When Mei-Ling Blackstone, a 16 year-old junior at Emmaus High School, led devotions as a guest at the Connectional Table (CT) meeting at First UMC Phoenixville, on Oct. 17, she led her listeners back to their roots through the art of storytelling. She talked about her special love for camping, inherited from her mother, and remembered her late, beloved grandmother who served in mission in the conflict-ridden Eastern European province of Kosovo.
Then Mei-Ling asked the adults there to share favorite stories from their childhoods with one another. As the hubbub of fond recollections filled the room, it took some time for her to still the group and call them back to order.
But storytelling was the order of the day, as CT chairperson the Rev. Robert Wilt invited conference leaders around the table to share inspirational stories of ministries engaged in the denomination’s mission, “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” There was the man the Rev. Robin Hynicka of the Urban Commission met at Arch Street UMC’s Serenity House who, with their help, now installs solar energy panels in his low-income Philadelphia community. But before he arrived there, he “couldn’t envision himself getting out of the gutter,” said Hynicka.
There was the young city boy who told the Rev. Sallie Ott, Development Coordinator for Camp and Retreat Ministries, that he loved summer camp–both the place and the people–and “he didn’t want to go back home.”
Conference Trustees Chairman Al Kingcade said he often meets with churches “that work hard to show that the value of their ministry extends beyond just bricks and mortar facilities.”
The Rev. Mike Netznik and Suzette James, of the conference’s Congregational Development Team, each shared stories of their churches serving their communities by ministering to teachers and students, both in need of support and encouragement.
After all the stories, there were ministry reports from most of the nearly 30 attendees, including Bishop Peggy Johnson, Cabinet representative the Rev. Gary Nicholson, Connectional Ministries Director the Rev. Christopher Kurien, and Conference Lay Leader David Koch. Also, Communications Director John Coleman gave a tour of the new conference Website, including its features and utility to ministry leaders.
In closing Wilt announced that in 2016 leaders from the various ministry areas would gather into affinity groups to collaborate more and also review the conference’s mission and vision statements in relation to its overall emphasis on congregational development, missions, stewardship and discipleship.
“We’re not here just to give our individual reports,” he said, “but to look for ways to partner together and form linkages so we can do more and do it better.”
The Connectional Table will convene again April 9.