Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky pours water into a basin during the Memorial Service at Annual Conference. The Rev. Shalom Agtarap (right) presented the night’s message, “Rivers of Life”.
By Karen Yokota Love | Photos by Patrick Scriven with DJ del Rosario
The Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences gathered on Thursday, June 15, 2017 to honor and celebrate the sacred lives of clergy, clergy spouses, beloved laity, bishops, and bishops’ spouses that have passed on this year. Thursday night’s Memorial Service was filled with remembering those who gave their time, talent, service and heart to the ministry.
“Here By the Water” served as an anthem and backdrop for the naming of all of the church communities that closed over the last year. We celebrated with thanksgiving the life and work of each faith community and remembered the refuge, comfort, and challenges that they experienced for all God’s people — how they served for generations the faithful people of their communities.
When Jesus realized that the trusted structures and the traditional leaders could not longer serve God’s purpose, it was time for a change. So, where one church closes, another is birthed in a new faith community.
The Rev. Shalom Agtarap preached a moving sermon, “Rivers of Life.” She drew from John 7:37-39: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Agtarap notes that throughout the Greater Northwest Area, we have oceans and seas, streams and rivers that cut into and surround the land we inhabit. These rivers and streams have made impressions on this geography they have fostered life to grow in certain valleys, they have impacted where cities would be built, they have been disturbed and disrupted.
The Rev. Shalom used the Festival of Tabernacles, an annual reminder in the life of faith that God had delivered Israel from wandering, in hunger and thirst, to a future with hope.
Agtarap reminds us that God still loves us even if we fail him over and over again. She reminds us of Kairos time and when Jesus says, “my time has not yet come, but your time is always here.” Attendees were urged that Jesus is inviting us to pay attention to every moment. We should not to look away, but, instead, “to look at our own grief, our pain, our challenges — and say, how are you my teacher and what am I to learn?”
She asks, “What places do we need to be delivered from and ushered into the presence of living water? What brings heartbreak and sorrow today?”
“And, despite our waywardness, our warring madness, our inability to love dark skin the same way we love white skin — that God still wants to work with us. And God continues to love us,” she says.
Following the message was a sacred naming of the Honor Roll of our ancestors. It was bookended with a beautiful Prayer of Remembrance remembering the rising sun and its setting to remembering those who are weary and in need of strength.
A special offering was collected for the people in the South Congo to provide desks for 600 students in two schools in Lubumbashi. Each locally manufactured desk seats four students, at a cost of about $40 per student.
Rev. Shalom Agtarap concluded this year’s Memorial Service with a dismissal and blessing.
To view videos of services and other events from this year’s joint Annual Conference Session, click here.
Karen Yokota Love is currently the associate pastor of Puyallup UMC and is intended to serve Mason UMC beginning in July.
Patrick Scriven is the director of communications, Young People’s Ministries for the PNWUMC.
The Rev. Dj del Rosario serves as pastor of Bothell UMC.