By Melissa Lauber
Conference Lay Leader Delores Martin and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling gathered with more than 500 participants on Zoom, Nov. 14 to celebrate the special ways that the lay people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference answer Christ’s call to serve as “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
The pair, who intentionally seek to model the partnership between the laity and clergy, thanked those who gathered for their resilience, creativity and skilled servant work as they live as a holy presence for God in these unsettling times.
‘Love is Who We Are’
In an address to the laity, Bishop Easterling referenced the twin pandemics of the coronavirus and racism and the contentious differences that surfaced in our nation around the November presidential election. She claimed this as a season for healing and challenged United Methodists to center their lives in the Good News.
“In the vernacular of Christ, Good News can only be defined as affecting equity for all, in every aspect of life,” said the bishop, who called on United Methodist to offer a bold witness now. “We need to recommit to work together to effect a better world for everyone to inhabit,” she said. “We are all imperiled by the forces that hinder our fullest expressions of life. We cannot be delayed in waiting for everyone to agree with us. We cannot be delayed by trying to convince everyone that this work is sacred. We cannot be delayed by those unwilling to set aside old grudges or selfish desires to work for the common good. We cannot be delayed. We are called to be salt right now.”
“Love is who we are,” Bishop Easterling said. “When we don't live according to love, we’re living outside of being who we are, we’re living outside of how God created us, of who God created us to be. When we love, we are acting according to our deepest being.”
As we practice ministries of disciple-making, anti-racism and eradicating poverty, “may our legacy be salt and light,” she concluded. “May our transformed lives continue to transform lives to the glory of almighty God.”
‘This Little Light of Mine’
To open the Laity Session, Martin celebrated the vital ministries of the BWC young people. She called on three leaders from the BWC’s campus ministries, who testified between the verses as an online choir sang, “This Little Light of Mine.”
Barinaale Dube, a student chaplain at The Wesley at Howard University, called on the laity to “remember what we’re here for. As salt,” she said, “we are here to add flavor, cleanse and preserve. As light, we are to illuminate the darkness and provide light. We do this to offer the sweet taste of compassion and understanding and uncover the brilliant light of justice, equity and truth.”
Victoria Pannullo, a student leader at the Terp Hub at University of Maryland College Park, shared how when leading campus Bible studies, she offers an icebreaker, asking people to offer a toast, a boast and an oath: praising someone in their life, celebrating something about themselves, about making an oath to take a specific action in the coming week.
Too often, she said, people have problems thinking about something that are proud of themselves for. “But Scripture assures us,” she said, that “we not only have the ability to bring goodness and flavor and light to the world, but that we are called to do that. We’re called to have our strength touch the lives of those around us.
“When we live our truest and best lives – or in Methodist lingo, our transformed lives, we can inspire those around us to do the same,” Pannullo said.
Logan Wesley, president of United Campus Ministry at Frostburg State University, offered a rap video that asked, “As Christians, what kind of legacy should we leave behind?”
“When I die, I’m leaving you my music and beats,” his song said.
When I die I’m leaving you a hunger to see;
When I die I’m leaving you proof of belief;
Most importantly, when I die I’m leaving you peace.
“How will you be remembered,” Wesley asked. “May your legacy be one of salt and light and not of hiding the amazing love of God -- a legacy of living, leading, and loving just like Jesus did.”
Celebrating Outstanding Ministry
During the Laity Session, the Conference also honored 12 people who completed their two years of Certified Lay Ministry training in March. Certified Lay Ministers work in partnership with clergy in assigned ministry tasks.
The new CLMs shared the importance of grace in their ministries and other lessons they have learned.
“I’m learning to realize that life really isn’t about finding yourself, it’s discovering who God created you to be,” said Deborah Constantinides of Marvin Chapel UMC in Mt. Airy.
“Be who God called you to be,” said Audrey Chase of Smith Chapel UMC in Marbury. “We must all be open to the presence of God,” concluded Cheryl Goins of St. Luke’s UMC in Scotland.
The other honored CLMS included: Pat Botelle of Reisterstown UMC, Blondell Nicolas of Emory Fellowship, Stephanie Samuel of Clinton UMC, Liu Ann Greene of Jones Memorial UMC, Rachel Stewart-Johnson of Smith Chapel UMC, Troy Anthony of St. John’s UMC, Judith Davies of Emmanuel UMC, Shonnita Lee of New Hope Fellowship Cooperative Parish, and Brian Hyman of Grace UMC.
Churches and members from throughout the BWC were also honored for their outstanding ministry in 2020.
Jones Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Glenmont UMC each received $1,000 as winners of the Action and Advocacy award. Christ UMC in Baltimore won $1,000 with the Abundant Health Award. The Rev. John Rudolph of the North Carroll Cooperative Parish won the Harry Denman Award for Evangelism and the Youth Leader of the Year award went to Susan Harry of Reisterstown UMC and Andy Thornton, who led the BWC’s camping ministries for many years.
The second half of the Laity Session included interactive training by Fearless Dialogues.