And Are We Yet Alive?

I want to tell you that I love Annual Conference in our United Methodist tradition. 

In 1784, John Wesley dispatched Thomas Coke from England to oversee the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Coke met Francis Asbury at Barratt’s Chapel in November. Plans were quickly made to gather all Methodist preachers together for the Christmas Conference at Lovely Lane.

Historian John Strawbridge writes about what happened over those ten days that formed a new denomination:

“Every Methodist preacher in America left their home and their parish on Christmas Eve. It was an important place to be in the church forming this denomination, dealing with the business that it took to create a church that would serve the people. So, they gathered all the preachers in America, about 86 preachers that they knew of at the time and planned to meet at the Lovely Lane Chapel on Christmas Eve 1784 for the formation of a new denomination.

They met in conference for ten days, established a Discipline, a Book of Worship, they ordained preachers, and they aside Asbury as the first superintendent. It was 10 days of debates and struggles and accusations and reconciliations, and the kinds of things that we do as Methodists.

To realize that this is not something that was handed down from on high, but that those people all came together as lay people.”


Since 1784, Methodists have been conferencing. It is the way we hold our connection in high regard. Collectively we work together.  What is decided by the conference becomes our guide for our work for the coming year.


Today begins Annual Conference season for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.  United Methodists from Paducah to Paris, from Memphis to Medina, from Camden  to Collierville, from Savannah to Spring Hill, Columbia to Cookeville, McMinnville to Murfreesboro will gather in Collierville June 2-4 and in Brentwood June 12-14.


Our theme: Remember Who you Are: Word, Water, Witness.  


These promise to be historic conferences as we determine if we have the energy to focus on our mission in spite of our challenges. 


When we gather, we will sing:

  • And are we yet alive,

and see each other’s face?

Glory and thanks to Jesus give

for his almighty grace!

  • Preserved by power divine

to full salvation here,

again, in Jesus’ praise we join,

and in his sight appear.

  • What troubles have we seen,

what mighty conflicts past,

fightings without, and fears within,

since we assembled last!

  • Yet out of all the Lord

hath brought us by his love;

and still he doth his help afford,

and hides our life above.

  • Then let us make our boast

of his redeeming power,

which saves us to the uttermost,

till we can sin no more.

  • Let us take up the cross

till we the crown obtain,

and gladly reckon all things loss

so, we may Jesus gain.

In 1799 Tobias Gibson was sent from Tennessee to be a Missionary to the Mississippi territory. At the end of that year, he rode  the 400-mile trip through the wilderness of Mississippi and Tennessee to attend the conference at Strother’s meeting house, then in Sumner County, Tennessee.

It had been a difficult year for Gibson.  He appealed to Bishop Asbury for help, due to his failing health. The Bishop consented and sent Moses Floyd as his helper.

When one rides 400 miles by horseback through the wilderness having overcome the dangers of the frontier, singing “And are we yet alive” takes on new meaning.

Thankfully, getting to conference isn’t quite so challenging! Nonetheless, we sing:

Yet out of all the Lord 

hath brought us by his love; 

and still he doth his help afford, 

and hides our life above. 

As we gather, may we pray for one another that we will take up the cross until our crown attain.

And may we remember: Nothing is sacred but the mission. 

I look forward to greeting you!