Sunday, May 18, 2014

Aldersgate Covenant - Wonderful Worship and Prayer Time

I am back from two days at the Aldersgate Covenant Gathering. AWAKE - REPENT - ASK - WATCH. It was a wonderful time to pray, worship, and to be reminded of the core of our being as both Christians and Methodists. The worship, the reminders of our spiritual underpinnings, and the birth of why Methodism began were deep, rich, and filling.

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.

I was part of a small group discussion entitled, "How Do We Focus on Doctrine and Mission That Unites vs. Not Divide Us." It was a good discussion, but occasionally frustrating. We realize the tension that is frustrating but necessary between doctrine and mission. Too much emphasis on doctrine makes us dogmatic, mission without doctrine renders us social workers without teaching a relationship about the risen Christ. I deeply appreciated how wonderfully we heard each other, even in disagreement. The atmosphere of both the gathering and the wonderful facilities (and hospitality!) of Church of the Resurrection UMC contributed wonderfully.

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.



Betsy said...

I am grateful to hear about the Aldersgate Covenant Gathering. Your comment of doctrine vs mission grabbed my attention. I have spent more than a few decades as a dedicated United Methodist, including 20+ years as an adult decently active in a local UMC. Two years ago, I came to a point I had to distance myself from all things church and I went on a quest for "something". Turns out the "something" was learning how much I did not know about basic orthodox Christianity. The Heidelberg catechism and a book about it, "Body & Soul", illuminated God and Christianity in a way I had never learned at church. Reading them became one long question of "Why did nobody ever have this conversation with me?". The most amazing thing I was able to grasp was that God's plan of salvation did include me warts, bag and baggage. To use a recently acquired Wesleyanism, I was finally "amazed unto the dust" at the love of God in Christ Jesus for me. That has to be the starting point. Wesley started with such a message and then responded to the people's questions, "What does this mean for my life." He never programmed anything beyond grounding people in God's love and then giving them a framework as to how it impacted their lives. The works part of Methodism has gotten skewed. It is not always about groups going out and doing "big things"--although that can be a means of grace--but it is also how a person thinks, speaks and acts towards the people they encounter as they go through each day of their life. What is missing in Christianity in North America today is individuals who are competent, confident and conversant in their faith and strive to live it every day of their lives in every aspect of their lives.

larry said...

Betsy, thank you so much for your post. One expectation I have about denominational leaders is that they are teaching us about the way to go about the mission of the UMC, as described in Paragraph 122 of the UMC Book of Discipline. I look for this in everything they say or write. I could see it in what you wrote.