BY THOMAS STARNES
Since retiring, attending annual conferences has not been a priority for me. Part of that negligence has been financially based: We retirees have no churches to pick up the tabs for us. But the greater part is feeling no real connection to the business that gets transacted.
However, two years ago, I began to attend again. In June, I was hanging around with some of my Dumbarton colleagues and I got this sense of having come home – home to my other “church family:” my conference.
I was sitting down front, left side, and it occurred to me that this is where my brother and I used to sit. There is a picture I treasure of Luther, Ed Hammerslea and me sitting in a down-front pew at Metropolitan Church. The three of us have on sun glasses (I have long since forgotten why) and our hands are raised signaling either support of or opposition to whatever motion was before us.
Phil Wogaman was next to me during that service of “Passage” and the reading of the appointments. When the retirees were assembled, Phil said, “Tom, I had most of them in some of my classes.” Phil and I share birth years, and at least I was thinking T. S. Eliot’s lines, “I grow old, I grow old, . . .”
Sitting there this year, in my usual spot, I decided to make attendance at annual conference a priority for me. The Baltimore-Washington Conference is my covenant community. My name appears on no church register. This is where I get counted among the people called Methodist. And I owe a lot to this band of brothers and sisters. They took me in over half a century ago, honored my credentials from another denomination and gave me opportunities far beyond anything I ever expected.
When I do show up next year, God willing, is it too much to ask the worship planners to have us do what Methodists for centuries have done, open the conference by singing: “And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face? Glory and thanks to Jesus give, for his almighty grace.”