Rest for the Weary: United Methodist Women and Deaconesses Provide Room for Prayer
On April 23rd, 2012, with little fanfare, Bishop Timothy Whitaker from Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church blessed a quiet room at the convention center in Tampa. This prayer ministry is open to all of the thousands of weary United Methodist delegates and guests who are looking for sanctuary from the hustle bustle of the church-wide meeting.
In a satellite prayer ministry space organized by United Methodist Women prayer room, all are invited to rest, meditate, create a prayer square or open their hands for an anointing by a deaconesses, home missioner or local United Methodist Women. Indeed, more than two dozen United Methodist Women members are volunteering to staff the satellite prayer space in the exhibit hall and with the main prayer ministry rooms. The United Methodist Women volunteers come from Clearwater, Seminole, Bradenton and Tampa.
“We are making a quilt with fabric squares for people to write their joys, concerns and messages of hope,” said Ms. Rosemary Uebel, the conference secretary of Florida Conference of United Methodist Women.
“How do we put together a quilt that doesn't follow quilting rules and enable the work of the Holy Spirit?” asked fellow Floridian and committee on nominations member of the Florida Conference for United Methodist Women, Roberta Lau. “Here will be quilters and stitchers from various churches, and each will use their skills to shape the quilt of General Conference attendees' emotions and prayers in the coming days. General Conference attendees will be invited to design their own quilt square or rectangle, stitch, embroider, fasten shells, and if they want, attach onto the quilt. Our location as a prayer satellite in the Expo Hall will provide a quiet space for reflection and healing action.”
“Several (United Methodist Women) volunteers were already committed to Florida Conference Hospitality, but, some were attracted to this prayer ministry as they felt they had something to offer - their hands for mending and stitching ministries, and their hearts for prayer. Some are experienced with large United Methodist Women and United Methodist Church meetings. And for others, a large United Methodist Church gathering is an opportunity not to be missed,” said Ms. Lau.
She has spent the last couple of months recruiting the volunteers for this prayer room, sponsored by United Methodist Women and the office of Deaconesses and Home Missioner, along with Elsie Olsen, the conference spiritual growth coordinator of Florida Conference. (The prayer room was organized by Women’s Division executive staff, Glory Dharmaraj and Deaconess Becky Louter, and Deaconess Lisa Bachman from North Carolina Annual Conference.)
In addition to the quilting station, prayers can be shared around small tables, a kneeling rail, a fountain, and an anointing station.
The anointing oil is placed in sea shells from New Zealand. “Local Florida Conference United Methodist Women members who live near the beaches brought in shells and sand. One member (Deaconess Mary Melvin) made a cross out of weathered boards,” Ms. Lau reported.
If you go into the prayer room, you will recognize the United Methodist Women volunteers by their royal blue cotton scarves designed by United Methodist Women member Ellen Johnsen and Deaconesses and Home Missioners by their scarves.
“I had no idea how magnificent this experience would be and how UMW members can come together with such enthusiasm and a desire to help,” marveled Ms. Lau.
More Prayers from Deaconesses for General Conference
If you’re away from the prayer room in Tampa, consider joining with the deaconess and home missioner community who offer words of hope for the General Conference community. Here are a few words of hope for the General Conference delegates:
I pray each day that General Conference will be a time of Holy Conferencing. My hope is that ways be found to reshape our organization, our structures, and some of our thinking and ways of working, that will open doors, provide highways and avenues for God’s message of love to be shared in new and bold ways. My hope is that our human desires and understandings not block any progress that can be made to further God’s kin-dom here on earth through The United Methodist Church.
~Leslie Hobson, deaconess, Youth and Family Ministries Director at Park United Methodist Church
in Brainerd, Minn., who trains staff and campers so that “all may feel included and loved.”
Having a powerful denomination that is focused on social justice and care for the least, the lost and the sometimes forgotten is very important to the well-being of my ministry.
My hope (for General Conference) is that the individuals involved will remember to remove themselves from the issues and let God speak through them to get the job done.
~Charmaine Cothram, deaconess from Maple Park United Methodist Church in Chicago,
Ill., who organizes a monthly support group for people with Multiple Sclerosis.
My biggest hope for General Conference (GC) is that decisions will be made with great care and lots of prayer. There are so many issues before the GC to vote on, from inclusivity/exclusivity to the basic operational structures of our denomination. We are a church of many peoples from different cultures, countries and backgrounds of all kinds.
Often I'm afraid that our differences are seen as obstacles rather than the beauty and richness of God's creation. I hope that the GC will seriously consider the underlying message of the Gospel and the ways that their decisions affect everyone within our denomination, as well as what kind of statement is made to the rest of the world about what we believe and what we think is most important.
Much of what I've seen building up to GC is based on fear - fear of numbers, fear of dying, fear of those who are different - and I believe that true grounding in Christ allows us to live without fear, to do what is right regardless of worldly concerns. The delegates have a difficult job ahead of them, but I also hope they take time to reflect on things away from the voting and to make new friends from around the globe.
~Amanda Caruso, deaconess and store manager at the Habitat
for Humanity Kansas City ReStore in South Kansas City, Mo.