The Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church was the featured speaker Monday, July 23,2012, at Legacy Learning offered by Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham. Bishop William Willimon is retiring after eight years of leading United Methodist in North Alabama. He soon will be teaching at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Canterbury Hall was beautifully decorated with an English Garden Party theme. Two large white Greek columns, a green wrought iron bench and greenery on the stage set the tone. The tables were decorated with live green topiaries and swaths of brown material overlaid with beige net. Layla Humphries was playing violin classics as quest arrived to enjoy a cool and sparkling apple punch served from a silver punch bowl.
Kristie Tingle Higginbotham, noted vocalist and local celebrity sang I Dreamed a Dream from the musical Les Miserables. Minister of Contemporary Worship Rev. Mike Holly introduced the speaker after a prayer by Young Adult Minister Rev. Drew Clayton.
"What Matters Most" was the topic. Bishop Willimon said it is the thing ministers in particular and all of us in general struggle to discern. How do we determine what matters most as we set the priorities of our days, weeks and years? Willimon quoted Socrates in saying that “the eternal things are the things that matter most.” All cultures strive to disconcert individuals from noticing that human life is limited and temporary wrote Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death, Willimon cited. John Wesley, he says, noted that Methodist are good at dying. By that he meant that Methodists had looked at the human condition but still faced their deaths with hope. The disciples of Jesus of Nazareth told that they had seen Christ raised from the dead. Soon Paul, the great explainer of Christianity, was preaching and writing that believers in Christ would follow suit. The graceful hope of Christianity is that though our time on Earth is limited there is strength in knowing that God cares about what happens to us after we die.
In a question and answer period Willimon responded to Dr. Neal Berte’s query when Berte asked, “Don’t you think that service to others is the primary thing we should prioritize?” “Yes, ask someone to come and work with you on a service project for others and that will interest them in the church far more quickly than asking someone to visit your church,” says Willimon.
Canterbury United Methodist is known for its Brown Bag Project where groceries are bought, bagged and given away each Friday by church volunteers. The Carpenter’s Hands is a group of volunteers who fix houses and build needed improvements around the Birmingham area for persons in need. Disaster relief, Empower and medical mission trips to Panama, Haiti and New Orleans are just a few of the outreach initiatives that Canterbury supports with finances, volunteers and leadership. United Methodist are known for their strong dedication to service for persons in need and justice and mercy issues of many varieties.
This Legacy Learning event was a recognition and celebration of God’s care for persons in this life and in the mystery that is yet to come. As Canterbury Senior Minister Dr. Bill Morgan likes to say, “Christian faith gives persons direction for living and hope for dying.”