Day 9- The Joys of Being a Global Church

May 19, 2016

By Jeff Patterson Sometimes it is hard being a global church.  Getting together is easy, but staying together can be very difficult. People from different continents think differently and sometimes cultures and ideas clash. One area of great difference of opinion is in the area of human sexuality. Even homogenous people have a difficult time finding common ground in the debates that surround a discussion of human sexuality, but bringing different cultures together can be even more difficult. In recent days at our international General Conference, we have been struggling with this topic even to the point of talk concern division or schism.  This has been very painful. Sometimes it is hard being a global church. But, there are also great joys that come with being a global church.  I experienced some of this joy this past Sunday.  On Sunday, May 15, we celebrated Pentecost with a worship service sponsored by the African delegates at General Conference.  It was powerful to be in a place that wasn’t just decorated for Pentecost but a place where Pentecost happened. [caption id="attachment_6016" align="aligncenter" width="640"]The Africa University touring choir sings during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS The Africa University touring choir sings during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS[/caption] From the choir processional until the choir recessional (two and one-half hours!), the room was filled with the joy of the Lord.  Even though I don’t speak French or Swahili and sometimes even the English was difficult for me to follow, the joy of the Lord was my constant companion during the service. God’s presence transcended language barriers. We sang, prayed, sang, prayed, sang, prayed, participated in the sermon, and then sang some more.  Tears came to my eyes as we sang “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.”   The words of the Apostles’ Creed never reverberated in my heart with as much conviction as when we professed our faith together using this creed in all the languages of Africa. Then it certainly felt like a bit of heaven as we shared in Holy Communion and shared the peace of Christ. [caption id="attachment_6017" align="aligncenter" width="640"]The Rev. Jerry Kulah from the Liberia Conference delivers the sermon message during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS The Rev. Jerry Kulah from the Liberia Conference delivers the sermon message during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS[/caption] God is doing a great work in Africa.  The book of Acts is continuing today on that continent.  At the beginning of the service, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Conference, said “We are the renaissance of African Christian. . . We yearn for the days of Augustine.” The Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah, Liberia Conference, preached a passionate sermon on Jeremiah 6 that encouraged the congregation to walk in holiness on the ancient paths of our ancestors. We know well the challenges that come from being a global church, but we need to also remember that sometimes being part of a global church brings great joy.  On Sunday I was greatly blessed by my United Methodist sisters and brothers from the other side of the globe.  We belong together.  This is the way that it is supposed to be.  Jesus prayed that the church would be one. We need each other. Sometimes it is hard being a global church.  But, the work to stay together is worth the work. Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson is the superintendent of the Yadkin Valley District and a clergy delegate

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