Spirit Alive: Connectionalism Happens Whenever We Learn from Each Other


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 27, 2016

Signs of Life:

And Are We Yet Alive

It was a great experience to gather recently for our shared annual conference session at the Red Lion at the River in Portland. Yes, it was a bit different from our usual fair, as we came together with others from across the Greater NW Area. But among other things, it gave us all an opportunity to see the many creative ways in which we are collectively involved in ministry throughout the region. There are some pretty exciting, innovative things taking place among us! I always learn so much when we are together at annual conference...and this year was no exception.

When we are together, I learn what people are up to in their various settings. I acquire new insights into what it means to be the church. I understand more fully what is involved in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. And in the process, I grow...as a human being and as a Christian.

Perhaps you feel a bit like I do: without the larger community of faith to help stretch my understanding of life and ministry, I'd be limited to seeing things only from my own point of view...which simply isn't big enough. And if that ended up being the case, I would be a much smaller,shallower person. But being in community with others helps me become a better, more whole person. This is one of the great aspects of being a part of a "connectional" church.

Here are a few examples of what I learned from our local churches in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference during our shared session with the Pacific NW Annual Conference this year.

One of our churches, St. Paul's UMC in Idaho Falls, received this year's One Matters Award from

Discipleship Resources. The intent of this award is to recognize churches that have moved from zeros in professions of faith and baptisms to positive numbers in recent years due to their renewed focus on intentional discipleship.

St. Paul’s UMC has grown in a number of important ways in the past four years. In terms of numbers, they added 22 professions of faith in 2016, which represents a 7.8% increase in its membership. In addition, they baptized 2 children and 5 adults. Take a look at this story to see why St. Paul’s represents a growing, vital church. Watch this video

But innovation and creativity are taking place in a number of other places that were shared at this year's annual conference as well. At The Rockwood Center, Rockwood UMC and Gresham UMC have embarked on a new, community-based experiment that is remarkable and refreshing. They are transforming the Rockwood church building into a community center and partnering in a dynamic new way. In the process, they are inviting the larger Rockwood community into this transformed space.

Take a look at what they are doing. Watch this video.

Finally, Bend UMC has been involved in a journey of renewal and revitalization for a number of years,

beginning with the Congregational Leadership Development training...moving through the consultation process with the Vital Church Project...and now manifesting itself in to something new by multiplying this energy into an innovative new church start that embodies a joint partnership between Bend UMC and the Lutheran Church. See what this new venture looks like.

Watch this video.

Friends, connectionalism isn't about a one-size-fits-all strategy. It is about seeing exciting new life among us, learning from it, and then applying the lessons learned in appropriate ways within our own context. I hope that these three illustrations get you thinking in new ways about what mission and ministry can look like in your own unique setting.

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