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Music leader scatters seeds for General Conference

The Rev. Page Hines of First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, reads a hand-written prayer on an envelope containing seeds for planting in preparation for the 2008 General Conference. A UMNS photo by Steve Smith.  

By Steve Smith*
Nov. 2, 2007 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)

To Marcia McFee, nothing exemplifies the Holy Spirit blossoming better than seeds. 

Marcia McFee

In fact, United Methodists throughout Fort Worth and Dallas are planting McFee's seeds — literally — to prepare for the denomination's 2008 General Conference April 23-May 2 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

As co-music director of the event along with Mark Miller, McFee is distributing hundreds of seed packets to the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference. She hopes congregants will plant the seeds and bring the seedlings to General Conference as symbols of a unifying force in the global denomination.

"The symbol of seeds scattered and sown, planted, cared for and harvested is a familiar and powerful image throughout the Bible and especially in the parables of Jesus," said McFee, a United Methodist consultant in Truckee, Calif., who specializes in planning and conducting worship services.

"We will not only speak of hope planted and nurtured, we will enact this in a powerful symbol of our commitment to each other and to this uniting desire for the growth of the word of hope and peace in Jesus Christ." 

Metaphors for growth

The 2008 General Conference logo is a tree embodying the convention's theme, "A Future with Hope," and an organizing symbol for worship services throughout the nine-day gathering.

"Each of the services has to do with the metaphors of the organic process of growing trees, growing our faith and service to the world and growing communities," McFee said. "All of these images have powerful biblical correlatives."

For instance, the first morning of business will open with a worship service dubbed "The Opening," with images of seeds breaking open to bring forth new life. The next day, "The Planting" will explore the image of the seedling and the call to plant for the future for the sake of future United Methodists. 

As the conference progresses, other metaphors will explore "Nurturing," "Residing," "Building" and "Sustaining" as the focus continues on "our living, growing faith in Jesus Christ," according to McFee.

Seeds of hope

The idea of seed packets germinated about a year ago when McFee led a United Methodist worship service called "Seeds of Hope." Participants put seeds into plain envelopes and wrote prayers of hope for The United Methodist Church on the outside of each envelope.

From student forums,  mission schools, annual conference worships, training events and programs at local churches, McFee collected hundreds of the seed packets, all sent to churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

During the services, McFee uses a liturgy — "The Word of God" by Delores Dufner — replete with Scripture from:

  • Psalm 92 — "The righteous flourish like a palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon";
  • Jeremiah 17 — "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream";
  • Mark 4 — "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how."

Staff members at Dallas/Fort Worth area churches are waiting to plant the seeds according to McFee's directions, preferably in early to mid-March, to ensure the seedlings will have a few weeks of growth by April 23, the convention's opening day.

What's more, McFee is asking church members to repeat prayers written on the envelopes by United Methodists from throughout the United States.

“These seedlings will ... grace our arena space for General Conference as a testament to the prayers and commitment of United Methodists across the connection.”–Marcia McFee

McFee is giving seed packets to bishops at the United Methodist Council of Bishops meeting in November, especially those who don't live in North America for planting in their homelands. United Methodist missionaries also are taking seed packets to mission locations around the world.

"These seedlings will then grace our arena space for General Conference as a testament to the prayers and commitment of United Methodists across the connection," McFee said. "At various times during the conference, we'll use the seedlings in worship. At one point we will pass these seedlings along the rows of worshipers as an act of prayer."

Instructions for Planting Seeds:

  • Sprout the seeds, especially larger ones, first in a continually dampened paper towel to ensure they will come up when planted. If the seeds don't sprout in the towels, replacing them with other seeds won't hurt the prayerful intentions.
  • Plant a few seeds each in four-inch clay pots available from any garden supply store.
  • Include saucers under the pots and provide proper drainage with small rocks at the bottom of the pot under the dirt. The seeds will be watered continuously during General Conference.
  • Plant in early to mid-March to ensure a few weeks of growth by April 23, the opening day of General Conference.
  • For those living in the Fort Worth area, bring seedlings to the Fort Worth Convention Center from 2-6 p.m. on Sunday, April 20. In church service that morning, growers may want to include a prayer as a way of sending the seeds with blessings.
  • Drop off seedlings at the Ninth Street Arena Lobby entrance, where volunteers will be waiting.
  • For those not living near Fort Worth, send seedlings with delegates or visitors to General Conference.

Organizers would like to have most of the seeds at the convention center by opening day. However, if bringing the seedlings once the conference has started, place them in one of the arrangement of seedlings around the visitor seating area or other locations in the convention center with arrangements.

*Smith is a freelance writer in Dallas.

News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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