Nancy Tam Davis, PNWAC Lay Leader

I am reminded of that saying about the thousand-mile journey and how it begins with a single step. Without that, there is no journey. Yet it is the second step that has us a little off balance, confused and vulnerable.

I have had the opportunity to experience anew the United Methodist journey several times during the last 6 weeks. As a church we have been met with challenges, differences and decisions. Our journey continues.

Nancy Tam Davis speaking to the laity during the 2016 PNW Annual Conference Sessions.
Nancy Tam Davis speaking to the laity during the 2016 PNW Annual Conference Sessions.

A few months ago I observed my great granddaughter learning to walk. The first step forward was easy. The second step required the fine art of balance, momentum and the willingness to risk disequilibrium. Pretty soon this effort would become an unconscious action for her, as it has for many of us. Many of us don’t have to think about it. As I watch people who have become proficient with walking, invariably some prefer to always start with the right foot and others with the left. It really doesn’t seem to make a difference, as long as the next step is taken. We do this naturally, without thought and with fluid grace. The point is to stay upright and move forward; that’s how it works. This is not intended to infer any personality traits to either the right or left footed people so don’t look for the quiz on the internet.

Turning my thoughts back to the collective United Methodists, we do the same as we contemplate “walking with God”. Some of us naturally begin with the law, the scripture, the word. We turn to that for guidance on our journey. Then the balance shifts to reflecting on grace and mercy. How does that inform our understanding of the word? Others of us begin with grace and mercy and then look to the word for reflection. When I hear people debating law vs. grace it is like debating the right foot or the left foot. Whatever our preference, it quickly becomes a powerful preference… the best way. God requires us however, to do both, in balance, in rhythm, and constantly moving forward.

A single scripture outlining God’s Law will not bring us together. To simply say “God is Love” will not move us forward. Law and Grace: one alone is not sufficient. We remain in dialogue because it forces us to risk our equilibrium while moving towards God’s kingdom. Simply shifting our weight from one foot to the other doesn’t work either. While there’s movement there’s no progress.

While many of us feel stuck in the challenges of today, we need to remember that we are walking with God, not standing with God. Every day my spiritual journey begins again. I can’t sum up my discoveries and now rest on my right or left foot and be satisfied with my progress. God constantly teases me forward, invites me to understand more fully my existence in this life. So, to sum it up, I am on this journey with you as we move forward together as United Methodists. Are you ready to walk?

Nancy Tam Davis serves as Lay Leader for the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. Over the past 25 years, she has worked with appointive and extended cabinets, boards, committees, and 40+ churches on topics such as strategic planning, decision-making, communication and conflict management. Nancy is passionate about bringing forth diverse voices into a safe, supported community of discernment and focus and in strengthening the voice of lay leadership to move our vision and mission forward.

Photo Credit: “Walking the Labyrinth” by Flickr User GPS, CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. Beautifully stated. I am 80, and will not see the end of this journey, but I am so proud of the six annual conferences that have declared themselves to be in non compliance with the BoD, and will accept all God’s children to the table, as Jesus would have wanted us all to do.
    Full inclusion throughout the entire UMC will happen, and one by one conferences are realizing that to do so, is in full accordance to the will of the person whom they say they follow.

  2. I just reread Nancy’s article. I will use part of it in my sermon this coming Sunday. Thanks, Nance! At this very moment I am giving thanks to God for Amory’s wisdom and witness in her years as our Conference Lay Leader and for Nancy now carrying on the tradition of strong and wise women leading us forward in our walk with God. We are blessed.

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