I am continuing to learn what it means to be a Methodist. I have become at home with the Methodist. It is the group that I have chosen to fellowship in community with – it is where my spiritual journey has taken me.
I’ve seen a lot of dispute at business meetings in church basements. Questions, concerns, legitimate or not… on and on they went for hours. Pontificating members with grandiose ideas in conflict with pompous members who had better ideas marred the meetings. Negative members would lament and decry where the church was – positive members would quote scripture in some fanciful versions of “positive thinking.” All meant well – all had agendas. Alas, they were usually not agendas born of the Holy Spirit.
I’d like to know the origin of the name “Charge Conference.” I do know we heard a good charge from the District Superintendent. The DS, a female with an easy style that made you want to have coffee with her and discuss theology and life, gave a charge on the Great Commission. At times she sounded like a schoolteacher asking us what the action verbs were – or helping us remember what the Great Commission might be. Her words were inspiring; her energy contagious.
The tedium of reports is always necessary at a business meeting. They were minimal. Unlike other meetings where they lament the inability to give their pastor adequate compensation, they offered their faithful servant a raise. Unlike many business meetings of my past, worship was sweet as we sang and prayed. The prayers were not just to bless the time together and the decisions, but both formal prayers of thanksgiving and informal prayers of remembrance were offered.
It was those informal thanksgiving prayers of remembrance that touched my soul. I didn’t know the people whose names were no longer on the membership roll of the church. Their residence was now in the presence of God. The church collectively and individually remembered them. They spoke of their contributions, their attendance, their lives, and their love – love of God and love of God’s people. I felt for a moment that I knew them. I had not known them in this life; yet, their life still was touching mine. It was sweet. Faces softened; loved ones of those passed felt comfort to their still grieving souls.
At the end, we sang a song. Methodists sing a lot of songs I don’t know. This one I knew…
Here I am Lord.
Is it I? I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord if you lead me.
I will hold your people in your heart.
How odd to be singing that at a business meeting? Even odder was that just earlier that day I had told my husband that I was a fool to think God had called me to ministry. It was yet another pipe dream of my own making. His eyes lowered; I think he felt my sadness. I have never doubted the call on my life until recently. I have clung tenaciously to that call. I clung against all odds and massive disappointment. When I finally uttered my feelings out loud, there was no response but a sad silence.
I did a very un-Methodist thing as we stood singing that song. I closed my eyes. I refrained from raising my hand – just too un-Methodist. But I made it a prayer. I offered another prayer of commitment to what seems illogical, improbable, and hopeless.