Only 168 hours ago, many of us traveled to Grand Traverse Resort for the first in person Annual Conference since 2019. In some ways the space was very familiar. The first time I made my way to Grand Traverse it was for a Lions convention in the late 1990s. Because online directions weren’t readily available then, I remember someone telling me to look for the giant milk carton. That was my destination.
And that’s what I did last week. I headed north until I saw that carton shaped building in the distance and was looking forward to being with friends and sisters and brothers in Christ once again. As usual, there was joy. Even with everyone wearing masks, it was wonderful to greet people I have journeyed with in ministry since I moved to Michigan.
Many of us took the time to share pictures of our children or grandchildren, catching up on how much they’ve grown in just these few years. One of the best parts of Conference is the fellowship which happens during mealtime. A chance to reflect on where we’ve been, and where we are headed. For many of us, this is the first time since March of 2020 that we have been able to see one another, sing with one another and pray for one another.
There was also sadness. During the Memorial Service, as the names of those who have gone home to be with our Lord were lifted up, I learned that a few people that have helped to shape my life and ministry were among those we celebrated. As we honored those who are retiring in just a few days, we learned that together they have given us over 1, 000 years of service. Retirees shared with us how meaningful and transformational it has been to answer God’s call upon their lives.
On Friday evening, seventeen women and men were ordained as Deacons and Elders. We also named those who have completed the Course of Study, an Associate Member and three persons whose ordination from other Annual Conferences were recognized.
The guest preacher, Rev. Don Bell from Minnesota, offered us a new way of looking at 1st Samuel 30 as we reflected on a time of mourning and a time of dancing. We spoke of our pain and the hard work we have done and are doing in the name of our Lord and Savior. We lifted our voices in song and prayer as we worshiped together. We endorsed a candidate for Bishop. And we were able to vote on some, but not all of the resolutions which came out of the Legislative Sessions.
We still have more work to do, more questions to answer and more issues to discuss. May we continue to love and support one another in the days ahead. God is making all things new. And Amen.