With this year’s annual conference session, we continue the tradition of connecting our conference theme with our denomination’s quadrennial areas of focus. During our time together this June, we will celebrate how our North Georgia Conference membership, local churches, and agencies actively engage in ministry with the poor.
When we are in ministry with the poor, we are recognizing God’s special concern for those who are marginalized and vulnerable. We typically identify the poor as those who lack adequate and basic resources; however, poverty is complex and can describe shortages on many levels. Thus, God calls us to offer help and hope to those who are poor in mind, body, and spirit as well.
The 2011 Annual Conference logo depicts a person with a loaf of bread. Bread has a significant role in many cultures, and is a universal staple of sustenance and nutrition—however it is prepared: leavened or unleavened, baked or fried. It is a symbol of nourishment and comfort in our lives and also in our Christian faith.
This symbolism is woven into our logo as the bread represents the many ways we engage the poor with life-giving sustenance. Whether this is through specific helping ministries or simply words of reassurance, the nourishment we offer our neighbors can encourage and embolden.
The depiction of whether the person in our logo is giving or receiving the bread is purposely indistinguishable. At certain times we may be giving to others; at other times, we may be the recipient. This reciprocal giving and receiving reminds us that neither the giver nor receiver holds power over the other. The needy can receive from those who have — and those who have can receive from those in need.
A verse from the In Faith We Sing hymn entitled “Make Me a Servant” draws us deeper into this understanding, reminding us to be God’s humble and meek servants while being in relationship with the poor. Humility and a sense of meekness are very strong and active characteristics and are not to be viewed as passive or weak. Engaging in ministry with the poor is active, and we are called to boldly stand face to face with our neighbors offering sustenance, hope, and healing.
John Wesley agreed with this boldness, saying the poor had a favored place in God’s grace and that we have a duty to meet them where they are. Wesley understood that when we engage in ministry with the poor, we increase our closeness to God, and he believed that the Methodist movement had a special responsibility to the poor as God’s beloved.
As North Georgia United Methodists, we still believe in that responsibility. At this 2011 Annual Conference, let us celebrate the ways we are engaging in ministry with the poor. As meek and humble servants of Christ, let the prayer of our hearts be to seek the lost, make the weak strong, and, with justice, feed the poor with sustenance, hope, and healing.