You Don't See That Every Day: Surprises at Fall Charge Conferences


Sunset at Carus UMC - photo by Paula Sadler
 -- Paula Sadler, Cascadia District Lay Leader

This photograph was taken at sunset as I stood at the entry of Carus United Methodist Church.  We sometimes experience our churches at sunrise for Easter services, but how often are we blessed by being present for a glorious sunset?

I was at Carus that evening to attend the joint charge conferences for Carus, Canby, Molalla, and Marquam United Methodist Churches.  The opportunity to see a sunset wasn’t the only event out of the ordinary that I experienced during charge conference season.  Here are a few that stand out for me this year:
  • District Superintendent Tim Overton-Harris planned group charge conferences where he believed there are possibilities for synergy between churches.  The charge conference in Nehalem demonstrated that his belief was justified.  Bay City United Methodist Church shared their plans to provide an after school art program for middle school students using the $500 micro grant from the Cascadia District Church Extension Society (CDCES).  The folks from Nehalem Bay United Methodist Church recognized that they have the same need for after school activities in their community and that their community is served by the same school district that serves Bay City.  The two churches started a conversation about providing the ministry together and alternating the location between the north end of the school district in Nehalem Bay and the south end in Bay City.  You don’t see two or more churches collaborating in ministry every day!  (Okay, unless you are in Salem.)
  • The presentations of the proposals for using the CDCES micro grants provided an amazing window into the ministry opportunities in each community and creative ways of addressing those needs.  The community of Madras United Methodist Church includes a prison.  Several people from the church are involved in ministry at the prison.  This involvement provided insight into the needs of those that are incarcerated and their families.  One of the needs identified was the need for “appropriate clothing.”  When I heard that phrase during the presentation, I thought about what we used to call church clothes vs. school clothes vs. play clothes.  But I learned that people travel, sometimes for hours, to visit family members at the prison only to be turned away for wearing things like an underwire bra!  Madras UMC is planning to stock a locked shed with things like sweat suits and soft bras without underwires in a range of sizes.  The combination to the lock will be given to family members turned away for inappropriate clothing.  The family members can come to the shed, located at the church, and take what they need, free of charge.  The only request is that they document what they took so that the stock can be replenished.  You don’t get to hear about the unique ministry challenges facing our churches every day!
  • The last thing that you don’t get to see every day that I’d like to lift up is our local church leadership.  Without the servant leaders in our churches, the buildings wouldn’t be maintained, the bills wouldn’t get paid, and our pastors wouldn’t receive support and guidance from their congregations.  The charge conference is an opportunity to see these leaders and thank them for serving as trustees, as members of the finance committee, and as members of the staff/pastor parish relations committee.  Frequently, in addition to these committees, which have required reports, other church leaders are present and can be thanked as well.
I hope that you took the opportunity to attend your local charge conference this year to see things that you don’t see every day, hear things that you don’t hear every day, and say things like “thank you” that we don’t say often enough.