Day 1- Jesus Take the Wheel

May 11, 2016

[caption id="attachment_5768" align="alignright" width="300"]screen Opening worship at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS[/caption]

by Jennifer Davis

Whew!  What a day!!!

First full day of General Conference 2016 and, boy, was it beautiful, interesting, and event-full!

But, let me begin with the trip to Portland.  It was uneventful….thank God….but, a long one.  I slept all the way from Charlotte to Seattle and barely had time to sit down on the flight to Portland before we landed.  The hospitality of the volunteers here has been wonderful.  There are people waiting to greet you as soon as you reach the baggage claim area and then they escort (or at least direct) you to where you need to go.  I had my first experience with Uber and I am hooked!  After dinner with four other delegates and a trip to the grocery store, I had my second experience with Uber.  More hooked than ever!  Kim Ingram and I are roommates and, believe it or not, we were both so exhausted that we were in bed before dark.  The last time I did that was many years ago when I had a bad case of the flu.  After about 10 hours of sleep, we were ready to tackle the work at hand and struck out walking to the Convention Center on a beautiful Tuesday morning.

“Uh-oh”, I thought as we approached the Convention Center.  This ain’t gonna be your Momma’s tame church conference.  It is gonna be on and poppin!  Ready or not, here we go!

The first thing you notice are the blue shirted “Crowd Management Staff” positioned on both sides of tables at the entrance.  At this point, there is only one way into the Convention Center and it is through that blue line of pleasant but all business folks.  Your bags are searched and your body is scanned with a wand and, just in case you had any thoughts of resisting or trying to find another route inside, there are armed Portland police officers standing just inside the front doors.  This ain’t your Momma’s little ‘ole church conference.  It’s on and poppin’!

First order of business:  a meeting of the heads of delegations.  Great opportunity to meet new folks, greet old friends, and secure much needed information and monies to pay for our expenses while here.  Breakfast with a friend, a trip to Cokesbury, lunch if you found time, and then gathering for Worship in mid afternoon. 

Before we ever got to worship, the celebrations and the demonstrations have begun.  Peaceful, orderly, and in many ways, heartbreaking.  But, it is all part of becoming the church and the people God intends us to be.  At our seats are prayer beads, labyrinths, a new Bible, prayer calendar and other goodies.  There are six huge screens in the plenary hall and the bleachers are filled with people who want to experience the opening worship service and Holy Communion.  It’s a holy and comforting time.  And, if we Methodists don’t know how to do anything else, we sure know how to do worship. 

[caption id="attachment_5767" align="alignright" width="300"]Bishop Warner H. Brown helps lead opening worship at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS Bishop Warner H. Brown helps lead opening worship at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS[/caption]

It is breathtaking, joyful, and encouraging.    I am struck by the message of Bishop Warner Brown who says “Jesus, We Are Here for You”, imploring us to “be of one heart, if not of one opinion.”  He reminds us that we are at a “reunion of disciples” which can be quickly forgotten in the midst of passionate debate and discussion.  The service is multicultural in word and song.  We sang and spoke the Apostles’ Creed.  You almost wish that it won’t end because you know that business must follow and there are times when the business of the church can be tedious, draining, and a bit frustrating, to say the least.  But, that’s how we get it done.  Eight hundred plus delegates trying to get on the same page as God. 

So, here we are at the end of the first day not yet having adopted our rules and going far at least two hours beyond our planned daily deadline of 6:30 pm.  But, we will rest tonight and begin with worship again in the morning….every morning……until, I pray, we experience that “great gettin’  up mornin’ ” when we can’t help but all be on the same page. 

In the meantime, I am reminded of this:  “But, He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.  It’s quite simple:  Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,  and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.”  Micah 6:8 The Message.

Jesus, we are here for YOU.   Please take the wheel!

Jennifer Davis is a layperson from from Gastonia, NC and is the head of the WNCC Delegation