Glimpses of Grace & Truth...Alice, as Treasurer of Smith Chapel UMC, worked hard in 1996 to teach me about Charge Conference. I knew conferences were meant to bring everyone together about an idea or concept, or start something new. The term “Charge” was new to me, but I quickly learned it came from our Methodist roots.
Bishops & District Superintendents in the late-1700s began connecting churches by geography, like churches in one area, or along one main highway. This “connection” of churches was called a “charge” and the pastor was assigned to that particular charge. While the pastor may serve multiple churches, there was only one charge for the pastor and every church. Of his six thousand hymns, Charles Wesley wrote a very special one, A Charge to Keep, and intentionally made vs. 3 a prayer for every leader: “Arm me with jealous care, as in thyself to live, and oh, thy servant Lord prepare, a strict account to give.” Every Methodist minister since Wesley, beside every leader in every local church, have a charge to keep. Alice, Joe, Gaston, and Cynthia at Smith Chapel, and so many others in churches from Texas to Kentucky to West TN, have taught me that our charge has been around much longer than any of us. They have helped me learn that it is healthy to have a full charge conference at least once per year to reflect on the past, and glance toward the future.
They have taught me to think about people resources, meaning “who would do what” and that we must work hard to nominate new leaders and to develop/strengthen them and existing leaders (what our Lay Leadership & Nominations team does). They taught me why we must properly manage all property given to God, and entrusted to us (like buildings, equipment, etc.) because good stewardship of property is part of our charge (this group is called Trustees). They taught me about the need to keep good relations between the pastor/staff and the parish and to work with our bishop to ensure those relations stay healthy (i.e., our Staff-Parish Relations Committee). My dear friend Alice taught me that stewardship included Finances, where we helped church members understand their responsibility to give to Christ’s Church, and helped leaders understand we are accountable for properly managing those resources. They taught me about other groups who focused on specific ministry areas like discipleship and growing, about mission projects and being in mission, about evangelism ranging from inviting anyone to welcoming everyone and helping people find their place to know, love, share, and serve Christ.
Over the years, I’ve learned that these teams must gather regularly to ensure we all move forward together as a healthy church. They taught me how we as church leaders, ordained clergy and empowered laity, work together on our Charge to Keep. Here at Dyersburg First UMC, we too have A Charge to Keep. You might notice that our leaders are up to our elbows preparing for our Charge Conference on October 28th. That’s when we sit down with our District Superintendent, Kevin Conrad, to look back and look forward on our Charge to Keep. Pray for our church’s leaders so we all do our best to make this charge its very best for Christ.
We’ll see you Sunday in Christ: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family