The 2017 Annual Conference of the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church began at 10 a.m. with the All Saints Celebration and Memorial Service. Candles covered the altar and set an atmosphere of holiness and reverence.
The All Saints Celebration recognized the generous examples of giving and service offered by the 26 clergy and 23 clergy spouses who joined the great cloud of heavenly witnesses since the last Annual Conference. Each year, we pause to remember their selfless dedication and service.
During this solemn time, Bishop Ward said, “We give thanks for those who feast in God’s greater nearness now in heaven, naming them one by one. How much we love and miss and mourn the departure of these saints among us.”
Bishop Ward focused her message, The Strength of Our Hearts, around Psalm 73 – “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
She drew on examples from authors Jan Richardson and Thornton Wilder and theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer and George Fielden MacLeod, to talk about dealing with grief and sorrow and how even when we stumble or fail, God is the strength of our hearts.
As people came forward to take communion, they were given a heart ornament made by Haitian Mission Partner and brought back by the Hayes Barton UMC mission workteam. “May this tangible symbol remind you, as you see it, of the great heart of God, where we find our greatest hope.”