Lay Servant Class 2018 Reflection: Diversity Is Inspiring

Hi, friends. I’ve been lagging a bit with likes and replies because I participate in lay servant class each year. “Laity” refers to the church body (as opposed to the clergy). In the United Methodist Church, each state (in the US) is divided into districts, and the districts have all kinds of events that encourage Methodists in the same region to connect. Lay classes are hosted in our district at the end of February-beginning of March. We select a class from a range of topics, like “Biblical Interpretation” or “Devotional Life,” and for four days/two weekends, we take the classes because we seek spiritual and intellectual growth.

I took “Preaching” this year because I took “Basic,” then “History of the UM Church,” then “Devotional Life.” It seemed belated since I already preach when my pastor needs a substitute, but I figured two things: there’s always room for improvement and better late than never. This year, I left feeling enriched by my class’s diversity.

Christians of Different Ages, Races, & Backgrounds

Lay-Servant-Ministries-Logo

I think it’s awesome that the lay classes are about 50% white, 50% black. Methodist churches (at least in the country versus the city) tend to separate themselves by color, as do a lot of churches in other denominations. When we have district events, though, racial diversity is strong. Most participants are older, but we have some young blood at lay class; I’m 24, and probably 25% of us fall in the twenty’s to early thirty’s range.

The diversity in my “Preaching” class was also strong. We had two younger black people, an older black man, some middle-aged and older white people, and me–a young, white, disabled woman. Our instructors were black.

Our differences in race and age were intriguing but not inherently touching; Lord is the Lord of all peoples everywhere, after all. What truly inspired me was the differences in our backgrounds or “our stories.”

The young black man teaches special education and coaches high schoolers. He tells his players, “trust is a must,” which he also applies to his relationship with God.

The young black woman has a husband and kids and is working on her second master’s degree. She choked up as she explained that she had ignored spiritual urges in the past but is listening to them now. Our class voted for her to give the sermon at the final gathering of all the classes because she speaks like an Evangelist. 

An older white man grew up with alcoholic parents; he saw “evil things that a child should never see.” He recently took his church’s youth group on a spiritual retreat and was moved that teenagers can have such strong faith.

An older white man “wasn’t convinced by stale, old-time religion” when he was in college. He’s 76 and recently discovered that his passion in life is going on mission trips and literally getting his hands dirty for God’s kingdom.

One of the instructors, an older black lady, had a stroke last year during lay school but stood before us one year later. She firmly believes that God’s grace allowed her to return this year.

Diversity is a huge buzzword these days. In God’s kingdom, diversity on the outside is irrelevant, but people who are fixated on the term generally refer to superficial qualities like race.

In the scenario of Christians coming together, superficial diversity is incidental. What stirs people’s hearts and makes a real impact is the variety in our testimonies–“our stories.” Though all of our paths wind in different directions, we are all travelling to the same place, grasping the same hand as we make our spiritual journeys.

Thanks for reading!

5 comments

  1. Didn’t realize you were part of the tribe of Wesley too. I’m a local UM Pastor in Indiana. I’m glad for diversity in your classes. My Course of Study classes (mini-seminary for Local Pastors) are usually not that diverse. There’s maybe 1 or 2 African-Americans in class, but everyone else is late middle-aged white folks. I’m usually the youngest at 33. Our professor this semester is a South Korean man around 60, and our Director of the program is also Korean, and the IT specialist I believe is also Korean. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing. I notice a lack of real racial and ethnic diversity during Annual Conference sessions too. Thank God, that eventually all tribes, tongues and nations will be joined together and tribalism will be done away with. Shalom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in the UMC and took a different turn because of some issues I was seeing within the denomination, but there are still many bright lights shining for Christ there. Your post as well as others from UM pastors who post here encourage me. I am glad to celebrate alongside my brothers and sisters who also bear the name of Christ despite denomination. Very encouraging post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I have also felt concerned with ideological decisions, and I feel concerned by its size and bureaucracy. On the one hand, the number of paid positions and the tediousness of moving into different positions and what not seems a far cry from John Wesley preaching in open fields.

      Despite the downside of their bureaucracy, I appreciate that education is a priority in the UM church. Pastors meet certain requirements, and lay people participate in events like this. From what I know about other denominations, formal education is not required/prioritized for the clergy or laity. With a lot of bad theology out there and pastors who 1. use the pulpit to push political/social/etc. agendas and 2. preach non-specific, feel-good messages, it comforts me that UM pastors have expectations to meet. Education can be a double-edged sword, and some might say that those expectations open the door to denomination-wide indoctrination, but I haven’t seen that. I think people need to hear that God is three-in-one w/ the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and salvation is a gift freely offered but we must have faith and truly accept that Jesus died on the cross to save our souls from sin and death. That is the message I’ve consistently heard in the UM church. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s