Here we are two days before the start of the Virginia United Methodist Annual Conference. Each day seems to bring another couple of emails from lay members to this year’s Annual Conference asking basically the same question, using the same language: “I am my church’s representative to Virginia Annual Conference and will be voting for General Conference representatives. I realize that the particular options addressed at the 2019 Special General Conference are no longer the specific issues that will be on the agenda for 2020, however, if you were to vote on the 3 options that were presented at 2019 conference, please identify which one you would choose and why: The One Church Plan, the Connectional Conference Plan, or the Traditionalist Plan.”
I’ve given basically the same response to everyone. Some have offered kind responses; others have not responded at all. With each, I have directed them to this blog if they truly want to know more about me.
Over the weekend, I was looking back at some old computer files and came across some of my reflection papers from the courses I took to receive professional certification in the denomination in Older Adult Ministries. I also stumbled upon the electronic copy of my application statement to the Board of Ordained Ministry for that certification. It’s amazing how the dates could be changed and these writings shared today to reflect where I find myself in this journey with The UMC.
So, I decided to share that autobiographical statement – without changes from 2007. If you’re visiting this blog to learn more about me as a potential delegate to the 2020 General Conference, you will see exactly who I am in these words: reflections not coming from the Called General Conference session, but who I have always been and will continue to be.
July 27, 2007: In the space below, write an autobiographical statement regarding your Christian experience, call to ministry, formative Christian experiences, and plans for service in the Church. Please keep this response to one page.
I have been a lifelong Virginia Methodist, baptized Methodist and confirmed United Methodist. However, my theology, my understanding of God, has never been stretched and challenged as it has been in the seven years that I have served on the conference staff. I am blessed to be in ministry with amazing people from all walks of life, ability levels, and backgrounds. In my local church – Shady Grove (Glen Allen) on the Richmond District, I am currently chair of the music and arts committee, chair of the worship task force, worship and song leader, and certified lay speaker. All the situations in which I have found myself and the current realities of The United Methodist Church here and around the world have had a tremendous impact on my understanding of the role of the church in my daily life and of my understanding of God, Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. My theology has become truly dynamic; ever changing and making me reach beyond myself.
When I reflect on my conference work and local church activities, my thinking always returns to the role of lay leadership in the church, no matter what level that is on: conference, jurisdiction, or local church. Much of that comes from my embedded theology. I have always understood the need for laity to assume leadership and give vision for the church. My earliest recollections of church are memories of my parents and family members taking an active role in Fieldale UMC (Danville District), from singing in the choir and providing worship leadership to serving as congregational care visitors and church council members. I became involved in church leadership as a teenager. I firmly believe that the example Christ modeled and that the early church offered to us is one of the church rising up from the people. As lay spiritual leaders, each one of us is called to discover our spiritual gifts, the passion that God placed in our hearts, and our personal style which will help us follow through on God’s directions for service. I truly believe that one of my gifts is building relationships in and through the church with persons with special needs due to disability, illness, aging, and other challenges.
My Christian journey has been one of continuing struggle to identify what God is calling me to do and my role in the church. It is a question I’ve been trying to answer for more than 25 years when I first felt a call to ordained ministry. I think I have finally realized that there is a unique lay leadership role I am called to fill. I have found that as I’ve talked about my “call” over the last few years, my tone has changed. I have become more determined to live out this call as a strong lay voice and encourage others to do the same. Professional certification in Older Adult Ministry will allow me to combine this call to lay ministry with my desire to work toward an inclusive church where all people, no matter what their ages or abilities, are seen as valued members of the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit continues to move in my life in new and miraculous ways each and every day. Whether God’s call is for me to continue my work with older adults and those with unique needs on the Conference level or at some point to serve older adults in the local church, my prayer is that God will bless me with the patience to continue waiting as I’m shaped and as these ministries are formed by the Spirit