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One soul warmed by love

By: Rev. Anthony Purcell, DWU Campus Pastor

“I felt my heart strangely warmed!” I couldn’t craft a more accurate description of my first experience of Annual Conference within the Dakotas any better than Wesley’s own words! The words capture the state of my soul in reflection upon my entire first year in ministry within the Dakotas Conference. While I deeply missed reconnecting with my friends in ministry with the Florida Conference, the holy conferencing of our Dakotas UMC laity and clergy had my cup running over with joy, peace, and the abiding love of community. The vision of belonging for all cast by our Bishop Lanette Plambeck filled us with a spiritual fire to go out into the world as living embodiments of God’s hope for creation! Our bishop’s calling, beautifully rooted in Scripture’s creation theology, encouraged each of us towards a mindset of God’s abundance so that we might foster mutual flourishing for all people.

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Bishop Lanette Plambeck giving the Episcopal Address. Photo by Joni.

For me, as a new transplant, the defining experience of our Dakotas Annual Conference gathering was one of genuine connection and friendship. A few colleagues have asked me how the size and scale of the Dakotas Annual Conference felt in comparison to the Florida Conference’s annual connection, and the standout distinction to me resides in the sense of family that resonated across the Dakotas UMC clergy and laity. The smaller size of the conference gathering fostered an ease of connection and meeting new friends in ministry. Despite migrating in as a new partner within the conference, I was welcomed with open arms! The sense of community was palpable across all moments of our time together. From plenary sessions to breakout meetings to intergenerational worship, the entire conference radiated a sense of heartfelt gathering of individuals who care deeply for one another. The warmth and openness of the conferencing lent to a natural ease in forming new connections and strengthening existing ones.

The teamwork of the official conference staff, clergy, laity, and students who were present exemplified the humble unity that our United Methodist vision casts for the world. An intentional spirit of unity that celebrates the beauty of and need for diversity was evident in every aspect of the conference! The experience of joy-filled teamwork (teamwork that stretched from bishops to full-time conference staff to middle, high school, and Dakota Wesleyan University students!) and the voices of others from within and outside of the conference served as a tangible reminder that our differences are not obstacles, but opportunities for growth and learning. This collective effort and shared vision left me with a sense of wonder, and our time together proliferated (see DWU President Kittle’s speech for that word-of-the-day) new and deeper connections with a host of amazing friends dedicated to our shared mission of making disciples of our King Jesus for the life-giving transformation of the world! The beauty of each participant bringing their unique gifts and perspectives to make the entire experience possible wove a rich tapestry before our eyes – a tapestry of hearts and hands working in concert for the common good of God’s new creation.

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Campus Pastors Taryn and Anthony with current DWU students, and Conference Interns, Anna and Camille. Photo from Anthony.

One of my favorite shared threads across the Florida and Dakotas Annual Conferences resides in their closing worship experiences, celebrating the beauty of our communal life in ministry together! Our shared reflection in joy and mourning across the milestones of calling, commitment, certification, licensing, commissioning, ordination, retirement, and being called to rest in death connected those present in a shared journey, all while shaping our communal imagination towards a hope-filled future for what God might continue to work out with, in, and through our United Methodist Church. The closing service of communal worship embodied a holistic reminder of the joy and fulfillment that comes from serving together in ministry.

So, how was my first annual conference among the Dakotas UMC community? Restorative. Connective. Empowering. This time of holy connection among my Dakotas UMC partners in ministry was a deeply enriching experience. Our Church’s vision shapes us toward the love of God and neighbor, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a vibrant and loving community embodying that mission.

I look forward to the future with a heart full of hope and a renewed commitment to our shared work of redemption!


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 slider.jpg 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000