The Parable of the Good Samaritan provided gospel foundations for Conference worship.
Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference
Opening Worship | May 31, 2018 | A Classic Love Story | Bishop David Bard
The 2018 Michigan Annual Conference began on the morning of May 31st with eyes on the overhead screens. Five decades of images and memories recalled the people, places and values of the West Michigan and Detroit conferences. “As we meet for the last time as two separate conferences, let’s take these moments to remember,” said narrator Marsha Woolley. With “O God, our Help in Ages Past” playing in the background, the leadership of women, wise financial stewardship and strong hearts for missions were celebrated. A special moment to remember – Count Day, June 10, 2015 – when Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey announced the will of the two annual conferences to become one. “It was not the first time but it was the right time,” Woolley said.
With candle-lighting and portraits on screen, tribute was paid to those in the Michigan clergy and lay member family who passed since the 2017 Annual Conference.
Bishop David Bard opened his second Annual Conference as Michigan’s episcopal leader saying, “Wow! Y’all came back. You still look beautiful!” He continued by recounting “what a difference a year makes,” with examples from the culture and church. “As your bishop, I have had wonderful opportunities to see more of you, and more of your incredible work in ministry,” he said. With enthusiasm and confession, he continued, “I hope that there have been times when I have inspired you to think more deeply, dream more imaginatively, pray more ardently, and live more joyfully and hopefully. We have made a lot of decisions this year, and I know that not all of them please everyone.”
The bishop preached “plumbing the depths” of the Good Samaritan, “two classic stories wrapped together.” Talking about the characters – Jesus, lawyer, priest and levite – he left the congregation with three take-aways on the theme that God has a mission in the world and love is at the heart of that mission.” 1) We are both recipients of God’s love and bearers of God’s love; 2) Love can be complex but we never should use the complexities of love to avoid being moved in heart and soul by the hurts and wounds of the world; 3) Being part of that mission is personally transforming, for it invites us to let Jesus form in us hearts and souls that are deeply moved to care.”
“We are here beginning a new way of being together, one conference,” he noted. Speaking to the Conference theme, ENGAGE with, the bishop concluded, “Engage is a love word … It’s good to begin with a classic.”
Friday Worship | June 1, 2018 | Who is my neighbor? | Rev. Ben Bower
Jantz Black (Conference Music Director and Director of Music Ministries at Midland 1st) donned a red sweater and welcomed Annual Conference members to a beautiful day in the neighborhood on Friday morning. Sharing childhood experiences and Rogers’ quotes Jantz concluded, “There are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. Thank God for the wisdom of Mr. Rogers.”
The Rev. Ben Bower, Lead Pastor of Redford: Aldersgate UMC continued the home-street theme in his sermon, Who is my neighbor? Speaking of the lawyer whose question launched one of the most oft-quoted parables in the gospel, Bower said, “He’s already made up his mind about who his neighbor is. I think that’s true for me.” Still identifying with the lawyer, the preacher went on, “I want to come to Jesus and say, ‘Give me the discipleship of least resistance … Meet me right where I’m at and do nothing else with me.”
Bower shared how the school lunch program hosted by Aldersgate and the experience of a visitor in worship both taught him the importance of relating with neighbors. “There are no shortages of ditches or desperate situations and wounded people in our neighborhoods,” he concluded. “How do we step into the ditch if we haven’t already made a connection?”
Saturday Worship | June 2, 2018 | Go and do likewise | Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai
The Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, chief connectional ministries officer for The United Methodist Church, began her Saturday morning sermon saying, “I feel like I’ve come home to a bigger family.” She left Michigan in January as a Superintendent in the West Michigan Conference. Six months later Kennetha said to members of the new Michigan Conference, “These two annual conferences are coming together, not because we are all alike or think alike but because we all love alike.”
Like two preachers before her, she reflected on the story of The Good Samaritan. Her focus on the parable was, “Go and do likewise.” Recalling the pop songs current at the time of the birth of The United Methodist Church – especially Dionne Warwick’s, What the World Needs Now, is Love, Sweet Love – Kennetha explained, “Love is not about being right or winning the argument. Love is not about our personal preference or our sense of politics or our authority. Love is to be deeply committed to the wellbeing of others.”
Just as The United Methodist Church was born during a time of turmoil in 1968, so The Michigan Conference is being born during a time of struggle “at the crossroads.” She concluded urging all to keep diligent in ministry and mission. “I am so grateful and so delighted that even at this time of division in our nation and our church, Detroit and West Michigan are singing love songs to one another. We are about to get hitched.” Conference members enacted the care for the wellbeing of one another of which Kennetha spoke by participating in a hand-washing facilitated by deacons of The Michigan Conference.
Sunday Worship | June 3, 2018 | Not just a job | Bishop David Bard
The Service of Ordination and Commissioning, a high point of every Annual Conference, was held on Sunday afternoon, June 3.
During a majestic service the conference ordained three Deacons; ordained five Elders; commissioned nine persons for work of the Elder; recognized one person’s Elder’s ordination; and recognized seven persons completing Course of Study.
Before the holy moments with questions of examination and laying on of hands, Bishop David Bard shared a message focused on navigating the uncertainties of the present day: “Not just a job, an adventure.” He noted that the “social location of the church and of its clergy has become dramatically de-centered. He remarked about the “tender place of uncertainty and fragility” the denomination finds itself in right now. Citing chapters in testaments both Old and New, the Bishop declared, “In the midst of the uncertainty and the unknown, we understand that we need to be something more than pastoral directors.”
The map for the adventure of ministry was taken from, “Canoeing the Mountains,” by Tod Bolsinger. “It’s all about adaptive leadership where mission needs to be the focus and leaders need to stay focused, stay calm, stay connected and stay the course.” He stressed the important of self-discovery, managing interpersonal relationships, theological growth, and resilience. “Here is some good news,” he concluded. “God shows up on the adventure. God calls AND God accompanies.”
Orders of Worship can be found in the 2018 Michigan Annual Conference Program Book.