It’s a big word in the United Methodist lexicon: connection.
We believe that our connection (or as we like to say, connectionalism) makes us stronger, helps us do together what one person, or church, or regional body could never do alone. Making decisions as a global body is a pain in the butt, and doesn’t always (or perhaps even often) result in the greatest ministry and justice for all people. But actually doing that ministry together, actually working for justice and health and blessing in a connectional system, that is when we shine.
Being connected also means that we have contacts all over the world, and through them and the way we are touched by them, we are broken open by tragedy, we experience it not as someone else’s loss, but as our own. We are more aware of our one-ness as a human family.
Several of my colleagues have sister-church partnerships with churches in Haiti, and have been receiving updates about losses and survivors. Our denomination as a whole mourns the loss of three brave souls: volunteer Jean Arnwine of the Highland Park UMC, Dallas TX’s mission team, who died of injuries she sustained in the collapse of the Petite Guave Eye Clinic– a woman who is being remembered especially today as her loved ones gather for her memorial service; The Reverend Sam Dixon, leader of the United Methodist Committee on Relief and The Reverend Clinton Rabb, director of the UMC’s mission programing, who died last Saturday and Sunday, respectively, resulting from the collapse of the hotel where they and other relief agency leaders were meeting to plan ways to improve access to health care in Haiti. Their stories personalize the almost numbing tales of injury and death still pouring from Haiti as aftershocks and the passage of time make rescue of further survivors all but impossible.
Being connected, in any case, means we can do more, surely. But it also means that we sometimes have to feel more because we can’t ignore our relationship to one another. And feeling more hurts. It hurts a lot, sometimes. But it keeps us human, and so that makes it worth it.