By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
One of the things that I love most about our United Methodist Church is the connection. From the beginning, Methodists have realized that you can’t do it alone. Great things are accomplished for Jesus Christ when we work together.
As I read an update from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, there was the theme of connection once again. Since March 11, the devastation from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan seems unending.
When my heart is heavy from the human tragedy, I am so thankful to realize that our church is right there in the midst of the destruction offering hope and help. Through UMCOR, we work with local communities to help them rebuild. We provide lifesaving assistance by joining with relief organizations and other church partners.
There is no way we could do it by ourselves, so we connect with others to get it done.
Each year when the district superintendents and I appoint pastors to the local churches across the state, we depend on the connection. Those who are appointed have been approved for service. Their call, gifts and graces have been evaluated by a Pastor Parish Relations Committee, by a District Committee on Ministry and eventually by the Board of Ordained Ministry. Special training has been completed before they are ever introduced to a new congregation. A background check has been done. The laity accepts these new leaders into their homes and lives, because the connection declares that they can be trusted.
When pastors move to new churches, they build on the ministry of the persons they follow. The reverse is true, as well. Ministers leaving congregations have faith that their work in building up God’s Kingdom will live on after them. They hope that their service has not been in vain.
Every once in a while I receive a telephone call that someone needs help in a distant place. At times like that, there is no substitute for the connection. Another telephone call to a nearby clergy friend, and suddenly the loved one is no longer alone in the emergency room as they await news.
Of course, relationships throughout the connection are not limited to clergypersons. For I have found that the willingness to help when called upon is characteristic of United Methodist laity, as well.
One of the best examples of our connection is the Annual Conference session. This year when we meet at the Florence Convention Center June 8-12, we will celebrate the ministries we have done in our communities, our state and our world. There will be worship, learning, holy conferencing and decision-making. God will be praised for what has been. And we will seek to discern God’s will for what will be.
And yes, we will receive an offering for the rebuilding of Japan.
We have added an additional day to give time for the election of delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional conferences. Since these conferences will make decisions about the direction of our church, it is important that we elect our very best. The General Conference will consider legislation that will guide our church into the future. The Jurisdictional Conference will elect at least five new bishops.
The balloting process enables the connection to discern those lay and clergy who reflect the diverse fabric of our churches. Holy conferencing calls each Annual Conference member to seek God’s guidance as they vote for those who will represent the South Carolina Conference.
In such times as these, I am personally thankful that we are connected to each other and to God.