This afternoon, as General Conference opened with worship, I was moved by the many first languages echoing through our space… One audible witness to the immense diversity of context, theology, and experience in the room.
As we approached communion, and partook of the bread and the juice, I returned to my seat and prayed. And prayed. And prayed.
In fact, I was kind of afraid to open my eyes.
There was a silent witness by a group of folks encouraging full communion. And as I sat there, praying, knowing the impact of their witness was rippling through the room, two words kept returning.
Let us be faithful.
Let us be kind.
Those words echoed as a prayer for our gathering and as a plea to God and one another. Lord, may we be faithful. Lord, may we be kind.
I’m going to be totally honest.
Sometimes when I pray following communion, I’m simply going through the motions. I do a little prayer and I’m done. As a pastor, I rarely have the time to really pray and focus my attention on God, because it is time to clear the elements or refill the cups, or make sure the next group is served.
And I started this time of prayer intended to say a little prayer and be done.
But those words caught me.
The tension in the room and in those sitting around me caught me.
I closed my eyes tighter, clutching my prayer beads, and just kept repeating those two words.
God knows, we each are bringing to this gathering the deep yearnings of our hearts. And, when we are honest, those yearnings can be a mixture of our faithfulness and our selfishness.
In part, the word faithful reminds me that every person I broke bread with is trying to be faithful. We earnestly love God and seek to do God’s will. I prayed that I might remember each person in that space was trying to be faithful.
And, we all need the reminder to be faithful. As Bishop Warner Brown Jr. proclaimed in the message: Jesus, we are here for you! If I had to summarize his message (and the GCORR and Christian Conferencing presentations) in two sentences: Keep Christ at the center…. And don’t say something you couldn’t say in front of Jesus.
Which leads me to that kind word.
We are called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Kindness in this instance is sometimes referred to as mercy.
Undeserved and unexpected acts of compassion and love, service and hospitality.
As I kept repeating that prayer for kindness, I prayed that in our breaking of the bread, we might remember the outpouring of love at the last supper that included even the one who was about to betray. I prayed that we might remember the mercy and forgiveness of the Cross.
And deep down, I was also praying that there was a safe space for all people to be fully present. I was praying that hurtful words would not be spoken. I was praying that I would let go of my own uncharitable feelings. I was praying for us to create opportunities to really hear one another.
I’ve posted a lot on those few minutes.
I’m also serving on the Committee on Reference (no clue how that happened) and will have 7 am meetings all throughout conference. Yay! (Insert sarcastic face here)
We skipped a break in favor of getting our work done, and then had to take a dinner break because we hadn’t decided anything and had to get something done.
We also nitpicked the procedural process for approving our rules for a very long time. We talked for 95% of the time about the process and not the content. And ended up passing all but one without any changes.
(Not that I didn’t try)
Tonight, I returned to my Portland “home” and broke bread again… Some cheese and bread and a glass of wine with friends, as we laughed (a lot), decompressed, all so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.