By the Rev. Mary B. Burnell and Rev. Annie H. Sistrunk
Six days of rejoicing, six days of fellowship, six days of worship and six days of becoming one with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
During Aug. 29 through Sept. 3, we spent time in Houston, Texas, with our Methodist brothers and sisters from all over the world to be a part of our first and hopefully not our last World Methodist Conference, an event that only happens once every five years within the Methodist movement.
As we prepared to take this journey into a new era of life, we found ourselves meeting with clergywomen from around the world—not just the United States, but all four corners of the Earth. We gathered at the Hilton Americas Hotel ready to be invigorated and inspired, and most of all to celebrate with other clergywomen the rising power of the Holy Spirit for opening the door for an evangelistic move of God in our lives.
We began our time together at the 2016 Global United Methodist Clergywomen gathering. We entered into a processional line of clergywomen that not only celebrated our call, but also looked beyond where we were to how God used each of us to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On opening night, we came from the four corners of the room and met at the crossroads of life to intertwine our ministries with one another and celebrate 60 years of full clergy rights for women. As we continued to worship God, we had conversations with newly elected female bishops with hope for a new opportunity of leadership and guidance—hope that would allow us to be a part of a new generation of leadership and mantle-passing. We listened to our younger clergy sisters as they spoke about their desires to make new pathways for disciples to be born and transformed. We listened to our sisters speak God’s word in their native tongue and bring glory to God for being recognized as a vital part of God’s kingdom and a denomination that made space for their ministerial endeavors.
This time together not only celebrated clergywomen who are full elders or deacons, but also celebrated every woman for her willingness to accept part-time or full-time pastoral appointments.
As the Rev. Mary Burnell, from the South Carolina Conference, was celebrated, we felt so moved to remember her journey into ministry. Tears rolled down her face as she was affirmed within this great cloud of witnesses gathered in Houston, confirming that, yes, you, too, are important; yes, you, too, are a part of this grand celebration. Just like each woman in the room, she had answered her call into ministry for such a time as this.
As we moved from that gathering to the World Methodist Conference, we were ready to continue birthing one church and move into the power of one.
The World Methodist Conference for me was like the Olympics of the Methodist movement. Watching as representatives from 80 nations came forward with their flags for their country, showing their pride at being a part of the Wesleyan Movement, was awesome. The movement of God at that moment brought us together as one church and one body of Christ worshipping together in unity.
This event resembled the church in its infancy on the day of Pentecost. The experience was one of joy and elation.
By the grace of God, the excitement will not die because we returned home to South Carolina, but because we have a fervency to exceed the plan of ministry we expressed before this conference. As we ended our time in Houston, we were already thinking about the next conference, scheduled for August 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden.