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Kammerer brings world view of United Methodist church to annual conference

Kammerer brings world view of United Methodist church to annual conference

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Kammerer brings world view of United Methodist church to annual conference

June 14, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0313}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — In her role as guest preacher at the "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event here, Bishop Charlene Kammerer reminded delegates of their calling to love each other and strive for human unity, sharing examples she witnessed in her travels around the globe.

Kammerer preached at the communion service in the evening June 2 and at the service focusing on baptism the next evening.

LAKELAND — Bishop Charlene Kammerer waves to fellow Floridians during the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. Kammerer, who attended the conference as guest preacher, is bishop of the Virgina Conference, but was elected to the episcopacy from the Florida Conference. She was born in Orlando, Fla., and lived in the Winter Garden area in her early years. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0190.

Kammerer is no stranger to the Florida Conference. She was born in Orlando and spent her early years in Winter Garden. She was elected to the episcopacy from the Florida Conference at the 1996 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C. Her first assignment as bishop was to the Charlotte Area, which she served for eight years. She was assigned to the Virginia Conference in 2004.

Using Ephesians 2:11-18 as her primary text June 2, Kammerer said she found herself spiritually stirred by the passing of Pope John Paul II. She said she was especially touched in March 2000 when the Pope visited the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

During that visit Kammerer said the Pope stood at the Wailing Wall and placed a slip of paper containing a written prayer into one of the tiny crevices.

"Later, much later, a press release from the Vatican shared the words of his prayer: 'God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendents to bring your name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who, according to history, caused these children of yours to suffer. Asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to being in brotherhood with the people of the covenant,' " Kammerer said. "It was the first time a Pope had stood at the Wailing Wall, and this Pope stood there in humility, with his head bowed in prayer."

John Paul II signified the common link of human unity, Kammerer said, adding he possessed unconditional love, even for the man who had tried to assassinate him. The Pope was a bridge builder among many Christian faiths, according to Kammerer.

Kammerer shared experiences she and her husband, Leigh, had while on a pilgrimage to ancient and modern sites of Rome with 250 United Methodists and the Roman Catholic bishop of Charlotte.

In the Charlotte area, Kammerer said various faith communities work together on outreach projects, made possible because Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and United Methodists rally around their commonalities, rather their differences.

Kammerer said that bond was further strengthened on the trip when the Roman Catholic bishop gave her an official Catholic bishop's ring.

"It was such an extraordinary way for him to say to me, 'I receive you, I love you, as a sister bishop, not a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, not a bishop in the United Methodist Church, but in the universal church of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,' " Kammerer said. "Praise be to God who has always given us unity in the church through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The following evening Kammerer reminded delegates to remember their baptism and be thankful, using the text of Ephesians 2:19-22 and John 3:1-8.

"This kingdom of faith is now your home country," she said. "You are no longer strangers or outsiders. God is building a home; God is using us all. God used the apostles and prophets for the foundation, now God is using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the corner stone that holds all the parts together."

LAKELAND — The Rev. Brinda LeBleu assists during the baptismal renewal service at the annual conference event June 3, waving palm fronds sprinkled with water over delegates. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0191.

Kammerer then focused on how people come into the family of Christ through their baptism and asked everyone to recall their own She said doing so is "no small thing ... baptism is the primary marker of Christian identity."

Kammerer relayed the story of traveling to Armenia with a mission team from the Western North Carolina Conference in May 2004. The small country has the distinct honor of being the first Christian nation, according to Kammerer. She said the Armenian Apostolic Church has existed for more than 1,700 years.

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission built an Armenian Apostolic Church in a high mountain area. That church welcomed the team as their guests for a series of Sunday morning baptisms. Kammerer said 17 youth, ages 10 to 17, were baptized during the three-hour service.

After each child was called by name, Kammerer said holy water was placed three times on his or her head in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Oil was then placed on various parts of their bodies - eyes, nose, ears, lips, chest above the heart — to remind the youth to use those various parts of the body to glorify God and do his work. Oil placed on the forehead was a seal of faith. Oil on each eyelid symbolized avoiding looking at evil things from that time forward and seeing only kind, Godly things. Oil on each hand meant the children were called to perform the work of God in the world.

"It was an extraordinary experience to witness these baptisms," Kammerer said. "The symbol of our faith conveyed that whatever is blessed in our very body will be blessed by God's holy name. And these children will be kept and sanctified by their baptisms."

Using the oil followed the ritual of Moses anointing Aaron and Mary Magdalene anointing Christ's head before he died, Kammerer said. She said the oil symbolized the giving of the power of God and blessed and sanctified love.

The children were told not to bathe for two days so the oil could take its full effect. Then, they returned to the church for yet another blessing. Kammerer said she witnessed an unusual occurrence that day.

"As we, the team, were transfixed by this baptismal experience, two birds flew into the sanctuary and flew around the top of the dome with their sweet twills," she said. "It was to us as if the doves of the Holy Spirit had flown into that very holy place. And when the priest announced the final amen, the birds took their leave."

Kammerer said God's loves continues to live and thrive in Armenia, a country recovering from genocide from the Turks in 1918, after surviving long years of civil war and being cast out of the Soviet Union in 1991. She said the country possesses a certain vibrancy of the Christian faith.

Kammerer ended her sermon with the story of a young master at a Benedictine monastery. His job was to greet people from all walks of life as they entered the property. The people were of all ages, backgrounds, races and sizes.

"Some days he would catch his breath, squint his eyes and say to himself 'Jesus Christ, is it you, again?' Jesus Christ, is it you, again? Amen."

This article relates to 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.