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
While listening to a podcast of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! this week, I heard of the true story of a phone confessional that gives you the following options:
- For advice on confessing, press one.
- To confess, press two.
- To listen to some confessions, press three.
As a United Methodist, I believe that confession, both individual and communal, is an important part of our Christian life. However, this just doesn’t make sense to me. I am particularly incredulous at the option to listen to someone else’s confession. Listening to confession without a relationship in community seems like religious voyeurism.
You can read more at: ‘Please leave your confession after the beep’: Fury of French bishops over 30p-a-minute phone line for sinning Catholics
Earlier this year, you were invited to join in a conversation which sought to raise questions for The United Methodist Church. This effort was called 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church (6qumc). 6qumc officially closed on September 30.
I am working on compiling the top 6 questions in each category into a book which will be available for print or download from lulu.com. I hope that these questions will be distributed as widely as possible throughout The United Methodist Church to help shape the conversation within our denomination.
Will you consider being a part of the spread of this conversation?
Check back here a week from Friday to access the final product
These are the final days for 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church. If you have not already, add your voice and vote at http://bit.ly/6qumc.
On vacation, while taking a break from technology, was a great time to tackle Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. While this title was originally published in 1985, it provides an excellent perspective on how changes in media have had an effect on how public conversation is carried out.
Postman is concerned not with the possibility of society being controlled by government, but instead of society being lulled away from meaningful conversation by entertainment. Postman suggests that what fashions itself as news is most often truly entertainment that has no impact on daily life. He traces the development of the telegraph, radio and television and their effects on the lives of individuals.
I was sobered and enlightened by Postman’s title. Postman suggests that new technology always comes with both benefits and detriments. There is never a neutral medium. Being aware of the effect that technology has on thinking and conversation is of great importance. I found this book to be particularly helpful for me as I continue to lead the project at Resurrection considering how the internet might be used to encourage people to grow in their faith. I recommend this book to anyone interested in how people carry on conversation or with the effect of media on our lives.
Another question that has been asked of 6 Questions for The United Methodist Church,
“Where is it leading?”
Ultimately, I pray that this project is leading where God wills.
The stated purposes of the project are:
- Raise important questions for next steps in the life of the denomination.
- Provide guidance for future face to face gatherings.
- Shape the discourse across the denomination.
In addition, I hope that 6qumc will raise conversations that lead to the fruit of God’s kingdom being produced in the lives of people across the denomination – both inside and outside the church.
After September 30, 2009 the top six questions in each topic will be compiled and made available, possibly through print publication, but certainly via the web.
I believe that next steps will become clear over the course of the project. In the meantime, I believe that the conversation may be more fruitful than the results. It is hard for me to say for certain.
What do you suggest?
To participate visit: http://bit.ly/6qumc
To read more, visit: http://www.umcyoungclergy.com/6qumc