From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Selection as Laity Address speaker fulfills friend's vision

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 28 Apr 2004 16:32:15 -0500

April 28, 2004	  GC04011

By Jackie Campbell*

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) - When Gloria Holt learned she was selected to give the
Laity Address at General Conference 2004, she thought of Janet Smith of
Birmingham, Ala., who 13 years earlier envisioned Holt doing just that.

"Back in 1991, I was district president of United Methodist Women, and Janet
was a local unit president," Holt explained. "She nominated me as a delegate
for the 1992 General Conference and said, 'I want you to give the Laity
Address at General Conference. The laity always have an address, and I
envision you doing it.'"

Holt was elected a jurisdictional delegate that year and since then has seen
Smith occasionally over the years.

"As soon as I got the call (to give the address), I thought of Janet and what
she had said.  I called her, asked her if she remembered me, and told her I
was going to give the Laity Address," Holt said.  

"Janet's in her 80s, but she said she was jumping up and down," she said.

During the 1980s, Holt became involved with her local church UMW. She later
served in district and North Alabama Conference UMW posts. After a stint as
conference UMW president, she was nominated and elected as North Alabama
Annual (regional) Conference lay leader.

Holt, who is co-leader of the North Alabama delegation and president of the
Association of Conference Lay Leaders, was chosen to give the address by a
panel of judges based on a script she submitted to the United Methodist Board
of Discipleship.

The text emphasizes the importance of reaching out to a new generation in
non-traditional ways.

"For 36 years, my family and I were members of a traditional United Methodist
Church in our community and that church was dear to us," she said. "When we
moved to a new community eight years ago, we were one of seven families who
began to meet together and pray in the home of a new pastor."

When plans began to include a worship center instead of a sanctuary, praise
teams instead of choirs, and so on, Holt said, "It all sounded very
irreverent to me. ... My Methodist dander got up a little. After all, I was
the conference lay leader. I knew the routine. I thought you were supposed to
have liturgy and a standard style of worship."

She got over it. Now, eight years later, Clear Branch United Methodist Church
in Brimingham has 2,000 in worship each week. Easter Sunday had 3,200

"I just want to remind us that we must be open to doing worship in new ways,"
she said.  "Doors, hearts and minds are like parachutes," she added. "They
work best when they're open!"

Holt said she's seen a lot of change in the relationship between laity and
clergy and the way they work together.

"We must become partners in ministry. We must become one in spirit," she

"We are being empowered more," she explained. "We are called to ministry
together, but you have to work with your clergy counterpart for that to be

# # #

*Campbell is a staff writer for the United Methodist Church's Western
Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.
After May 10: (615) 742-5470. 


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