2019 UMC Immersion

Over My Head

Day One of this special session of the General Conference was daunting.  So many things happening in such a short period of time: witnessing protestors, singing and praying, reports on the proposed plans, reviewing the rules of order, connecting with new people, electing presiding officers, prioritizing the petitions, and parsing the legislation… it all seems to go over my head.

The United Methodist Church has gathered in St. Louis this weekend for a time of holy conferencing, to discern a way forward in regards to the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Church.  And yet, it seems that the Church, even at this historic moment in the life of the denomination, is talking around the “elephant in the room.”  There has been a lot of discussion and prayer on the unity in the body of Christ and not so much addressing the ongoing pain LGBTQ members experience from the harmful policies in our Book of Discipline.  And if I am completely honest, it goes over my head that the Church would invest so much energy, time, and money in gathering us from around the Connection to dance around the matter at hand.  It goes over my head that the Church is having this conference about LGBTQ people without intentionally listening to LGBTQ people.  And, it goes over my head that the delegates would deem pensions as the highest priority for discussion today when LGBTQ lives are on the line.  It is daunting.

After the closing worship, our cohort made its way out to head for dinner and across the street from the conference center were protestors armed with harmful signs and messages.  I could feel my anxiety level rise as we crossed the street towards the demonstration and something unexpected happened—a hymn came to mind…

Over my head, I hear music in the air.
Over my head, I hear music in the air.
Over my head, I hear music in the air;
There must be a God somewhere!

…and at that moment, in the face of the harmful messages, I heard the music in the air.  This is a song we sing often at my home church and it made me think of them and our ministry together.  I then hummed the tune to myself the rest of the walk and noticed that the anxiety from the protestors and the daunting feeling from this first day at General Conference go away.  Not to say that those feelings simply disappeared.  No, those feelings are very real.  The hymn calmed my soul by reminding me of the people I am called to serve and that even though things might be over my head (and out of my control) at this General Conference, there is always music in the air to counter those harmful policies and messages placed before us.

I believe there is a God somewhere and that that God is inviting us not only to hear the music in the air but to be the music for those who have been silenced, shut out, and abandoned, inviting all into the chorus of God’s justice and mercy.

In his directions for singing, John Wesley instructs us to “unite our voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.”  It is my hope that the United Methodist Church, as it continues in its holy conferencing for a way forward, is mindful of the sound the decisions will make and that it remembers that there are people dying to hear the music and join the chorus.

~ Angel Rivero 

Angel Rivero is a M.Div. student at PSR and is an openly gay candidate for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church