Pastor’s Ponderings

Each year in June your pastors and elected lay delegates to Annual Conference head off to join with other United Methodists from around California and Nevada. This year we traveled to Modesto, where thankfully the weather decided to behave and it was not too hot for the four days we were there. Annual Conference is one of the most powerful examples of our connectional church we experience throughout the year. As a connectional church, we believe that our church of Asbury UMC is not it’s own church, but that we are connected together with all the other United Methodist Churches throughout the world in one global church. So we gather together with hundreds of other Methodists and remember that we are not alone. We meet new friends and spend time with old friends. One of the things that always strikes me is the diversity of our annual conference. This year the amazing choir that sang at the Ordination service was a Tongan and Fijian choir from St. Luke’s UMC in Richmond. At annual conference we are reminded that we are part of a bigger body of Christ, and we get to celebrate both our similarities and our differences.  I want to share with you some snapshot highlights of

 

-We elected clergy and lay delegates to General Conference 2020. When the final lay delegate’s election was announced it was with much applause and cheers. Your Asbury delegates were all overjoyed for it was Rebecca Bernstein who had won that spot. Rebecca Bernstein joins two other lay and three clergy on our team of delegates who will represent us at General Conference in 2020. This is a tremendous honor to be chosen as one of three delegates. Although this year was Rebecca’s first year at Annual Conference she quickly won the respect and support of many people with her wise words about her vision and passion for the church as well as her natural ability to turn strangers into friends. We are so proud of Rebecca, and it is a testimony to you Asbury, the church that raised her, that she is able to answer this call to serve our global church in this way.

-We heard reports of what other churches around the conference are doing. Since January alone the churches in Bay District (San Francisco and Oakland areas) have added 100 new members collectively who are now living out their discipleship at churches around that district.

-We heard about churches in Oakland who saw the need during the Oakland teacher’s strike for a safe space for children to be during the day. They opened their doors, provided a hot breakfast and lunch, and church members volunteered to be with the kids and teach classes throughout the day. Parents began staying with their kids to eat the free breakfast, and one parent told the pastor, “This is the first time my kids and I have ever sat down and eaten a meal at the same table.”

-In Clergy Session (a breakout session at Annual Conference for the clergy to do the work specific to them, like approving candidates for ordination, retirement, etc.) we approved four candidates for ordination. During the session each gave a powerful speech about their own call to ministry and how they are living out their call as pastors in the United Methodist Church. Two shared their journeys toward ordination as openly gay pastors, an especially powerful moment given

-We commissioned a new missionary from the Filipeans who will be serving as a missionary to South Africa. She will be teaching at a Seminary there that is the only United Methodist seminary service South Africa and 6 surrounding countries. Through her missionary service she will help educate new pastors to serve in those areas.

 

 

There were countless other moments and signs of God at work among us in the four days of Annual Conference. In the midst of discernment and uncertainty about our global connection as we prepare for General Conference 2020, this year’s annual conference served as a reminder that we are not alone as we walk through the storms. It served as a reminder that God has called us to be the body of Christ for the world. A final highlight was Friday afternoon, when Pastor Kathy and my appointments back to Asbury UMC for another year were fixed. It is with great joy that we embark on another year of ministry together with the people of Livermore!

-Pastor Chelsea

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