“Call. One Word. Many Ways to HOPE!” was the theme of this year’s Laity Session at the West Ohio Annual Conference. Hundreds of laity and clergy from around the Conference came together to worship and be inspired by the stories of lay people who are making a difference in their churches and communities.
Tracy Chambers, one of West Ohio’s Certified Lay Ministers (CLM), gave the Message of Hope for the morning. She told of a dark time in her life and how God had called her back into a life of hope. “I realized as never before, nights come to us all and they come with pain,” she recalled. “God purifies us with pain. James tells us to consider it pure joy when we suffer through trials, because in the end it makes us complete and strong.”
Tracy went on to encourage lay members to boldly embrace their calling with hope: “Work on, unafraid, renewed, according to our many and varied calls, each within our unique purpose. Work on – being hope and bearing hope – differently from one another and yet together as a people truly united in the love of God…knowing that we, rich in difference, can make a difference.”
Next came a series of ‘Hope Bringers’ – lay people speaking to the ways in which they live out their own callings with hope. First was Jayne Lash, a CLM from the Ohio River Valley District. Jayne spoke of an extremely difficult and painful medical journey she has been on for the past two and a half years. Despite losing her ability to do what she loved – to sing and lead worship at her church – Jayne found other ways to live into her calling.
“I am here today to give hope to those who have no hope. I have seen my call change from singing the praises and word of God, to using my voice in a new way,” Jayne said. “My husband, Glen, and I…use our gifts in our new calling, serving alongside other lay servants at a small but incredibly vibrant congregation.”
The next Hope Bringer was Keith Wasserman, director of Good Works in Athens, OH. Keith told the story of his childhood, growing up Jewish in the suburbs of Cleveland, where his goal was to own a rock ‘n roll store and sell drug paraphernalia. After meeting some fellow Christ-followers in high school, he gave his life to Christ and felt called to do something good with his life.
He went on to start a ministry for homeless people in his basement, which later became Good Works, a non-profit that seeks to sustain a Community of Hope with and for people who are struggling with poverty and homelessness in rural Appalachia. “In the Kingdom of God economy, only one thing is important, and we measure our success not in the results of what we do…but by whether we have been faithful to be the kind of worshippers the Father seeks – those who worship in spirit and in truth,” Keith said.
The third set of Hope Bringers was Joe Palmer from Lancaster First UMC and two young people from his congregation, Harrison Poor and Megan Schenck. Joe spoke of his journey to recognizing his call as a middle school teacher: “For some people, God’s call is clear to see. However, for me to see it, I had to get out of my own way, to see God and to hear God calling me.”
Harrison Poor, a sophomore at Ohio University-Lancaster, recalled his recent discovery of his own calling to be a music teacher: “I could see that God was working through those around me to reach out and tell me what he was showing me. If I loved all of these things so much, why shouldn’t I go make a living out of it?” Megan Schenck, also a sophomore at Ohio U-Lancaster, hasn’t identified her specific calling yet but knows that God will show her at just the right time: “I have come to the realization that I must surrender to Christ, as He is the one and only path. He will show me what to do and where to go. Until then, I will do what we are all called to do: love.”
Laity session ended with a Call to Action from CLM Kim LaRue. Kim spoke about the verse from John 14:12 where Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.” How is it possible that we could do greater things than Jesus, the Son of God? “He knew that he was only one man who was trying to change the perspective of the world about the God he knew so well,” Kim stated. “But if 12 men or 72 disciples or a whole room in Hoover Auditorium were to believe that they were called, to live into their baptism and live a transformed life, collectively, any of these groups could do more than Jesus could do on his own. We are called to be hope-bringers to this world.”
Call. One word. Many ways to Hope.