so, conference took more time than I had to spare! No time to write!
I started writing about "conference memories" and now this year's is already a memory as well!
Thursday was enjoyable--seeing friends...lunching with the other "extension apointment folks.....singing "And Are We Yet Alive?" (to a very strange contemporary tune)....participating in the executive session...I have to admit to skipping the evening Commissioning Service---had to rush home to clean for the friends that were staying with us during conference.
(As an aside---it was the first Annual Conference during which I have stayed in my own home because we now live so close to the location! Last year, we were in a hotel and previous to that we stayed with friends who live close by. Since those friends moved last year, we now returned the favor for them and they stayed with us! )
Back to conference....Friday was a wonderful day for me as well....some background to explain why--I transferred into this conference --The RevHub is from here-- he has DEEP roots here as his father served in this conference and both his parents were sent as missionaries from this conference. Many folks know him, but I have no roots here. I have a few folk that I knew in seminary 20 years ago, but most I've just met in the last five years.
But, Friday, RevHub was with a church member having surgery, so I was truly "on my own"---and I felt more like I was a part of the conference than ever before!
Business was usual--discussion over funding priorities dominated the debate.
What I've realized though, is that so much of what is important to me about Conference is the informal "conferencing" that happens...the places where we gain support and encouragement from others -- where we discuss the practical theology of living a faithful life....
The other aspect of conference that is deeply moving is worship times...our conference has moved to a model of "worshipful work" which means that worship is often blended into business and there are moments of worship and prayer and song throughout....
BUT--the part of conference that I enjoyed the most this year was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women! The conference had a special video presentation of several clergywomen talking about their call and ministry. The bible study sessions were centered around the theme of the work of clergywomen. In the closing communion service, clergywomen of the conference served the eucharist. But, most meaningful was the women in ministry lunch.
At this lunch, we heard from two speakers. The first was the daughter of a clergyman who had attended the 1956 General Conference--not as a delegate, but as an observer. Her father was also a friend of one of the first women to receive full clergy rights in the conference. She shared some memories of Rev. Estelle Pinegar.
But, the second speaker brought tears to my eyes. She is the longest serving, still active clergywoman in the conference. She finished seminary in 1976, but there was not an appointment for her until her home church received her as an Associate Pastor--not a common occurence in the UMC. But, what was so overwhelming was the JOY that she felt at facing a room full of women--many of whom were also ordained.
What all of this brought home to me was how RECENT it has been that women have been accepted as full members of the clergy. OK, well...perhaps I'm not saying this correctly, because I was thinking that it wasn't that long ago since I started seminary, but it just dawned on me that 20 years is a LONG time!! So maybe what I mean to say is that when I started seminary, it had only been 30 years that women had been receiving full rights and I actually had never met a clergywoman until I reached seminary. The most amazing thing is that that never made me think that it wasn't possible....I never thought twice about being a "woman in ministry." It was my calling.