It seemed like a miracle. The blizzard last Friday paralyzed much of the Grand Rapids District. I received many emails from people saying they were not going to be able to come to Bishop’s Day because of the weather. We didn’t cancel the workshop, however, because we knew it could never be rescheduled. Unfortunately, Bishop’s Day did have to be canceled in the Upper Peninsula, and several other districts had extreme weather as well.
Imagine my surprise and amazement when 180 of the 306 people registered for Bishop’s Day blew and slid in from across the district. They came because there was too much equipping and inviting to do to stay home. There was too much to learn about evangelism and stewardship to stay home. Outside it was snowy and blustery. Inside First UMC, Grand Rapids, however, the Spirit was moving, and a fire ignited. My greatest learning other than being reminded once more that I can’t control the weather no matter how hard I pray: United Methodists still show up!!!!
We experienced vital and inspiring worship in two distinct styles. We participated in seven different workshops, which provided practical guidance in evangelism and stewardship. We were urged to remember the empty chair and invite people outside the walls of our church to the table. Just as Elijah commissioned Elisha, so we received mantles as part of our commissioning. As an expression of stewardship, we raised $680 for Nothing But Nets, providing 68 malaria nets for people in Africa, thus potentially saving 68 lives. We had a wonderful time swapping ideas with other people and being hosted by several dozen enthusiastic volunteers from First Church.
The day was best summed up by Sami Marasigan, Director of Youth and Young Adults at First UMC, Grand Rapids, who co-led the youth component of the day with Betsy Marvin, Director of Youth at Cornerstone UMC. Sami wrote these paragraphs.
“The adults weren’t the only ones at the Grand Rapids District Bishop’s Day (‘Come to the Table’). Twenty of our youth and a few leaders met for the opening and closing worship services and youth workshops. In the morning we looked at what evangelism means to us and how to share our story. Our new definition for evangelism is, ‘Inviting people to Jesus through stories and outreach.’ In the afternoon we practiced what we learned in the morning by passing out hot cocoa, scarves and lunches to those in the downtown Grand Rapids community.
“Many of the youth went to the Heartside area and were flooded with people in need. The people on the street loved the hot chocolate and warm words from our youth. My group went a different direction and ended up outside the Van Andel Arena as families were leaving the Monster’s Inc. performance. One woman was so surprised by our generosity that she kept telling us, “Praise God for you.” We met a family waiting at the bus stop with two kids who loved the idea of free lunch and hot cocoa. The mom asked, “What church would do something like this for us?”
“Her question made me think, ‘Why don’t we do this more often?’ The lunches we were handing out were actually the extra lunches we had because of the bad weather that hit and many who couldn’t make it. What do you do when you have more than enough at your church? Do you share? Actually, every church has more than enough. I think now is the time to start sharing.
As the Bishop and cabinet meet to evaluate the Bishop’s Day, I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you registered and were not able to attend, we have resource notebooks for you in the district office.
If you remember anything from Bishop’s Day, I hope it is this. In each one of our churches, there are more than enough people, resources, money, enthusiasm, Holy Spirit power, and empty seats at the table to transform lives and change our world.
Come to the table … but don’t stay there.