KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (April 7, 2016) – When the call went out for Holston Conference members to pray and ring the church bells on April 12, the Rev. Amanda Bell Madson was all in.
Not only does the pastor of Sand Brand United Methodist Church have a special connection with the symbol sharing her maiden name, April 12 is also her birthday.
“I don’t know who came up with it, but what a brilliant, inspired idea,” Madson said, referring to the invitation for bells to ring throughout Holston.
Bishop Dindy Taylor recently shared a video asking 164,000 United Methodist church members living in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia to unite in a massive prayer effort for the denomination’s future on April 12.
The focus is on a 10-minute period from 5:10 to 5:20 p.m., representing the dates of General Conference, which meets May 10 to May 20 in Portland, Oregon.
Members of Holston’s 887 congregations are asked to pray or ring their church bells especially during those 10 minutes, in spiritual preparation for the upcoming meeting of United Methodist delegates and leaders from across the world.
Madson, who will turn 46 on April 12, said she will make a joyful noise at her Knoxville church that day because she has personally experienced the powerful invitation of the church bell.
During a recent family trip to Delaware, Madson explained, she was “struggling” and “didn’t want to go to church.” However, the chime from a Presbyterian church called her to worship that morning, and she was received with open arms by a congregation she had never met before.
“The church bell is an evangelistic tool that we have to call out to people who are lost and hurting, to remind them that there is place for them and that God loves them,” she said.
COME, HOLY SPIRIT
Holston Conference is one of 131 United Methodist conferences throughout the world, representing 7.2 million total members. Each of the regional groups were assigned a day to pray for General Conference, the denomination’s top policy-making meeting, which happens every four years.
Holston Conference was assigned Tuesday, April 12.
“It’s a very important time in the denomination – one of the most crucial, decisive times in our history,” said the Rev. Vickie Carter, pastor at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Hiltons, Va.
When April 12 arrives, Mt. Vernon will be in the middle of a four-night revival, Carter said. She will ring the bells just after 5 p.m., but also, the pastor will ask worshipers to pause and pray at the beginning of the 6:30 p.m. revival.
“Battle lines have been drawn. People have their heels dug in,” she said. “But we will pray that the Holy Spirit moves through the delegates and through General Conference. We will pray for Holy Spirit-inspired, civil conversations. The anger can be left at the door.”
“Gathering to pray on April 12 stands us in solidarity with the Holston Annual Conference and with the people of The United Methodist Church around the world who love this actualization of Christ's Church,” he said.
“It tells our delegates to General Conference and the members of the Annual Conference that we are people who are praying for them.”
“At those services, and at the bell ringing at Mt. Vale and Savannah, we want to name and pray for every delegate to General Conference from Holston and every member of the Holston Annual Conference related to our local churches,” he said.
For more information, visit April12DayofPrayer.Holston.org.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.