Last night during the Bishop’s sermon, she underscored how we as a conference “conference” in the sanctuary at Redlands. The Annual Conference coordinators have tried for other venues—stadiums, conference centers, etc, but we want to be “here” in this sanctuary. We are church people and we want to be reminded of that during our holy conferencing. And, for me, part of being in a sanctuary is its safety. Sanctuary is a time to be yourself, to be open, honest, vulnerable, and willing to be changed by and for the sake of the gospel.
Earlier in the day as we went through the various votes in clergy session, followed by a prayer for each group on whom we had just voted, I thought how bland those prayers felt, just another motion to go through as we made our way through the agenda. I was saddened by the lack of importance the prayers seemed to hold. People continued in their conversations, looked around the room (obviously I, too, was guilty of this for I witnessed the others), filled our forms, or flipped through papers. The business and “worship” were so mixed that they were virtually indistinguishable (and not in a good way). In that I was reminded of the importance of our offerings (prayer, song, silence, clap) to God and how they should not be so trivial in our work as the church, in our hours and hours of conferencing. And what stayed with me was not how we need to reshape how we worship so that it stands out in conferencing, but rather, how we need to reshape conferencing so that it is an integral and faithful part of our worship to God as a Christian Community.
Then, at the close of clergy session, a suggestion was made, a judicial council decision which overrules the suggestion was cited, and then the safe space of our conferencing sanctuary was violated. Blame was laid where it did not belong and the sanctuary was no more. I was deeply saddened by this violation of sacred trust. And I think that it was facilitated by how we fail to remember how conferencing is part of worship rather than how worship is just another part of conferencing. We have come to distinguishing casting votes, attending to business, (re)creating rules/laws and what we do prayerfully, graciously, mercifully, and compassionately as the people of God gathered together for the betterment of the “Kin-dom” of God.