Gathering and knowing God is still at work

Ertell Whigham
Conference Assembly 2012. Photo by Andrew Huth.

by Ertell M. Whigham, Jr., executive minister

It’s the time of year when we gather to share what God is doing in our lives, our ministries and our communities at Franconia Conference Assembly 2013.  It’s a time for us to celebrate what God has done, what God is doing, and what God is going to do.

It’s time to build new relationships and renew longstanding friendships.  We’ll travel from Vermont and Georgia, from across town, across suburbs, and drive down country lanes and city streets to meet in Souderton.  We’re preparing to translate from English to Indonesian, Spanish, and Vietnamese to better understand the Spirit’s work across our communities.

It’s time for us to dream together and to share our hopes in a space that allows us to listen and to move toward transformation.  We’ll bring our stories of hope and challenge.  We’ll gather around practicalities and possibilities.

We will choose to gather collaboratively, leaning into the possibilities of our relationships.   We will need to settle our hearts and center in Christ to find a way to hear each other over the voices in our own ears and heads.    If we come to the delegate tables expecting to waste our time, we make it more difficult for the Spirit to move through strongholds.   When we gather in suspicion rather than hope, we are setting ourselves up to leave our time together disappointed and miss the opportunity for transformation.   This is surely not how God would intend us to invest our gathered time.

I believe God invites us to gather every year not just to do business but to continue the Spirit’s process of renewing our minds. God is still working with us in all of our excellence and all of our shortcomings.   I have seen it, heard it, experienced it, and been renewed by the possibilities and ministry testimonies I’ve heard from across our conference communities and ministries as we’ve prepared for assembly by listening with congregations and leaders.   God’s invitation is not just to gather and walk out the door the same as when we came, but for us to gather together and to be transformed.  We tell and retell the stories of God at work so that we can all be changed into the image of Christ.

It’s an exciting and challenging time for us to be Franconia Conference, both this year and in the years to come.  I’ve been encouraged by the process we’ve worked through as your conference leadership in preparation for this gathering.  Still, I welcome you to challenge and invite those of us who are leading the Conference to hear the Spirit beyond the voices in our own ears and heads.   Encourage us to lead in ways that keep us as a whole community centered in Christ, working together in hope.

I come expecting that it’s not just another meeting, but a time to come together with God to work creatively.   Together, we are at our best.  Separately we are a shadow of what is God’s purpose for us as a people.   God is still at work.  I look forward to hearing more about how God’s Spirit continues to stir in our communities of sisters and brothers, doing immeasurably beyond what we can hope, imagine, or even ask.