Remembering my church

As I type, I’m attending the virtual session of Annual Conference.

If you aren’t familiar with what that is, don’t worry. Think of it as a big church meeting of churches.

As much as I can do without more meetings, Annual Conference does have an important role in my faith. It is the meeting of my church. I’m not a member of a local church. My membership belongs to our annual conference, a larger geographical cluster of churches.

I imagine, if you have a United Methodist pastor, she probably appreciates meeting with her colleagues as well. But it’s more than a collegial visit. These pastors are people I have known for decades. They’ve prayed for me and with me. We’ve experienced God’s power and grace together.

To me, that’s all language we use when we talk about our church connections.

One thing that happens at Annual Conference is the fixing of appointments for pastors. Our bishop appointed me to serve my local church here in Corpus Christi for another year. This will be my seventh year here. That’s longer than I’ve been at any local church, but I’ve been a part of my conference church for almost two decades.

Every year at Annual Conference, we host a memorial service. It’s to thank God for the lives of pastors and the spouses of pastors who have passed away in the last year. Besides ordination, this is the moment I anticipate most.

I pay attention during this service. I pray more as we speak the names and show pictures of my church. I thank God for each of their service to the church and their witness to the world.

Many of the people I’ve known that have passed away have been older. As much as I am inspired by the number of years they may have served the church, I am always more grateful for the ways I’ve known them to continue serving. Many served after retirement. Some came out of retirement. Others served without any official title or responsibility.

Their ongoing witness encourages my work.

So many of my older colleagues have taught me to serve God with all I have and to enjoy life. You can do both. As I mourn the passing of these saints I have worked and shared a calling with, I can say with the psalmist, “Our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.”

It’s that pride that carries us throughout our years. Not our stature. Not our power. Not even our titles. Not even our number of years of service.

Only Christ.

God’s church has brought together people from all ages, nations and races. This church has nurtured my faith. It has challenged me and showed me the grace of God. I don’t know who or what I’d be today with my church.

You probably feel the same way about your church, I hope. If so, would you find a way to share that with them? Call someone who has influenced you to tell them you thank God for them. Write a letter or even a quick text to encourage them. I’d even say take it a step further. Use the words of Psalm 20 to bless them.

As a matter of fact, I want you to receive this blessing, too:

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.
May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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