I Leave Hopeful

I Leave Hopeful

On November 1, 1792, a year after the death of John Wesley, the Methodist leadership in America gathered in Baltimore for a conference. The Methodist church was on one hand young, vibrant, and growing and on the other hand delicate, full of strife, and on the verge of schism. It was under these conditions that Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke, and others gathered for what would be the first General Conference.  They determined then that it would be good to have such a gathering every four years.

Today, I am in Portland for my second General Conference. I reflected back on some words that I wrote before leaving for my first GC four years ago. The words stirred my now four year older heart that I admit has a bit more crust on it from another quadrennium of working too much and not trusting God enough.  I realize the church is just like it was over 200 years ago: delicate, full of strife, and on the verge of schism. I realize that my heart is in need of what the church needs, renewal and healing.  I share my revised words as a way of centering my heart on the hope that we have as the church of Jesus Christ.

I have packed, prayed, read the legislation (ok, some of it, there is over 1500 pages), and prepared as best I know how for some two weeks of holy conferencing with my sisters and brothers from all around the world. (This year around 40% of delegates are from outside the U.S.)

Most of the sentiment I receive when I tell folks that I am heading to General Conference feels like cynicism, sympathy, or at best concern for my mental well-being.  Strangely, though I feel hopeful. 

I feel the same hope that I assume my parents felt when I was baptized in a little white dress in our small United Methodist Church.

It’s the same hope I felt when Quincy Hall led children’s time during worship and shared a story of cheating on a test in school. Then he said that God loved us so much that he forgave stuff like that. 

The same hope I felt in my confirmation service.  I had spent the last week in a hospital bed with an unknown illness. I was weak, and my mom helped me to the kneeler. With a feeble voice I professed my faith in Jesus Christ. 

It’s the same hope I felt in Los Rubios Spain when on my 18th birthday I worshipped in a United Methodist Mission on the coast of the Mediterranean.  It was the first time I really felt the Connection. 

I sensed it again worshipping with the poor in Mexico and then again in Nicaragua.  The hope I felt there helped me see how poor I really was. 

I felt the same hope eight years ago when a few old bishops laid their hands on my head and prayed that the Holy Spirit would be poured upon me for the work of an elder in the church. 

It’s really the same hope I felt last Sunday when I knelt beside a feeding trough filled with warm water from the janitor’s closet.  I felt it in the air as I said as loud as I could “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son…”

I guess as much as I hear negative about the United Methodist Church, as much as I read about its decline, as much as I hunger for its reform and revival, I still have hope. 

Whatever we debate and argue and legislate in the coming days, I believe it is worth it. 

And so some might say I leave for the General Conference of 2016 naïve or idealistic or too young to know better. 

I know this, I leave hopeful. 

19 Comments

  1. Thank you Jacob- I wrote similar words differently a little while ago. I want to be more open to the Holy Spirit, more trusting – and to stay hopeful.

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    • We are on the same page!

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  2. I pray you have a great trip. I grew up in a great Methodist church in south Georgia. Our youth group was on fire for Jesus, and that fire spread throughout the church. God can do anything, anytime, anywhere He wants to, and the Methodist church is a great place for great things to happen. I pray the conference goes well, and that you are inspired!

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    • Thanks so much Tim!

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  3. Jacob, we are never naive enough, idealistic enough, nor young enough; without these things our world would not know Peace that comes from Jesus Christ through hopeful people…

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    • Good Word Skip, thank you!

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  4. Your hope gives me hope, Jacob. Thanks for your words.

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    • Thanks TG!

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  5. Jacob, In 1972 I went to Okeechobee, Fla. with only $100 to last for 2 months. Believed God called me there to teach. I was too young, too nieve, etc. to know I “couldn’t make it”. God used me for His glory as he will u.

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    • Thankful for your story Margaret.

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  6. God is with you, Jacob. I am sure Methodist ministers who have gone before you with their hearts open and with their own prayers for renewal and healing, have found peace and hope, as I pray you will. “What, then, can I hope for, Lord? I put my hope in you.” Psalms 39:7

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    • Thanks Sharon, I love the Scripture.

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  7. I pray you never lose hope, continue to have a fire in you to spread His word, and never stop dreaming!

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    • Thanks Joy for continuing to encourage my dreaming!

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  8. Thanks, Jacob. I loved Quincy Hall, too. I needed the hope today.

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    • Thanks Ken! Quincy was the best!

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  9. Thank you, Jacob, for this statement of hope! May God’s will be done!

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    • Amen!

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  10. We love you Jacob We will be praying for you and the conference here in Honduras. I’ll never forget you and Rachel fussing (just a little) ? Outside the airport in Texas before we were to cross the border. Among other crazy things that happened on those Mexico mission trips. I don’t have one bad memory of you,Rachel and the girls. They are all good and for such a reason and time as this. Keep your eyes and thoughts fixed on Him! He is the author and His story continues to be written upon your heart. ❤️ Tj

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