By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”—Isaiah 46:9-11 (NIV)
The 2019 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference has concluded. Kudos are extended to the Rev. Ken Nelson and the Annual Conference Planning Committee, the Rev. George Howle, the Rev. Webb Belangia and the Greenville District Host Committee, Visit Greenville, the Greenville Center, as well as the multitude of volunteers who were essential in making our time enjoyable and productive.
Some of the final words we hear each year during Annual Conference are these: “Sine Die.” Adjournment indefinitely. The completion of the agenda. The time for everyone to go their separate ways back home.
While this is a necessary action in accordance with parliamentary procedure, as People of Hope, we know that the conclusion of Annual Conference is not the end of our time together as Christians. As United Methodists. As disciples of Jesus Christ.
When we depart from our yearly gathering, we know it instead to be the beginning: The beginning of a new appointment year. The beginning of summer ministries. The beginning of new dreams for the future.
Some clergy families are packing and moving. Churches are preparing hospitable welcomes. All who have been part of Annual Conference are beginning to share what has been learned, new insights gained and new awareness about our connectional nature, new understanding of how we can do more together than we could ever do apart.
We are no longer together in Greenville, but in our departure we simultaneously marked the beginning of spreading hope throughout the community and throughout our state. The shelves of Harvest Hope Food Bank are now stocked. Elderly in the Native American community are receiving tangible signs of love that will make their load a little lighter to bear.
All of this because of your generosity. All of this because we are people of hope.
In whatever beginning you may be facing, hang onto the promises of God, overcome adversity, pursue the truth always and endure patiently. We move into the future one faithful step at a time, knowing that God’s vision for our future may well turn out to be different than what we planned, and trusting that when we allow God to use us, God will do what needs to be done.
Accept the challenge; believe that there is a future with hope. Go forward with a sense of expectation.