More than 200 laity and clergy gathered at Barrington UMC on Feb. 8 for the 2014 Laity Convocation with the theme “Who is my neighbor? Who can’t I see?”. Keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath, McCreless Professor of Evangelism at the Perkins School of Theology, challenged laity to “go out, go deep, go together beyond the walls of the church”. Heath said after growing up poor and in a dysfunctional family always on the move, she would not be where she is today without the lay people who came into her life giving her encouragement, guidance and confidence.
“A lay person saw me as someone valuable and worth paying attention to,” said Heath about her 3rd grade teacher. “I came to know Christ at age 16 after I left home. I knew in my heart that knowing God would be the most important thing in my life and I knew that because of my early contacts with lay Christians.”
Heath said the church is at a great time of change and lay people play an important role in the future of the church. “I am not talking about religious programming,” she said. “It is so important lay people use the gifts God has given you. The church is going to die or thrive in the future because of lay people full of the Holy Spirit, not because of clergy, theologians or bishops.”
Bishop Sally Dyck led the closing worship and said Dr. Heath inspired those gathered for the convocation. “She reminded us all in a very poignant way how important laity are in making the difference in the lives of those who are marginal, just as she once was. We need to trust that the care and outreach we do is life-changing for others,” Bishop Dyck said.
Following the keynote, participants chose from several workshops which addressed issues such as homelessness, domestic violence, immigration and the NIC urban strategy. A special thanks to the Worship Team from Cornerstone UMC in Elgin for leading the praise music during the opening and closing worship services.