From the District Superintendent

Connecting with who

Posted 24 June, 2019 by Kathleen Overby Webster

On Maundy Thursday I attended an evening worship service. It was held in the church's Family Life Center and led by the team which leads the weekly "contemporary-style" service in that space. We sat together in small groups at tables throughout the room. The service included song, prayer, reflection, conversation, and Holy Communion which we served each other at each table.

As the service unfolded we had opportunity to meet our tablemates. Along with me, at our table were:

  • A man who is a member of a nearby Presbyterian Church which did not have a service that night. He said he asked a friend after golf if the friend's church was having a Maundy Thursday Service and was told about the one we were attending. Even though his golf buddy wasn't there, this man had come at his buddy's invitation.
  • A retired couple and their teenage grandson. Turns out the retirees from Indiana spend half the year splitting time between this Roanoke Valley community and central North Carolina to be near their 12 grandchildren. Though they often drive 20 miles to attend their grandchildren's church, that night they had brought their oldest grandchild with them to the church "across the street" from their condo. Turns out the wife has been a District Lay Leader in the Indiana Conference; we spoke the same language.
  • The church's youth director. A recent VT grad, she is not from this part of the state. Her grandparents taught me Sunday School at Fredericksburg UMC when I was three years old (as they taught all the 3 year olds for decades); her father and I were in youth group together.
So much "connection" was evident around our table that night: friendship connection, church connection, denominational connection, family connection, and generational connection. When we passed the bread and cup one to another we were connected: "...one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world..."Of course there was much we did not know about each other. Perhaps we did not enjoy the same kind of worship music, perhaps we would debate and defend different theological points, and perhaps our different experiences would expose barriers between us as we moved beyond the table.It is a difficult season in our United Methodist Church. Our connection, deep and real though sorely tested over years, seems to be shattering. I hope there is a way to move beyond the present impasse of bitterness and hurt. I hope there is a new way to remain connected in ministry to the brokenhearted and witness to the liberating grace of Jesus Christ. I experienced that hope among strangers gathered on Holy Thursday. Can we, will we, experience that connection as we see the face of Christ in each other when we gather (at church or in conference) and as we serve those whom Jesus fiercely loves?

In the hope and peace of Christ,Kathleen