Thursday, July 2, 2009

Conference as Confirming Grace

Good morning God,
this will be a strange day and one which, if I am honest, I am not looking forward to, so here I am at Wesley's preaching hour, trying to make sense of it all, theologically of course.
As soon as we have finished our conversation, I need to go and pack for Conference. As always I approach Conference wanting to contribute positively to the life of our Church through the means of grace you have provided: in worship, in the celebration of the Sacrament, in prayer and fellowship and through our Christian conferring I will be trying to attend to your voice, to seek your will for us as a people called to love and praise. But never before have I attended with such a sense of personal dread.
I have been attending Conference in one capacity or another for almost 15 years and it has usually managed to humble and inspire me, as well as (if I am honest) frustrate and challenge me. Lately however it has seemed to me to be more like a party political Conference than a means of grace, something which has troubled me deeply. A friend who's wise counsel I value, has pointed out that for those just starting their covenant life with the Church, this is 'normal' and what it means to be 'Methodist'. He's right of course, and it helps to know it. I can rejoice for them even whilst grieving for my own loss of identity and belonging. What I dread is having this feeling that I no longer belong to this party - being confirmed. At the moment it sort of feels like a small malignancy eating away at my love of you and my vocation, growing bigger each year while I try to ignore it.

My prayer to you this morning God is that Conference will do exactly the opposite, that instead of confirming my worst fears, it will, by your grace, once again confirm me in my calling and assure me that what I have been feeling is nothing more than a bad infection of 'in my day we did things differently' (apparently we become more prone to catching this when we get older!) In which case a good dose of Spirit filled enthusiasts on fire for the Gospel with a burning desire to change the world for the sake of your Kingdom will soon put me right.
So God, today and throughout the Conference, please, grant me a heart to share in this work of building up your people and equipping them for the future; bless me with the courage to speak graciously but also boldly in response to your urging, and continue to prompt me to think theologically so that YOU stay at the heart of all I say and do.

'Jesus, confirm my heart's desire,
To work, and speak, and think for thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up thy gift in me.

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