“How are you doing in your care for your colleagues who are hurting?” “Are you gentle with those who are struggling?” These and more were among the key questions asked of the Iowa Conference’s clergy during the spring 2019 gathering of the Order of Elders, Order of Deacons, and Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members.
From an opening message from Bishop Laurie Haller to several opportunities for small-group conversation to the closing Holy Communion, the filled sanctuary at First United Methodist Church, Ames, was the site of prayer, singing, introspective challenges, and shared reflections. The full-day experience was grounded in scripture and influenced by the actions and decisions of the 2019 special called General Conference.
Click here to see photos from the Orders & Fellowship event
Citing the witness of Paul, as recorded in Colossians 3, Bishop Laurie reminded those present that “Christ is all things and in all people” (Colossians 3.11, CEB). She urged the clergy of the conference to “Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other” (Colossians 3:12, CEB).
“What might happen in our world and in The United Methodist Church,” Bishop Laurie wondered, “if when we get up in the morning we spent more time putting on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience than obsessions with our world?” She also asked, “When was the last time that you were kind to someone who is suffering?”
Reflecting on the General Conference
Bishop Laurie reflected upon the experience of the General Conference and invited others into that journey. “How can we be with each other here in the Iowa Annual Conference when some clergy eventually may no longer be welcome to be who they are in ministry? Is it possible to offer and receive forgiveness from each other for the ways that we have mutually caused harm to one another?”
She advocated for a movement from “a heart of war” to a peaceful heart, the “peace of Christ [that] must control your hearts” (Colossians 3.15, CEB). It’s that commitment “into which you were called in one body” (15, CEB). And in that same spirit, “The word of Christ must
live in you richly” (16, CEB).
The Orders and Fellowship members were asked some key questions. They included:
- How well are you loving right now?
- How well do you clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience?
- How well are you seeing the face of Christ in your colleagues as you look around?
- How well are you modeling the grace of Jesus Christ to your clergy brothers and sisters who may be in a different theological place?
The gathering was also an opportunity for small-group discussion about the General Conference. A large part of the day together was devoted to the four conversations.
After twenty minutes devoted to thinking about “What does the General Conference 2019 and its outcome mean for you,” several summaries were offered. “How did you prepare for the General Conference and how did you try to influence it” was a second conversation focus. “Knowing what you know now, what do you wish you had done differently and how are you resolved to live differently because of General Conference and its outcome” were the considerations in the afternoon session.”
The day closed with worship including the sacrament of Holy Communion.