If you hung around this site at all, you probably know that I have served on the staff of the past five General Conferences of the UMC. That has included coordinating the production of the conference for a couple of times (Denver and Cleveland) and serving on the General Conference Secretary’s staff (Pittsburgh).
What I haven’t shared before today was that I was one of the finalists for the Business Manager of the General Conference position currently held by Alan Morrison. It was an interesting process for me in that I knew that I had the gifts and experience to do the job, but wasn’t sure that the calling was present. Thus, I chose to be brutally honest about my hopes and concerns in the position, and the leadership team discerned that Alan was the better choice, a decision with which I agree.
As we have approached the gathering in Fort Worth, I have been trying to decide if I was going to go to General Conference this time. It had become clear to me that if I went to Fort Worth it would have to be in a different sort of role, and I had thought serious about trying to raise some funding to coordinate a blogging initiative at the General Conference, both blogging the event and editing blog posts from other attendees. I had really not done much to make this happen, and was doubting that I would attend at all, but as we get closer to the date, the General Conference itch was starting to ooze it’s way into my mind. Hanging out in the halls of power, rubbing shoulders with Bishops and other leaders, and being on the inside of decision making is seductive, and it is hard to let it go. I have been involved at some level in many things behind the scenes at General Conference, things like the creation of the unity statement created at the end of the last General Conference. It is hard to let go of that, and I began to start thinking about how I might be able to worm my way in.
A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from my friend Beth Luton at the Candler School of Theology informing me of an opportunity, and inviting me to apply. The Candler Office of Church Ministries Education in conjunction with the Cousins Foundation Holy Land Institute is sponsoring the Holy Land Pilgrimage for Pastoral Renewal and Spiritual Formation, a trip to the Holy Lands led by Roberta Bondi and Beth. In a desire to help pastor’s renew their faith and experience the lands of the bible, the Cousins Foundation sends pastors on these pilgrimages. All applicants have to be of a certain age, have served as pastoral leaders for five years, and commit to participate in a group process of reflection and renewal. Out a pool of applicants, they select 10 women and 10 men for the trip, and our out of pocket expense for the trip is $300.
Since I haven’t yet been able to visit Israel and because I respect Beth and Roberta (and also with Kay’s urging) I applied, not really looking at the dates beyond knowing that they were in the Spring. Today I found out that I had been selected as a participant, and began to look more closely at the calendar.
We leave to go to Israel on April 24. General Conference starts on April 23.
Now I know that it is probably just a coincidence, but as one uncertain about whether to attend General Conference or not, this seems like a pretty good means of discerning what’s right for me! As Kay said earlier tonight, it’s almost as if God has opened this other door with the intention of keeping me away from Fort Worth.
And frankly, that is probably a good thing after all.