The end of May brought a final family reunion for the Global Mission Fellow class of 2014-2016. Upon the end of General Conference in downtown Portland, we bused out to the serene haven that is A.Collins Retreat Center. Isolated in the midst of Oregon forest and under the warm hospitality of retreat staff, we were able to reflect, laugh, and be in community.
I have often described this family with positive words, unable to fully convey the unique love that has formed among us, but after attending a week of General Conference and then two weeks of our End-Term event, I now know what I am most proud of.
General Conference brought much dissent, emotions, and negative talk within the United Methodist Church. Tensions were high, decisions were made (and not made) to disappoint some and discourage others. Some left the Conference disheartened or even angry at the Church. But I left with hope and being among 33 young adults immediately after brought even more hope.
Even though our Global Mission Fellow family is close, like any family, we have disagreements and we hurt each other. At our Midterm event in November, some of our discussions regarding the global church and theology in general did not end very well. While trying to show love we also spoke some hateful words and we put aside cultural context. Almost 6 months later we engaged in healthy dialogue about the same controversial issues that the global church is juggling – human sexuality, women’s health, interfaith dialogue, etc – and we did so with incredible love and sensitivity. Finally, we were able to truly listen to each other, ask honest questions to understand one another, take cultural context into consideration, and speak with respect and love.
This act brought me to tears one day because it brought me hope. It brought me hope for the Church. If young adults can be the change, if young adults in be an example to the church, forging the way to build relationships and to truly try to understand one another, maybe the church will also make steps to truly understand each other as well and stay unified.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:2-6