Last September the North Georgia Annual Conference received a new Bishop, as did several other United Methodist conferences all around the country. Since our new Bishop’s appointment, she has given folks a chance to share their hearts and hear her heart’s message in meet and greet receptions for the laity in each district. Last weekend, she was in our district.
In our district she preached at two churches on Sunday morning, held the meet and greet laity reception on Sunday afternoon, and met with the clergy of our district on Monday afternoon. Attending the laity reception, she gave a message and then essentially opened the floor to anyone who wished to speak. As the host church provided microphones, folks asked questions and shared celebrations as well as challenges in our district and in the global church.
I stood up to make a comment about my heart for children in our community, especially for those who serve the children in our local churches. I shared about the gatherings in every district of our conference of those who serve children in ministry to resource and offer training to engage children in worship, in Sunday school, and in mission at what we called “Done In A Day.” Then I asked about her thoughts and dreams about engaging children in the faith. The Bishop shared about her grandmother and her desire to see more intergenerational faith experiences.
Others asked and spoke about the homeless, the lonely, and how to share Jesus in their workplace. One fellow stood and asked if there were any 20-somethings in the room. One man stood. He was sitting in the back row. He was sitting among several students. This young man had brought his confirmation class. Two of his students were also given the microphone to comment and ask a question of the Bishop.
I had been running invites in the bulletin for six weeks. We made announcements from the pulpit for a month. For the last three weeks, our pastor spoke to say, “DeDe will treat you to lunch or you can meet her here to carpool to gather to meet our Bishop.” No one took me up on it.
Yet, this guy brought his confirmation class. How often will a group of kids get to hear a message from a great communicator like a Bishop? How often do kids get to ask questions of a conference leader? What a great idea!
The guy left before I could speak with him or get his name. He left before I could tell him that his presence and his gesture to invite the young people in his spiritual charge had an impact not just on his kids, but on me. Next time. Next time my invites will be different. I sure hope there is a next time.
“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12