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South Carolina delegates reflect on General Conference Day 1

South Carolina delegates reflect on General Conference Day 1
The South Carolina delegates on Day 1 of General Conference 2019. Photo by Matt Brodie.

A Day of Prayer: South Carolina delegates share thoughts about GC2019 Day 1

By Jessica Brodie

Photo: Matt Brodie

South Carolina’s delegates and bishop described the first day of General Conference 2019 as a holy, sacred and affirming day that enabled them to focus on the mission of the church and being centered in God.

“We’ve never had a day like this to dedicate and devote ourselves to prayer, and it was a good time—to be able to sit down and focus our minds and center ourselves on who we are in making disciples for Jesus Christ and inviting the Holy Spirit to use us,” said South Carolina’s Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston.

Day 1 of the 2019 special called General Conference (Feb. 23) was “A Day of Prayer,” with an entirely prayer-focused agenda. There was a twofold prayer focus, both for the conference itself and for increased effectiveness in the mission of the church. The day featured a Plenary Prayer Service, an Experiential Prayer guided by bishops from four different regions of the world and a service of Holy Communion.

“We’re going to take this step by step and moment by moment … so we will be able to discern where God is leading us,” Holston said, thanking people for continuing to pray for him, the delegation and the full UMC. “It’s important to remember we are still a church together, and we can do a lot more together than we can ever do separate.”

Several others on the South Carolina delegation echoed his thoughts.

Delegation chair the Rev. Tim McClendon called Monday “a good time of real prayer and centering.”

The Rev. Tim Rogers said the prayer focus helped him and the other delegates see the work of the churches around the world.

“It helped us be reminded we are not a United States denomination but a global denomination,” Rogers said, noting he particularly appreciated the time of silent prayer. “We’ve had enough anxiety. It was good to focus on other things and recenter on the Lord.”

The Rev. Mel Arant said he had “a little bit of trepidation” going into the Day of Prayer, wondering how six hours of mass prayer would be handled, but the day was illuminating for him.

“With the central conference prayers, I was able to see what’s really at stake in this General Conference,” Arant said. “It was very centering and reminded me we’re a global church, and the decisions made here are not just affecting us in the U.S.”

Arant said the silent prayer helped “really put things into focus for me.”

Barbara Ware said it was “a great day and a great start to the conference.”

“It was very important for us to come and center ourselves around prayer,” Ware said, saying she was especially touched by the respectful and uplifting way the delegates and others behaved toward each other. “It was a positive day and a great start to the difficult days ahead.”

Martha Thompson said she really appreciated the John Wesley prayer the body said together.

“(Methodism’s founder) John Wesley wrote it in the 1700s, and it’s still so significant to us today: that we give up what we want, that it’s not our own agenda but God’s, that we need to lose ourselves and follow the Holy Spirit,” Thompson said.

She also said the focus on central conferences was important in helping delegates understand the global nature of the UMC.

“South Carolina is just a dot on the map when it comes to The United Methodist Church,” Thompson said.

The Rev. Narcie Jeter said the prayer service was powerful and that she felt a far different and more positive and loving spirit moving in this space than she did during General Conference 2016, in Portland.

“I feel grounded,” Jeter said. “I feel held and loved and affirmed.”

Jeter said starting the conference with prayer made such a difference.

“Everything should be bathed and washed in prayer,” she said. “Every good thing starts with prayer. It’s essential.”

Holston urged South Carolina United Methodists back home to continue to pray for them. See his call for prayer here.

Tomorrow, Day 2 (Sunday, Feb. 24), begins a day of setting priorities, when delegates prioritize high-priority legislative petitions versus low-priority ones. High-priority petitions will be addressed first when delegates get into legislative committee work.

Importance of prayer 
We invite you to be in prayer for every delegate, especially our South Carolina delegates and alternates, as well as our resident bishop, L. Jonathan Holston. Lay delegates: Barbara Ware, James Salley, Dr. Joseph Heyward, Herman Lightsey, Jackie Jenkins, Michael Cheatham, Martha Thompson, Dr. David Braddon, and alternates Lollie Haselden and Emily Rogers Evans. Clergy delegates: Dr. Tim McClendon, the Rev. Ken Nelson, the Rev. Tim Rogers, Dr. Robin Dease, the Rev. Tiffany Knowlin, the Rev. Narcie Jeter, the Rev. Mel Arant Jr., the Rev. Susan Leonard, and alternates the Rev. Telley Gadson and the Rev. Michael Turner.

We also invite prayer for the members of our South Carolina media team: Advocate Editor Jessica Brodie and the UMCSC Communications Office Dan O’Mara (communications coordinator) and Matt Brodie (production coordinator), as well as all others from South Carolina here to serve, pray and help.

Need more background? 
Read past Advocate articles covering GC2019 and the way forward, plus our overview page on the event, here: https://www.advocatesc.org/gc2019coverage.

Also, stay on top of the South Carolina conference communications office coverage of GC2019 here: https://www.umcsc.org/gc2019

Additionally, United Methodist Communications is livestreaming proceedings at GC2019 in English, French and American Sign Language. The stream at umc.org/live will include all open sessions when the lawmaking assembly meets Feb. 23-26. Visual learners also can view a chart that offers an overview of four main plans under consideration:

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