A Way Forward — Progress Begins With Simple Phone Call

By March 30, 2017News

Casey Orr“While we don’t all agree or come from the same perspective, we all share a love of God, a love of the Church, and a real hope for the future.”

— Rev. Casey Orr, Commission on a Way Forward

In their first meeting, the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward were simply separate voices connected by 32 separate telephones. This mid-December called teleconference was the first opportunity for official contact between the newly appointed Commission members led by three moderators, Bishop David Yemba, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, and Bishop Ken Carter.

The purpose for this call was singular: Prayer. In preparation, each member was asked to provide a 1-minute prayer for the work they were about to begin and for the future of the Church.

“We’ve all read each other’s names and learned a little bit about one another through various means,” says Rev. Casey Orr, who was nominated to serve the Commission by Central Texas Conference Bishop Mike Lowry, and then appointed by the Council of Bishops, “but this was the first time a voice became attached to each name, and we began to be real to one another.”

The Commission members were called upon one by one, in alphabetical order, to introduce themselves, give a short personal background, and tell where and how they serve the Church. Then, the group embarked on 30 minutes of continuous prayer as each individual member read the prayer he or she had prepared.

“There was such a shared heart and investment in the Church we heard in each others’ prayers,” Casey recounts, “Even though opinions did come through, and we don’t all agree or come from the same perspective, we all share a love of God, a love of the Church, and a real hope for the future.”

word-cloudWhile each person prayed, everyone else was asked to make note of the words that seemed to recur — and to notice patterns that emerged. “It was beautiful,” Casey recalls.

While acknowledging the brokenness that led to the need for the Commission in the first place, Casey says that the group is devoted to being part of the light. “As we prayed together in this phone conference in the middle of Advent,” Casey remembers, “we were reminded that so much of Advent is about anticipation. So this extra sense of looking forward and hopefulness we were all feeling as a part of the season was a perfect way to begin our work together.”

By making prayer foundational to this work, it offers everyone concerned with this process a call to action and a way to be involved. 

To prepare for its first meeting, members of the Commission were also asked to read “Wonder, Love, and Praise” from the Committee on Faith and Order; “The Anatomy of Peace” (Arbinger Institute); and “Be Strong and of Good Courage” by Gil Rendle (Texas Methodist Foundation).

casey-commissionAs Casey describes it, this assigned reading the group was issued “has really helped me get into a good place — a frame of mind for the place this work will occupy in my heart, mind, life, family, and job.” And, while the responsibility she faces as being a part of this group can be a bit overwhelming at times, Casey says that she is extremely thankful for the support of First Church members who are aware of what’s going on, what a critical time this is for the Church, and the weight of responsibility every member of the Commission feels — maybe not every day, but certainly as they move through the work they have been asked to do.

“I really look forward to getting to know these deeply committed people,” Casey adds. “This will become a true community of trust and purpose. I love the thought of these strangers becoming like family — and what our relationship will be in a year and a half and beyond. It’s hard to imagine right now the impact our conversations could have on our Church.”

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