On Thursday United Methodists from across the state will arrive in Hampton, VA for Annual Conference. Holy conferencing is in the DNA of those from the Wesleyan Tradition and we gather together in anticipation of the Spirit moving in our midst. It used to be that Annual Conference was a time for worship (and only worship) but over the centuries it has become a time of bureaucratic politicking with a little worship sprinkled on top. I have hope for our gathering this year, the moments in which God’s grace will shine brightly in the darkness, but I am also keenly aware that conferencing often shows the church at her best and her worst.
Since the 1780s the Wesley brothers used Charles Wesley’s “And Are We Yet Alive” hymn to open society meetings, and the denomination has been doing it ever since. On Thursday the representatives from Virginian Methodism will lift up our voices and sing the same song. It is my hope and prayer that, this year, we might hold fast to the words of the hymn throughout our gathering and know that, no matter what, the divine “yet” of God’s grace is the difference that makes all the difference in the world.
If you’re unfamiliar with the hymn, the lyrics are as follows:
And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace!
Preserved by power divine to full salvation here,
again in Jesus’ praise we join, and in his sight appear.
What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past,
fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last!
Yet out of all the Lord hath brought us by his love;
and still he doth his help afford, and hides our life above.
Then let us make our boast of his redeeming power,
which saves us to the utter most, till we can sin no more.
Let us take up the cross till we the crown obtain,
and gladly reckon all things loss so we may Jesus gain.