“Oh dear God!”
Our 2019 session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference was a stretch of experience and emotion for me. In some respect it was like the crazy roller coaster ride at the county fair — not like the slick coasters at the big name parks, but the wooden coaster that has seen some weathered days with great character and test of time.
Of course, any roller coaster ride begins with a period of waiting. The line to get on and get going can be long. The wait can seem forever and we lose patience. In our way forward as the Desert Southwest Conference, we have had much waiting. For me this waiting has been a time of seeking the right timing and direction. It has also been about reluctance to commit to a direction because of all the human concerns and emotions involved. But the waiting is mostly because I want to get as many of us on-board as we can. That takes time, patience, and hard work.
The Conference session took a bit to climb the track to the top as we discussed the possibility of a September Special Session and the deferral of certain legislative items. We chugged along in our first Table Talk experience as Allyssa guided us with her infectious spirit. We continued to give great effort in our climb as we grappled with civil discourse from differing perspectives and convictions.
There were also times we came to the top for a spectacular view and an exciting ride, such as our worship experiences. Rich worship is consistently meaningful as we gather from year-to-year. The scripture, the preaching, the music, the prayers. We also witnessed the presenting of the Bishop’s and Courageous Church Awards, which celebrated powerful ministries of laity and congregations. It reminds us that all around the roller coaster are all kinds of wonderful things happening: cotton candy and other delicious foods are enjoyed, games, and exhibits. The church has the same: baptisms, potlucks, meaningful Bible studies, feeding the hungry, rebuilding homes, and making disciples.
There were also intense times in the midst of debate when Bishop Bob called us to spend a moment in reflective prayer and table conversation to gain perspective. For a moment we paused at a point on our coaster ride, perching at the top, trying to gain a new vision of where we had been and where we are going. It was sometimes an uncomfortable, awkward, and uneasy moment — but serious reflection is that way
— do I go back, or move forward?,
–can I find a balance in this in-between moment?
–Am I able to look up and out at the new view, or only down at my feet?
Then we had moments during our Conference session in which we took a wild-crazy ride down the track of our creaking coaster. Legislative conversation sometimes felt a bit out of control, but also touched with possibilities. The break-out groups for our DSC Way Forward were filled with dynamic conversations as each team discussed the possibilities of its focus, but also a bit of wandering conversation to find that focus.
The roller coaster ride of the 2019 session of our Annual Conference is like the experience across our church for the past several years, and increasingly so these recent months. Called anew is exciting and adventurous, but like a creaking, crazy coaster ride; it is also edged with uncertainty — how will we make it, or how will we keep from flying off the tracks? How will this wooden frame of a church hold up? How will I hold up?
We are called anew to follow on this journey we name the DSC Way Forward. The way is still not completely clear. We have much work to do. But I have great confidence because we are on this ride together.
Just like the coaster ride to the top, when we anticipate the thrill of something new, we let a prayer come from the center of our being. A prayer sometimes like a cry, which is a mix of laughing and screaming, like a prayer which begins “Oh dear God!” but then moves into hope for the future because our hope is in God who knows the way forward and calls us into it — anew.
On an Adventure with Christ,
Trinity UMC, Las Vegas, NV (Rev. Jennifer Hageman)
University UMC, Las Vegas, NV (Rev. Terri Hubbard, Pastor Samara Jenkins)
Potosi Pines UM Camp (Staff and Campers)