today begins the susquehanna annual conference's annual conference. no, i am not stuttering. it's both our name and an event. (reminds me of a joke...how many methodists does it take to come up with an original name for something?). anyway, the time when we gather annually, to celebrate God's journey with us in the past, to commit ourselves most fully to what God has in store for us in the future, and to meet God now in the midst of holy conferencing, is now.
hundreds of methodists, clergy and lay, will gather on the campus of messiah college in grantham, pennsylvania, and i will be among them.
being an introvert, i will occasionally retreat to the silence of my room, just to retain my sanity and try and conjure up enough energy to go back and join the massive body. every year i find the experience maddeningly frustrating (group think on a whole new level) and deeply enriching. it's both-and, like most things in life, i suppose.
but in the end, i tend not to get too upset or crazy-eyed about it, one way or the other. we are meeting for conference. we'll do it again next year. in between time, i'll be busy journeying with my local church, which is where the substance of my ministry takes it shape. i love that our churches are all connected across the conference, and beyond, and i love that we desire to be faithful to God in a corporate sense, but those things aren't paramount for me. whatever the conference decides about the budget and our official position on everything from fracking to styrofoam, i will do my best to follow, but the crux of the matter is what happens at catawissa avenue umc in sunbury from sunday to sunday, from meeting to meeting, from altar to outreach, and back again, not what happens on the beautiful and removed campus at messiah once a year.
and so we meet to renew and refresh and reorient and to re-roll the wesley brothers over in their grave (at least that's how i imagine it). we will worship robustly. we will pray fervently. we will disagree respectfully (i hope). we will conduct business ineffectively. we will deal with the machine of bureaucracy. we will oil a few squeaky wheels, and replace a few others. we will ordain a new class of those seeking to be faithful to God's call on their lives. we will probably complain a good bit, and hopefully laugh even more. and we pray that we will meet the living Christ in the midst of it all. we have no good name for all of this, other than "annual conference," (which answers the joke i mentioned earlier), but it will name us, whether we like it or not, either as people performing business out of tradition and routine, or as people in whom God's business is getting done. i wonder which it will be? probably both-and, i guess.
and the river will keep flowing.