Most folks who know anything about Methodism know that conferences and meetings are part of the Methodist way. Growing up Baptistcostal, the only meetings I remember us having were prayer meetings or bible studies. When I became Methodist years ago there was a serious learning curve for me with all of the meetings I had to attend on a weekly basis. What I’ve discovered since then is that although meetings can be and often are boring, they can also be a means of grace. This is certainly the way John Wesley thought of them. The term “holy conferencing” is used widely in Methodist circles to refer to Wesley’s emphasis on Christian conferences as one of five prudential means of grace. For Wesley, holy conferencing is prayerful conversation with other Christians that is truthful, graceful and loving. This holy conversation is toward the ends of edification and growth in holiness, social holiness, communal formation. Here’s Wesley in his own words:
“5. Christian Conference.
Are we convinced how important and how difficult it is to order our conversation right? Is it always in grace? Seasoned with salt? Meet to minister grace to the hearers? Do we not converse too long at a time? Is not an hour at a time commonly enough? Would it not be well to plan our conversation beforehand? To pray before and after it?”
“5. They who ‘walk after the Spirit’ are also led by him into all holiness of conversation. Their speech is ‘always in grace, seasoned with salt’, with the love and fear of God. ‘No corrupt communication comes out of their mouth, but (only) that which is good; that which is ‘to the use of edifying’, which is ‘meet to minister grace to the hearers’. And herein likewise do they exercise themselves day and night to do only the things which please God … in all their intercourse with their neighbor to walk in justice, mercy, and truth; and ‘whatsoever they do’ … to ‘do all to the glory of God.’”
Last week was our monthly planning meeting at Blackburn’s Chapel. The meeting doesn’t usually drum up too many surprises; we plan for the coming month, determine who’s doing what and get our calendars on the same page. This time was different. Vulnerability. Tears. Affirmation. Directness. Prayer. Laughter. Passion…. Holy Conferencing.