By Amory Peck | Photo by the Rev. David V. Valera
I spent several days thinking and praying about the latest edition of Channels. During my reverie, hundreds of young adults, ages 18-26, were in Portland, Oregon for Exploration 2017, sponsored by the UMC’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
They were there to explore whether God might be calling them to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church. The photos I saw on Facebook showed energy and a good deal of excitement as the attendees steeped themselves in worship and conversation.
Jesse N. Love, graphic designer & print manager for the PNW Conference, had asked me to write something for his 100th edition (editor’s note: yes, we are at #108, but he began working at the Conference on issue #8). I had enjoyed the eight years I’d written for Channels. Now, five years after leaving my role as Conference lay leader, he thought I’d still have something to say.
I came to believe that both the young people’s and my reflection centered around many of the same issues. We were both thinking about what we are called to do, at this particular point of our lives. The 50-year span in age between us didn’t matter – we we’re all thinking, “What’s next?”
Quite a number of people used to joke that my lay leader’s address at Annual Conference was always a book pitch. Guess I haven’t changed.
I look forward to reading Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old”, which will be released in June 2018. Palmer, a 78-year-old Quaker author, educator, and activist, says: “When people ask me why I’ve been writing for the past years… I tell them ‘I was born baffled.’” That ongoing bafflement led to “On the Brink”, which was written to “encourage adults of all ages to explore the way their lives are unfolding … (to) turn the prism on the meaning of one’s life, refracting new light at every turn.”
That was the link I was feeling between myself and the young adults gathered in Portland. We are both looking for new light. I was especially moved by the Facebook picture of some of the nearly 70 young adults who had gathered at an unofficial gathering at 11 p.m. All of them identified as LGBTQIA, all of them must have known of the turmoil in the denomination over the reality of gay clergy – and those brave ones were exploring their call from God.
The young people in Portland are already part of the church. Some will become clergy, most will continue as lay people. In either case, their role is to take the lead. My role now is to take what I know, and to hand it on to others, to guide them/mentor them along the way. I will learn from these younger ones as they will continue to watch and learn from me…like prisms refracting new light.
Amory Peck is a member of Garden Street UMC in Bellingham, Wash.