AC19: Justice is the focus at Laity Session

Members of the Board of Laity. See more photos in the gallery at right.

June 13, 2019

The laity took over the main plenary space Thursday morning for the annual Laity Session. Conference Lay Leader Rene Wilbur welcomed the laity of New England and introduced the members of the Board of Laity, which includes the district lay leaders, and the Conference co-lay leaders. (Click the link to find that list).

In her prayer, Wilbur said, “What a joy it is for us to be together again … May Your constant love live in our hearts in these days. May we, as the lay people of your church, understand the role that we play; oh, yes, sometimes we have to keep our pastors in line, and You help us with that. And sometimes they help to keep us in line. It’s OK. We want to work together in Your name.”

Rev. George Howard, Executive Director Global Coaching and Strategic Initiatives at General Board of Global Ministries, led Bible study on the topic of justice, this Annual Conference session’s theme. He offered several passages of scripture for participants to consider: And asked them to answer two questions:
  • What does the scripture say about justice?
  • How is the church called to be God’s plan for justice?
Rev. Howard said: “As Christians, we are called to look for and to see the injustices in our communities in our systems, in our structures, and bring down the walls, so that justice might prevail.”

By bringing down the walls, he said, “we make God more visible in society. That’s what we’re called to do: be message bearers, be the light of the world, and break down the walls of injustice everywhere we see them.” 

Board of Laity members Stephanie Cyr, Bonnie-jean Rowe and Karen Cassidy spoke on the Conference’s guiding scripture, Micah 6:8 (NRSV): “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Act Justly
Cyr: “The concept of justice is to make things right. … It’s not easy to live just or right … we’re human. … If we’re to do justice, we need to create a community where everyone matters and are all held in the same dignity that they deserve.”

Love Mercy
Rowe: Rowe gave two scenarios – in one a co-worker has insulted you behind your back, and you have the power to get them fired. In the second, you have said the insult. In the first, she said, we tend to seek justice; in the second, mercy. “When justice and fairness have been violated, that’s when you need to love mercy the most.”

Walk Humbly
Cassidy: Told the story of one of her daughter’s quest to become a runner and finish a half-marathon. She did her training with a friend, but when the friend decided to stop running, her daughter was upset: “’I can’t do it alone,’ she said. That epitomizes my walk with Jesus,” Cassidy said. “When I think I can do it alone, that is when I fall in the ditch. … That is when pride overtakes me.” She encouraged all of us to “Pray for a humble heart.” 
Speaking briefly about their respective ministries were:

Betty Shippee, president of the Conference UMW, talked about the UMW’s current social action campaigns:
  • Economic inequality
  • The criminalization of communities of color and mass incarceration
  • Climate justice
  • Maternal and child health
Tom Leach, president of the Conference UMM, said men’s ministries are making a comeback in New England, and thanked Wilbur for her support. He introduced the Rev. Richard Vance, Director of the UMM Center for Men's Ministries.
The UMM is moving beyond its traditional men’s breakfasts, Rev. Vance said, into providing effective resources and training to reach men and youth around the world.

Mission u
Lucie Fortier, assistant dean of Mission u, invited everyone back to Manchester for this year’s Mission u, which will be July 26-28, 2019. Learn more and register

Lay Servant Ministries/CLM
Marie MacDougall, director of the Conference Lay Servant Ministries and Certified Lay Ministry, recognized committee members. She spoke laity’s important role in ministry that traces its way back to Methodism’s founder:
“In John Wesley’s day, laity preached, led worship, did Bible study, visited the sick and those in prison and formed small groups known as class meetings with the purpose to watch over in love,” MacDougall said.

'You Raise Me Up'
Music during the laity session was provided  by Won and Unyoung Park and Brandan Morris of Mosaic Chapel in Roslindale, MA. Take a listen:

AC19: 'You Raise Me Up' from New England Conference UMC on Vimeo.

Deaconesses and Home Ministers 
Each year, the Laity Session recognizes the Conference’s current Deaconesses and Home Ministers. They are:
Roberta Bragan
Fay Flanary
Lucie Fortier
Jana Marie Whitten