When I say charge, you say conference . . . charge – conference, charge – conference
What? No? You’re not cheering along with me? Yet it’s Charge Conference season! That’s right it’s fall now and that means football, a chill in the air, pumpkin spice everything, leaves changing colors and Charge Conference for United Methodists! It’s in this season that the District Superintendent meets with the church leadership to review the mission and ministry of the church, to approve new leadership and the pastoral compensation for the year to come. We check in with lay servants and hear from new candidates who are moving into ministry. It’s an exciting time.
Yet, the charge conference meeting has gotten a bad rap. It seems like very few want to come be part of the meeting. Pastors are issuing invitations and a few laypersons will attend. And I think I understand some of the reasons why. It is a time commitment; used to be also a travel commitment, often on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. When we were meeting in large clusters (for the past few years), often the numbers seemed large. You may not have felt as “needed” when the whole group gathered for worship. We filled up a large sanctuary as a group and then broke into rooms around the church for the business. Ordained elders serving as pastors from around the district often gave their time to travel and help conduct these business sessions as duly called and properly affirmed by the lay leadership of each church.
It might help to know that we have changed the format over the years to help streamline the process.
Some recent changes are:
Paperwork is now all digital for NCC so no making copies!
Worship is designed to be brief yet powerful
We take care of the business succinctly as forms are provided early to the DS
And this year we are again meeting virtually with 1-3 churches per meeting.
One part of charge conferences which has always remained true: this is a holy time of worshipful work set aside to connect, celebrate, lament and laugh, and to commit.
We connect the DS with the congregation and the pastor. We see and are seen, share in some conversation, have time to ask questions or set up meetings for later discussion. We make a human connection and a spiritual connection whose primary identity is the One Body of Christ.
We celebrate the ways each congregation has grown over the past year, spiritually – in personal growth and as a worshipping community through small groups; physically – in invitation and hospitality, membership; and in sharing Christ beyond the walls through mission and outreach offerings. We celebrate the large and small ways changes have brought us joy, offered us new perspective
In the September CC’s, we have laughed and we have cried. We have shared in the ways God has brought joy in the midst of pain, how people have reached out and served God and neighbor, for prayers that came at just the right time. We have lamented the damaging effects of pandemics and recognized how God is here, journeying with us and presenting opportunities for ministry. We have grieved those who have passed in this year and prayed for God’s peace to offer a balm of healing and hope to church families missing their loved ones.
We have also entered into Charge Conferences this year with commitment on our minds and hearts. Leaders are committing their time and gifts for 2022. Congregations are committing their tithes and gifts for ministry, pastoral compensation and caring for the community. As we remember our baptism in worship this year, we are committing ourselves to living out the calling of our baptism, recommitting ourselves to Christ, recommitting ourselves to the One Body, and recommitting ourselves to our God who is always reaching towards us.
I am grateful for all who have given their time, used all their zoom and virtual meeting powers, to join us thus far. If your Charge Conference is coming up, please say “yes” to your pastor’s invitation. The Administrative/Church Council members are the voting body and yet all are welcome. We may not love the zoom format, yet it offers us a way to see one another and share in this moment of reflection and celebration, to affirm all the gifts and graces which have brought us thus far in the journey, and to look ahead together to a hopeful and bright future together.
I look forward to seeing all of you online for Charge Conference and soon in your worship services in person!
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