Communications Director Rev. Arthur McClanahan sat down with Bishop Laurie Haller during her preparations for Annual Conference. The following is a transcript of their conversation together.
If you wish to join Bishop Laurie in her spiritual preparations before the conference begins, you may use the scriptures for the Retirement Service, Memorial Service, and Ordering Service. They are: Numbers 8:23-26; John 9:1-7; Psalm 23; Lamentations 3:19-24; John 6:32-40; and Isaiah 64:1-9.
Bishop Laurie, Annual Conference is coming up shortly. What are your thoughts first and foremost as you look ahead to Annual Conference 2018?
Bishop Laurie: Well Art, here I am right before Annual Conference sitting in my office with papers strewn all about me trying to organize my materials for Annual Conference. I suspect I'm just like everyone else who is trying to get ready and make sure that we have prepared well. We have so many people in the Conference Center who are working overtime to make sure that everyone has a good Annual Conference experience. I think we're going to have an awesome Annual Conference.
Click here to listen to the Conference Conversations Podcast with Bishop Laurie Haller.
We have wonderful speakers who are going to inspire us to become Difference Makers in our local congregations, in our families, in our communities, and around the world. We're also going to take some time to learn more about the importance of new faith communities in Iowa. Bill Poland will be sharing with us about the work that he's beginning, and the opportuity that we have all around us to look at our communities with new eyes and to make a renewed commitment to be Difference Makers wherever we are.
I'm looking foward to our guests who will be with us. I'm especially looking forward to having Bishop Bruce Ough come back and on Sunday afternoon Bishop Ough will not only preach, but we're going to have a dialogue session with several of our delegates to General Conference. Bishop Ough and I are going to talk about the Commission on The Way Forward and the future of the United Methodist Church. I'm really eager for that time. I know we're all praying at a time of great anxiety and we're wondering what God has in store for us. I know that at least I personally have great hope. I believe God is not done with us and we are not done with each other yet, and we can find ways to be in ministry and model to our world what it's like to have difference in opinion but to be still united in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
So let me ask you another quick question in the midst of this. This is your second Annual Conference in Iowa. How will this be different for you compared your first Annual Conference session as our episcopal leader last year?
Bishop Laurie: I had a wonderful experience last year. Everyone was so gracious to me as a rookie bishop coming in and doing my first Annual Conference. This year will be a little different becaue I have more experience. Now at the same time, there's a bit more anxiety in the system in the United Methodist Church in general because many folks are wondering, "What is our future?" and, "Are we going to stay together?" It's going to be important for me as our episcopal leader to model a non-anxious presence and to show grace and to have a heart of peace. My hope is that in the midst of the difficult issues that we will be dealing with that we can love one another and that we can remember that God has called us as United Methodists to be Difference Makers around the world and that the heart of it all is God's saving grace for us. So I'll probably be on edge, as all of our bishops are when we're going into Annual Conference, but there's also a peace knowing that I'm with a group of people whom I love deeply and whose only goal is to glorify Christ in all that we do and all that we say.
It's a couple of days before the session convenes. What are you doing to prepare yourself, and from that, what would you suggest that the members, lay and clergy, of the Annual Conference might do to prepare themselves spritually as well as physically for these number of hours that could be grueling for us in at least physical terms?
Bishop Laurie: Yes, it is a grueling experience to go to Annual Conference. It's very intense, so to prepare myself physically, Sunday I got up real early in the morning and ran 19 miles. That was a way for me to get out some of the tension that I was feeling and to be outside in the beauty of God's world. Taking care of my body is a good thing, and taking care of getting enough sleep is something that we all need to do. The other thing that I'm doing is making sure I am prepared spiritually. I use the United Methodist disciplines every day, but I also know what the scriptures are that we're going to be using for the sermons, and that our guests are going to be using. Those are ways in which I prepare myself spiritually. I'm also prepared for the intensity of the relationships and the goings and comings and all the different places I'm going to be. I continutually ask God to help me be rested and fill me with the enegry that I need.
I can't wait for Annual Conference to begin, and I hope that you too, if you are at Annual Conference, will have a good experience. If not, I hope that you will join in on our live-streaming so that you can experience this time as well. God bless you.