For months, we waited for the Commission on a Way Forward to complete its work.
For months, we waited for delegates to gather in St. Louis for the called General Conference.
And as the General Conference began on Saturday, we waited for the work to begin as we spent the day in a time of prayer of worship and reflection.
We waited. And it was holy.
Delegates to the called General Conference here in St. Louis spent the majority of Saturday’s opening session in prayer for the church. Keep in mind delegates are only here until Tuesday and we spent a day praying for the church and its mission.
And it was holy.
There is a temptation, especially with the time limit facing delegates and the work before them, to rush right in to the petitions and the various plans before General Conference. We want to rush to the finish line without taking care of the important spiritual needs of the church.
We want to debate. We want to deliberate. We want to get on with it.
We seldom want to come together to pray, to be centered, and to hear about the needs of our brothers and sisters. This is not just a problem for General Conference. It is a problem for the entire church.
Our struggles with being the church comes when we want to do the work of the church without being the mission of the church. Part of this is because being is harder than doing.
What do I mean by this?
In doing, we feel like we are accomplishing something. Worship has been held. Food distributed to those in need. Bible Studies were conducted. We can do things for the Lord and on behalf of the church and feel good about ourselves without ever doing the hard things of being the church.
The hard things of being the church take places when we stop, slow down, and are centered to experience the presence of God. The hard things are enhanced when we pray, listen, and talk with one another.
So, today we did the hard things by praying for one another. We did the hard things by not debating the plans from the Commission on a Way Forward, but hearing about the needs that face the entire church. We did the hard things by asking for expressions of peace and forgiveness from one another.
Only time will tell about how today’s prayer session will affect the entire tone of General Conference. The delegates still have to work through difficult and challenging proposals.
The hope, at least for today, is that this called time began on the right foot by slowing down and being the church before doing the work of the church.