Reflections on General Conference 2019 by Teresa Welborn

Our Prayers Join Together

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. – Philippians 4:6-7

In less than a week, General Conference will be well underway. As I tie up loose ends this week and begin to pack, I’m also taking time to look back through the correspondence I’ve received from United Methodists across the connection. Letters and emails have arrived from all directions reflecting a wide range of theological perspectives. As I read again the letters and emails from people, they more often than not conclude with some reference to prayer. “My prayers are with you…”, “I am praying for all the delegates and for this General Conference…”, “I pray that you may…..”, “My prayer is that General Conference will….”
 
I know I am bolstered by the prayers of many and that’s humbling.
           
Reflecting on the power and mystery of prayer, I remember the prayer beads we received at the 2016 General Conference. We were encouraged to use them in times of worship and prayer.  You can read more about those prayer beads pictured here at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/60-days-of-prayer-for-2016-general-conference
           
One morning, the devotional based on the confessional prayer in The Great Thanksgiving:

            Merciful God,

            We confess that we have not loved you

              with our whole heart.

            We have failed to be an obedient church.

            We have not done your will,

              we have broken your law,

              we have rebelled against your love,

              and we have not loved our neighbors,

              and we have not heard the cry of the needy.

            Forgive us we pray. Free us for joyful obedience,

              through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

During that devotional, the worship leader guided us by beginning a prayer, “As a denomination, we have not done your will when we______” and then she invited us to complete the prayer in silence by adding our own individual petitions. As the worship leader continued guiding us, our individual prayers continued: “We have broken your law by_______”, and “We have not loved our neighbors when _______.”
 
I remember being struck by the great number of conflicting prayers that must have been lifted up to God that morning. The prayers no doubt as disparate as the letters I’ve been receiving.
           
The prayer time left me pondering once again the great mystery of prayer and the great mystery we know as God. Like anyone, I have my own prayers, hopes, and desires for General Conference 2019. But my faith and hope is in God and God alone. God who hears all our prayers, as diverse and conflicting as they are. Bishop Wallace-Padgett has been instrumental in leading the prayer efforts for General Conference says, “Our prayer focus is two-fold: We are praying that God will help us to fulfill the mission of the church, and we are praying to be one in Christ. “ Find prayer resources at https://umcprays.org

Be encouraged!,

teresa

 
 
 

Meet Me in St. Louis

As The United Methodist Church’s special called session of General Conference approaches, my mind moves back and forth from what I’ve experienced in the past to what I anticipate for the future. I do not have extensive General Conference experience, but I have some. I attended the 2008 General Conference as the first reserve delegate from the Southwest Texas Conference. I served as a delegate in 2016 for the Rio Texas Conference and will head to St. Louis later this month as a delegate.

           
In recent days, I find myself reflecting on past experiences and wondering about the future. I know I’m not alone in my thinking back and looking ahead. Here I join the many different people from many different places who are sharing their thoughts and hopes. I will meet some of you face to face in St. Louis. Others of you can meet me right here in this blog where I will share a few of my reflections over the next few weeks.
           
As I write these words, I’m taken back to memories from my childhood. Long before I ever knew what General Conference is, I knew about the beauty and power of worship. I grew up at Ingleside United Methodist Church. Among my many memories of worship is one preacher who loved the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” so much he made us sing a verse every Sunday morning:

                        Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

                        Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;

                        holy, holy holy! merciful and mighty,

                        God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

           
My home church was no grand cathedral, but in my child’s mind it was magnificent. Participating with the community in weekly worship was a discipline I enjoyed. Singing hymns together, approaching the communion rail for bread and cup, reciting affirmations, and passing the peace – I looked forward to it all. I have come to believe that the power of my experience in worship was shaped as much by the people present as the building itself.
           
At General Conference, it is worship that I look forward to the most. When we say we are a global church, it is worship that celebrates some of the best of who we are together. One of my favorite memories from 2016 was when the Danish choir KEFAS sang. You can hear that offering of theirs here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt9N2g28ti4  Look for opportunities to experience some of the worship at General Conference 2019 through UM Communications’ live-streaming services.
           
When leaving worship at Ingelside UMC, one is met with the stained glass image of Jesus shown here. He is so many things to me in this image. He is a peaceful presence. He is open and receptive. He is moving towards me. He is alive, in healed and resurrected form. And He is holy, with halo aglow.
           
While I can’t predict what will happen in St. Louis, I pray God might work within my own hardened heart to make me more like Jesus. A peaceful presence. Open and receptive. Moving towards others. I pray I approach General Conference as the holy work that it is. And I pray I have the eyes to see the resurrected Christ in our midst.
           
Be encouraged!
           
teresa