Skip to main content

General Conference Wrap-up Reflections: Worship

Worship at General Conference was a wonderful gift, a highlight in the midst of such long and stress-filled days. The worship leaders were Mark Miller and Marcia McFee. Mark was the director of the seminary choir while I was at Drew, and his role has since expanded to include more and more teaching responsibility at the seminary as well. I don't think I ever found my worship life so fulfilling as when I was at Drew, so naturally, I was quite looking forward to worship at General Conference.

We opened worship, naturally, with "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," and "And Are We Yet Alive?" I like all kinds of music in worship, including some good old traditional hymns, and there's nothing like thousands of people singing "O For a Thousand Tongues."

Worship standouts throughout the week:

The service (Thursday?) where the communion liturgy was woven throughout the whole worship service. The bishops (throughout conference) sat on the floor, surrounding the body of delegate. This in itself was very powerful. This configuration for this interspersed setting of communion was particularly powerful.

Thursday was the episcopal address and the bishops' presentation on the four areas of focus and the seven vision pathways. My notes here are blurry and hard to distinguish into different section, but here are some short quotes - "[the church has] a diminished capacity to offer hope for the world . . . applying political solutions to relational differences." "Decline. Distraction. Division." "In the name of God, we do hard to one another. Our own need deafens us to the needs of others." "Not getting our own way, but giving ourselves away." John Wesley in The Character of a Methodist, "For opinions, for terms, let us not destroy the work of God." A quote like - "We put a man on the moon. We can have a poverty free world. We just need the mind to do it." "Go where the people are." "Connectionalism is not the enemy but a means of grace." Everybody says they would be happy, have enough, if they had "about 20% more." Scarcity mindset.

A great story was told about stopping at some children's kool-aid stand and the children anxiously hurrying the purchaser along. When asked about it, the kids responded that they only had the one cup to use over and over. Do we, the church, act like we only have one cup? When we are full, our purpose is to be emptied. When we are empty, our purpose is to be filled. We are the cup - God fills us, we pour out.

The first Young People's Address was fantastic. "My theology does not stand in the way of who you are." Multi-media, multi-sensory. Dynamic and excellent.

Excellent sermons were given by:
Bishop Hutchinson - telling a story about telling his son, "When the preacher gives the call to come forward, don't move." "Today, I'm asking you to move. Or, more clearly, to let yourself be moved."

Bishop Mark Hanson, ELCA - "nostalgia needs to be pruned so we can bear fruit." Pruned of our power and privilege. Computers have a root command with simple starting program, but if unplugged, the root command remains inactive on its hard disk. We have a root command: love one another. But unplugged from the vine, remains inactive.

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, especially excellent - Some are seeking to be more open. Some are seeking to be more pure. Both can be good - more hospitality, or more holy as emphases. When we seek to be more hospitable, the danger is that you can lose the identity of what holds you together. When you seek to be more holy, the danger is being so inward looking as to be idolatrous. Ask Jesus to remember you when he comes into his kingdom. What does it mean for Jesus to remember us?

Musical standouts:
"For Every Mountain," by Kurt Carr, sung at Friday morning worship - awesome.
As previously mentioned, "Sanctuary," set to Dave Matthews Band's "Crash."
"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," arranged by Gustav Holst. Would be perfect on Christmas Eve I think.

Mark's ability to play the right song at the right time is such a gift. Music can be so powerful and so healing when you have the right thing just when it is needed. Mark has a special talent for that - leading with humor and grace and heart.

*photo source

Comments

Anonymous said…
"The first Young People's Address was fantastic. "My theology does not stand in the way of who you are."

I read your column regularly and appreciate the tone of grace you always show. I am Lay Leader of a UM church in Colorado. I found this statement from http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=3436
enlightening:

(I was not there, but did watch a few hours via livestreaming, which was amazing.)

Young adults tell church they’re ready -- by Mary Jacobs, May 2, 2008 UMNS

"Mr. Rathod shared his story of growing up in a small town in the U.S., “where everyone was assumed to be white, Christian, middle-class, heterosexual and Republican.” He said he rebelled and “embraced everything liberal from the social gospel to soy milk,” and went on to attend Grinnell College, which he described as “one of the most liberal corners of the U.S.”

On campus, he met prejudice for his Christian beliefs and “realized that many liberals promoted a fundamentalism and intolerance of their own.”

Mr. Rathod added, “Although led to believe that I had to choose between competing values of left and right, I opted for a third way—the way of Wesley.” The Wesleyan quadrilateral convinced him “that liberals and conservatives are both right, but that only when putting their values together can we attain a higher truth."

The Church of the Resurrection and Pastor Adam Hamilton give me hope as a United Methodist.

Popular posts from this blog

re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again... Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time. So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, "Hope: A Thrill of Hope," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 11/26/17 Mark 1:1-8 Hope: A Thrill of Hope             Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is the glass of life half empty, or half full? My mom and I have gone back and forth about this a bit over the years. She’s wildly optimistic about most things, and sometimes I would say her optimism, her hopefulness borders on the irrational. If the weather forecast says there’s a 70% chance of a snowstorm coming, my mom will focus very seriously on that 30% chance that it is going to be a nice day after all. I, meanwhile, will begin adjusting my travel plans and making a backup plan for the day. My mom says I’m a pessimist, but I would argue that I’m simply a realist , trying to prepare for the thing that is most likely to happen, whether I like that thing or not. My mom, however, says she doesn’t want to be disappointed twice, both by thinking something bad is going to happen, and then by having the bad thing actually happen. She’d rather be hopeful, and enjoy her state of

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, "Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright," Isaiah 11:1-10, Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 12/3/17 Mark 13:24-37, Isaiah 11:1-10 Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright             “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon’ virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”             This week, I read news stories about North Korea testing a missile that perhaps could reach across the whole of the United States.             This week, I spoke with a colleague in ministry who had, like all churches in our conference, received from our church insurance company information about how to respond in an active shooter situation. She was trying to figure out how to respond to anxious parishioners and yet not get caught up in spending all of their ministry time on creating safety plans.             This week, we’ve continued to hear stories from people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, as the actions, sometimes over decades, of men in positions of power have been