Seeing each other's face


We arrived for the benediction, delayed by the roadblocks, an accident and the impossible traffic in Gulfport. As the exhausted pastor and flock saw us, there were tears. It had been an isolated eternity, the six days since Hurricane Katrina.

Bonhoeffer was right: It is not to be taken for granted – the great gift of Christian community. God has graciously set us together.

Post-Katrina isolation was invaded by the energy, compassion and generosity of United Methodist people. The expanded community of recovery has provided space in which we have been regained balance and momentum, wisdom and courage.

There was an audible sigh of relief as we arrived at the gathering of recovery organizations. Someone said, "Thank God you are here. We cannot do this without the Methodists." Very soon the United Methodists will be the only ones standing in recovery on the Gulf Coast.

Professor Russell Richie teaches us that polity, fraternity and revival developed as the foci of the Methodist conference in American. The heartbeat of the now-global United Methodist Church pulses organically as we live together, celebrate and discern.

We gather in Ft. Worth as God's people, like-minded. Infinitely more unites us than divides us. 

We can have high hopes for the conversations at the water fountain, for the dialogue over meals, for the personal connections made, for the friendships that will be established. It is in these moments that the connection will be enlivened.

Perhaps this is the General Con-ference when we will discover the need for a spacious way forward, a way marked by more dialogue and fewer decisions, more silence and less noise, more mystery and less clarity, more humility and less certainty, more attentiveness and less insistence.

Are we yet alive? The vibrancy of our life together and our life outward in mission is drawn from our willingness to see one another face to face.

This column first appeared in "Newscope."