Monday, June 30, 2014

From generation to generation

By Deb Steransky

The Memorial Service at Annual Conference could be summed up in these words: “The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us .... This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.” — Henri Nouwen.

The service opened with a dramatic reading by Rev. Michelle Whitlock and Rev. Randall Bennett Jr. of a passage from Revelation 21 that tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Later the congregation was moved by a touching rendition of “What Wondrous Love is This” by the Annual Conference Choir, directed by Matthew Wensel, and accompanied by Carol Heagy.

In Rev. Dr. Thomas Salsgiver’s message, “Celebrating the Raising of Transformational Lives,” he reminded us to celebrate the transformational lives of the people we remembered. They lived with the certainty of God’s word and God’s promise of eternal life. Altogether they served well over 150 congregations. They touched, transformed, and raised up huge numbers of leaders.

Rev. Salsgiver reminded us that Joshua didn’t want to be a leader, even though Moses taught him to be one. Joshua was grieving and felt like he couldn’t go on, just like we feel when we lose a loved one. But God reminded Joshua to be strong and very courageous. Transformational leaders, like Moses, want us to go on, Salsgiver said.

Those we celebrated and remembered showed people the way home to God, and they want us to continue their work and move ahead. Even though we can’t see them, they are cheering us on.

He told a story about a symphony orchestra playing one summer night when a sudden thunderstorm caused the lights to go out in the theater. The orchestra continued to play. When the conductor was later asked how the orchestra could continue to play even though they couldn't see him, he replied that they had practiced for the performance. They knew he was there. So it is with those we remembered, said Salsgiver. Even when we can’t see the saints any longer, we can go forward without fear into the future, knowing they are cheering us on to raise up transformational leaders. Each of those saints was then named and a bell was rung in their honor. A Bible was placed on the altar in remembrance of each lay member, and a stole was placed on a yoke in each pastors’ memory. The stoles will be donated to pastors in Sierra Leone.

In one further act of mission, the Annual Conference was invited to give an offering to Stop Hunger Now. A short video explained the mission of Stop Hunger Now. Over the last year 50,000 volunteers have helped to package meals that will be sent to places of hunger and food insecurity. The final frames noted that twenty children died of hunger while we watched the video.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park led the communion service. Youth assisted in serving the elements at numerous stations within the congregation. The service ended with a mass choir singing the hope and the joy of following the Christ who hasn't failed us yet.

The video of the Memorial Service can be viewed at

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