I am officially registered as a Visitor for the Conference. I got in and almost managed to get myself lost in the downtown area.
But I got to the Convention Center okay. What an amazing place! I spoke a little bit to some people from Zimbabwe and just continued to marvel at what an awesome site it is when a worldwide body gets together.
For those of you who haven't checked it out yet, the official blog of the General Conference is http://www.gc2008.umc.org/. The worship service tonight (and actually, if you're reading the blog, it's after midnight, so it's probably last night) was streamed live on the video. Most of the addresses tomorrow will also be streamed live (starting at 8:00am on Thursday with the bishop's address).
I think my overwhelming impression tonight was reserve. That was understandable because there's such tension around the issues that we're facing and, from some quarters, fear about what we'll do about various things.
But then Bishop Huie started to speak. And it made me glad. I've heard so much over the past few years about what's wrong with the church and speculations about whose fault it is and how if they'd just listen to X-Y-Z, everything would get fixed. I've even made a few of those comments and speculations. And they come from a negative space or perhaps a reality space.
Tonight, though, we went to the place of hope. That may seem self-evident that the opening sermon would be about hope, since this is, after all a Conference whose title is "A Future With Hope." But there was a difference in her preaching...a difference in the hope she described.
One of my favorite performers is a guy named David Wilcox (www.davidwilcox.com). He has a song whose chorus is, "Someday Soon made a promise I will follow. Someday Soon is why I try. Someday Soon told me, 'Take this cup of empty hope up to the well that's dry, where there's just enough of Someday Soon to satisfy.'"
I've always taken the Someday Soon to be a Kingdom of God time that leads us on and guides us. And the Kingdom of God is embodied in this hope which is enough to take nothing into a place of nothing and making something wonderful happen. That's the hope that we look to--not a fearful hope that says, "Are you sure this will work now?"
My prayers for the delegations tomorrow are that they taste and feel and see and hear that hope embodied in the people who are speaking, even when they disagree with them. I want this to be about the Someday Soon, and I want us all to be pulled on into the hope.