I write in the afterglow of the March 6 Bishop’s Confirmation Rally held at First United Methodist Church in Noblesville, with nearly 600 confirmation youth and their adult leaders participating in this memorable event. It was a great day, and I was impressed with the energy, passion, spiritual devotion and inquiring intellect of those young people. Imagine a large room filled with all of those junior high youth, singing, praising God, responding to the various speakers, enjoying the lively music, and listening respectfully to what I shared about the meaning of Confirmation. Wow! It was a great day.
Our theme for the day was “Connect” and we focused upon helping those youth to connect to Christ, connect to the church and connect to The United Methodist Church, including getting to know me and other conference leaders. The theme of “Connect” was symbolized by the large soft-plastic Lego bricks they were given. Each brick was imprinted with our theme of the day: “Connect – 2010 Bishop’s Confirmation Rally.” The Lego bricks really do “connect” to one another, and of course the youth quickly started building things with their Legos.
As I look back on my own confirmation as a youth, I don’t know if I made that connection. Certainly there was an effort to help us connect to Christ, and I know we were told that confirmation was our way of becoming church members, but I don’t think the full meaning of “connection” was made real to us as kids. It was only years later that I was able to learn how we United Methodists are a connectional church, part of a global movement and integrally connected to one another.
Too often we have not made that connection for our youth and perhaps even for our adults. We have focused so much upon each congregation that we have ignored the “connection” we all share. I have met members of some of our United Methodist congregations right here in Indiana who were not even aware that they had joined The United Methodist Church when they joined their local church. How unfortunate, because our connection is such a strength.
People tell me that “brand loyalty” does not mean much anymore. They cite Toyota as an example of how many brands have harmed their good reputation, and they tell me that people don’t trust large institutions. I suppose much of that is true, and I don’t think people should be blindly loyal to The United Methodist Church. In fact, most of us, who have been part of this Wesleyan tradition all of our lives are the most critical of our denomination. I would describe my own feelings about The United Methodist Church as something of a “lover’s quarrel” – I love our church but I know our failures, and I quarrel with our mistakes because I want us to do better.
I am not asking for blind loyalty to the UMC as a brand, but I am reminding us that we need to help all of our people make the connection – to know we are all part of something larger, more potent, more diverse and more dynamic than what we experience in our local congregations. We United Methodists accomplish so much more together than we do alone. We need to help our people make the connection. Maybe we could give everyone a Lego brick imprinted with the word “connect.”
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana and Around the World”