By Amy Thompson
One of the things that I love about United Methodism is the connectional system. The connectional system reminds me how we are all connected in working for the Kingdom of God. We are not in the Kingdom– building work on our own. We can work together and learn from one another. I am reminded of how big our local connectional system is when I attend Annual Conference each year. If you stand in the vendor area located upstairs in the Expo Center, you can look out the windows and see the representation of Missouri clergy and laity expanding across the large room. Each year I wander to those windows to view this image of the UMC for the Missouri Conference. It gives me hope as I think about what is possible from the leadership of the individuals in that room.
As we come together June 9-12, we will encounter our theme, Remarkable: a Wesleyan Way of Discipleship, throughout the events and activities of the weekend. We will be greeted by new leadership. Our recently appointed episcopal leader will be leading the conference session. We have new leaders on conference teams that will share reports. We have two new directors and a new district superintendent that will be introduced. Besides business and introductions, we will have worship experiences and exposure to some meaningful learning times. Our learning times will be focused on discipleship, mission and outreach, administration and small church membership. We will also have the chance to show generous hearts as we celebrate ministries through the collection of special offerings. This year our collections will support Mozambique Initiative, Haiti Water Plus Project, and Refugee & Immigrant Communities.
Our connectional system provides this opportunity for over 1,300 Methodists to invade Springfield, Missouri, for four days. Who makes up these over 1300 individuals? Clergy, retiring clergy, clergy spouses, deacons, conference staff, lay members to annual conference from local churches, at-large lay members from districts and the conference. The number grows even larger if we include worship teams, presenters and other guests. As these individuals gather, it is an opportunity to make connections with other laity, with clergy, with churches that are of similar size or with similar ministries. These connections during the weekend can lead to future interactions that will benefit the Kingdom. If you are attending Annual Conference, I challenge you to meet three new people and share your experiences with ministry in the local church. Live out the benefits of our connectional system by connecting with other individuals in local churches.
We are a connectional system. If you are not attending annual conference, I invite you to participate in our connectional system from afar. Live out the discipleship theme through prayer. Pray for our Bishop as he leads his first session of Annual Conference. Pray for all those attending and pray for the worship leaders and presenters. Grow in your knowledge by asking questions when your lay person returns from annual conference.
Whether you are attending Annual Conference, participating in a district event or have curiousity about the United Methodist church in the next town over, find your willing spirit and friendly voice. Through your willingness and voice, we can demonstrate the value of forming connections with our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout Missouri. With these connections, we can make a difference in the life of our church and in our communities.