On Thursday, February 20th, Clergy and Laypersons from the Alaska United Methodist Conference gathered for their “Winter Rendezvous” meetings. It is a regular, yearly event to meet with one another and do the work of the conference. This year, however, there was the added responsibility of working towards Saturday’s vote to petition the respective bodies to transition from a missionary conference to a missionary district within the Pacific Northwest Conference.
Before Conference attendees got to that vote, there was much time spent dreaming and visioning the future of ministry in the Conference.
Led by the worship team of Lisa Talbott, Erin Day, Karen Dammann, Murray Crookes, and David Hall, members of the Conference followed the story of Ruth from the Bible as they shared about the movement from “Famine to Fullness.” They shared their history and celebrated it. They confessed those things which they need to let go in order to move forward. They shared about their communities and who it is that God is calling them to embrace right outside their local church doors.
Throughout the time together, there was a symbolic pruning of a tree with a gradual blossoming into new ministries. This spiritual exercise enabled the participants to envision the fruits of their labors in ministry as the people of the Alaska Conference.
One of the highlights of that time was imagining how Alaskan United Methodists might best organize themselves for ministry whether or not they are part of another conference. There was a freedom to think outside of all the boxes we have put ourselves in over the years. What ministries are important to hold onto? What staff or teams or committees would be needed to support such ministries?
There was a lot of energy in the room as attendees pictured ministry highly focused on the work of local churches, where churches felt supported and encouraged by the larger connection.
After two days of this creative work Saturday’s Special Called Session of the Alaska Conference did then pass two petitions to General Conference and the Western Jurisdictional Conference which has been announced to the larger church.
The importance of this time together was not lost on participants. Carolyn Gordon, Lay Leader from First United Methodist Church in Anchorage was impressed by how smoothly the session went and appreciated how the time together closed with “spiritual worship and fellowship as good shepherds of our Lord and Savior, Jesus would have us do.”