It’s just amazing

July, 2017  It’s just amazing…the work of our Annual Conference was interesting, engaging and powerful this year! We have a new bishop, Rev. Grant Hagiya, who confessed his weakness is impatience and a desire to ‘move things along.’We approved a budget, heard a ‘ministry moment’ from each district and celebrated newly commissioned and ordained deacons and elders. Our Bishop began a new award to be given each year at Annual Conference. It is called the ‘Bishop’s Lifetime Achievement’ award and was given to six gifted and inspiring individuals including Rev. James Lawson! 

Rev. James Lawson walked with Martin Luther King Jr., has advocated for civil rights, social justice and lived the gospel of Jesus Christ his whole life. Lawson was the pastor of Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962. Rev. Lawson was the chairperson of the Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968, and brought Rev. Dr. King to town to preach. Rev. Lawson moved to Los Angeles in 1974 for an appointment at the Holman United Methodist Church. He preached and taught about non-violent resistance, civil discourse and social change. 

The work of Annual Conference is for the purpose of supporting local churches and local ministry. The Annual Conference is a connectional body of churches, leaders, both lay and clergy who are called by God to bring healing to a hurting world. Rev. Lawson is a part of our local connection and bears witness to the huge impact local churches and leadership can have on our society! The United Methodist Church of Vista is a part of this connection and we benefit from our relationships across the nation and world. 

It is easy to sit in the pews and forget that the Local Church is a powerful place where you can make a difference. The people gathered here begin with the love of God! We don’t all agree on every issue. I’ve heard from a number of you that you don’t understand why we have one group or another group in our church. Is there one sin or another sin which is so grievous that a person should be excluded from our congregation. I believe the truth is that all are welcome in the household of God, so long as we treat one another with respect and the intent to do no harm. 

The work of the local church is to stand up, stand out, and offer God’s grace. The work of the local church is to offer a vision of a different world in keeping with Godly ethics and values. The work of a local church is not about judging others or condemning folks who aren’t faithful, it is to make visible God’s love! That means that mercy and compassion come first. We are the family that declares that peace is not merely the absence of war or violence but a deep and abiding generosity of forgiveness that precedes all else. Being a church, where God is proclaimed is challenging and makes us a target. When you stand up and declare that you are trying to live a faithful life, it means other folks are going to watch you. Some folks will even cheer when you fall down. Don’t be deterred by others struggle but give in to the grace of God. 

I celebrate the connection of the people called United Methodist. I am honored to be a part of this family, even when it struggles! I pray we can overcome our social issues and claim the common goal of making God visible within local communities! There are many who are hurting, humbled by the entrenched hate of the world and angry. Our Annual Conference, our Bishop Grant Hagiya, our District Superintendent and our companions in other churches are doing the work of God! What else are we called to in our local church? 

Grace and peace to you! 

Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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