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.