Annual Conference opened with worship and communion. The congregation raised their voices with four verses of the Charles Wesley hymn, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing. After a time of prayer, a Mass Choir of laity and clergy set the tone for our worship with the inspiring anthem — The Majesty and Glory of Your Name (Linda Lee Johnson/Tom Fettke.) Rev. Dr. Donna Thompson presented a cross to the Annual Conference made of debris from Hurricane Florence.
In her sermon, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward also referenced our Annual Conference’s year of struggle following the hurricane. Bishop Ward shared that she did not go looking for the scripture for the morning. Instead, Psalm 8 came looking for her.
Bishop Ward proceeded to unpack the text for the congregation. When we read this text and reflect on creation, we tend to draw our attention to the “fall” of humanity rather than the “possibility” of humanity. Yet when God speaks while creating the world, God said creation is good. Why is it then, that we remember criticism and not compliments?
God’s intent is for humanity to live to high aspirations. When we think of the human family as people created beautifully, our preaching and teaching take on a different tone. We do not communicate what we are for, as Christians. We are for goodness, love, welcome, hospitality, and to be more like God. As Methodists, we should aspire to have people ask, “What is it about those Methodists? They are welcoming, loving, compassionate, and worshipful. How can I be more like that?”
As Bishop Ward and Conference Lay Leader Gary Locklear gathered at the communion table, Bishop Ward reminded us to give thanks for the diversity in our community. She used comments taken from the profiles for those who have volunteered to be General Conference Delegates to remind us of all the gifts given to us by God.
Rev. Ben Roberts, closed communion with prayer followed by all singing two verses of O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. The Rev. Dr. Ken Locklear, Gateway District Superintendent, presented the benediction.