I volunteered to share my impressions and experiences at General Conference because as a volunteer and first time attendee I thought I might be able to offer a perspective other than that of an experienced delegate. I am here as a volunteer for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition which operates under the Methodist Federation for Social Action. The Love Your Neighbor Coalition has thirteen partner members that have agreed to work together around the intersections of common justice issues and shared values. Please click on the links provided to find more information about the important work being done by all of the volunteers here.
My role as a hospitality volunteer has been to help feed the volunteers and to be a witness in support of full inclusion of all people within the United Methodist Church regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, to bring awareness to issues affecting our climate, to shed a light on the injustices faced by immigrants in this country, and to raise awareness of the complexities that stand in the way of peace in Israel and Palestine. It is a privilege to be here for this time to help with this work, but today I was privileged to witness something all together different than what I thought I was here to do.
I was coming downstairs from my room when I met a daughter in the elevator. She had just left her mother in the lobby and was heading to the parking garage with their bags. She appeared to be concerned and I asked if she was okay and she told me that she and her mother were on their way to the hospital to remove her brother from life support, before I could reply in any way the elevator door closed and she was gone. I turned towards the lobby and saw her mother walking out the door to the parking lot and I turned to go to her. The next thing I knew I was on my way to the hospital with them. What I did know in that moment was that God needed me to be there for this family and that I couldn’t let this woman say goodbye to her son without someone there to pray for him.
I knew that here in this place where we are all working so hard to create a church that loves the world the way we feel God wants us to, here was a family in need of a church to share God’s love. This was not about legislation, or judicial councils, this was about sharing God’s love when it was needed most. This was not about protests or vigils, this was not about who is right or who is wrong, this was about life and love and how we are the beloved children of a forgiving and resurrected God, and as those people we are called to share that good news with the people we come in contact with every day.
In the end it was not anything that I was able to do for this family that blessed them but it was the privilege that they gave to me in allowing me to be present for their goodbye that blessed me. The honor of being in the room when someone is born or when someone dies will never become routine to me, for it is in these moments that we are closest to God, and it is in these moments that God touches our hearts.