A junior at the University of Kansas, Grace Woods is preparing to go to the seminary to become a pastor.
“The United Methodist Church is really important to me,” the Tonganoxie native said. “It’s part of my identity, and it’s who I am.”
But if the Traditional Plan passes the special session of the General Conference, Woods says, she would seriously consider changing those plans.
“I’m hoping to stay in this denomination with my family and the people that I love in my life,” she said.
Woods is one of three students from the Wesley KU Foundation who, with their director and campus minister, Susan Mercer, is in St. Louis to observe the special session.
“I’m honored and anxious and excited to be a part of it,” Woods said.
Amarais Towle and Kailie Hamilton, as well as a non-student friend of the program, made their way from Lawrence to The Dome at America’s Center for the special session. They arrived Friday morning, and Mercer prayed over every chair on the floor, as well as the bishop’s seats, the altar and communion table.
“We all had very moving, powerful experiences at that time,” Mercer, who also served as spiritual director in one of the prayer rooms, said.
Hamilton, a freshman from Hesston, said it was important for people from her generation to attend the special session.
“I really wanted to come so everyone at the conference could think of the future of the church,” she said.
“There’s an energy in love, and I know we bring that,” added Towle, a junior from Topeka.
“I want the worth and dignity of everyone, no matter who they love, to be able to be completely respected in the church I’ve grown up in and love so much,” Hamilton said. “I just keep thinking of what church environment I want my baby sister growing up in. I want to feel comfortable in my place of worship.”
“There should not be a schism,” Towle added.
The students planned on leaving Monday night, before a decision is scheduled to be made. The Way Forward plans have been discussed frequently by Wesley KU , Mercer said, and students even assisted with Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.’s town hall meeting in Lawrence in November.
“They’ve been enthusiastic about coming for a long time,” Mercer said. “We had pretty direct conversations about what would be involved and the weight of the weekend and how it could be a strain emotionally.
“They committed to go into it with their eyes wide open and with prayer and researching for what it would mean,” she added. “They were really thoughtful. I’m really proud of them for being willing to be here.”
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