AC23 Recap: Laity Session

2023 Laity Session - see more photos in the gallery at right

June 07, 2023

The 2023 Laity Session took place on Wednesday evening, June 7. Those attending in person and online heard about the work of laity in the Conference through a mixture of live and recorded messages. 
Granite District Lay Leader Karen Cassidy offered the opening prayer and , District Lay Leader, Joan Farrar, co-associate conference lay leader, read the guiding scripture for this year’s Annual Conference: Philippians 4:4-9 CEB.
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson brought her greetings via video, encouraging New England laity to “Connect 4.”

In his welcome, New England Conference Lay Leader Rich Hughen said, "We come together not as mere spectators," Hughen said, "but as active participants in the making of important decisions in the life of our conference ... and the direction of our church."

Embracing our diversity makes us stronger and fuels the fires of positive transformation, said Hughen, who characterized the laity those who "embody the spirit of engagement and service."

At the end of the evening, Board of Laity members passed out keychains that displayed Psalm 23:4 to attendees, saying "There's
Laity, who are the key, Hughen said,  were gifted with a keychain
no key because you folks are the key that's going to make it all work. You're the key that's going to make it happen." 
Certified Lay Ministry
Bonnie-jean Rowe, Conference Director of Lay Servant Ministry and Certified Lay Ministry, Rowe encouraged laity who feel called to consider the role of Certified Lay Minister. These laity can be assigned a church and do the duties of a pastor (except for the sacraments) as part of a worship team. 

"It's a wonderful opportunity to do God's work. To be the hands and feet of God," Rowe said, adding that we are "desperate for people to fill the pulpits."

United Women in Faith
Calling United Women in Faith a “powerful fearless force driven by God’s love,” New England Conference UWF President Betty Shippee invited “all bold, spiritual women to join us” because, she said, “love and action” can change the world. 
She encouraged everyone to attend 2023 Mission u, July 21-23 in New Hampshire (click the link to learn more and register). 
Baby Boomers
Daniel Jones, at-large member of the Board of Laity, described his role in the session as being to speak to the "Baby Boomers."

"We live in an entirely different world today than the one we were born into," he said, "but I have a sneaking suspicion that most every one of us still does church the way our parents did."

Following the examples of Jesus and John Wesley, Jones said, we have to go out and bring compassion to those who are suffering — we have to "turn our churches inside out and truly be the hands and feet of Jesus in the streets of this entirely new world that we all now live in." 

The good news, Jones said, is that New England is "bubbling over with Christian activity right now" that goes beyond the walls of the sanctuary. That's because, he said, "COVID forced us to re-envision church without our buildings" and "cracked the code and set us free from our buildings."

The pandemic, Jones said, brought the technology or "shiny baubles" that lured young people away from church into our churches and, in fact, it is the technology, that "kept our churches alive during the pandemic," he said. Jones suggested that we can use these tools to help reach out to kids and bring them back to church.  
Citing the divide over full inclusion in The UMC, youth member of the Board of Laity Galen Schad said: “Younger members of the church continue to show up and push for change.” 
“… Us youth are active in the church,” he said. “We have been following our call to God by following our baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
“We’re doing God’s work and will continue no matter what stands in our way, so why should the church continue to be one of those obstacles? Why should the church continue to push away its own children?”
United Methodist Men
New England UMM President Tom Leach said that a challenge that is before the church, particularly to the men, is to widen the circle and build community. "I challenge each of us to be open to new possibilities [for creating community]," Leach said, by embracing diversity and expanding the conversations.

He encouraged creating online communities or finding places outside the church building to meet as a way of fostering broader connections. One example is a men's group that takes a monthly walk along the highway picking up trash. 
He encouraged men to check out the new Live Bold app available for IOS and Android. Designed for men to use as daily devotionals and go deeper in scripture as well as to ask for prayers and pray for others. 

Watch the Laity Session