Laity Session celebrates tilling, planting and harvesting

See more photos in the gallery at the right

June 22, 2016

Each year at Annual Conference, the Laity Session is a time to celebrate the gifts and ministry of the New England Conference laity.  The 2016 Laity Session was Friday, June 17. 
Three members of the Board of Laity shared messages based on this year’s Annual Conference theme: Planting Seeds of Trust.
Stephanie Cyr spoke on “Tilling the Soil
Cyr, who brought along her trowel and gloves, said she’s eager to get into the garden.
Stephanie Cyr

“I’m really ready to plant my garden, but as any good gardener knows … soil is everything; if you don’t prepare your soil properly, you garden will not thrive and your harvest will poor.”

Hard soil needs to be broken and softened, shallow soil needs to be dug more deeply, and you have to take out the weeds and thorns “that if they are not removed choke out our seeds as if we had never planted them,” she said.

“Sowing seeds of trust, hope, and love requires fertile soil in which to grow faith,” Cyr said. “The soil we must till is an open heart.”

We can be the gardeners of our souls, she said, but that requires some different tools: “I have my Bible. I have my cross. I have my heart.”
Betty Austin spoke on “Planting and Cultivating”:  
Austin began by talking about a person she saw at conference that made her say to herself: “That’s disgusting to see a Methodist dressed like that.”

“But the Lord said to me: ‘Really? Why does it matter? That person’s a child of God.’”
Betty Austin

While she admitted she was still moving toward perfection, her faith in Jesus helped her not to judge.

“We’re free because of our faith to get away from those judgement things,” Austin said. “One thing keeps us from planting good seeds and cultivating them, is making judgments.”

So instead of deciding that we know best and making judgements, Austin said, we need to remember:

“God knows better than any of us how we can grow our churches, how we can plant seeds and cultivate them. We need to be looking to God.”

Karen Cassidy spoke on: “Harvesting”: 
She told people about her first harvest experience picking strawberries at age 12 for 7 cents a quart. It was an experience that left her sunburned and with a rash from eating so many strawberries.

“Harvesting in the kingdom of God is a little different,” she said. “It’s still hard; it can still feel like you’re being sunburned, and yet amazing things can
Karen Cassidy

She told the story of a troubled adolescent who came to her church, First UMC in Manchester, NH. At first he came with his father seeking clothing and food. He then began coming to worship – often by himself. He also started coming to help out with coffee hour, at the food pantry and with VBS.
Cassidy said this is not the story of “the perfect adolescent.” Coming from a family torn by drug and alcohol addiction and living in poverty, “he gets into trouble,” she said.

But on June 5, 2016, about a year after he first came to the church, he was baptized.

He said to the congregation that he arrived at the church “Lost, alone, and afraid; here I found a family. I felt welcomed and accepted.”

“He is an example of harvest in the kingdom of God,” Cassidy said.

The laity also took time to acknowledge the work of Deaconesses and Home Missioners. The following were recognized:
  • Kevin Nelson, home missioner, serves a Director of Finance and Operations for Math Power, a nonprofit in Boston that is “using education to transform lives.”
  • Jana Marie Whitten, deaconess, is in healing ministry at Salmon Falls Behavioral Health in Rochester, NH, and serves as congregational health minister at her church St. John’s UMC in Dover, NH.
  • Lucie Fortier, deaconess, retired this year as executive director of the Brattleboro Drop in Center in Vermont.
  • Amanda Howe was consecrated as a deaconess at General Conference and was commissioned at this Annual Conference session. She is resource development officer at the Barnstable County Resource Development Office in Massachusetts.
  • Roberta Bragan, who was also consecrated as a deaconess at General Conference, will be commissioned next year. She was attending the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s UMW meeting in Syracuse, NY. She is a photojournalist.
Mission of Peace
Sarah Ames, youth member of the Board of Laity, went on the 2016 Mission of Peace to China. She wrote a song about her experience that she performed for the Laity Session. Hear her song

Imagine No Malaria
Bonnie Marden, field coordinator for the Imagine No Malaria campaign, spoke to the laity about this “amazing miracle” that’s taken place in the denomination.

The New England campaign raised more than its $1 million goal for Imagine No Malaria, and Marden said that 85 percent of the support for the campaign came from local churches.

Saving lives, impacting lives is our call to mission,” Marden said, “and the church, I believe, is best when we rally around missional causes and invite everybody to share as they’re able and be part of the New England Conference miracle that is Imagine No Malaria.”

Mission u
Marden also gave a plug for “one of our diamonds,” Mission u, and invited everyone to return to Manchester July 22 to 24, 2016, for the next session of Mission u. Learn more