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Laity report stresses collaboration, education, and serving

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Collaboration in ministry between clergy and laity is the foundation of moving the church of Jesus Christ forward. That’s according to Gregory and Delila Parham, active lay members of Queen’s Chapel UMC and who, together, presented the Laity Address on Tuesday morning during the Annual Conference Session.

“We believe in collaborative ministry, laboring together with each other, other laity, and clergy to accomplish the task set before us by Jesus Himself,” said Delila Parham, “to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. By leading persons to commit their lives to Christ, we, as United Methodist, clergy and laity, can transform the world.  Sharing reminds us that we are all in this together.”

The Parhams serve as directors of Lay Servant Ministries for the Washington East District and were invited by BWC Lay Leader, Delores Martin, to give the report. Much of their ministry has been done together.

The Parhams, who are both Black, have served as pulpit supply in several churches. Delila said that most of the churches they have served in were largely White.

“Admittedly, Gregory and I had some concerns.” Delila said, “But I am pleased to tell you that every church that we served in received us as their brother and sister in Christ, recognizing that it was not about race, color, or gender, but all about love.”

Delila Parham noted that laity are called to serve the needs of a hungry and hurting world. The church, she said, needs laity and clergy to go together to welcome the poor into our midst.

“It needs us to go and feed the hungry,” she said. “It needs us to go and heal the sick, comfort those who suffer, and visit those who are lonely. It needs us to go and speak out for justice.”

And those needs are acute as the pandemic continues, Delila said. But caution and preparation are needed for setting out in service.

“Before we go out into the world to transform it,” Delila said, “we must look closely at ourselves, as individuals and as a church. It is only with our examining and being honest with ourselves, sharing our personal stories with each other, talking about the past and learning from it, that we can create a better future for ourselves, each other, and the church.”

Education and training are also critical for laity. To ensure that laity are well-equipped and well-trained, Discipleship Ministries has developed courses to support the laity in their roles in ministry as disciples of Jesus Christ, Gregory Parham said.  The “Introduction to Lay Ministry: The BASIC Course” is the foundational course for Lay Servant Ministries that can be used as part of a discipleship plan for other laity in the church. This is a plan to acquaint the laity with their gifts, calling, and responsibilities as followers of Christ. 

“We are pleased to share our United Methodist story with you,” Gregory Parham said, “and we invite you to do the same – claim your story, share it with others. Stories make us feel like part of something bigger than ourselves. Many of those outside the church will only be introduced to Christ through a conversation with someone who cares enough to share the truth and love of God – someone who cares enough to share his or her story.

“It is through our witness, both as clergy and laity sharing our stories, that people will come to know Jesus Christ and The United Methodist Church will fulfill its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”