By Kimberly Woods
General Conference opened with an amazing worship service and experience. Many languages, voices, and persons came together in worship and connection with one another.
I was blessed to take an active role in this service as one of nine Global voices that were present on the Conference floor. I was asked and allowed to sign a greeting and sign the scripture text “Go therefore and make disciples.” This was an amazing experience for me. I was able to help interpret the Gospel and to present a gift to my fellow delegates, colleagues, friends, and family both here in Portland and through the live feed which is being broadcast. I met many persons through this experience and was reminded just how important the work and worship we do here is.
So many people are gathered here in Portland, in the Convention Center. I have been blessed to meet many new faces and reconnect with some familar ones. I have spoken to people from Africa who knew my seminary friends, even though neither of us spoke the others' language. We were able to connect, despite these differences, because of our connection with God and with the Methodist church. I was able to sign with interpreters and was able to teach sign language to some of my delegation. I am even seated with a mixed delegation, partly from my conference and some from the California-Pacific conference. In fact, my delegation is separated by a literal aisle, the irony of which is not lost on me.
Friends, this General Conference has barely begun and yet the tension has been called out many times. From voices regarding the LGBTQ+ message being silenced, to speaking to the division that exists through sermons and prayers, to the many articles of clothing, pins, badges, and brochures that speak for one side or another, there is clearly tension present in our midst.
However, connections have and continue to be made. We come together with different languages and different ideas, of different ages and from different places, to do God’s mission. We come together as Methodists and while we may not all be of one mind, let us as one of the speakers today reminded us, be of one heart. Let us be in dialogue with one another, to come to place where we can communicate safely, and to conference with one another honestly and earnestly, no matter where we are from, who we are, or where we are headed after this.