by Rev. Sherry Daniels, Norfolk UMC
The Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches’ mission is and always has been the inspiration, information, and encouragement of pastors of Black Churches and those who support them. It started 20 years ago, as a “grass roots” effort and the need for such an event has evolved to the Convocation Network today and well into the future. The beauty of the United Methodist Church is the “Open Table” and the covering of Grace that we claim in Jesus’ name. John Wesley spoke about his heart being “strangely warmed” and this conference never fails to remind pastors and laity leadership that our hearts have to be warmed first in order for others to be warmed. This open table that we embrace embodies the reality that we appreciate the various ways that we worship and how we help all people to find their way to the sanctuary or better stated the House of the Lord.
VAFOCUS 2020 is an innovative process for African American congregations to be "the" catalysis in the communities where they serve. There have been to many years where we have allowed others to come into our communities and take key leadership positions--particularly, prophetic leadership and we have been silent. It is now time for us to take back our rightful place. Even in our denomination, there are times when we have been silent, when our voices should have been loud and strong. This conference reminds us that we cannot be afraid to stand up, speak out and take leadership and accountability when needed.
It involves congregations that are willing to be coached--both the clergy and laity to be the very best that they can be. It involves being creative and risk-takers in "making disciples" for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It also focusses on community context and culture in understanding how we reach new people where they are and how we keep them and develop the leadership potential in them. While it is easy to find "cookie cutter" models, Virginia Conference has taken the time and put forth the effort to understand who we are and who God has called us to serve. And in understanding this, chosen coaches with specialized expertise to "walk alongside them" to help them move to the next level of ministry effectiveness. The goal is not to create another program, but to walk alongside congregations that will grow stronger, more impactful where they serve and relevant in their ministries. In other words, this is not just another exercise or church program, this will and is becoming a movement.
Participants at the Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches from the Virginia Conference
United Methodist Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Praying Our Way Forward Phase 2 Commences January 1
Nashville, Tenn.: The second phase of the 'Praying Our Way Forward' initiative launched New Year’s Day with 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church. The effort began January 1 in the North Carolina Conference, and wrap up in the West Angola Episcopal area in June 2018.
"The aim of 'Praying Our Way Forward' is to ask and listen for God’s leadership at this critical time in the life of our church,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, who co-chairs the initiative.
Co-chair Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett adds, “In addition to participating in a designated week of prayer, individuals are invited to join the initiative by praying daily and fasting weekly for our church, mission and future.”
“Praying Our Way Forward” was created by the Council of Bishops as a part of their larger commitment to “lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God’s guidance.” To achieve this mission, they invited The Upper Room to help engage every annual conference around the world. United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men and United Methodist Communications have recently joined the partnership.
Each annual conference will take one week to have intentional prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, which begins meeting in January.
United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men will encourage their constituencies to pray throughout phase two, and especially during their annual conference sponsored week. Resident bishops are invited to reach out to UMW and UMM leaders in their areas to involve them in developing plans for the “Conference Week of Prayer.”
The Upper Room has developed UMCprays.org, a website where spiritual leaders and intercessors can share prayers, information and resources. The site has prayer resources for individuals, families, small groups, districts, and annual conference events, as well as promotional ideas and information about the Commission members and the weekly prayer schedule. There is also a place for the bishop of the annual conference scheduled to pray during the coming week to share a prayer.
This year, 5,000 people joined the website, formerly 60daysofprayer.org, to connect intercessors around the world to pray for the work of the 2016 General Conference. The group has continued to pray together and remains a valuable spiritual support network of The United Methodist Church.
During phase 1 of the new initiative, 84 bishops of the church spent 15 minutes each day for four months in prayer for the selection and initial work of the Commission on A Way Forward.
For more information, visit UMCprays.org.
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