Reflections on General Conference: ‘Community’

Linda Linfors   -  

It was a moment I will never forget. After almost five long years, twenty members of the Western North Carolina Delegation arrived inside the Charlotte Convention Center to find seats at the 2020 General conference taking place in 2024. This huge room would hold over 1,000 people over the next two weeks-all focused on the work of the legislative body of our church.

As delegates, we were just looking for our assigned seats! Our group was milling about the area left of center stage about five rows from the front. Which one was my seat? Counting from the aisle I zeroed in on a few seats in the second row of our delegation’s assigned area. Imagine twenty people all talking at once and joshing about in a close area in the classroom style seating area with this same goal. We were like kids in a new classroom. In a matter of a few minutes folks were settling into place pulled by recognition that our names appeared on something placed in our chairs.

Our chairs and small tables were stacked with items that now occupied our attention. On top was the DCA, the Daily Christian Advocate, a newsletter written (daily) to present the agenda and the process the many petitions were going through to reach the body of delegates. Below were two larger reference volumes which had only been available online before that day. There were then three new books enclosed in a gray Cokesbury tote bag. There were notes, prayer cards and gifts. One of the gifts was a large, beautiful handbag with our names inscribed and packed within were gifts from each of the ten district offices of our Conference. Each of us settled down and one could only hear the gasps of surprised joy and pleasure as we scooped up the treasures and sat down to burrow into the gifts and cards.

The notes of support for our task and the prayers of encouragement kept coming every day we were in session. There were personally written cards from lay and clergy alike, from individuals and groups. That day and ever since I have been stunned and humbled by this outpouring of care and encouragement. To cap off the overwhelming support we felt, on the last day at least fifty pastors from across western North Carolina gathered outside the meeting area to greet us with songs, ‘welcome home’ signs, applause, thanks and hugs. There was not a dry eye in the house.

I was reminded of this outpouring of prayerful support and community when our graduates gathered last Sunday. Pastor Ken appropriately commented on the ‘community’ represented by all those present and by this showing of support and care. The speeches which the graduates gave echoed the care they felt not just in these events, but as children and youth growing up in this congregation through Sunday School, Youth Group, trips, Scouts, children’s time in worship, sports, etc. Caring and thoughtful adult leaders carried these young members to this day.

This care within a loving community reflects the continuous care and concern for others which is modeled by Jesus in his time on earth. May we all be looking for ways to show care and concern to others, creating a community called God’s Kin-dom.