By Kathy Gilbert-
Pray, breathe, repeat.
When the 864 delegates arrive for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference, each one of them comes blanketed in prayer. From every corner of the world, people are speaking their names and praying for The United Methodist Church as the denomination’s top policy-making body prepares to meet in Portland.
In addition to stirring music, inspiring sermons and those once-every-four-years opportunities to spend time with brothers and sisters living in distant places, delegates will spend long hours in debates that could dramatically change the laws of the church. Often, the proceedings stop for a word of prayer when things get too heated.
Before all that begins, the Rev. Tom Albin, dean of The Upper Room Chapel, invites all United Methodists to prepare and blanket the entire proceeding with intentional prayer. All are welcome to join the prayer community created for General Conference at www.60daysofprayer.org.
“The prayer ministry for the 2016 General Conference is more intentional, more inclusive, more integrated, and more expansive (than previous quadrennial gatherings) which, hopefully, will make it more visible,” Albin said.
Technology has changed in the last four years, Albin noted, making it possible to offer the prayer book, “60 Days of Prayer for General Conference,” in multiple formats and languages.
Visitors to the website may sign up for daily meditations that will begin on March 31 and end nine days after the conference closes on May 20. Meditations are available online or by signing up for a free PDF, email feed, or text message. The daily meditations also will be available on the General Conference app and on tablets being used by central conference (conferences outside the U.S.) delegates in English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili.
As in past conferences, a prayer room and trained volunteer spiritual directors will be available. “With every decision made, there will be some across the connection who will be hurt and angry; others will be grateful and rejoicing; and yet others will be confused and uncertain,” Albin said. “By holding one another in prayer, the pain and the joy and the frustration will all be shared with God. In prayer, we can do what we believe — rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
In 2016, everyone will receive a Protestant prayer-bead strand (pictured above) including a prayer medallion created specifically for this General Conference, Albin said.
“Many have been anticipating the opportunity to be a part of the 2016 Prayer Ministry,” Albin said. “There is a sense of gratitude and expectation … that God is going to hear and answer our prayers in a manner that exceeds everything we could possibly ask or anticipate.”
Kathy Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.