Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference session open with memorial service.
By Alexx Wood*
The conference sessions of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church opened with the Memorial Service and Holy Communion, as hundreds of delegates, volunteers, visitors, episcopal leaders and episcopal candidates gathered for 3 days of worship, fellowship and Holy Conferencing.
Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the New England Conference preached during the opening memorial service, inviting those gathered to “rise” as we entered into Jesus’ presence. He emphasized the theme of the Jurisdictional conference of Rise Up: Encounter God with a reading from Luke 7:11-17, the story of Jesus raising the widow’s son in the village of Nain. He drew parallels between Nain from the gospel story and this gathering of the jurisdiction in Charleston, WV.
“A crowd of disciples has gathered,” just like in the Scripture, and he observed that here too was “a place of great mystery,” drawing laughter from the community as he mentioned the mystery of the episcopal election process. But he became serious again, proclaiming to the congregation that just as in Nain, our own jurisdiction is “a place where God is doing something.”
He said sometimes the church in the Northeast is seen as a “sleeping giant.” But then he raised up signs of the strength and ministries in our Northeastern Jurisdiction; signs that demonstrate that God is indeed doing something right here in our midst.
He acknowledged that indeed there are those places in our communities and in our world that are broken, dead and dying, and that even in our United Methodist Churches there are those that are “sleepwalking in their own funeral processions.” But as people of faith, we are called to rise up. “Sleepers, awake!” he exclaimed.
“We don’t come together for a funeral,” he proclaimed with fervor. “No! We come together knowing that we serve a risen savior; he’s in the world today! We come together to rise up and take on a new day and join in what God is doing.”
Bishop Weaver then told stories of the surprises and invitations to rise up that had been experienced by some of our departed bishops that were being remembered in this memorial service. He described how Bishop James K. Mathews awoke one day to discover that he had been elected Bishop – when he was not even in attendance at the conference electing him. Rise Up!
Bishop James Ault awoke one morning, looked in the mirror and suddenly realized the significance of the fact that he was just made the dean of Drew Theological School. Rise Up!
Also remembered during the service were delegates to the 2008 Jurisdictional Conference who have entered into eternal glory: Betty Gooch, laywoman from the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, who died June 12, 2012; David Jasper, clergy from the West Virginia Conference, who died October 24, 2010; Howard Mason, layman from the Peninsula Delaware Conference, who died April 2, 2009; and Susan May, clergy from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, who died March 1, 2011. Their lives were remembered and celebrated as ones who rose up and served Christ faithfully.
We too, Bishop Weaver asserted, are being invited to rise up this day. As his sermon drew to a close, he reminded us that while we are gathered to do the work of the jurisdiction, “before we get to the election, let us embrace the resurrection.”
His words set the context for our approach to the business of the conference – one of being open to God’s surprises and to be filled with hope. “Let us choose not the funeral procession in our churches, but let us follow the risen Christ and invite each other – and invite the world – to rise up and follow God into the new day.”
*Alexx Wood is the Communications Director for the New England Conference.
Bishop Weaver preaches in the opening service