Today marked the beginning of a significant time in the life of the United Methodist Church. Bishops, media, observers, and a total of eight hundred and sixty-four delegates gathered in St. Louis at the America’s Center Convention Complex for a Day of Prayer.
The day was organized by the Praying Our Way Forward team, led by Bishop Deborah Wallace-Padgett and Bishop Al Gwinn. This initiative began in 2016 and included bishops, annual conferences, and expanded to include the entire denomination. The Alabama-West Florida Conference honored this time in September of 2017 by writing prayers and asking local churches to ring bells at 5:23 one evening signifying today’s date, February 23.
Today’s gathering featured experiential prayer time with bishops from four regions of the world. Each segment included:
-Preparation for the way God will speak in each segment;
-Celebration of the places where the work of God is thriving;
-Presentation of the missional challenges in this part of the world;
-Prayers in various languages; and
-Experiential prayer including prayer stations, prayer partners, and self-guided prayer.
Several local churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference recently held their own prayer services or vigils to join in this effort. Dothan First United Methodist Church held a service last week. “We felt it was important to come together as a church and offer prayers for those who have spent significant time serving the church as lay and clergy delegates to General Conference,” said Dr. Jim Sanders, senior pastor. “Clearly our entire congregation cannot make the trip to St. Louis so this was our way of showing our support for those who are representing our conference. Our prayers continue for the conference and those attending.”
Dothan FUMC also distributed prayer cards containing the dates and purpose of the special-called conference, the names of the ten delegates, and a prayer for them to say each day in the month of February.
Today’s gathering had two purposes: to pray for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference and to increase effectiveness in fulfilling the Church’s mission.
“We have much work ahead of us in the coming days,” stated Bishop David Graves. “It was important for the United Methodist Church to come together and spend intentional time in prayer and fasting before we begin the legislative work. I, along with many other bishops and delegates, will be fasting during the lunch hour. I am grateful for many dedicated United Methodists in our conference that are taking time out of their busy weekend to pray for our delegates and leaders.”