One of the things I absolutely love about being a United Methodist is our connectional system. Often when I meet a new person who happens to be United Methodist, we get to talking and end up having many different points of connection with different people. The comment is usually made, “What a small world!” and my response is, not if you are United Methodist!
We often talk about our connection in the context of missions. We are a part of a worldwide denomination that is organized to make an impact on the world. We pay our apportionments – our financial portion to the conference and general church to help support mission and ministry around the world. Our connection is what allows us to provide early responders to most natural (and sometimes not-so-natural) disasters that happen down the street and around the globe. Whether it is helping the town of West rebuild after a devastating explosion, responding and rebuilding after tornadoes and floods in our area and beyond or continuing efforts in countries like Haiti, our a connection with other United Methodist Churches allows us to do so much more than we could do alone.
But as I was sitting in worship at First United Methodist Mansfield last Sunday evening, at the start of the Annual Conference of the Central Texas Conference, our connection struck me in a new way. The service was a memorial service for all who have died this past year in any of the 320 United Methodist churches in our conference. All of the names were not only printed in the worship guide, but also in memorial books by district. As the bell tolled and the book was placed on the altar, a worshiping community of hundreds of people offered prayers of thanksgiving for these lives, as well as for families continuing to live in grief. I realized that unless you are one of the clergy or laity who attends Annual Conference, you may have no idea that this even happens.
As I read the list of names from FUMC Hurst, a smile came to my face through my own tears as I remembered faces and lives that have impacted us as a faith community, who are now a part of the communion of saints and the great cloud of witnesses that surround us in our own faith journeys:
Jack Watson, Jr
I am thankful that I belong to a church and a denomination that values a connection to God and to others in life, in death and life beyond death. Thanks be to God!