During General Conference 2016, we are going to feature delegate stories from our NC Conference delegates, so you can learn more about them and the committees they will be serving.
Here are the questions we asked:
- Tell us about how you came to know Jesus.
- Tell us about your committee.
- What do you feel is important for the NC Conference to know about your committee/role at GC?
- How does this affect the people in the pews?
Today, we have Laura Ledford and Steve Taylor sharing their stories.
When I was accepted to a college in the same town where my grandparents lived, they said, “Oh good! Now you can go to church with us every week (and hit the Piccadilly afterward)!” I did not want to abdicate my position as favorite grandchild, so I showed up for worship on Sunday and rolled up to the Piccadilly for my fried chicken plate afterward. And, God did what God always does… used my less than holy intentions for good. I don’t know any other way to describe it, but in that church, through its worship, people, pastors and embodiment of the gospel, Jesus just grabbed hold of me and hasn’t let go since.
My role is to serve as a clergy alternate, meaning that I traveled to Portland with our delegation and fill in when one of our eight clergy delegates needs to step away from the plenary floor.
My natural tendency is to “go and do” and serving as an alternate has brought me to a place of “sit and wait” in beautiful ways. As I watch the proceedings from the bleachers surrounding the plenary floor, I pray and pray and pray, in a manner that I often do not, to tell the truth. I may not affect the outcomes by pushing a button, but I can join with all the saints, asking for God’s Holy Spirit to be at work in surprising and mighty ways.
I’m going to ask forgiveness in not following the requested structure and ask for understanding under the circumstances.
I am a delegate for General Conference 2016 and am assigned to the Church and Society A legislative session. The session addresses our collective UM stances and faith perspective on such issues as environmental justice, peace-making, economic justice, and other facets of social health and wholeness. I was deeply humbled to be invited into this role by wondrous sisters and brothers of the NC Conference. And through God’s deep blessing and in a rather unique life journey, I felt God had been preparing me for this holy endeavor.
An additional blessing was that I was to be consecrated as a Home Missioner into the community of Deaconesses and Home Missioners who, through the work of God’s Spirit and in the Body of Christ, give their lives to a lifetime work of love, service and justice. I had gathered my work materials, studied the legislation, pondered the issues in light of our Wesleyan quadrilateral, asked the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts, words, and heart, and had spent time in the space of sacred silence, where God might minimize my ego, that I might better reflect the image of Christ.
And then, on the second day of GC 2016, my phone rang. My sweet and loving mother-in-law was suddenly critically ill. “Come now” was the message.
Come. Now. In the midst of too-often contentious debate. In the realm of theological struggle and Robert’s Rules. In the center of wonderful music and profound preaching. In the swirl of too much othering and not enough listening… Come. Now.
In that space, the beautiful folks of the North Carolina delegation prayed for my family and they prayed for me. In that space, brothers and sisters, some who may disagree with me about polity and even about how to best interpret God’s Word, wrapped their hearts around us and surrounded us in prayer. In that space, soon-to-be Deaconesses and Home Missioners who had flown to Portland from the far ends of the country, offered collective prayers, enveloping us with their spirit in the One Spirit who connects us all.
As we sit at the bed of this woman of faith during the last stage of her mortal life, as my wife, her daughter, holds her hand and offers words of love, we are over-washed by the presence of God in the Body of Christ. Sacred and gentle and real. And in this space, I see clearly. Carried in love, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, above all, through all and in all.
For me, this is GC 2016. Pray that it may be so for all.