My Experience with Connection

by New Church Starts

by Doug Ruffle, Congregational Development Team Coordinator, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference (and Path 1 Team Northeastern Jurisdiction Representative)

As United Methodists we may not appreciate the fullness of connectionalism until we are blessed by it. Let me share the story of how I was blessed by it once. As a young pastor I served in a small town in the midst of a vast rural area in the pampas of Argentina.  Torrential rains poured for ten straight days.  The normal channels to redirect water became clogged.  Rivers and channels overflowed. Members of the church joined the community to place sandbags in strategic locations so that the coming floods would not overrun the town.

For three days our little town was an island–all roads and trains were unable to access it.  Finally, the sandbags held, the waters subsided and the flooding dissipated.

The rains lasted ten days, the devastation lasted months.  Farm workers could not work the fields for they were underwater.  Day laborers were without work.  People were going hungry.  Three days later a caravan of cars rolled into our town and unloaded clothing, mattresses, and non perishable food items.  They had come from six different Methodist churches from the city of Buenos Aires, which was 125 miles away.

In our little town, we formed an ecumenical team to help distribute the food and clothing to those affected by the floods.  The only source of emergency help came from other Methodists.  Methodist connectionalism allowed for rapid response.  More than the actual food and clothing, we experienced the solidarity and love of these fellow believers as we began to deal with the devastation of the flooding.  The Methodist church in this town became the hub of help and we had plenty to give because of the strength of connectionalism.

Our ‘connection’ is a gift.  It became ever so clear to me the preciousness of that gift the year of the flooding. The Methodists in Buenos Aires saw their brothers and sisters out in the country were in trouble and answered the call. I give thanks to God for my Methodist friends for their timely response and solidarity. Though we are many people, congregations, and fellowships scattered across the world, we are still one church and one body united in Christ. The connection means we share means we share in each others’ joys and work together to treat each others’ pains.

How has the connection been a blessing for you as a member of the Body? How do you as part of the connection provide for other members?