I have just returned from a huge family reunion. I joined more than 2000 people  for three days. Those of us who had not seen each other for quite a while embraced and shared some of the things that had been happening in our lives. We laughed a lot. We cried a bit. We rejoiced and remembered.

There was a special focus on children, youth, and young adults at this year’s family gathering. Those of us who are older (or should I say more mature?) recognize the need to intentionally reach out to those who are coming after us. It is imperative that we acknowledge  their needs and understand their strengths if our family and all of humanity is going to be healthy.

There was a celebration of new members being added to the family and we acknowledged the loss of some of our dear loved ones.

During the long days together we sang, prayed, heard reports of how our family had made significant contributions to the health and welfare of our fellow human beings all over the globe. Our family is an industrious group of people who are not satisfied with just taking care of ourselves. We believe it is our responsibility to care for others as much as we care for ourselves.

We shared plans of what we would do in the coming year and we agreed to provide the needed finances for those efforts. Feeding the hungry. Housing the homeless. Befriending the lonely. Eliminating death and suffering from malaria. Providing opportunities for quality education. Efforts to offer wholesome activities and experiences for all ages. These and many more causes consumed much of our time and conversations.

While we were together we contributed money to several very worthwhile causes to address human pain and suffering. We also made commitments to other much needed efforts on behalf of our fellow human beings.

There were moments when we acknowledged our failures and mistakes.

As in all healthy families, there were different opinions on some issues. Some folks exercised their rights and expressed their feeling with much passion. In the end we agreed on some matters but left with varying opinions on others. I am sure those discussions will continue and we will probably re-visit some of them when we get together next June.

Much of the agenda for this family gathering dealt with important temporal matters. But our family understands that we are not only physical beings, we are also spiritual beings. So there were times of singing, praying, reflection, and proclamation.

This family reunion was the 148th annual gathering of United Methodists in the northern half of the state of Georgia. Representatives of about 950 churches came together in Athens to conduct business on behalf of the 365,000 people who are members of those churches.  It was a great time.

I thank God for my United Methodist brothers and sisters and I was glad to be among them during this past week. We gathered together but now we have scattered back to our home communities to carry on the work of Christ through the Church. I pray that we will be faithful in sharing the love and grace of God with all whom we meet.

Jamie Jenkins

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