At Christ’s Table, We All Are One


Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball opens 2019 Annual Conference with Worship and Communion

West Virginia Annual Conference 2019

By Pam Braden

What does it mean to be invited to the table?

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

At Thursday’s opening worship service, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball challenged worshipers to invoke the
Great Commission.

Invite your neighbors to the table. Invite the abusers. Invite those who have wronged you. Invite the drug addicts. Invite those who you don’t like. Invite the sinners.

Our daily walk with Christ enables us to invite others to the table. By learning to love those we don’t like, we learn to be more like Christ.

We find Christ through the invitation to be better – to love others better – every day.

The symbolism of invitation to the table of grace at this year’s Annual Conference includes not just the bread and the cup. The Bishop invites us to that same table for every session of the Annual Conference. For it is at that same table that we are given grace. It is at that same table that we return each day.

At Thursday’s laity session, Conference Treasurer Jim Berner reminded attendees that the mission of The United Methodist Church is not to build buildings. The mission of local churches is not to pay their apportionments. The mission for all is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. To do that, we must invite everyone to the table of grace.

What will we find at the table of grace? Christ’s body and blood. And now, we find the business of the Annual Conference is to extend an invitation to sit at the table and embrace the mission of the church. We invite all of our brothers and sisters to be disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

“The table is powerful because it is a tangible call: Christ came into the world to make it whole, to reconcile it to God, to give every person hope and life. For those of us who are in the church already proclaiming the good news to the world, the table is a reminder that we are guests and not the hosts. The church and all that is good in it, belongs to God. It is also a reminder that there are still folks missing from the table and that dinner doesn’t begin until everyone has come in, washed their hands, and found their plate.”

2019 WVUMC Annual Conference Worship Book
Students from the Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy Choirs opened worship.
2019 United Methodist Church Annual Conference: Thursday Afternoon Worship
Craig Hinchman, one of our Annual Conference music directors, plays piano during worship.
Rev. Dr. Felica Wooten Williams leads the congregation in worship. WVUMC Annual Conference 2019