During the Friday evening  laity session, a praise band from Willerup UMC led praise songs, and Bishop Jung said, “I hope that we as leaders say clearly to the world: We believe in God and because of faith, we are making a difference.”

Conference Lay Leader Deanna Shimko introduced the Conference Board of Laity (CBOL) and recognized retiring Superintendent Gordon Lind, who currently acts as the Cabinet Liaison to the CBOL. “We appreciate his council and guidance, and his communication between the Cabinet and Board of Laity,” she said. “We’re going to miss you very much… thank you for your connection, engagement, advocacy, support, kindness, and gentle presence.”

Shimko also introduced guest speaker Dr. Lallene Rector, current president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. As the Seminary’s first lay president, Rector was able to share a wealth of inspiration and wisdom for laity who seek to be leaders in the Church. “I’m with you; I’m one of you,” Rector said. Having grown up active in The United Methodist Church, Rector said that she went to seminary to learn about Jesus and study psychology. When the opportunity to interview for the presidency arose, she said it was fortunate that she was forced to assert ownership of the call to serve which she’d always felt. “We have to claim authority inherent in being a leader,” she said. “I had to claim it and then live into it.”

Rector spoke to the gifts that lay people bring to The United Methodist Church, and explained why all laity are valuable as leaders and servants. “Much of the work [of the Church] is done by laity,” she said. “I believe that we’re all called to be leaders by virtue of our Baptism; I believe in the priesthood of all believers, and lay persons are leading all the time, whether we recognize it or not, because people are looking to us as Christians. We are leading, and we need to claim we’re leading. Leading is not about being visible at the top or in charge; by virtue of being baptized Christians, we’re all leading in terms of the life that we lead.

Later, Shimko introduced the remaining 12 lay delegate candidates and recognized their dedication. Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves and speak to their strengths as a potential delegate. “This is an enormous commitment of time and energy,” Shimko said. “For that willingness, we thank you. May the holy spirit be with you in this journey.”