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Thursday Evening Session - Mission Celebration

The evening began with spirited music led by Jim Bennett and a processional of banners from various mission-related agencies from across the conference. The Rev. Carl Perez read from Isaiah 5:29. Jim was joined by the "Whoever Singers," a group of volunteers who had one 45-minute rehearsal before the evening's festivities. Rose Teague, a youth member to annual conference, read from Romans 1:7-15.

The Rev. Glenn Rowley, conference director of Mission and Global Justice, thanked the annual conference mission team, Volunteers in Mission, Disaster Response teams, all the missionaries (each one of you), and Denise Honeycutt (who set the bar really high) for inviting him to be a part of mission in the Virginia Conference.

Rowley noted that Bishop Kammerer said, "God's mission is our mission." That is what the annual conference mission team picked up on for the theme of the mission celebration, along with the final words of the conference mission statement: "to be Christ to others in the world."

Rowley asked, "What does it mean to be Christ to others in the world? We are doers. All you need to do is walk around the exhibit hall and see what's going on. We have a lot of folks in mission. Why do we do it? For most of what we do in the church, Rowley said, we are challenged to connect what we do in church to the community." He pointed out three areas we need to hold before us -- serving in humility, serving in transformation, and serving in justice.

Rowley told about learning a lesson of faith from a young Senegalese Muslim man whose father had died and left behind 11 family dependents. Rowley said he asked the young man how they would get by. The young man's simple response was "God is good."

Rowley went on to talk about the stewardship of God's creation and how it can transform all of us and the world. "It can be a risky business to talk about being transformed. We don't put ourselves out there to be transformed alone, the Lord goes out before us."

God's mission has to look the systemic injustice in the world, he continued. "Church and society cannot be two words that when said together create anger and despair. Only one of those is just half of the gospel. We are called more than ever to live lives that reflect love for all God's creation, even those people we don't like, or don't like us." Rowley asked, "Are you meant for mission?" and was answered with a resouding "Yes."

The children from the Henry Fork Service Center and the visiting Brazil children marched to the stadium to "Jesus Loves the Little Children" and sang songs in English and Portuguese for the conference members and guests.

Louise Miller, dean of the School of Christian Mission, led the gathering in a confession of sins. The peace of Christ was shared.

People raised their hands and shared their pictures of mission work in their own local churches. The pictures will be put on display in the exhibit area. The children from Brazil serenaded the gathering with Amazing Grace and other songs played on recorders and accompanied by drums.

Chris Henderson and Rebecca Parsons led the mission litany.

Kristin Holbrook announced a new program of Mission Mentors, clergy and laity who are passionate about mission on a local, national and international level. A group people were commissioned as the conference's first Mission Mentors.


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