Aldersgate becomes a Place of Spiritual Refuge

By Frank Billman

“Aldersgate has become a city of refuge for me, a place where I can come and I can magnify and praise the Lord—a place where you are stripped of all titles…and you can just enjoy the goodness of the Lord,” Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Annual Conference told participants at Aldersgate 2011. “The Council [of Bishops] has not assigned me to Aldersgate. The Holy Spirit assigned me here. I come of my own volition as I have become a regular attendee.”

The 35th annual national conference on Spirit-filled living sponsored by Aldersgate Renewal Ministries (ARM), was held July 27-31 in Dayton, Ohio.  More than 1,300 children, youth, and adults attended the United Methodist family conference.

Worship at the adult conference was led by a worship team from the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation, singing traditional hymns woven together with contemporary worship songs. Dancers, banner bearers, and an artist all ministered during the celebrations. Worship artist Mary Ellen Martin of Joelton, Tennessee, also led an equipping session on prophetic art. “A question: Why is this an ‘arm’ of the UMC and not The UMC?” wrote one clergywoman from Ohio on her evaluation sheet. “Worship like this should be part of our conferences and churches.”

As a part of the conference, more than 130 “Prophetic Prayer Appointments” took place, offering an individual 15 minutes with a 2-person team with gifting in prophecy and in words of knowledge who would pray and then speak God’s words into the attendees’ lives.

The children’s ministry celebrated the theme “Transformed.” Kids learned lessons from people who encountered Jesus, the ultimate transformer. Highlights included creative games, a global prayer night, and worship leadership in the Sunday morning Holy Communion celebration.

“The Gate 2011” saw more than 300 young people begin to desire and discover an extraordinary life of faith; becoming “Devastated by God’s Love and Ruined for the Ordinary.” One young man said of his experience, “I have been a Christian since I was 12. I thought I was living a life that was very pleasing to God. I never smoked or drank, but that truly was not all that mattered. I found out I need more of God in my life, and I need to give more of myself to Him and now feel that God is giving me a calling.”

Adult session speakers were the Rev. Jasmine Smothers from Norcross, Georgia; the Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway from Reynoldsburg, Ohio; the Rev. Jacquie Leveron from Wellington, Florida; the Rev. Dr. Mark Virkler from Buffalo, New York; and the Rev. Dr. Craig Green from Livingston, Tennessee.

When asked, “How has the conference helped you in your spiritual journey?” a lay woman from Pennsylvania answered, “Re-filled, renewed, resting in the arms of my God!” A Kansas participant wrote, “It’s so refreshing to know that there are Spirit-filled Methodists in place around the U.S. and the world. We’re expecting a mighty move of the Holy Spirit to sweep through the Methodist church soon!” A clergy person from Indiana answered saying, “Inspiration to persevere in local church ministry. It gives me hope for the future of the UM Church; God’s not finished with us yet! I’m refreshed, revived, and ready to initiate new prayer ministries in the church I pastor.”

Since the conference, ARM has received testimonies of physical healings, people being filled with the Holy Spirit, and speaking in tongues for the first time.

Does attending an Aldersgate conference really make a difference? A father from Tennessee wrote: “I loved it so much, but I didn’t realize the full extent of what God was doing until the ride home. He has healed areas I didn’t know were broken. He has broken off things I didn’t know I had. Monday, my 11 year old daughter asked me, ‘What happened to you in Ohio? You are different, what did they do to you? You are so much nicer.’ And thanks to the equipping sessions [with Mark Virkler], I now understand my dreams. God is showing me the difference between my thoughts and His voice. He really speaks a lot if I will only listen, and since I left Aldersgate 2011, I have been.”

Bishop Ernest Lyght has already welcomed the Aldersgate conference back to Charleston, West Virginia next July 11-15, saying, “We have started praying for Aldersgate 2012, that it might be a marvelous Pentecostal experience for all participants.”

You can go to www.Aldersgate2012.com  to register for next year’s conference.  Bishop João Carlos Lopes, President of the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church of Brazil will be one of the keynote speakers for that next conference.

Frank Billman is the Director for Church Relations for Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.