One blessing was to see some old friends, but also meet some folks "real time" that I have known through cyberspace for years, including folks like Juan Huertas, John Lomperis, David F. Watson, and Bishop Gary Mueller. I also got to meet new friends: Bishop Mark Webb, fellow DS Bud Reeves from Arkansas, and many others. To break bread together, to converse, see facial expressions, and embrace with a handshake helped what many of us have lamented and prayed over for sometime - how relationships and intimate settings help diminish misunderstandings and foster trust. Both are things our denomination desperately need.
My frustration was a lack of discussion/time to the reality that our UMC family is hurting. The metaphor that came to mind while praying and worshiping was that we are a family in a hospital waiting room, trying to figure out what course of action to take with a loved one who is dying and needs intervention. Any of us who have been in those situations knows that the family doesn't always agree on a course of treatment, and sometimes those conversations turn passionate and heated. Of course all analogies can fall apart, but it is the image that continues to be in my mind - and of which I have no answer.
I have no doubt that a spiritual revival - in the true sense of the word, not the 3-5 day ritual so many of us grew up with - is a big part of the answer. Bishop Cho said one of the most powerful words of the Gathering: "Is our prayer monologue? Or dialogue?" As a denomination, we really seem to be fighting hard for what WE as individuals demand, and less about what God wants for us. That requires that we start listening to God more and talking less.
And for that, I continue to pray.