June 12, 2023
Saturday's opening worship service was led by the Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) and the Black Pastors Fellowship.
The service included the anointing of the newly licensed local pastors and newly certified Certified Lay Ministers.
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This year’s Annual Conference session included the commissioning of Home Missioner Steve Pierce.
According to the United Women in Faith’s Office of Deaconess & Home Missioner, these are “laypeople who are called by God to be in a lifetime relationship in The United Methodist Church for engagement with a full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service.”
New England has six Deaconesses. Pierce is the Conference’s only Home Missioner.
On April 15, 2023, Pierce was consecrated by Bishop Thomas Bickerton in New York City. At Saturday’s Annual Conference session, he was commissioned to serve in a specific ministry. For Pierce, who is a member of Leominster (MA) UMC, it will be continuing what he refers to as his vocational call “to work in finance and administration in churches and nonprofits.”
Read more about Steve Pierce
Watch the commissioning
The 2023 Laity Address was delivered by Michele Fournier, a certified lay speaker and member of Oakdale UMC in West Boylston, MA. Fournier spoke about what our guiding scripture for this Annual Conference means when it calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
“Paul’s exhortation to rejoice does not come from a position of feeling giddy or excited or any other emotional ‘high’ that we think of in 2023 as necessary to ‘feel’ the emotions connected with rejoicing,” Fournier said. “His was that dispensation given as a gift from the Holy Spirit to those who will make the hard decision to stand in the moment and find
Saying that “God has led me out of that pit of anger and depression,” Fournier explained: “God has also shown me how to rejoice when I don’t always ‘feel’ it, and to reduce the anxiety I tend to live in 24/7. But even more, God has shown me the importance of ‘drawing my circle wider …’”
“If God is truly the center point of our lives and our churches, then no one should never stand alone,” Fournier said. “No one should never stand in a worship service without being lovingly drawn in so that we can understand and experience the joy that comes into our hearts when we rejoice in the Lord.
“No one should ever stand alone with anxious thoughts racing and be terrified to tell someone that they just need the hug of fellowship … We should never allow ourselves or others to stand alone during times of sadness, grief or darkness.”
Fournier came to Oakdale UMC in 2012 as music director. She said she “often reminds the congregation of Oakdale, [I] came there for a job, but stayed for the ‘family.’” Although officially retired from public school teaching, she is a full-time middle school English teacher at a small private school with no plans to “really retire.”
Read the full text of the 2023 Laity Address
The Laity Address speaker is chosen by a committee of the Board of Laity from entrants in the Laity Address Challenge, who submit the text of their address and a 5-minute video. Laity Address speakers must use the Annual Conference theme and guiding scripture as the basis for their address.