United Methodist General Conference 2019—Day One

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(photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service)

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that “prayer does not change God, but it changes [the one] who prays.”

Today, the United Methodist 2019 General Conference began precisely where it needed to begin—in the transforming and often-mysterious rhythms of prayer. Led by the Bishops of our church and a gathering of beautifully-gifted musicians, we spent the entire day navigating important and complex spiritual territory through the ministries of prayer and fasting.

We prayed for the various global expressions of United Methodism, each of which has sent delegates to this conference.

We prayed for our denomination—for its witness, its healing, its faithfulness, and its mission.

We prayed for one another, naming our personal hurts, hopes, and needs, all the while offering them to the Divine Heart.

We prayed for the LGBTQ souls in our midst who, irrespective of the outcome of this General Conference, are often talked about and talked around in ways that are painful and dehumanizing.

We prayed for the volunteers who will minister to us throughout the conference with their hospitality and administrative efficiency.

We prayed for an anointing of the America’s Center where the conference is taking place, that God’s presence would be felt in every room, in every conversation, in every circumstance.

We prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

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(photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service)

I cannot tell you exactly how long it has been since I spent an entire day in the work of prayer, but it has certainly been a while.

Late in the afternoon, our prayer led us all the way to the Lord’s Table, where we found supernatural nourishment in the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation. It makes spiritual sense, I guess. After all, we had feasted on the presence of God in prayer all day long. How could we conclude the feast at any other place but the Holy Table, where spiritual food becomes mystically tangible.

Following Holy Communion, we ended our day together with a time of administrative orientation, including some parliamentary training. It was helpful and important, especially given the legislative work that we will begin tomorrow. But, to be honest, throughout the orientation, I kept losing myself in prayer—quick, spontaneous, quiet petitions. Perhaps it was a lingering reluctance to leave behind the sweet hours of prayer I had experienced all day long.

At one point in the day, I ran into some members of the prayer team from Western Pennsylvania who have made the trip to St. Louis simply to bless and deepen the General Conference with their focused ministry of prayer. They had nothing but words of gracious encouragement for me. Throughout the morning and afternoon, I received over twenty texts and e-mails from people in Western Pennsylvania letting me know that they are holding me (and us) in fervent prayer. I cannot even put into words how much it means to me that so many people are praying. It makes prayer feel less like an activity and more like a sanctified connection of manifold souls.

Were all people praying for exactly the same things today? No. We come to this place, after all, with different priorities, perspectives, and convictions. Even so, our communal prayer in the name of the Triune God felt like a unifying preparation for the vulnerability and diligence that our work will require in the days ahead. It was the kind of day that compelled me to believe even more deeply in what Scripture teaches—that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

A few weeks back, I wrote a prayer to be used at one of our General Conference delegation meetings. I found the prayer on my iPhone this morning, and, during today’s lunchtime fast, I prayed the prayer over and over again in a quiet corner of the convention center, simply for the purpose of allowing my heart to be shaped by its petitions. I share that prayer now with you in the hope that it will deepen your spirit of intercession. Thank you for reading this post. And please, friends…

…keep praying.

Holy God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who both transcends time and occupies it; who is intimately present with us in both our solitude and our conferencing; who has built the church on the rock of a grace-shaped faith, and who will preserve the church so that not even the power of death will prevail against it:

 We have prayed and pondered for many months, and now we come together…

 Many voices;

 Many perspectives and temperaments;

 Many different hopes, fears, and longings;

 But with hearts joined in a common love for Jesus and the ministry of his beautiful church.

 We come with a spirit of repentance, desperate for a fresh encounter with your cleansing grace that is greater than our sinful rhythms and our distorted priorities.

 We come in a spirit of vulnerable availability, eager to hear and to be heard; to see and to be seen; to love and to be loved.

 Come, Lord Jesus.

 Come, be the center of our discernment and our deliberation.

 Come, be the thoughts that we think, the words that we speak, the air that we breathe.

 Come, Lord Jesus.

 Come, be the window through which we see one another differently; through which we recognize one another’s sacred worth; through which we glimpse what your church can be at its most vibrant.

 Come, Lord Jesus.

 Come be the Window, the Word, and the Way Forward.

 Come, Lord Jesus.

 Amen.

 

11 thoughts on “United Methodist General Conference 2019—Day One

    1. Thank you Rev Park for bringing to Conference your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service. That we trust is a representation of those you represent! Be strong in all that you do and say…

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  1. Thank you for keeping us updated on the first day of General Conference, probably in reality, the most important, as it was spent totally in prayer. I have been praying for you off and on all night as I slept and woke. It is is 1:30am there and 8:30 am here in Germany. Tom and I just prayed your prayer together before we start our day. We are with you in spirit and will be holding you up in prayer through out the day.
    May God give you strength and courage to do His will. You are loved my friend.
    Cherie

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  2. Thank you for your letter. Some of us at church and bible study joining in fasting and in prayer for God”s will to be done…I pray for His supernatural shaking to come to everyone there to transform thinking into the mind of Christ! It’s all about Jesus! WWJD God bless

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  3. Thank you so for the continued updates. I will be praying for you and the entire delegation that you do God’s will. God Bless You All!

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  4. Sometimes in the midst of everything going on, we need to take a brief moment to pause and smile at the small things in life around us. So…the irony if found (for physical positional purposes only) in the photo above of the Council of Bishops was that directly in the middle is our current Bishop, Cynthia Moore-KoiKoi; and directly behind her was her predecessor here in the WPAUMC, Bishop Thomas Bickerton. 😊

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  5. We don’t pray for one side or the other to prevail- we pray for God’s best for His sheep, who are doing the best they know how to follow Jesus. May He show us the Way Forward in clear, Spirit-led insights and actions. 🙏🙏🙏much for all to remain in His Presence throughout.

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