In a recent note to the families involved in the youth ministries at the church I serve, I wrote this about Church Conference:
Church Conference is the United Methodist term for what other denominations might call its Annual Business Meeting, or what a corporation might call its Annual Shareholders meeting, or what a leading tech company might call its Keynote Event.
That is, Church Conference is where we do business such as electing church officers, consider the successes and challenges of the past year, and cast the vision for who we want to be in the new year.
Prognosticator that I am, all three of those things happened Wednesday night. Plenty of good ideas were shared, but two moments far outshine all the rest:
The District Superintendent’s dinner with the youth and our newly adopted Hospitality Statement.
I don’t know how often this happens at other churches, but I know that in the last 20 years at WUMC, the District Superintendent has never shared a meal with our youth. That changed Wednesday night. The interaction between the youth and Rev. Dick Wisdom, Superintendent of the Aurora District, was so fun to watch and participate in. Our young people prepared ten questions for Rev. Wisdom, and he responded to all of them with grace, humility, and, well, wisdom.
But what really made the night was a little later when Rev. Wisdom declared that the questions from our youth were the highlight of his year. I couldn’t be prouder of our amazing teens! What were those questions that so moved our DS? Glad you asked…
- Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
- Were you in youth group in High School? What was it like? Did it influence your vocation? Did you go on mission trips?
- What does a District Superintendent do?
- What did you do before becoming DS? Before you were a pastor?
- What made you want to be DS?
- Why did you assign Pastor Danita to WUMC (not complaining)? How did you come to decide this was a good fit?
- Is swearing considered a sin?
- One of my best friends is Muslim. What can I do, as a Christian/Methodist, to make sure that she doesn’t feel scared or bullied? What if I am too scared to stand up for her?
- What do you think of UMC’s “democratic” nature? Is democracy the best way to run a church of Christ? In democracy, majority rules, but is the majority always right? What do we do when the majority is wrong?
- Is the UMC too influenced by the political process in our country? Does it interfere with us responding to God’s will?
The other highlight was the historic moment when our congregation unanimously adopted the Hospitality Statement. Our Administrative Council worked on the statement for months, approving it at our November meeting and thus bringing it to Church Conference for a vote. While almost everyone who visits WUMC says they received a warm welcome, and we’ve long tried to be welcoming of people no matter what, this statement marks the first time our congregation has officially declared that all people are welcome.
It is written in three parts:
We are an open and loving United Methodist Community who are:
Welcoming to all;
Uniting in service toward greater social justice for all;
Moving forward with understanding and acceptance of all peoples;
Creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We invite others to join as we live our Christian faith together.
Our purpose is to offer a safe place and community to all races, cultures, religions, genders, sexual identities, ethnicities, age groups and other beliefs.
We expect everybody:
- To accept imperfection in one another;
- To respect that we are all on unique and valuable spiritual journeys;
- To recognize that we are all worthy of God’s love;
- To acknowledge there is no room for hate.
See, I wasn’t kidding when I said in my November 27th sermon that you would want to be in attendance for this.
Jesus’s words, actions, and love show us that there is no “other,” there is only us. Now the same can be officially said about Woodridge United Methodist Church.
All that is left now is for us to live up to our words.