Spirit Alive: Connectionalism that Changes Lives and Transforms the World


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.

June 5, 2018

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

Gathering in the Woods to Celebrate Life and Build Community

"Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.'"

Proverbs 24: 3-4

"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."

Romans 15: 7

"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Hebrews 13: 1

I witnessed the power of connectionalism this weekend at the Sawtooth Camp Celebration that paid tribute to Dave Hargreaves' 46 years of service as Camp Director there, celebrated 70 years of Sawtooth being a United Methodist camp, and dedicated a new Welcome Center as a place of hospitality for future campers.

You see, when over 200 people come together in the mountains at the end of a long, gravel road on a beautiful, sunny day to share stories, offer their sense of gratitude to God, and enjoy each others' company, something special is taking place. This all happened last Saturday in the mountains at Sawtooth Camp.

When people willingly and joyfully drive for hours...find the courage within themselves to take cold showers in the crisp mountain air...gather around campfires under God's glorious night sky...and share stories from their hearts with complete strangers, connectionalism happens,

 ...when grown men and women are overcome with emotion as they simply try to say "thank you," connectionalism happens,

...when people enjoy each other's company so much that they want to linger rather than go home, connectionalism happens,

...when multiple generations are having fun together...when elders are teaching new things to their grandchildren, when adults are re-connecting after a long absence, and when the young are joyfully serving the old, connectionalism happens,

And when this happens, I believe that it is a living example of how discipleship takes place and the world is transformed.

It doesn't require some new program nor a declaration to be voted on, because those things have already happened and now the Spirit of God has been released and is alive for all to see....And this spirit is now in the air we breathe...and lives that have been transformed by the spirit, now have the power to transform others in the same way.

These are times that are beyond words, because when these things happen, we are standing on holy ground.

At Sawtooth Camp this weekend, we were in the midst of the forest and mountains, the rocks and streams that reminded us of God's creative powers. But we were also on holy ground because we were there together to honor someone's dedicated service that has transformed thousands of lives...a camp that is an expression of "beloved community"...and a building that was being dedicated as a reflection of the hopes and dreams, the contributions and designs, the labor and time, the sweat and vision of a wide ranging community of people, who had come together to make something significant and tangible and lasting possible.

If you want to see what this kind of commitment and dedication looks like, take a look at this video that shows all the time and talent that went into the building of the new Sawtooth Camp Welcome Center... click here.

Things like this simply don't happen unless we are connected with each other in profound and lasting ways.

At the dedication service for the new Welcome Center, I was reminded that whenever connectionalism is released among us that the past, present, and future come together....and we see that bonds of trust and dedication are coming to fruition, as we witness something powerful and good, and realize that we are celebrating the release of God's spirit into the future, so that others can benefit from what has been accomplished.

Can the dedication of a Welcome Center building make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Here's what we said together about this on Saturday at Sawtooth Camp:

  • Let us remember the countless hours of labor...85% of which was offered by volunteers...that began first as drawings on paper, that included the clearing of the ground, the pouring of cement, and the construction of a foundation, then framing, walls, and roof.
  • We give thanks for all those who dreamed dreams, raised funds, and volunteered their time so that we might enjoy the labors of their love.
  • Let us remember the gestation period of four summers that were needed so that this building would become a living reality.
  • We give thanks for those responsible for this building, some of whom we know by name and others who will remain anonymous to us, but we are thankful for each of them for doing their part in this building's construction. We are thankful for their generosity, their work, and their dedication that has helped make this day of celebration possible.
  • And let us remember that this building is not just of celebration of work that has been done, but it also represents a place of welcome for those who will enter it in the future.
  • We pray that the ministries carried out in this Welcome Center will always be pleasing in God's sight. Amen.

When we dream dreams, when we come together, when we gives thanks to others, when we share the stories of our hearts with each other, when we dedicate ourselves in service to God's higher purposes, when we decide to make a difference in the world...God's spirit wells up within us and we actually become disciples...and transform the world together.

Dave Hargreaves said it best during his talk at the conclusion of the words of tribute that others offered to him. He said that for him it is about the chain link. Dave said that it is often said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but this is not true. A chain is only as strong as the links that we forge together. In other words, it is about all of us working together to make the chain as strong as it can be through our collective efforts. For me, Sawtooth Camp...and the Welcome Center that we dedicated there on Saturday is a shining example of what Dave said.

I hope and pray that in a world too often filled with troubling news and difficult stories that we will continue to find within ourselves the courage, strength, and commitment to do great things as a community of faith....and show the world the power of connectionalism.

On June 13 to 16th, we'll come together once again, as an annual conference, in Boise, Idaho to hear stories, celebrate ministry, dedicate ourselves to address new challenges, opportunities, and tasks, and look to the future. We will discuss new projects, innovations, and experiments and look for ways to expand our sense of welcome and inclusion, so that our beloved community can continue to grow.

When we gather, I pray that what I witnessed at Sawtooth Camp will be alive among us in Boise as well.

See you soon!

Let us walk in the light of God's love,


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.



Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org