The Baltimore-Washington Conference met last week in person for the first time since May 2019. Everyone I recognized seemed slightly older and perhaps wiser than the last time I had seen them.
The session included times of worship and celebration. There was the commissioning and ordination of new church leaders, including one person I had helped mentor along the way. There were reports and business items that required attention. There were times for inspiring Bible study and conversation in small groups and even a time for hand on mission projects. On Friday morning, I wrote messages of encouragement on note cards and bookmarks while many hundreds of book bags were filled with books and school supplies that would be sent home for children to use during the summer. It was good to meet with people from other congregations to hear how they are still busy making disciples for Jesus Christ, proclaiming the good news, and offering service in their local community.
The conference approved the closure of four churches that could no longer provide service and ministry. Another 23 congregations were approved for “disaffiliation” or leaving the United Methodist denomination after completing a list of steps. One of those twenty-three churches is a congregation I served thirty years ago. I was sad to learn that they chose to leave and even more sad that that congregation now only has five active members.
The theme of the conference was “All About Love.” Those present heard that those who follow Jesus would be known not primarily about what they believe in their hearts or affirm with their lips. Rather, as the old song goes, other people will “know we are Christians by our love.” That’s the message for all of us to hear and take to heart.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Steve Larsen