This year Charge Conference season is going to be a little different. In this time of uncertainty in our United Methodist Church, it seems important to set aside time for us to think about and discuss our identity as local churches. Each local church is gifted and set in different neighborhoods and settings. I’ve served six churches in my ministry and while some things were the same, each had its own character, passions, and ministries. This year, I am setting the Charge Conference business aside for just a little while so that we can think deeply together about each local church’s identity in the Congregational Meetings. The Charge Conference business will be addressed in a separate meeting at another time.

So, this year I will be leading a Congregational Meeting that I hope all church members and constituents will attend. We will open with worship, focus on five questions, and look at next steps. Some of the questions include “In what ways do I experience God in my local church? What are the two most important things you pray the people of your local church will be known for in your community?” We will discuss these and look for common threads. We’ll look at the church’s mission statement or other statements and see how they align with the answers we have shared. I am also willing to answer any questions while I am there. I hope each person will make it a priority to come and participate in this Congregational Meeting.

A second Charge Conference meeting will be held at another time led by a presiding elder that I have asked to assist me this year. This Charge Conference will cover the routine business required by the Book of Discipline including adopting the ministry goals for 2020, electing volunteer leaders through the nominations report, voting on the clergy compensation. (There are a few churches that are exceptions to this two-meeting plan and they already know they will be different.) The plan is for this meeting to gather the Church Council and others who meet the Disciplinary requirements for a Charge Conference to do this routine business.

One of the questions I have heard is “why are you restricting the second meeting to a Charge Conference?” The reason is simple. I respect the time of our church people; I understand that attending these yearly meetings takes time away from family, rest, and other important activities. So, I am asking the entire church to attend the Congregational meeting and asking the leadership to attend both meetings. Of course, anyone is welcome to attend the Charge Conference as well, but I am asking you to prioritize the Congregational Meeting.

Prayer is the best way to prepare for this time of gathering and conversation. The week before your Congregational Meeting, I invite you to pray this prayer daily:

Creator of love and life, as we prepare for our Congregational Meeting we pray to you for wisdom, for a listening heart, for the flourishing of Christ’s holy church in this place, for the increase in our love for others in the name of Christ, and for the light of Christ to shine brightly in this local community to folks who may never enter our doors. This I pray with a humble heart. Amen

I look forward to spending time with you in the coming months.

“Accept each other with love and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together.” (Ephesians 4:2a-3, Common English Bible)

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