Updated: Jun 27
As I write this letter a week before you receive it, I am savoring every sip of my coffee and willing the caffeine to kick in as I return to my church office desk for the first time since the North Georgia Annual Conference took place in Athens, GA. While I have popped in and out of Annual Conferences in the past, it has been only to participate in worship services and then head home. This year, however, I was honored and privileged to serve as a chaperone to 43 (!) Youth At Large Delegates from all around the North Georgia Conference from May 31-June 3. How did I end up with that gig? Connections!
The United Methodist Church has been one of "connections" since John Wesley's founding days. "Today, our denomination continues to be organized in a 'connectional' system, which 'enables us to carry out our mission in unity and strength’ (Book of Discipline, ¶ 701) Every local church is linked to an interconnected network of organizations that join together in mission and ministry, allowing us to accomplish far more than any one local church or person could alone." (umc.org/en/content/organization-church-as-connection). And, I had a front row seat--literally on the front row with the Youth Delegation, directly in front of Bishop Robin Dease!--to witness the connected system as being alive and well as we all together remembered the lives of those who served so well, wished the retirees well on their next chapter (including Jordan's father, Doug Thrasher!), and celebrated with those being commissioned and ordained in the ministry, but also as we heard updates on the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), UMMen & Scouting, United Women in Faith, and Wellroot Family Service (our literal neighbor over in Tucker), among others.
Beyond the structural connections, there were people connections everywhere I turned. In the Grand Hall and on the main stage and in the hallways of the Athens Classic Center and at the North Georgia Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) Worship Service, I saw faces I knew. The overwhelming majority were connected directly to Embry Hills UMC from the past and present and are folks that I am lucky enough to call dear friends. Whether they be lay persons or clergy, they were doing the work of the church in holy conferencing. You connected with those folks who are now connecting with others who will connect to others...and so it continues. In myriad ways, you helped them grow and become the leaders in the Conference in ways that they would not have become without you. That is being connected.
As you read this, Youth Summer 2023 kicks off and is, no surprise, full of connections throughout our community. (Reach out to me if you want to join us! Really!) As I read through the full report of the United Women in Faith, I saw a reference to their support of the first nonprofit on our Youth schedule, Love Beyond Walls (www.lovebeyondwalls.org), where our Youth will be experiencing the interactive Dignity Museum together. Later in the same week, it's on to Memorial Drive Ministries (mdmatl.org) which houses many different ministries and supports a whole list of other organizations, including The Welcome Co-Op's Shop of Hope. Yup, that is the same non-profit EHUMC has supported with items and funds through the Advent Giving Trees and, most recently, our Lenten Offering. The first Youth service opportunity for our rising 6th graders in July will be with Families of Disabled Adults and Children in Tucker, who requested us to return this summer! FODAC (fodac.org) connects with many nonprofits in the work they do, too, such as MedShare, where former EH students have served many times. Connections!
In 2024, I hope that EHUMC will be hearing about our own students serving as Youth Delegates At Large who will have the chance to see and learn more about the connectional church that is the UMC and to be a voice in the important decisions being made. Think back to May with Youth Sunday and Confirmation Sunday when you continued to support Youth with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. In myriad ways, you are helping them grow and be the leaders in the church in ways that they would not become without you. That is being connected. Isn't it beautiful?