2021 Annual Conference: A call to action for laity

June 06, 2021
By Alan Wild
Pandemics and other current challenges “do not excuse us from the command to be loving disciples,” Kentucky Annual Conference Co-Lay Leader Jonna Carter said Sunday, June 6, in a call for laity to become more deeply involved in spreading the love of Christ.

Carter and Co-Lay Leader John Denham led the laity session, which opened the 2021 online Annual Conference. The theme for this year’s Annual Conference, which continues through Tuesday, June 8, is “Know the Love of God.”

The session was prerecorded and shown to members on the Conference’s Annual Conference Zoom platform and was also streamed on the Conference’s Facebook Live page, where as many as 50 people watched. Spanish interpretation on the Zoom platform was provided by Rev. Jose Gonzalez.

An evening session limited to Conference clergy was streamed live on the Zoom platform. Gonzalez also provided Spanish interpretation for that session.

During the lay session, Bishop Leonard Fairley offered a greeting. Asserting that “love is the liturgy,” Fairley said that it is “a part of the priesthood of all believers who are called upon to know the love and show the love.”

“In a world that is increasingly spiraling down the pathway of hatred, prejudice, violence and a willful turning away from the will of God, it is time that the followers of Jesus Christ model more consistently a different path – the pathway of what the apostle Paul calls ‘a still more excellent way,’“ Fairley said.

“Now more than ever, it is important that we not only know the love of Christ, but that we show the love of Christ. … I am always amazed and blessed by the resilient spirit of the laity in the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church who know and show the love. You have shared that love even during these uncertain times in which we live.”

He concluded that “among my greatest blessings and joy (is) to be sharing this kingdom’s work of love with you. … May we always practice the means of grace that will help us to ‘Do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with God.'”

The majority of the 71-minute session focused heavily on how laity in the Conference can be involved in spreading the Gospel of Christ and demonstrating Christ’s love by helping those in need.

Carter introduced several people from the Board of Laity to talk about LACE, the Lay Academy of Church Excellence, and the various levels of service. Gina Lyon, Conference Coordinator for Lay Servant Ministry, explained how LACE works and how people can become involved.

Lyon said laity are the primary agents of God’s love in the world. Lay servant ministry trainings allow participants to grow deeper in faith and prepare the laity to go into the world to share Christ’s love. It is “an equipping and empowering ministry,” she said.

The UMC has three levels of training and certification in lay servant ministries: certified lay servant (101), certified lay speaker (201), and certified lay minister (301).

Lay servants are those who want to grow in Christ, learn more about the church, and be in mission and ministry. To be lay servants, people must be recommended by their Charge Conference, then take additional classes. The preaching can be intimidating, but people needn’t feel that way, she stressed. Certified lay minister candidates then take additional classes.
LACE training is available in every district, and even before COVID-19, efforts were underway to begin making them available online. People who are interested should contact their district offices.

Elaine Daugherty, Owensboro District Lay Leader, discussed how LACE classes, which had been put on hold when the pandemic hit, were moved to Zoom. This point was expanded on by Rich Dailey, the South East Kentucky Lay Leader.

“Was I a bit apprehensive? Yes. The question was, as lay leaders, could we adapt to it?” The answer, Dailey said, was again yes!

Dailey said that going forward, he sees LACE classes adapting to a hybrid model, moving back to in-person sessions but keeping the online option – much as our churches are doing with Sunday morning worship even as COVID-19 recedes.

Rev. Eric Espada, a pastor in the Owensboro District, discussed Hispanic lay outreach in that district. He is a member of the Board of Laity and handles Hispanic LACE trainings with an emphasis on church planting. The first group has graduated from the program, and there are plans to expand it across the Conference, he said.

Other presentations on ways laity are involved across the Conference were presented by Lay Leaders Linda Sparks (South Central), Anita Martin (Kentucky East), and Michael Kenner (Pennyrile).

Sparks said that 16 UMCs in Cumberland County have formed a coalition that maintains a food pantry, builds beds and ramps, and such. A key cog is the Eternal Restoration ministry, an intense three-day ministry of home repairs.

Martin talked about the ice storm and flooding that have plagued her district over the past few months, including the Paintsville area. UMCs and other churches in the area started collecting flood buckets immediately, she said.

The pandemic made for an even more challenging situation, but they found a way, she said, citing Hillcrest-Bruce Mission in Ashland as one agency heavily involved in relief efforts. She also mentioned a recovery ministry that has signed up 26 women – and growing. “God is certainly in that ministry,” she said.

Kenner talked about recovery ministries at work, such as Celebrate Recovery -- which he and his wife help lead in Pennyrile – and others throughout the Conference, such as The Healing Place, partly housed at Fourth Avenue UMC in Louisville.

Many of the ministries are ecumenical, he said. One young man in another denomination is now preaching at a church. “We’re always excited to see people who take this recovery seriously.”

Other updates and engagement opportunities were presented by Mark Stallons, United Methodist Men President; Steve Bays, Conference Scouting Coordinator; and Paula Taylor, United Methodist Women President. Pam Compton, the Bluegrass District Lay Leader, provided an update on the college Wesley Foundations.

Winding down the session, Carter said that even in these challenging times, she remains full of hope about the Conference and the denomination – including the role of laity in helping to practice the Great Commission: making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Denham finished with a call to action, citing Matthew 25 and John 21 – Jesus’s imperative to his disciples about taking care of those in need.

UMC churches in Kentucky are helping thousands of people – but our work isn’t finished, Denham said. “Your call to action is to keep showing up and to ask God for directions,” he concluded.
  • For those interested in watching the video from the lay session – or even watching it again – it can be found on the Conference Facebook page.