Back in 1784, on the day before Christmas, a group of eighty one preachers and leaders in the early Methodist movement, gathered in a little chapel on Lovely Lane in Baltimore. These religious leaders had previously been governed by the Church of England, but now the colonies had received their independence, and it was time to establish a new structure for a new country.
The “Christmas Conference” as it has been called, was led by Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. They had in their hands several documents from John Wesley himself, which included a letter to the preachers in America, and organizational documents from the Church of England. Over the next 10 days they would make decisions which would officially establish and govern a brand new church: the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury became the first bishops of our church, and their names are listed as the first of many hundreds of men and women who have (since that time) served as bishops.
Much has changed in the 234 years since that gathering. But surprisingly, much of our structure and the way we make decisions in (what we now call) the United Methodist Church remains the same. We still have an “episcopal” structure, meaning that we are still governed by bishops. Our pastors are still appointed to their “charges” (the local churches), as I was appointed to serve here beginning last year. And our pastors and “lay members” (local church members who are elected to this position) still gather once a year to conduct the business of the church.
Last week we returned from our 2018 Annual Conference which was held in Modesto. Our lay members this year have been Nancy Craig and Ed & Carol Whitmer, who fully participated as they listened to new legislation, voted on business items, and worshiped with other church members and pastors from all over northern California and Nevada. Sometimes this work is exciting and inspiring, (and sometimes it isn’t), but through it all we continue the work of “making disciples of Christ, for the transformation of the world.”
As our wonderful Art & Science camp concludes this week and our uplifting summer worship continues, we look forward to all that is scheduled in the weeks ahead. In the days to come we will welcome pilgrims headed to Tule Lake, send our Jr. High youth to Sierra Service Project, and come together for another wonderful Evening Camp. We have much to be grateful for in our congregation, and I continue to hold our church family in my prayers during this summer season.