Tim Winslea and Emily Kroen presenting before a shared Laity Session of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.
By Sally Jones, OR-ID Volunteer Writer
Jan Nelson, Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader and Nancy Tam Davis, PNW Conference Lay Leader kicked off the 2017 Joint Laity Session with an invitation to attendees to tweet comments about annual conference at the hashtag #gnwac17 ~ and sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ ~ setting the tone for the video greeting from Bishop Stanovsky. Our Bishop exhorted us to remember that laity are the engine of the good works for our churches and that God strengthens us all. All lay leaders were recognized with applause.
The following four areas for focus were outlined by associate Conference Lay Leaders Emily Kroen and David Reinholz:
- Abundant Health
- Doing church differently
- Neighborhood ministry
- Disaster response.
Storytellers highlighting each focus were invited forward to speak while members engaged in table talk between topics.
Stories were shared with attendees:
- of a church that dedicates Sundays to supporting and educating about mental health, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, suicide, eating disorders and more – news about this unique ministry has spread and people who live with these conditions come, “because having a community of friends is one of the most effective treatments there is…” This congregation believes the church must break the silence surrounding mental illnesses to bring life abundantly to all. The programs were sparked by a nurse in the congregation.
- of a church that provided 5,000 pounds of food last year to hungry people with produce from one large garden and 38 small gardens tended by church and community members
of a Philippine immigrant, Rudilyn ‘Lyn’ Rush, at Vancouver First UMC, who with the support of her church, brought about a ministry to other immigrants from her country of birth and other countries. She answered God’s call, though she was afraid… She said she prayed, “if it is your will, God, I am not preacher…. but I will do your will.” The need for understanding exclusion issues, promoting cultural awareness, varying backgrounds, finding common ground and mutual understanding is being met by her ministries. Rush said, “we are all ministers, we are all to serve, the church is its’ people, we are here to be present for all people in harmony… with or without religion everyone is welcome — we are Methodists, Baptists, Catholics.”
- of members in Hughes Memorial UMC, an inner city Portland church that reaches out to children in city parks, bringing supplies to lovingly help kids make rag dolls; that welcomes all groups including Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Hands Up Don’t Shoot, It takes a Village – all of whom help make sandwiches and prepare donated clothing for delivery every 3rd Saturday to shelters; that grows vegetables to share, and pumpkins for kids for Halloween. Azzi Jones & Francine Freeman said, when the food supply or the clothes closet goes empty, it fills back up – “The Lord is emptying us out and filling us back up…. when a person is in trouble… somebody has to give a person a chance… everybody needs a chance — God didn’t say you gotta stay inside this building and help somebody — no, Jesus went out on the road and found people — all our groups help! We have a barber, has a mobile barber truck now, he started with faith of a mustard seed — and now look at his ministry!”
- of the Okanagon community devastated by widespread wildfire which wiped out full time residences for many families – not able to be insured (too far away from a fire station) and not covered by FEMA (population not dense enough to qualify). Of a partnered response building 45 new 950 square foot homes for $92k each. They learned that lay people must help each other — in 2016 71 teams and 843 volunteers (about 1/3 were UMC) involved in the ‘Up for the ReBuild’ project. Laity partner with all systems — ask for money, ask for volunteers, ask for participation – still much to do! Builder David Hanson said, “its the most important thing I’ve ever done….. its probably the hardest thing … but it is the most important thing I’ve done … walking the journey with people who have lost all and see them recover their hope/faith as we rebuild their home…” Former District Lay Leader now PNW Wildfire Coordinator Rosalee Mohney said, ‘I heard about it and on my way home, I felt God kick me in the behind – I called the next morning and my life changed…”
The following questions were proposed for table talk and to take home:
- Does your church recognize medical professionals in your congregation as doing the work of Jesus
- What can you do that is new? What do you do? What can you do that is different?
- Ask the Big WHY? What do you do in your church and why do you do it? How can you live into the WHY?
- Everyone has needs, partners — unexpected partners — what/who are yours?
- What can YOU do? Write it down. Put it somewhere you will see it. Put down one best idea, and what you are going to do, your commitment and what training or support you need to do that.
Just at one table some of the stories shared were:
- zip lock bags full of supplies for homeless to keep in your drivers side door pocket, ready to handout to begging people at street corners
- job seeking training and part-time student job opportunities sought and shared with community junior high and high school students
- bringing in professional chef to train young persons in food handling, food prep and putting on banquets to support their work, inviting in the community
- hosting inter-cultural discussions and identifying needs in a multi-cultural neighborhood involving four churches in proximity
- asking what is on your heart at the end of church business meetings, extending time to pray and to share
Share your stories!