I had the privilege this week to attend the annual conference for our church. Four days of workshops, worship, holy conferencing, and fellowship, at a college about an hour and a half from our home. It was an awesome experience. First, it was like a huge family reunion, with people seeing fellow clergy and laity... some that they only see once a year... hugging them and chatting excitedly. Since I have been more involved in the church, and especially since I started my journey into ministry, I am recognizing more and more people.
I attended workshops on stewardship, praise music in worship, Bible study/laity information sessions, and an orientation for anyone who hadn't been to conference before. I worshiped with two lovely ladies from my church (and about a thousand others!!!), listened to resolutions, reports and debates about amendments to our church's constitution, and had a lovely (and wonderfully lengthy) conversation with a four year old American Asian little boy (we discovered that we both speak some Mandarin Chinese and sang songs together and talked a little in Chinese). It was a busy and filling four days.
I was very touched by the way that everyone was so focused on doing what needs to be done to bring people to GOD. As with any large group there were many different ideas, I know I certainly don't believe the same things as some of the people there. But the bottom line for all there was that GOD's love is what is important. That every single human being on the planet should have the opportunity to know and grow close to GOD...no matter what they look like, sound like or dress like. No matter where they are from or what mistakes or choices they have made. There was such a feeling of "We know His love, and we are excited to share that with the everyone we can, so that they will know it too." and of being Jesus' hands and feet in the world. It's one of the things I love about our denomination... the desire to do something with their faith. And the commitment to love the world like Jesus does.
But the part that touched me the most happened last night, and it only lasted maybe ten minutes.
I have been working on this process for about 10 months now, starting with meeting with my District Superintendent (who incidentally is the one who helped my pastor discern GOD's calling on her life!), then going before the PPRC, getting a mentor, doing the Ministry Inquiry Program, and having my church conference (and of course school, but that is a whole separate thing from the church process). So, really, I am official as far as being on the path to becoming a pastor. But last night at the end of the ordination ceremony the bishop invited anyone who was ready to answer a call from GOD on their life to go into ministry to come to the front and be prayed for and give their information. I was nervous (did I mention that there were about a thousand people there!!!) but I did it!!! Pastor came up and prayed with me, as did a pastor we had a few years ago, the DS and his wife came up and hugged me too. There were people hugging and praying and rejoicing, and I was shaking and crying and laughing and just feeling an amazing sense of peace and joy and love and completeness. It was such a powerful, emotional moment... I am so thankful that I decided to do it. I am so thankful that I will be a part of that community... what an amazing gift!! Somehow it felt right to 'announce' to that community that yes, I was ready and willing to make that commitment to serving our Lord and Savior with all that I am.
Amen and Amen!!!