Together, We Can Do More
The United Methodist Church is a “connectional” church. What that means is that we see ourselves as connected in a significant way to every other United Methodist Church. Truth is, I believe all churches are connectional in some way. That is part of what defines a congregation. Webster defines a congregation as “an assembly of people”. Some congregations see themselves connected only to each other as those who gather for worship on a Sunday morning. Others may see themselves in a loose affiliation with people of the same beliefs but not connected in any other way. The United Methodist “assembly,” to use Webster’s definition, extends around the world. Each and every individual member of the United Methodist Church is connected to every other United Methodist.
We may not always agree with every other United Methodist but we understand what we say or do impacts them the same way that what they say or do impacts us. One of the ways we stay connectional is through conferencing. The foundational conference for all United Methodists is the local congregational Conference. For instance, every United Methodist Pastor, Bishop or District Superintendent was recommended by the congregation where they worshiped. Several years ago, this congregation met and recommended Benson McGlone for ministry. Every member of the church was invited to vote during that conference. Benson was overwhelmingly recommended and began his seminary studies and the ordination process where other people in the connection met him and affirmed his call to ministry. He is now serving a wonderful congregation in Virginia and the impact you had in teaching, nurturing and affirming Benson is making a difference in other people’s lives.
During that same conference and every conference before and since, you have set aside funds to support missionaries. One example is Missionary Guillermo “Willie” Berman who our Missions Committee has chosen for our Mission of the Month this September. One hundred percent of what you give helps Willie provide better housing, healthcare, and education in the Eastern Conference of Mexico.
Congregations of all sizes pool their gifts and resources to impact lives in ways that no single congregation can. It is possible that a congregation the size of Laurel Heights could support one or two missionaries where a smaller congregation could not. In connection together, we have over 350 missionaries in 60 countries and partners and projects in 60 more countries. You have provided a structure that remains in place and is ready to respond immediately to natural disasters, floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes where every cent collected for a specific cause goes to that cause and no time or resources are drained to support the global structure.
Because we are connectional there is an elaborate system of checks and balances. If one area begins to drift or not see themselves as an important part of the connection, they are lovingly affirmed back. Our congregation is one of over 70 congregations in the geographical area known as the Las Misiones District. Our district is one of seven districts which make up the Rio Texas Conference which is one of six conferences in Texas. Those six are all led by United Methodist ministers who began their ministry by being recommended by their local congregations for ministry just like Benson was by you. The missionaries you support came from large and small congregations from all over the world where people gather for worship each week like we do at Laurel Heights.
Sometime this fall Laurel Heights will gather for its yearly Annual Conference. The United Methodist pastor assigned to lead the Las Misiones District is called the “District Superintendent.” He or she sets the date and time for these annual meetings to help insure we remember we are connected and so they are able to share what and who we are with the other congregations who are connected to us. Each committee will have prayerfully evaluated their needs in connection with every other ministry of Laurel Heights. Leadership will be nominated based on each individual’s gifts and graces and how the committees have defined their ministries for the coming year. By the time we meet with Rev. Carl Rohlfs, our District Superintendent, we will have set our budget, elected our committees and leadership, written and had the opportunity to read reports concerning the ministries of Laurel Heights, and again one day help affirm some young person’s call to ministry.
See you Sunday,