2017 Memorial Service: Remembering grounds us and empowers us for the road ahead

June 15, 2017
Submitted by the Rev. Pam Everhart
Pastor, Niwot United Methodist Church, Niwot, Colorado

"We come ... to find shelter and nurture in the arms of beloved community," words from outgoing district superintendent, the Reverend Melanie Rosa as she welcomed the gathered body of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference to the 2017 Memorial Service. The Longs Peak United Methodist Church choir served as the featured choir in the service.
Rev. Richard Vickery read the names of the 21 clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the last year.  A slideshow of photographs of those remembered were displayed after the names were read.
Bishop Karen Oliveto reminded us of the Ecclesiastes scripture, "For everything there is a season," as she led the annual conference in remembering and honoring the legacy of the churches that closed during this year: James Memorial in Hudson which served its community for 107 years, and Mesa UMC which leaves a legacy of 117 years of service to its community.
The body thanked God for these churches and their legacy and Bishop Karen reminded us that they had accomplished their purpose, saying, "We give thanks to God for these churches ... for those who had their broken lives restored by them ... Christ will continue to live beyond the walls of these churches because of their ministries."
The youth of the annual conference led us in a reading from John 6:1-15, the loaves and fishes story followed by Rev. Rosa saying that taking time to remember those whose shoulders we stand on is important because "remembering grounds us and empowers us for the road ahead."
Her sermon highlighted the loaves and fishes story as a classic story of having unexpected guests at dinner, which can be a stressful situation. She notes that Jesus encounters just such a situation and meets its with gusto. She highlighted the deep human connection that is found in community and how quickly a huge crowd can find transformation, saying  "as their stomachs were filled, their spirits were filled," and they became part of a community they never expected.
She asked the congregation, "how do we find the miracles in our everyday lives in the sharing of our lives and our food?," declaring that, "the gift of nourishment we've been given comes with ethical obligations."
She offered us the words and wisdom of Dorothy Day, who believed that Christ was made visible in the brokenhearted, and Barbara Brown Taylor who reminds us that God is found in the revelation of relationship.
Rosa spoke of the reality that too often Christian communities have not been places of abundance but have been places of exclusion and pain, saying, "We have to do better or we will usher ourselves into irrelevance."
She invited the attendees to stay with Christ and when tempted to leave to keep coming back. To stay in community with Christ and one another.
The offering for the service was earmarked for Hunger Free Colorado. Following the offering, Bishop Karen and the youth and children of the conference led us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.