By Emily Green
It’s so great to be here at Annual Conference! If you couldn’t be with us this year, we hope you’ll check in online and keep up with all the amazing things happening here in Indianapolis this weekend. This afternoon’s opening worship session kicked off with an incredible time of worshiping our Lord with the music team from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Indianapolis. It’s so great to praise our God together before getting down to business this weekend!
The 2015 Annual Conference is all about sharing your story with the world around you. As we began our first worship session, Bishop Mike shared a part of his story. Having grown up in the local church, Bishop Mike’s life was changed when he attended camp at Epworth Forest Conference Center as a student. It was there that Bishop Mike made his first public decision for Jesus Christ and received his call to ministry. But there is so much more to the story! God moved in his life in even more valuable ways, teaching him lessons of diversity and allowing him to experience things he never would have otherwise. At first listen, this sounds like a story about Bishop Mike. But he reminded us this afternoon that our stories are not even really our own.
“Our stories are not really about us. We’re not the hero of our stories,” Bishop Mike said. “The stories are about God’s activity in our lives. We are stewards of our story and we’re invited by God to share those stories with others, so they in turn will discover their story of God in their lives.”
We have stories as a United Methodist community, too, that need sharing. In the past year, more than one hundred INUMC churches have launched new ministries as part of the commission at 2014 Annual Conference to create 100 New Points of Light. Diving even further back into our history, we’ll find the story of Methodist Hospital, when the INUMC raised one million dollars to start a hospital to serve the poor. Today, Methodist Hospital has provided more than 300 million dollars in charity care.
We’re here this weekend to learn how to share our stories. When we share our stories, we’re really sharing God’s stories, and His story is one of unconditional, unrelenting love. We are thankful for that love today and the opportunity we have to spread it throughout our homes, communities and congregations.
As we continued with opening business this afternoon, Revs. Bill Keith, Chiyona Bourne and Matt Landry joined us to discuss progress of the Africa University Campaign. Last year a goal was set to raise $1.6 million. As of March 31, 2015, $1.1 million has been raised and the lives of students at AU are being radically changed through Christ. Bishop Mike, along with a delegation from Indiana, visited AU to share the good news. The stories they heard were powerful, and we were able to see firsthand via video how AU students have been transformed by your generosity.
As we dismissed this afternoon, we were challenged by Bishop Mike to share our stories – with one another, with our church members, with our waiter at lunch or the barista at Starbucks. We pray that the thousands of stories shared this weekend will glorify God and invite others to be a part of the most important story: His glorious love story for all of us.