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Laity Address Reminds Us of Our Mission

Posted: June 8 2023 at 01:24 AM
Author: Victoria Rebeck

“Local churches are the strength of the conferences,” co-Lay Leader Mark Menzi told Annual Conference members in the Laity Address on June 8. “While there is training and resources available in districts and conference, it is in the churches where the ministry is happening, disciples being made, people are going into the community to see the people and minister with them.”

Mark is one of three co-Lay Leaders for the Northern Illinois Conference, but he will be stepping down soon to serve as one of the chairs of the Annual Conference Shepherding Team.

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Many churches are doing excellent ministry with the neighbors, he said, highlighting many of them, from the those that offer safe spaces for after school, provide leadership training for youth, knit prayer blankets, open their churches to shelter, and much more.

“You are showing people of your community who Jesus is and who you are as followers of Jesus,” Mark said. “We reach out as Jesus would—to the least and the lost; those in need of food, water, and shelter; and those in need of a caring word and a smiling face.”

Churches can get absorbed with ministries behind the church walls. Those are important, Mark observes; but they must strengthen us for our ministry outside the church and in their neighborhood.

Mark pointed out that Bishop Tom Bickerton, the outgoing president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, observed that the UMC is a church that is not doing what we went out do to, the mandate of loving God and neighbor. The cost of several churches’ disaffiliation has distracted our focus from what God has told us what we are to be about.

“We know that God is always with us,” Mark said. “We know that God is doing a new thing in us and through us, through the local church. The strength of our relationships and our faith help us to reach out to our neighbors.”

This is not the responsibility of the conference Board of Laity, however. “Let us help you. We all need to be connected so that we can do ministry together.”

“We come to the table because Jesus invites everyone to the table,” said, echoing the theme of the Annual Conference. “Notice that our communion liturgy uses terms like ‘us’ and ‘we.’ It tells us that we are connected. Communion binds us to each other and to Christ.”

Watch a recording of the Laity Address

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