My friend and colleague, John Seth, led our delegation early this morning in a time of prayer and reflection. John encouraged us to follow the prophet Jeremiah’s instruction to find “where the good way lies” and to “walk in it.”
At General Conference, my sense is that God’s “good way” often gets distorted by things like pace, tone, presuppositions, weariness, and woundedness. For me, then, God’s “good way” is the way of a carefully-managed tempo, a patient rhythm of prayer, and an ever-deepening attentiveness to the present moment, so that the people I encounter don’t slip through the cracks of my personal agenda and so that my own heart does not get lost in the frenzy of all that I want to accomplish.
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar preached at the morning worship service today, focusing, interestingly, on the Wise Men’s visit to Jesus. “Like the Wise Men of old,” Bishop Devadhar said at one point, “will we experience the epiphany of God’s glory in Christ and travel home by a different road? Will we open ourselves to the direction of God so that we might hear the Great Commission—‘Go, therefore…’—as a mandate to travel by an alternative pathway, declaring the Epiphany of Jesus Christ to the world?”
An important part of our morning was the Young People’s Address, offered by Chelsea and Peter. Chelsea is a young adult from Delaware (now living in Michigan), who became Christian because of the radical hospitality of her United Methodist Church, where “everyone was welcomed and loved as image-bearers of God.” Peter is a young adult from the Republic of the Congo, who was raised Muslim, came reluctantly to a United Methodist Church for worship and, after a season, became a Christ-follower because of the pastor’s consistent preaching about “the transforming power of God’s forgiveness and grace.”
As I experienced the Young People’s Address this morning, it became abundantly clear to me how desperately the church needs its young adults, whose leadership is urgent, whose presence and absence are all-too-often ignored, whose voices are waiting to be heard and valued, and whose love for Jesus is something dynamically grand. Peter, one of today’s presenters, described the life of Jesus in a compelling manner: “Jesus, the Savior of the world. Jesus, the Servant Leader. Jesus…the young adult.”
I spent the rest of today (until 9:30 this evening) in my Discipleship legislative committee, sitting at a table with the three young people pictured above. We were able to finish our work. We vetted and perfected legislation that will come before the entire General Conference next week for final action. The legislation entrusted to our committee addresses several important matters: the creation of a new United Methodist Hymnal, available in multiple formats; reducing the risk of child abuse in the church; expanding young adult ministry in the United Methodist connection; addressing teen suicide; clarifying both the strategy and the language for the training and equipping of the laity; and fortifying the ministry of both the “Native American Comprehensive Plan” and the “Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century” initiative.
There were several moments throughout today’s work with the legislative committee when I experienced the joyful sense that I was participating in something meaningful and redemptive—something that would lead to the betterment of God’s church.
It felt good.