Name: Jim Cantrell
Role: Clergy Delegate
Appointment: Snellville UMC
Legislative Committee: Church and Society B
Q: One new aspect at this General Conference was the small “Holy Conferencing” group moment. What was that like for you?
A: Yes, it’s very new. The General Conference Delegation was divided into groups of about 5 to 6 people. A talking stick was used to help keep conversation organized and balanced.
Q: What was the content like in your small group?
A: All of the groups were asked to discuss our feelings about the content of the Episcopal, Laity, and Young Person’s Addresses. With that as a foundation, the conversation was based around where we find hope, where we see pain, and where we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in our Church.
Q: What do you think the purpose was of this new endeavor?
A: Well, I’m speaking from my perspective, but I would think that it was an opportunity for people from different regions, countries, cultures, races, languages, perspectives, and theologies to be in deliberate conversation. In our Church, there are people who hold different perspectives from others. This was a place to be intentional and talk about those differences.
Q: Was there something that stood out for you listening to one of those services?
A: I was reminded that young people really want to participate and engage in the Church. They want to be part of the real gutsy stuff that happens. Young adults want to be a part of the resurgence of vitality in this Church.
Q: It sounds like you were really struck by that.
A: I was. My interpretation of what they were saying was that they want to keep the wonderful historical treasures that belong to our Church, but they want to mine them in different ways.
Q: What was it like having deep conversations like that with people from different countries?
A: The interpretation element really slows things down a lot. At first, there was a lot of frustration because you have to sit and wait for non-English speaking delegates to catch up. I’ll be honest, it was mostly the Americans that were getting impatient. But then a very interesting thing happened. In the quiet time that it took for the interpreters to catch up—that seemed to give us all an opportunity to relax and think and listen more deeply about what the last person said rather than cutting people off or jumping in with something else to say. If I felt challenged or excited by something, that silent pause really gave me time to explore what I heard.
Q: That’s really interesting. Sounds like you learned a lot from delegates outside the U.S.
A: Now this is from my perspective and my experience, of course, but it seems to me that persons from other cultures are lovingly encouraging us Westerners to return to a revitalizing mode by asking questions that matter, listening to people who have been on the margins and pushed away from the Church—especially young people. For me, I thought that was a wonderful insight that I gained from my brothers and sisters from different parts of the world.
To read more about Jim, please find his bio here.