Yesterday afternoon, we had an all-church conversation at Berryton United Methodist Church to process the 2019 special session of the General Conference. I put it on the calendar about a month ago. While it was, of course, impossible to predict how things would go, I did figure that we would need some time and space to process whatever it was that was passed. This was true.
The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing for the first part of the morning with about 3 inches accumulated before the first worship service ended. It was the second lowest in-person worship attendance in the last two years. In spite of the conditions, we had a great turnout on Sunday afternoon to talk about General Conference.
I shared these documents with those that were gathered:
The first document was a statement that I shared in worship and the second was shared at the meeting in the afternoon. Both were adapted from resources provided by the Great Plains Annual Conference.
I am glad that people gathered and were willing to share their pain, questions, confusion, and hope. It felt inadequate. There needs to be and will continue to be more conversations in local congregations just like ours across the United States and around the world. People are moved to take action.
Today is my 32nd day as the preacher assigned to Berryton United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, sharing, and welcome. I am so grateful for the warm welcome that we have received from the congregation and community. One of the ways that I have been learning about the congregation is something that I am calling 100 Conversations in 100 Days.
I hope to share a one-on-one conversation with 100 people so that I can hear their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the church and community. My hope is to get this accomplished in my first 100 days, which gives me until October 8. As of today, I have four down and ninety-six to go. If you live in the Berryton area, would you be willing to share a conversation with me about the church? Visit www.calendly.com/AndrewConard and click on “100 Conversations” to set up a time to meet.
I have been updating and adapting questions from Eleven Questions for Getting to Know a New Congregation. Here is the original list:
- Tell me about a time when you felt especially proud of some members or leaders of your congregation, when you felt they were really following Christ. What makes this incident stand out in your mind?
- Whom do you especially respect as leaders? Why do you hold them in high regard?
- Tell me why you’re glad you are a member of this congregation. Why did you join this congregation instead of another one?
- How has being part of this congregation helped you and members of your family grow in faith? Please give me some examples of experiences or classes that made a difference. How did you change?
- Tell me a story about when congregation members resolved a conflict or difference effectively. What do you think the congregation learned from this experience? How effectively do leaders and members handle differences now?
- What have you especially valued about your pastors and other congregational staff? (Be specific.) Do any sermons, initiatives, or attributes of your previous pastors come to mind?
- Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with members or leaders. What happened?
- Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”
- What do you think God wants your congregation to emphasize in the next three to five years?
- What else do I need to know in order to thrive in this congregation and community?
- Do you have any other concerns or suggestions?
What strategies or techniques have you used to learn about the congregation and community in a new appointment?
In response to one of the questions from the #dreamUMC conversation on Twitter, I shared this update.
My Twitter friend and fellow UMCer Matt Lipan (@mattlipan and check out his blog here.) responded.
There was a good deal of interest from this conversation. Matt and I followed up with an email conversation to put together a framework.
What is the plan?
- We will host a Twitter chat each Monday night at 8:30pm cst/9:30pm est starting on June 4th.
- We will use the hashtag #jwchat for our Twitter conversations.
- We will read and discuss Wesley’s first 8 sermons over an 8 week period, reading & discussing one sermon a week. You can find these sermons online here and here.
- Here is our reading schedule:
- Salvation by Faith (6/4)
- The Almost Christian (6/11)
- Awake, Thou That Sleepest (6/18)
- Scriptural Christianity (6/25)
- Justification by Faith (7/2)
- The Righteousness of Faith (7/9)
- The Way to the Kingdom (7/16)
- The First Fruits of the Spirit (7/23)
How do I participate?
- Read the sermon for the week in advance.
- We will use these 3 questions to guide our discussions each Monday:
- If you were to preach this sermon in 140 characters, what would it be?
- How did you hear God speaking to you through this sermon?
- What did you discover that is most relevant to your community?
Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, or plan to join us.
I enjoy both social media and beautiful graphics. I’ve got a poster on the way for my wall.
The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas.
Yesterday I focused a lot of my energy around the covenant between the Kansas West and Zimbabwe East Annual Conferences. It was my responsibility to pull together the team that shared stories of the trip and presented the legislation. While not speaking, I probably got more anxious than was strictly necessary trying to corral the effort. It went great. Wonderful stories and testimonies shared, excellent video production, good discussion from the floor and in the end a unanimous approval. Following the presentation was the Taste of Zimbabwe dinner. I cooked up some of the vegetables over lunch break during conference and served sadza and rice during the meal. Bishop Nhiwatiwa spoke just the right amount and was encouraging, insightful and funny. I have found his words meaningful every time that he has addressed a group of which I have been a part.
A few other highlights from yesterday:
- Starting off the day with a presentation of Godspell
- Responding to Wesley’s historic questions in front of the annual conference along with the others to be ordained tonight.
- Hearing the stories of the retirees in their own words at the retirement service last night. Especially, my Aunt Karen Osterman Fieser as she retired from over 25 years as a chaplain at Wesley Medical Center.
- Meaningful conversations with various colleagues throughout the day.
It is good to be here.
A few weeks ago, we were invited in staff chapel to reflect on the cross with a small group of fellow staff. I enjoy being in conversation with those with whom I work about theology. I don’t always take the time that I need in reflection with my colleagues, so I was particularly blessed by their responses.
- The cross as the first verse of a song about hope.
- The cross as a catalyst.
- The cross as a mystery. Understanding it less doesn’t lessen my commitment