July 12, 2016

By Amanda Pelletier

Rev. Yvi Martin delivered the opening message and scripture, skillfully interweaving the ‘upside-down’ Mozambican Baobab tree with Paul’s message in Ephesians to be strongly rooted and established in love. 
    
Conference attendees examined what kind of soil their own roots are growing in. If flipped ‘upside-down’, as the Baobab tree’s roots appear, what would other Methodists see? 
    
After the divisiveness many experienced at General Conference, immediately the love of Christ centered the hearts and minds of all in the room, beginning the Conference with a powerful and unifying message.
    
After Martin finished, Rev. Elbridge Wesley Bartley, Jr. was honored for his faithful commitment to Missouri Methodist service. As a short video played to introduce him, sweet smiles and joyful tears crossed many conference attendees faces.
    
Bartley was born on July 20, 1916 and baptized during the 46th Session of the Southwest Missouri Conference in 1916 by Bishop Eugene Hendrix. 
    
After serving the church as a Navy chaplain and in parish ministry for 41 years, as Rev. Bartley’s 100th birthday approaches, he recalled a quote he heard from another pastor, who had said,  “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up and totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming to all the world, ‘Wow! What a ride. What a 
ride. Amen.’”
  
As Bartley was nearby on stage, Hannah Beaton, born February 4, 2016 to her parents’ Ron and Kasey Beaton, was baptized by Bishop Robert Schnase. The congregation softly laughed as Hannah squirmed in Bishop Schnase’s arms as he poured the holy water over her head.
    
Then in a heartfelt moment, Bishop Schnase asked if the congregation would fulfill their call to help Hannah commit her life to the Holy Spirit as Bartley held Hannah’s small hand. All the people said, “Amen.”
    
The service ended with everyone joining in song to “Down To The River” and “Are We Yet Alive”, led by The Gathering’s worship band. Rev. Bartley and Hannah were there together, in the front row, surrounded by cherished family and brothers and sisters in the Lord. What a ride indeed.