Good morning Lord. Well, it’s finally here, the special 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. Hard to believe.  We knew it was coming shortly after the 2016 General Conference, and it’s been looming out there in our future ever since. Now that future has come. We are here, and the conference begins in only two hours.

Lord, the people I’m talking with have come with a sense of solemnity. I think we all feel the gravity of the moment, the profound impact our decisions here will have for our church. There isn’t the excitement that I’ve experienced at the other General Conference sessions. There’s not the joyful coming together.  As someone said, it feels as though we’re coming to a friend’s funeral. Lord, we all understand the seriousness of this moment. We all are desperately looking to you for guidance and direction—a way forward. We recognized things are broken.  Our covenant together is fractured and we can’t continue on this path. Help us to find the right path. Open our eyes to the steps that we must take to be faithful and obedient to you and to help our church to be the church you’re calling it to be. Lord, we are a broken people in need of a guide, a shepherd. We need you. Please come and show us the way.

Lord, today we enter into a time of prayer and fasting, an entire day. We dedicate this day to you. We pray for an openness of our hearts and minds, that our spirits might be attuned to you. Help us to be quiet and to listen. Take away the fears that we’ve brought with us to St. Louis—fears of what if’s, fears of the unknown, fears of failure and potential separation. May you pour your love out upon us in generous amounts. May your love flow deeply into us, filling every part of our beings. May your love fill our tables, our meeting space, the city of St. Louis to the full. May it spill out to the world beyond St. Louis that is watching and listening and waiting.  May your love cast out all fears and open us to the wonderful future you’re offering us.

Lord, if we must accept that we have irreconcilable differences regarding our views on human sexuality in the church and must separate, may we do so in love. May we continue to be friends, brothers, and sisters in you.  May we continue to work alongside one another though we may be in different church families.  And, Lord, I pray especially for the people in our churches spread across this country and around the world. I pray that you’ll rid them of any anger, help them work through their grief, and to bring them peace with the decisions that come out of this conference. Lord, may they focus on you and the mission to which you call your church.  Reassure them that things are going to be alright, that they couldn’t be in better hands, your hands. And I also pray, Lord, for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters who find themselves at the center of an ongoing debate that our church has been wrestling with for decades. Lord, may they feel loved by their church. May we not do harm to them, whatever the outcome.

Lord, again, we’re at a loss as to how to move forward. We’ve been given some plans, some ideas. Each one has shortcomings. Each one will not be easy for everyone to embrace. Lord, if there’s another plan, one which we’ve not discovered, please bring it to light during this conference. Surprise us, Lord! No doubt you can make a way where there seems to be no way. May we be open to whatever that might be, and give us the courage to pursue it even though no doubt it will not be easy. May we United Methodists be a faithful people, all for your glory!

Your servant, Ed Fenstermacher

Indiana Conference lay delegate to the 2019 General Conference of The UMC