Photo of the 2012 General Conference choir as they perform at the Opening Worship Service on April 24, 2012 by the Rev. David Valera.

I’ve recently been mulling a few things over.  Okay in reality there’s a TON I’ve been mulling over…but I’ll stick with a couple things for the sake of this entry.  I just finished reading the article about the laity address.  There are so many wonderful things that were said.  Of course my favorite analogy was about the church being an orchestra or a choir.  As a conductor myself, I completely understand.  I am silent, yet it is my job to make beautiful music.  And with middle schoolers no less!

Think of it this way.  When you begin learning an instrument it is a lot like the beginning of your faith journey.  You learn to read music; you learn to read the bible.  You listen to what your teacher tells you and hang on every word; you listen to what your pastor tells you and hang on every word.  You believe everything literally; you believe everything literally.  There is no other way to do things except how you are taught; there are no other beliefs, except for what you are taught.  Your playing is very rudimental and based on following the leader; your faith is very rudimental and based on following a leader.

As you grow as a musician you expand your musical vocabulary.  You learn more complicated rhythms; new time signatures.  You expand your instrument’s range by building your facial muscles.  You become more independent and can make musical decisions on your own such as how much to crescendo, how much rubato to add, and whether or not to use vibrato.

Our faith is the same.  As we grow in our faith we begin to make more independent decisions, choosing which verses are more important, which are literal and which are metaphoric.  We move from believing what is told to us to a place where our beliefs are our own.

When we look at a church we see people of all faith levels, with many different beliefs. Some may be new, some may have been around forever.  But as the song says, “we are the church together.”

But sometimes I feel there’s a disconnect somewhere between the local church and the Annual Conference.  And I don’t mean the Annual Conference that we have in June, but the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  At the local church we have a leader in the pastor, and lay people make up the committees and groups that make the church run and fulfill its mission and vision.  But isn’t it weird that so many committees at the conference level have so few lay members?  I am the only lay member currently on our Conference’s Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry.  And I love it, but it seems a little strange to me, if we have a partnership between laity and clergy.

As I look through the Conference Journal the general observation I see is that if it doesn’t involve youth, young adults or camping, there are very few lay people.  I am not saying that is always the case.  And I am not trying to call out the Conference (well, not really…).  But this is our church; the laity’s church.  We sit in the pews.  We bring bad casseroles to the potlucks.  We are the people who need to be evangelizing to our friends.  Pastors can’t do this themselves, and they shouldn’t have to.  As Amory said so well, “We, the laity, have taken, with new vigor, the great commission into our hands and hearts.”  And it’s our job to get involved and fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world.


  1. I suspect it is difficult in part because of travel, scheduling, and competing and worthwhile ways to serve on a local church level. As a conference staff person I am deeply grateful for the hours people spend investing in shared ministries. Convo, YAR, pretty much all the Young People’s ministries only exist because of the support of lay people.

    You are absolutely right though. The church thrives with an invested laity and the lack thereof is not a good sign. I’m not sure about the math as far as numbers go but it is easier for clergy to work Connectional participation into their lives.

  2. Patrick is correct in that many ministries flourish because Lay People have passions for them. The flip side is, however, that when the larger church or conference programs have a need to involve Laity, they often neglect to remember that lots of those Laity work day jobs, when it’s a convenient time for many of the boards and agency groups are ‘free’ for meetings. So Convo, YAR, Camping – those are passions for many younger adults (and older ones) who will make & take time off. But when we, as a church can only get Laity with the ability to attend day-time meetings, then we are not meeting the needs of those we need to be reaching, and we are not investing well for our future.

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