Our Annual Conference Sessions showed us we do have interest in something more than sexuality as we listened to stories of congregational missional engagements and new possibilities from the PLANT Network. We might identify two prominent themes from our three days together: Lament and Invitation.
Lament was spoken and felt as we acknowledged our inability to maintain membership ties to more congregations needing to leave affiliation with our conference. Included in this lament was a blessing as we offered them our love and continued care in a new, undefined relationship. Lament was also felt as we recognized the difficulty ahead as we navigate a way forward through our conflict and brokenness in the coming year.
Invitation was experienced in many ways. Pastors were invited to care for themselves and their congregations by learning about boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships; and deepening awareness and understanding about persons of whom boundaries were broken and wounds were given.
Congregations were invited through stories and experiences to consider mission and possibilities of renewed energy and life in their congregational contexts. We heard about new, creative ways of finding God’s presence and action already at work in the world and joining in.
Invitation was offered for considering and supporting new church plants in our conference through the PLANT Network. The energy and life portrayed by the church planters encouraged those present and invigorated our conference sessions.
And, we heard again the invitation by the Unity and Variance Discernment Group to uphold their work in prayer, to avail ourselves to the processes planned for the next year and to remember that God is our focus, guide and Lord as we worship together.
The excursions planned for Saturday morning gave those participating a delightful way to hear and see what is happening with God’s people in the Indianapolis area. Many of us came away with renewed spirits and new learnings to experiment with in our own communities.
All in all, the gathering of our conference congregations was a time to hear, in the midst of our cultural reality, the invitation God is offering and then to joyfully follow Jesus.
As ex-Moderator now, I am grateful for the many persons who are committed to Indiana and Michigan Conference and it’s mission. I pray that with God’s Holy Spirit, we can find a way into a shared future out of a precious and deeply shared history. May we continue to be empowered through the Holy Spirit, guided by the Biblical narrative of God’s great story, imitative of the One we follow-Jesus Christ- as we grow into Love and know God’s heart.