By Jessica Brodie
(Read the Monday Daily Advocate here)
FLORENCE—Annual Conference’s opening worship kicked off Sunday night, June 5, with a welcome and prayer by the Rev. Thomas Smith, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Isle of Palms, followed by a powerful solo by Vanessa Murray and the Mount Zion United Methodist Church Choir, Kingstree, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
Then, as the body lifted their voices in the processional hymns “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and “O Church of God, United,” Annual Conference 2016 was in full swing.
Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware led the body in the prayer of invocation, and Columbia District Lay Leader Betty Void offered a prayer for illumination and then read the Scripture for the evening, Romans 8:31-39, where the Apostle Paul urges early Christians to be more than conquerors.
Drawing on that passage, Bishop Jonathan Holston then brought his word for the evening, “Just One More Thing.”
“We are seeking a more excellent way,” Holston told the thousands gathered in the Florence Civic Center. “God has blessed us, and we are recipients of His grace and His mercy. Even tonight, after we have come through another year of work together, the Lord is asking us for one more thing.”
But in all these things, Holston preached, we are more than conquerors, more than overcomers. Through Christ, we can do and be so much more.
“Through Christ, we can find the courage and the confidence,” Holston said. “My friends, I believe God is calling us to dream big dreams. He is calling us to have grand visions. He is calling on us in South Carolina to trust him and believe.”
As Holston said, if in fact God is for us, then there is nothing that can stand against us.
“He is standing up for you and me,” Holston said. “What gets in our way is our unwillingness not to follow the way.”
Often, we make idols of things in our lives, even idols of the church itself, which steers us astray, he said.
“God promises to make all things good, but sometimes we make idols of the very thing God has given us, and we wonder why God is looking at us and wondering, ‘Where are the people called by my name? ... Are they just people looking for entitlement?’”
Christ died for us while we were in our sinful nature, and that proves God’s love for us, Holston told the crowd.
“My friends, we are more than conquerors. God promises. Even in the difficult times, he says, ‘I will be with you. You can count on this.’ Hasn’t he done that in South Carolina?” Holston asked as applause filled the room. “No matter what mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, God will never stop loving us.”
Closing his sermon, Holston urged South Carolina United Methodists to heed the theme of this year’s Annual Conference, “Making Space for God to Work,” and do just that in their own hearts, minds and souls.
“We got to get some stuff out of our system to put God’s love in our hearts,” Holston said.
An offering was collected for the South Carolina Disaster Response Fund for relief for those affected by the October 2015 floods, and the service concluded with communion, song and prayer.
Check back tomorrow night for the next daily wrap-up. The July/Annual Edition will have complete and details coverage of Annual Conference; subscribe at http://www.advocatesc.org/membership-account/subscribe.
By Jessica Brodie