An Annual Conference Journal
Ocracoke-Preparing for Greenville, NC
Leaving at Dawn on the Swan Quarter Ferry
June 15, 2017
Are you ready for fun? Have you picked your breakout sessions yet? I’m having trouble getting my mind around leaving. It’s not what you think. I need a break. Things here will go just fine without me. A Sunday off will do me a world of good. For me, it’s much more basic. My brain hasn’t caught up to the fact it’s Thursday and we’re leaving tomorrow. To my addled mind, it’s still last Thursday and I’m preparing for weddings which ended in divorce weeks ago.
The ministry, by that I mean, the day to day work of being a pastor, hasn’t helped matters. Ministry doesn’t stop because you’re going away or even when you empower others to be agents of influence and change. See what I did there? I used fancy leadership jargon. I feel dirty. It’s a good thing I live near the ocean. Life happens even when you prepare, plan, and do everything you’re told do before you leave the pulpit for a day, week, month, or year.
At the beginning of the week, a member of our community was swimming in the water of the island. Derek dove into a shallow spot he didn’t see or expect. He received extremely serious spinal and neurological injuries. Derek’s a great guy in the prime of life and in excellent health. In a moment, it all changed forever. From Monday afternoon, the enter focus of my week has shifted in trying to care for people asking the most fundamental questions: Why? What next? How can we help?
If you’ve read any of these posts over the past few months, you know that we’ve had more than our fair share of evil. From serious natural disasters, cancer, suicides, shark attacks, domestic abuse, and now a freak accident; hope is taking a beating. The platitudes and clichés we see on social media fall on deaf ears. We gathered in the church two mornings ago and waited for a word from God. We waited in silence. Names were called, gratitude was offered, the Spirit was thanked, and we waited. This silence from God is deafening. I try to hear God in our breathing. I try to see God in our presence. We lean on each other’s everlasting arms because that is what we can touch and feel. When it’s all said and done, we are left waiting.
Derek is in a hospital about five minutes from where annual conference is being held. Tomorrow afternoon, as soon as I arrive and grab my name tag, I’m leaving the building. I’m not going to a session, or to say hello to friends, to complain about the budget, or gripe about our position on climate change. I’m going to see Derek and Callie. If I’m going to hear God, I don’t think it’s going to be in the opening session of an annual conference. No one has ever been saved through the effective use of Robert’s Rules of Order. If God’s around and wants to really move out of the silence, it’s going to happen in a hospital room where doubt and hopelessness have set up shop and refused to be moved. I’m going to be there, in that room, because I want know: when will the silence end? Those are questions worth asking. One day, I’ll tell you how I voted.
Richard Lowell Bryant