By Kimberly Woods
We began our specially called session of General Conference with one of the most important things we can do as Christians & as United Methodists:
(The above photo is courtesy of Hillary Levin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)
The entire morning and early afternoon was dedicated to the spiritual practice of prayer. We prayed in large and small groups, in partnerships, with silent mediation, experiential prayer stations, and through song and dance. We engaged our bodies and spirits in true Holy Conferencing through prayer and petition. Many different voices were represented, as well as different prayer styles. We prayed for the global church, highlighting missional needs across the connection, as well as being mindful of the mission of this called session.
Speaking for myself, a powerful witness came in the afternoon, when we returned from our lunch break. We were asked for the prayer focus at that time to be our LGBTQ+ family. We were being asked to acknowledge, to recognize, & to include in the conversation those voices that we don’t always allow ourselves to hear in our present context. Persons that had been singing & praying along with us both on the floor and in the concourse above, persons whose lives are impacted greatly by our decisions made in this convention center.
The centerpiece was the choice in song, “I Need You To Survive”
The images below are cultivated from various posts following this spontaneous witness. I was unable to take pictures as I was an active participant in this powerful worship experience.
I felt called to join in this moment of worship, this widening of our circle and to acknowledge those among us, LGBTQ+ especially, that we see them, that we need one another to survive. We seek to do no harm, yet we acknowledge that harm has come to persons under our current interpretations of scripture and the practices which follow.
Another powerful moment during our prayer and worship session was when we were invited prior to communion to share a passing of peace, but with different words that we may be used to. We were asked to forgive one another for any harm, intentional or unintentional, that we may have caused through our words or actions. We were to ask forgiveness from those with whom we greeted and from God. We took part in this as a delegation and the experience was quite unique. To look into the eyes of a colleague and recognize that we may have harmed them, to ask forgiveness of them, and for them to return that gesture, was a feeling that is hard to put into words.
Our session closed with an orientation on procedure and a re-education in parlimentary procedure. It can be so refreshing to hear someone say that the way we have been doing things is, put simply, wrong. We have not always followed the rules in the ways we should and to be told the right way, the correct order and establishment of policy, can feel a blessing when what we have previously experienced is, for lack of a better phrase, organized chaos.
For me, the evening ended with a delegation dinner. We shared stories with colleagues and their families. We talked about our experiences, what lies ahead, and where we may find ourselves when we leave St. Louis. While our delegation is not of one mind when it comes to plans and other legislation, we do recognize the importance of unity, that we come together and that, at the end of the day, we can look at one another and say, “You are my friend. You are my family in Christ & you are loved.”
That is the importance of this session. The importance of this day of worship and prayer. We need one another to survive. We are the body of Christ and we cannot continue to suffer in silence. We have to talk, to see one another as people, as God’s people, and discover what our church will look like moving forward in this understanding.
We are God’s body, God’s children. We are important to one another and we need each other to survive. That’s why we are here. Moving into legislation tomorrow, I pray we will remember and reflect on moments such as these.