UMC Annual Conference Reflections

by Adam M., Pastoral Student

Attending my first Annual Conference, I was coming in with few expectations. I was excited by a “new” format that included several Messaging Moments, and looking forward to some ideas about new ways to lead church services. Coincidentally, the first Conference session was conducted by Rev. Sarah Heath and her ministry team at Costa Mesa First United Methodist Church, the place I have been planning since December to do my Field Education. When she was introduced as the first speaker, I started wondering if I were inferior or inadequate to be serving with a team of people highlighted at Annual Conference. I thought, “What could I possibly contribute to a congregation this noteworthy?”

I wanted to hear what was going to be presented, so I pushed those thoughts aside and began to take notes. Rev. Sarah began to talk about story telling, a topic on which she has written a book.

She observed that the reason so many new starts fail is that they try to directly replicate the success of others. As she launched into some questions to help Christians determine where their inclinations lie, she said, “Who you are is interesting! So stop telling people what you aren’t. Stop focusing on who you are not.”

What makes you come alive? What makes you a good character in your story? Who is in your community, and what do you value about it? What do you know about your surrounding community? What is unique that you offer to the community? What frustrates you about the community? She concluded by asserting that “there is nothing more infectious than someone who knows who they are… who knows their story.”

And just as suddenly as I started thinking about my own inadequacy, I found myself contemplating the ways God might use my own quirks in new ministries.

Note: The official summary of the Conference can be found here.

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