Home Equipping Leaders Fresh Expressions UM Recap of Futuring Forward: The Reawakening of the People Called Methodist

Recap of Futuring Forward: The Reawakening of the People Called Methodist

By Jessica Taylor

FXUM Gathering 2024

The recent National Gathering of Fresh Expressions United Methodist at Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, from February 7 to 9, 2024, was an unparalleled event that left an incredible mark on all who attended. As we reflect on the profound experiences shared, it's impossible not to be moved by the insights and wisdom imparted by our keynote speakers.

Elaine Heath, hailed as the mother of Methodist Fresh Expressions, captivated our hearts and minds with her visionary leadership. Drawing from her deep well of experience, she challenged us to lead with the practice of Jesus' way, reminding us that practical divinity emerges as we cooperate with God and release outcomes. Her words resonated deeply, inspiring us to embrace innovation and transformation in our communities.

Rodrigo Cruz's message on the importance of valuing every individual struck a chord with all who heard it. In a world where superficial gestures of welcome can often ring hollow, Cruz reminded us that true hospitality goes beyond mere words or actions. Welcoming people into our communities means nothing if we fail to truly value them as unique and beloved children of God. His challenge to embrace a deeper sense of inclusivity and appreciation for the intrinsic worth of each person served as a powerful call to action, inspiring us to create spaces where all are seen, heard, and valued. Rodrigo said, “People go where they are welcome. They stay where they are valued.”

Bishop Ken Carter's reminder that Fresh Expressions are a form of social holiness resonated deeply with attendees. Our culture is obsessed with rules and regulations, and Bishop Carter's words served as a timely reminder that true holiness is found not in adherence to laws, but in the difficult work of love and compassion. His challenge to embrace the messiness of grace and to extend love to all, regardless of circumstance, urged us to embody the radical hospitality of Jesus in our own communities.

“Where there is vision, there will be provision.” – Candace Lewis, President-Dean of Gammon

Candace Lewis's message cut to the heart of the matter, urging us not to settle for recreating the old. Instead, she called us to embrace the true challenge of the next Methodism – to boldly forge new paths and reimagine what it means to be the church in the twenty-first century.

Stephanie Moore Hand's presentation on “Doing Justice Together” was a rallying cry for social change and transformation. Through her powerful storytelling and impassioned plea for justice, she reminded us that our faith calls us to action, to stand in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed, and to work tirelessly for a more just and equitable world.

Robert Johnson's challenge to embrace the radical call to love our enemies resonated deeply with attendees. In a time of division and polarization, Johnson's message served as a timely reminder of the transformative power of grace and forgiveness. Sanctification, he argued, is not just about personal piety or moral purity but about extending love and compassion even to those who may oppose or mistreat us. His call to embody the radical love of Christ, even in the face of hostility or conflict, challenged us to break down the barriers that separate us from one another and to work toward reconciliation and healing in our communities.

Laceye Warner's presentation on the unfolding waves of grace in Fresh Expressions was illuminating. Drawing from the rich tapestry of Methodist history, she reminded us of John Wesley's supreme joy, which stemmed from the inclusive nature of the societies he founded. Through her words, we were challenged to embrace a more expansive vision of grace, one that transcends boundaries and welcomes all into the fold of God's love.

Bishop Tom Berlin's call to recommit ourselves to the core tenet of our faith – that Jesus is Lord – became a core takeaway for everyone in attendance. Bishop Berlin's message served as a powerful reminder of the unshakeable foundation upon which our faith is built—even in a world marked by uncertainty and division, His call to center our lives and our communities on the person of Jesus Christ inspired us to reevaluate our priorities and reorient ourselves toward the kingdom of God.

Fresh Expressions United Methodist Director Michael Beck's teaching on compassion and forming compassionate Christian communities was a poignant reminder of the transformative power of empathy and understanding. His words - "Issues become compassion when issues become people" – served as a rallying cry for a more compassionate approach to ministry. Through his message, we were challenged to see beyond the surface of issues and to recognize the humanity and dignity of every person we encounter.

These speakers, along with many others, contributed to a rich tapestry of voices and experiences that defined the gathering. From the poignant testimonies of marginalized voices to the scholarly insights shared by bishops and practitioners, each presentation added depth and richness to our collective understanding of what it means to be the church in the twenty-first century.

The gathering served as a catalyst for renewed commitment and action, inspiring us to continue the work of cultivating communities of love and grace for all people. With hearts open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and a steadfast dedication to the values of early Methodism, we are poised to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

As we look to the future, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation for the National Gathering 2025. We have already begun the work on next year’s theme, dates, and location, which will all be available soon!

We want to express our deepest gratitude to all our volunteers for their passion and commitment to the mission of Fresh Expressions United Methodist. Your contributions have left an indelible mark as we seek to serve the present age.

If you would like to watch any of these keynote sessions, they are available in this YouTube playlist.

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