Something extraordinary happened in the closing hours of the 2015 annual conference session. I almost missed it. I’m glad I didn’t…because it gave me hope!
When we all arrived at the Iowa Events Center we came as individuals. Or as groups. We came with pre-formed opinions. We came solicited, or soliciting, votes for action items, resolutions, and persons who will represent us at the regional and worldwide conferences next year. We clearly came “not of one mind.”
We had our votes – one as close as a margin of three. We voted for our delegation – which turned out to be amazingly balanced despite circulated lists. We celebrated our milestones – surpassing $2 million in support of Imagine No Malaria. We experienced our sacred moments – in the service of ordering of ministry. We remembered cherished service – in the retirement service and in the gathering worship when the honor role of memorialees was read. We launched a new, exciting initiative – committing to gather one million books and invest one million hours to raise childhood literacy in Iowa. We received a report about how we might shape our staffing to help achieve our ministry goals and priorities. We approved and endorsed legislation affecting our Conference and the wider church.
And something happened that I almost missed, something that gave me hope!
A Venn diagram of interlocking circles and a baptismal font marked the entrance into our meeting hall. Its essential layer of stones remained essentially undisturbed after it was placed before us at the outset of our gathering. Two sets of words offered us insight into its creation and intent. And still it remained until a brave invitation became a catalyst for transformation, creation, and promise.
One among us bared her feeling in a written confessional moment, raising the possibility that we, together, could be more than who we are, individually…that we could be with each other and for each other instead of at each other and against each other.
We don’t all agree about everything – no group of two or more people ever does. We don’t even “hold these truths to be self-evident,” because one interpretation is different from another interpretation. The conundrum – if my fervently position is correct, how can your different, equally fervently held position be right, too?
And so, we walk on by each other, muttering, launching verbal spitballs, incredulous, acrimonious. We walk by the rocks that lay in one layer, sneaking a glance, wondering if we could grab one and launch it at the other, as if the impact would bring some sense with its impact. Or we look at the rocks as a visual sound symbol of the invitation to “shake you head so I can hear the rocks rattle!”
Something happened that I almost missed, something that gives me hope!
People from the vast margins of our Conference came together, from different places in the room, different places in our state, different theological places, different places about being open and affirming or traditionally orthodox. Instead of casting the first, or second, or twenty-third rock, no stone was rejected by the builders of the ebenezers, described by our teaching pastor, Adam Hamilton, as the stone of help marking that the affirmation that God has helped me so far.
The layer of rocks was no more. Mounds of rocks gave testament that even as disparate as our positions may be, our vetted voting lists may be, our realistic expectations for the next denominational worldwide United Methodist meeting may be, there is yet something greater – a community of the Creator that has “many rooms.” If people from across the spectrum of who we are can join in marking how God has helped us, then there is hope that an even greater revelation is waiting to be.
Something happened that I almost missed. I didn’t. And I am glad!
Read the June 8 entry on Rev. Lee Schott’s blogpost entitled, “Failing.” It started a conversation with Rev. Katie Dawson, from which invitations to join in building the ebenezers began.