Every year, for the last 40 years, I have spent a week at the East Ohio Annual Conerence of the United Methodist Church in Lakeside Ohio. I started attending as a teenager and continued to attend throughout my ministry. Last year at Annual Conference I retired. This blog has detailed my journey through the last year – my first in retirement.
Returning to Annual Conferernce this year has been a little odd. On the one hand, it feels like coming home. I have many friends here and we have been catching up with each other. On the other hand, this is no longer my home. I do not attend a local church. I am not appointed to serve at a church or on a district.
Nevertheless, I am sitting in the sessions, paying attention, and voting for what I hope is the greater good of the Church. It is good to see what is happening in East Ohio and experience the holy moments that are scattered throughout the week. Because I don’t have a district, I am sitting with friends or my father in the sessions: seeing the conference from different points of view.
In the last year Tom and I have been to 25 different states. We have traveled a long way from East Ohio and we have traveled back to where we started. It has been a wonderful journey, made even better by the knowledge that we will be able to continue our journey for a while.
We take many kinds of journeys throughout our lives. Some of them are journeys of miles where we travel from one physical place to another. Some of them are journeys of personal growth, such as putting aside an unhealthy habit or going to school. Some of them are journeys of the heart where we adjust ourselves to living with, or living without, another. Some of them are journeys of the soul where we struggle with our faith. Some journeys we take willingly. On others we are dragged into situations that we have not chosen and do not want.
All our journeys change us. All our journeys are opportunities to grow. When we travel with God, all our journeys lead us home.
We may even find ourselves back where we started, like me at Annual Conference. But no matter what kind of journey we take, no matter how many miles we have traveled; the place to which we return is not the same, because we are different. We have been changed by the journey.