Holston men gather in Morristown
By Annette Bender
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. - In the largest conference gathering of United Methodist Men (UMM) in four years, 160 participated in the "Day With Bishop Swanson" at First Morristown United Methodist Church on Saturday, Feb. 26.
Men representing all 12 districts shared testimonies, worshipped, completed business, and ate Subway sandwiches at the all-day event. Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout, noting that many men can no longer commit to weekend retreats as in past years.
"We might need to try more of these single-day settings," said Darrell Edmondson, conference UMM treasurer and member of Trinity UMC, Oak Ridge District.
A prevailing theme of the day was the nature of men, and how they are not always comfortable in or drawn to the church.
"A lot of men hide their feelings," said Jason Lowder, member at West End UMC, Wytheville District. At age 22, Lowder was one of the youngest participants in the UMM gathering. "It's good to get a lot of men together to talk like this."
"Men are more likely to be involved in projects than they are to witness," Edmondson said. "But it's time that men stood up and gave testimony and showed leadership."
During his message, Bishop James Swanson acknowledged that many men don't view Jesus as a masculine figure.
"But I don't see Jesus as being soft," he said. "I see Jesus as being a man's man. A carpenter? Come on, he had rough hands. Walking for miles? Please. When he pulled his sandals off at the end of the day, you know they stunk like a man," Swanson said to laughter.
Noting that many men fear becoming emotional during worship services, Swanson said, "There are very few places where a man can be thought of as a man and let tears descend ... But remember, you have the right to cry because you worship a risen savior ... There's nothing wrong with letting some tears stream down your cheeks."
Before closing, Swanson challenged participants to reverse declining male memberships in their congregations. "You find a way to get the men back into your church," he said.
Following Swanson's message, 20 clergy members assisted him with Holy Communion. Among the clergy in attendance were District Superintendents Richard Patterson of Morristown, Al Bowles of Chattanooga, and Don Nation of Tazewell.
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