“The connection is real,” is what she said to me. I was visiting David Cross in the hospital, after his surgery on his brain tumor had failed and the family was dealing with the aftermath of that surgery. His wife, Christy, and I were talking in the hallway, and she was commenting about all of the pastor friends and others who had gathered to be with her, with David, and with the entire family. She was telling me how much support and prayer she was feeling, and she said, “The connection is real.”

I told that story at the funeral service for David this past Sunday when a huge crowd filled Wabash First UMC and many, many clergy gathered to share in a beautiful and inspirational service. The funeral was led by David’s clergy friends, who said that they have been a “covenant group” long before we called such friendship groups a covenant group. Then all of the clergy present gathered up front to sing “It is Well With My Soul” – joined by the entire congregation for the final verses.

“The connection is real” indeed. Sometimes we only think of our United Methodist Church as connectional in terms of conference structures, committees, budget, pensions and the like. But the real sense of the connection is our connection with friends, colleagues, parishioners, and others in ministry together. We don’t do ministry alone as United Methodists, we are connected.

That connection is most evident at times like the funeral for a 53-year-old pastor who died much too soon. That connection is also evident at Annual Conference Sessions when we remember and honor those who have died, those who are retiring, and those being ordained and commissioned. That connection is also evident in the quiet ways we pray for one another, uphold one another in ministry, encourage one another, and avoid criticizing and gossiping about one another.

“The connection is real” – when we make it real among us.