I should tell you up front: I did not officially attend Exploration 2009. I was in town for a wedding, but Rachel sponsored my Music Director at Exploration, so I visited.
From what I saw, and what I’ve been told, it was a good event, well ordered and well run.
Also, from what I saw, the future of The United Methodist Church may be in good hands over the next couple of generations.
Then again, the simple fact that I know the “t” of the “the” which begins “The United Methodist Church” reminds me that we as a denomination are a long ways from reversing the 40 years of decline we have come to know as normal.
Perhaps, then, here is a glimmer of hope. Exploration 2009 was designed for individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 who are open to, interested in, curious about, a calling to ordained ministry within the UMC.
The way we have functioned over the past 4 decades, I will be retired before any of these attendees will be welcomed into leadership in the denomination.
As a denomination, we have begun to talk a good game as far as attracting and recruiting and training young clergy. The question before us now is: will we allow them, even invite and welcome them, into participation in leadership in the determining the direction of the United Methodist Church for the future?
Or will we be more concerned that I didn’t capitalize the “t” in “the” in the previous question?
Out of seminary for 2 decades now, I’ve heard plenty of grumbling, and some straight-shooting advice, about “working your way up,” “paying your dues,” etc. I have even, on occasion, been guilty of buying this line of thought.
Several hundred young people gathered at Exploration 2009. Some of them will continue toward the call to ordained ministry. Others will be committed lay people.
I hope they all seize this opportunity to be a part of the life of The United Methodist Church that we might move in the direction of the Kingdom of God; which has, in fact, not been in decline over the past 4 decades.