PORTLAND, Ore. (May 19, 2016) -- If there’s one thing General Conference needs, it’s prayer. When the 864 delegates from around the world arrive at their tables in Oregon Convention Center on Thursday morning, they’ll find handmade reminders of prayers offered by Holston Conference.
About 900 of the pocket prayer shawls left over from Holston’s 2015 Annual Conference in June are being shared with General Conference delegates in Portland, Ore.
Del Holley, Holston Conference lay leader, has been working on getting the mini shawls to delegate for months. In early April, he learned that the General Conference secretary staff had approved sharing the handmade gifts with delegates.
Holley said he and Holston staff had difficulty navigating the details required in shipping the needlework creations across the country, but the boxes finally arrived in Portland on Tuesday.
Perhaps today, General Conference will experience a kinder, gentler spirit with the prayer reminder shared through pocket shawls from Holston and the following accompanying letter:
Dear General Conference Delegate:
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
Thank you for your dedication to the Kingdom of God and the work of The United Methodist Church through your service as a delegate to the 2016 General Conference.
Last year as we prepared for our annual conference session in Holston Conference, our Conference Board of Lay Ministry and Extended Cabinet invited members of the 887 United Methodist congregations in Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, and Northwest Georgia to create and consecrate “pocket prayer shawls” to share with the lay and clergy members of the annual conference. We wanted to provide an opportunity for the folks back home to show, in a tangible way, their prayerful support of the leadership of the annual conference. We asked for 1,500 pocket prayer shawls, and we received over 10,000!
As a result of the God-sized response to this request, throughout the past year our congregations and Conference organizations have found creative ways to share these prayer cloths as part of our ministry efforts.They have been sent with mission teams across the country and around the world, placed in Thanksgiving food baskets and bundles of Christmas presents, offered to sick and shut-in church members, and incorporated into spiritual enrichment events – just to name a few. The ways of sharing these small gifts have been as many and varied as the churches each one represents. But the purpose of the gift is always the same – to remind each person who receives it that God loves them, we love them, and we are praying for them and their ministry.
We are pleased to be able to offer you the gift of a pocket prayer shawl from the churches of Holston Conference in that same spirit. One of the church members who helped knit cloths in her congregation described them this way: “Every stitch is a prayer.” Please know that the churches of Holston Conference join with so many others around the world in praying for you, your ministry, and the important work of the General Conference.
May God richly bless and keep you as you fulfill your call to ministry in the Kingdom!
Mary Virginia Taylor, Resident Bishop
Del Holley, Conference Lay Leader
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.