Enter to leave, leave to serve

by Kylee Ponder Schilling

It’s a Saturday afternoon. I’m in running shorts and dripping in sweat. My legs are peppered with welts from mosquitoes, despite the fact that I sprayed myself with Off! two times before embarking. I’m hunched over a rake gathering branches and leaves that have been cut from an alleyway in Hampton, Virginia. Anyone peeking through the alley has the chance of being blinded by the highlighter lime green matching shirts that everyone who surrounds me (including Rev. Rachel) wears.

Last year, I sat in a chilly room in the Convention Center, getting up every 45 minutes or so to stretch my legs, which had fallen asleep after listening to reports and amendments. This year, last Saturday in particular, I was out in the community, a member of a hodgepodge team of United Methodist delegates and ministers serving various neighborhoods of Hampton through alleyway cleanup. All a part of the “Great Day of Service.”

As Rachel and I walked back to her car to head to the Convention Center after the Great Day of Service was over, I noticed an abandoned elementary school near where we’d parked. There was articulate and beautiful tile work above the entrance that read: “Enter to learn, leave to serve.”

*Lightbulb moment*

That’s what Annual Conference is supposed to be for so many people – ministers, volunteers, lay leaders, anyone. We are to enter Annual Conference ready to learn and be educated. And by the time we leave, we are expected to go take all that we have learned and in turn, serve others.

I thought of that as I sat sandwiched between Rev. Rachel and Rev. Drew Willson on Saturday night at the Service of Ordination. Although I have never been ordained, the service is always the most touching part of the VAUMC weekend. It is powerful to watch these people who have answered a call and entered a life path of God’s work, learned and studied, all wrapping up on Saturday night in culmination as they leave to serve. With those who love them and support them standing up and wishing them well on their journey of service.

There are many big things on the horizon for the United Methodist Church, especially as General Conference approaches in February. If we all keep that mantra in the back of our minds, I think we’ll continue to head in the right direction.

Enter to learn, leave to serve.