We are within one month of this year’s Annual Conference gathering in Middleton, Wisconsin. Time has passed so quickly from last year to this. We are very busy finalizing plans and the packed agenda, distributing all of the materials that contain the business of the Annual Conference session, and confirming all of the many arrangements. Each year, I am deeply grateful to our Committee on Program and Arrangements and our Conference staff for the monumental task they undertake. Annual Conference is a big deal!
Yet, I want to issue a word of caution, challenge, and invitation. While we have much work to do, and many administrative tasks to complete, I want to remind everyone that we are a people of God, doing holy and sacred work to the honor and glory of God. Even in administration, the root word is ministere – humble service. We gather in humility to share our gifts to do God’s work and will. Our focus is much larger than a mere theme – by the movement and power of God’s Holy Spirit, we are made “One with Christ.”
Truly, ours is worshipful work. How might we best prepare ourselves for Annual Conference? What can each and every one of us do to show that we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our brothers and sisters as ourselves? In what ways do we live the truth that we are “one with Christ?” These things come to my mind.
First, pray. Pray for our Church. Pray for our Conference. Pray for our congregations. Pastors, pray for the laity; laity, pray for the pastors. Pray for the leadership of the Conference. Pray for guidance. Pray for wisdom. Pray for kindness, gentleness, compassion and self-control. Pray for forgiveness and for the capacity to forgive. Pray that God’s grace fills us, directs us, and enfolds us.
Second, remember your baptism. Baptism in our Church – similar to our Holy Communion – is open and inclusive. We are united, made one, and made whole in baptism. It shapes and defines who we are. It proclaims to the world whose we are. It connects us with brothers and sisters world-wide. It transcends our differences, and gives us a solid grounding in Christ in common. We are one in Christ – this is who we are; and it is what binds us together in covenant community.
Third, do no harm. The Sanskrit concept of Ahimsa calls us to “active harm-less-ness.” When we hear the word "harmless," we may think of weak, insignificant, or lowly. But in many ancient cultures, refraining from doing harm was perceived as one of the greatest signs of power. Each of us contains an equal measure of power to do good, and power to do evil. It is the choice of each person to either build up or tear down; to create or destroy. I prayerfully encourage each forgiven and reconciled Christian to choose wisely and well.
We must never forget, when we gather together, who we are, and why we do what we do. We are servants of a loving God. I admire the vision of Teresa of Avila who sees Christ as the love of our life, and we, the Church, are the bride of Christ. Our union is a sacred union; our conduct is a witness to the world. May we all be able to point to our Annual Conference time together as a witness to our love of the Creator, our oneness with Christ, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).