Get Ready, Get Set…

Things are starting to heat up as we approach the start of General Conference, 2016. The Advanced Daily Christian Advocate (ADCA) – all 1,475 pages of it – has arrived (and can be downloaded from the website, www.umc.org/gc2016). Delegates have started getting phone calls and emails and letters from United Methodists around the world, hoping to influence action on particular pieces of legislation. And already our own local host committee has spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours preparing to offer radical hospitality to the world when United Methodists arrive in Portland this May.
As I have been reading the ADCA, attending the pre-Conference Briefing, visiting General Church Agency websites and the websites of various lobby groups, reading blogs, listening to the heartfelt and passionate pleas of United Methodists around the world, I have discovered again an important spiritual practice. It is what I like to call “The Glass Half Full” prayer posture.
Certainly there are many important issues we will be deciding at General Conference. Many of them feel deadly serious for the future of our Church and the faithfulness of the Methodist movement. In the face of such momentous decisions, it is easy to hear only the clamor of fear which has seized many in our denomination. Will this be the year the UMC comes undone? Are we headed to schism? Will the Western Jurisdiction cease to exist? Will the Book of Discipline come to be used as a bludgeon instead of a guide? Is it true that our glass is half empty and the living water is fast flowing out?
I do not think so. I believe that we are facing significant challenges as we live into our identity as a global Church. We have not yet figured out how to honor regional expressions of our faith, or even how to “think and let think” as Wesley might suggest. We have not learned what it means to remain a movement while also celebrating – and using -  the resources of an institution. There is much to learn and there will be hours of debate, worship, prayer, celebration, and conferencing before this General Conference becomes a part of our common history.
I am reminded of a Haitian proverb which is usually translated as “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.” The Haitians sometimes use this saying to encourage one another with the idea that opportunities are inexhaustible. At other times, they may give in to the despair of noting that just when you clear one great obstacle you gain a better view of the next one. I guess it comes down to that spiritual practice once again. If we choose to see the mountains – the obstacles – alone, then the glass is surely emptying out even as we speak. If we choose instead to recognize the opportunities available in every landscape, we can choose a spiritual practice of hopefulness.
As I approach General Conference, I choose to see our glass as half full. I choose to believe in the power of God’s Spirit and the presence of God’s Living Water. I choose to practice hope. Will you join me?
O Holy One, in whose name we pray… and sometimes think and argue and pontificate and jostle and worry and moan…Help us to hope. Hoping, help us to love. Loving, help us to follow your lead as people of grace. Amen.

Donna Prichard
Donna Pritchard is a delegate to the 2016 General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference. She is the Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon. Previously Donna served as the District Superintendent of the Southern District and was a Clergy Delegate to the 2008 General Conference and 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference. Donna is also the chair of the Jurisdictional Leadership Team.