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Watson gives laity one-on-one time

Watson gives laity one-on-one time

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Watson gives laity one-on-one time

June 25, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0507}

NOTE: This is one of a series of articles related to news from the “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event June 1-3 in Lakeland. See related article “Watson cries out for United Methodists to return to missionary roots,” e-Review FUMNS #0506.

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham and J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Lay members gather to talk about issues impacting laity and hear a brief message from Dr. David Lowes Watson before the opening session of the "Witness With Power" 2006 Florida Anual Conference Event. Photo by e-Review Florida UMNS staff, Photo #06-388.

LAKELAND — Each year at the annual meeting of Florida United Methodists, clergy and laity gather in their own sessions before the opening worship and first business session to discuss matters of importance to them.  

Dr. David Lowes Watson, a special guest speaker scheduled to address the entire body at the opening session later that afternoon, visited with lay delegates during their morning session June 1, giving them a preview of his message to come.

After singing a few hymns, hearing reports from United Methodist Men and Women, and learning more about the importance of the next annual conference session’s elections for General Conference 2008, Ed Chappell, North East District Leader of Laity, shared details about the conference mission offering being collected at the service that evening and the focus on East Angola. Sixty percent of the annual conference offering will go to the East Angola/Florida Covenant, which was launched in February 2003.

Florida Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker then shared a few remarks and introduced Watson, who serves as director of the Office of Pastoral Formation for the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. He has written extensively in the fields of Methodist history, theology, evangelism, congregational life and mission. His books include “Accountable Discipleship,” “The Early Methodist Class Meeting,” and “God Does Not Foreclose.”

Walker talked about attacks from both within and outside the church that have left it weakened, but added he has great hope for the church — buoyed by Watson’s work.

“Bishop (Timothy) Whitaker and I believe that Dr. David Lowes Watson (and his) years of study have lead him to insights that are filled with potential and filled with promise. We want to commend his words to you,” Walker said.

LAKELAND — Florida Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker speaks to lay members of the annual conference before the 2006 annual meeting's opening session. Photo by e-Review Florida UMNS staff, Photo #06-389.

Walker added that Watson’s vast knowledge of Wesleyan heritage offers promise, as well as awareness and understanding of the church’s current culture.

Watson reminded those in attendance The United Methodist Church began as a lay missionary movement by circuit riders. He said once people responded to the gospel, churches were needed and congregations needed “looking after.” Clergy were needed to preach to and teach the congregations.

“Clergy are called to preach and teach the gospel; the laity to lead the church in discipleship,” Watson said. “After all, it is the laity who are living out the gospel. Clergy cannot lead in it.”

Watson reminded laity early circuit riders took the gospel to the frontier, many times at the cost of their own lives. He said laity must lead in that missionary spirit.

During research on John Wesley, Watson said he discovered Wesley rode 500,000 miles during his lifetime — miles that did not come easily. Watson said Wesley fell 21 times, almost died crossing flooded waters four times, hit a tree three times from reading while riding, and realized his horse had a mind of its own five times.

“We need to recover the spirit of those early circuit riders,” he said. “We need to be very clear who we are and very clear whose church it is.”

Charles Klimas, a member of Community United Methodist Church in the East Central District, said Watson’s brief message touched his heart.

“It is our church, our congregation,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a vacuum and clergy (having) to fill the void left by the laity. Laity should be running the church.”

Dan Rosier, a member of Carrabelle United Methodist Church in the Panhandle, said he felt empowered.

“The pastor is only one person,” he said. “We pay him to preach and teach. We need to get more involved. I’m going to take this information back home to my church members.”


This article relates to the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event.

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