Monday, June 30, 2014

The Connectional Church

Last month I had the privilege of attending the Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. For those of you who aren't United Methodist, Annual Conferences are gatherings that happen around late spring of every year all around the U.S. and the rest of the world. Each local church sends their pastor and a lay (non-minister) delegate. Annual Conference is a way to connect with churches and other ministries, to make decisions for the larger church, and to see the work that God is doing in your state or region.

I remember attending Annual Conference as a young girl, usually accompanying my mother as the United Methodist Women's president. Then one year, when I was about 17, I was asked to go as my church's lay delegate. I listened to the speakers, attended the worship services, and voted in the sessions. It was during that conference that I began to understand the connectionalism of our church.

The United Methodist Church is a global and connected church in many ways. Being a large denomination worldwide, we have a huge sphere of influence among very diverse populations and communities across the globe. UMCOR is often one of the first disaster-relief organizations on site after a hurricane or earthquake. United Methodist Women, the largest faith-based denominational organization, advocates to stop human trafficking, educates women on social issues, provides services to domestic workers, and much more.

The way the United Methodist Church is organized enables it to more effectively utilize its resources. Each local church is connected with other churches in the region, called a district. Many districts come together to make up a conference. Conferences are then combined to become jurisdictions. At each of these levels, mission work takes place and congregations collaborate to reach out to those in need.

At this year's Annual Conference, I had the opportunity to speak briefly about the Young Adult Missionary Program and my experience serving in both Ecuador and Alabama. The Mission Resources Team shared about many ways to connect in mission in the Indiana Conference. It was inspiring to see the impact organizations are having in my home state addressing injustices. I also was able to support the local church in Ecuador where I worked by selling handicrafts at the conference. As always, being at the conference enabled me to meet many wonderful people and see how the people of the United Methodist Church are changing the world by opening their doors, hearts and minds to all who want to learn about Christ and his love for us. I am blessed to be a part of this church.