This past month, United Methodists of the California-Pacific Annual Conference gathered once again at the University of Redlands for worship, fellowship, and the business of the Annual Conference. While you will surely read more about some of these events from the many representatives from PB UMC, I want to highlight one small portion of the Annual Conference that I think can have great implication for discerning where God may be calling the people of PB UMC.
A good percentage of the matters addressed at this year’s Annual Conference had to do with petitions to be considered at General Conference, which will be held May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon.
Note: By way of explanation, Annual Conference is the annual gathering of representatives from every United Methodist Church in Southern California, Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan. General Conference is the quadrennial (every four years) gathering of representatives from every Annual Conference in the world, and is the only body that speaks for the entirety of The United Methodist Church.
These petitions had largely to do with making changes to our Book of Discipline. Some addressed where the UMC makes investments related to pensions and other funds, while others addressed DisAbility concerns, while still others addressed the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons. Petitions passed at Annual Conference are then forwarded to the General Conference for debate and vote by that legislative body.
Another aspect that the General Conference addressed is the need for volunteers to guide and assist representatives from around the globe in navigating both the city of Portland and the Oregon Convention Center. The desire is for extravagant hospitality. For those wishing to volunteer, visit http://www.gc2016pdx.org/.
All of this conversation has me thinking about the extravagant hospitality here at PB UMC. I often hear stories from guests here at PB about the friendliness of the people here, and many who have been members for some time have shared that the initial hospitality of PB UMC members is what brought them in and what keeps them here. I believe that our strong sense of welcome and hospitality is a major strength of this congregation.
And I don’t think this means we should be satisfied. I don’t think that our success in this area means we can shift our focus entirely away from ideas of welcoming. To be honest, I think we should put more focus on our strengths just as we have done recently with our inclusivity ministries.
Our Readiness 360+ team has been in conversation about our strong welcoming ministries, and has made a number of suggestions that will be going to our various committees for evaluation. These include the possibility of a Welcome Center – a place where guests can get information on the many programs available here and ask questions of a knowledgeable PB UMC member. Other suggestions are related to signage around the church and how we can be more welcoming by showing more clearly where to find our nursery, our sanctuary, and our restrooms. Still other suggestions are related to additional persons to guide guests in our parking lot or to welcome guests from the Ingraham entrance.
All of this is in the hopes of welcoming new persons into the life of PB UMC, not because we want increased statistical numbers or to make people in our community more like us, but because we too can be transformed for the better. As we grow as a community of faith, as we connect more fully with one another, we become more fully the Body of Christ and the Image of God.
In order to realize this vision, we must continually be asking how we can more fully join in the ministries of this prophetic congregation. We must be asking what more we can do to support the ministries of PB UMC rather than wondering what is being done for us. We must choose to move forward in vision and in faith into all that God calls us to do.
I believe that one way for us to do this is to continue to grow our welcoming and inclusivity ministries. Everything that we can do to show the extravagant hospitality of PB UMC is a small step toward transforming our community and ourselves. Please be on the lookout for opportunities to join more fully in these ministries in the weeks and months to come, and may we all continue to follow God’s inspiring call.