By Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr.
More than 120 pastors and church leaders from across the California-Nevada Annual Conference recently gathered at Saint Paul United Methodist Church (UMC) in Fremont for the Multicity Conference. "Laity and clergy can come together and be informed and equipped to do God's work," said the Rev. Samuel Yun, convener for the annual conference's Leadership Development mission focus area. "Before we can change the world, we have to change ourselves."
The one-day event was sponsored by the mission focus that is dedicated to raising up, and equipping laity and clergy, for fruitful and faith leadership in the church an in the world. It was a follow-up to last year's Discipleshift Conference which focused on "innovation."
Multicity focused on a society that has become multi-city, multi-ethnicity, multi-culture, and a multi-context world. And yet, the church remains relatively monochromatic in its existence and impact. The overarching question for the conference was, "How can we be inspired and equipped to go beyond the walls of the church to embrace the vision of God for God’s Kingdom?"
The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Soong Chan Rah, the Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. Rah focused on Lamentations and said, "It's okay to have some disruption and confusion in our lives…it's when we grow spiritually." He said, "If we are followers of Jesus, we never have the option of running away when difficulties come." He asked those gathered, "Are you hearing the voices of all the people in your community, not just the elite?"
In addition to Rah's keynote, there was a panel discussion and workshops. Workshops included: Overcoming Your Fears to Expand Your Reach; Building Relationships that Last; Know Thyself: Understanding Your Own Culture; Connecting Church to Your Community; Christian-Muslim Cooperation for Peace; Overcoming Islamaphobia; and Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church.
The Rev. Greg Bergquist, Conference Superintendent for Leadership Development began the day telling those gathered, "We live in one of the most culturally diverse places in the world." He said, "We are poised for incredible growth." He challenged those gathered to integrate their learning into the life of the church, and they community they are called to serve. "Today, people want a religion that touches their heart and spirit."
*Hygh is director of communications for the California-Nevada Conference comprised of 360 churches and 78,000 United Methodists in Northern California and Northern Nevada.