realize that it is in the diversity of the people gathered and the relationships that we are forming. It’s like a family reunion of sorts where we are reminded that none of us are alone and we are stronger as a connected people.
One of the ways that God becomes nearer is when we worship and share fellowship and friendships with God’s people who may have cultural differences. As Jin Lee, our District Lay Leader, and I travel to some of our Charge Conferences together, I am receiving the gift of learning more about her Korean-American heritage and customs. My relationship with Jin and learning about life and faith through her lens enriches my life.
A recent Charge Conference included our brothers and sisters from Wilson Temple UMC, one of the few predominately African American churches in our district. I am grateful for their outward sign of God’s grace in the community where they are planted in Raleigh. They understand that the church does not exist as a country club for the “members”, but rather to serve the needs of their local community. What strikes me at the moment, is the culture of the Wilson Temple people who are outwardly responsive during worship. Our DS has preached a similar message 12 times now at Charge Conferences, and each meditation is different as Leonard is led by the Spirit. During our most recent gathering, I couldn’t help but notice how our friends at Wilson Temple’s response to the Word encouraged Leonard as he preached. This reminded me of how our responses can encourage others. As Leonard preached, and folks responded out loud, it was evident that he was encouraged.
Recently, one of the pastors in our district introduced me to her husband and told him that I was her “encourager”. I am called a lot of things, sometimes positive, sometimes maybe not-so-much, but to be called an “encourager” was quite a compliment. I hope that I can live into this designation for this pastor and for others who could benefit from a word of encouragement from time to time.
My hope for all of us is to loosen up! If the Spirit stirs up an “Amen” or other words of encouragement or affirmation during a sermon, let us be free to speak it! Let us be encouraged to cross all boundaries including racial, geographic, cultural, economic, gender and generational. Our lives will all be enriched!
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