November 13, 2023 Reflections on the 2023 RMN Convocation

Exactly one month ago today (Oct. 13), United Methodists from near and far gathered in Charlotte, N.C., for the Reconciling Ministries Network Convocation. This annual event was held at the beautiful downtown First Methodist Charlotte and celebrated a huge milestone: 40 years of the reconciling movement.

In 1987, Dumbarton become one of the first churches in the Washington, D.C., area to become a Reconciling Congregation, and we have been active participants in the RMN ever since. Our current pastor, Rev. Rachel Cornwell, is also a current member of the RMN Board.

Some of the Dumbartonians in attendance at the 2023 convocation shared their reflections on what attending the event meant to them:

What wonderful hosts the folks at First United Methodist Charlotte were! The weekend was a hard to define mix of “family-of-choice” reunion and good ole’fashioned United Methodist revival.  If there had been an altar call, I would have been on my knees weeping on the communion rail.  As it was, the joyous singing had me in tears several times.  If it were not for the Reconciling Ministries Network and Dumbarton UMC, I would not have stayed United Methodist. But the network and our church have seen me through to this point in my journey.

The weekend had several very touching acknowledgements of those who began our reconciling efforts 40 years ago. It was wonderful to see Beth Richardson and Mark Bowman honored for their efforts as founding siblings of what has become such a strong and growing presence in the UMC. A real affirmation of the strength of RMN was the presence of so many people whom I had never met and who seemed deeply invested in the work of reconciling. That is evidence of new and ready leadership rising up to take us places that we could not have imagined 40 years ago. — Chip Aldridge 

Draw the Circle… draw the circle wide. . . I, like Chip, would likely be long gone from the UMC were it not for RMN and Dumbarton UMC. The music of Mark Miller, echoing with the reminder to wrap everyone in the circle, not a circle of restriction or exclusion, but one of unlimited size. A circle that allows all who want its welcome to be drawn in. This is what convocation is like for me. Exciting and varied worship, brilliant and courageous preachers, friends from far and near. .. a true rainbow coalition. — Mittie Quinn

This was my first time attending an RMN Convocation. It was a delight to see old friends and to meet new ones all committed to justice. The spirit was enlivening, generous and whole heartedly loving. RMN Convocation shows me what the UMC can be. 

I appreciate the genuine commitment to intersectionality that constructively connected harm done by heteronormative biases and policies in church and society with the damage done to BIPOC people by white supremacy and racist policies. 

For me, this was reflected in poetic worship and robust workshops topics, and timely panel discussions. We have a lot of work to do before General Conference, 2024, 2026, and 2028! The RMN convocation moves us further toward perfection in love. — Neal Christie

In the months leading up to the RMN Convocation, Rev. Rachel suggested that I attend. She knew how the disaffiliation movement was negatively impacting me, a cradle United Methodist, one who was watching churches, especially ones in the community where I grew up, choice to leave our denomination rather than fully include members of our Beloved Community who identify as LGBTQIA+.

It’s hard to put into words what I experienced over those three days in Charlotte. The mind-expanding bible studies, the inclusive and powerful worship services, the uplifting musical performances (Oh my GOD, the amazing music!), the meaningful workshops … I saw the future of what our denomination could be, and it was one of the most beautiful, holy and just moments of my life.

Dumbarton’s commitment to being a reconciling congregation is what keeps me a member of our denomination. Attending the convocation was the most hopeful sign of the way forward. Onward – to perfection! — Barbara Michelman

For more highlights and news about the convocation, please read United Methodist News Assistant Editor Heather Hahn’s  coverage of the event.