In keeping with the theme, One: God, Faith, People and Mission, the first gathering was titled Opening Worship: One God. The service was set before a beautiful background and filled with music that lifted the spirits of those who were weary from travel or hard work to get to the moment of worshipping together.
The Festival Choir of Christ Church UMC, Sugarland provided gathering music and the conference worship team continued to raise the audience to their feet singing songs common to everyone.
Greetings were offered by Peggy Larney of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma followed by introductions by Bishop Ivan Abrahams.
The group was welcomed by:
- Program Chair Sarah Wilke of the Upper Room Ministries,
- Ann Connan, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women,
- Bishop Scott J. Jones, Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church,
- Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
- Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, Eight Episcopal District of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and
- Dr. HiRho Y. Park, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the united Methodist Church.
The processional of flags from across the world was set to the Charles Wesley hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” It fit perfectly to highlight the expanse of the World Methodist Conference and all the voices that could be heard joining the singing. An especially moving moment occurred when the audience members were asked to sing “How Great Thou Art” in their own language and the voices melded beautifully.
Jennifer Wiseman, Ph.D. an astrophysicist and Rev. Dr. David Wilkinson, Professor, St. John’s College, Durham University shared a lesson focused on Psalm 8 and expanse of the universe. Some points they offered:
- Most scientists agree that 13.8 billion years ago the universe was created with a burst of energy.
- Psalm 8 says that the heavens were created by God’s figures.
- How mighty is God who created this expansive universe – expansive beyond our ability to comprehend?
- Twenty-five years ago, scientists learned there are other planets orbiting stars at a distance that could allow habitation. Are there other habitable planets?
- How is it possible for God to love this little planet and the people on it to the extent He knows and loves each of us?
- Yet, as Christians, we know God’s love through Jesus Christ.
- We try to make God small but God is BIG.
- God is awesome using the order of nature to patiently create a world that is still in the creating process.
- Science is a gift to celebrate. Understanding can heal us by instilling awe and wonder.
The topic of nature and God’s magnificent creation continued with a performance led by a group from the Iglesia Metodista del Peru. The message was to restore what man has done to God’s beautiful work.
Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen of the Methodist Church Nigeria offered the closing blessing.