Boots on the Ground Tour Concludes; "Let's Be a Movement Again!"

March 27, 2023
Bishop Delores J. Williamston is getting used to the interstates and highways of Louisiana, having recently traveled well over 1,000 miles for her Boots on the Ground Tour. 

The tour, which began in late January and just ended with a stop in New Orleans and Metairie, included stops at fourteen different churches and included over sixteen total meetings. In all of them, the bishop reminded faithful United Methodists of their ultimate task: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Throughout her tour, Bishop Williamston reminded every audience that, just as much as the tour was an opportunity for them to hear from her and to learn of her vision, it was also an opportunity for her to hear from them.
“I am brand new to Louisiana and am so excited for the future,” said Bishop Williamston. “I know you have questions for me, but I also want you to dream big! Share your hopes and aspirations for your church, your community, and this Conference.”
The tour, which began in Monroe, stretched as far north as Shreveport and included stops in Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Covington, Slidell, New Orleans, and Metairie.
Sixteen total meetings with clergy and laity at fourteen churches across the connection.
Bishop Williamston challenged everyone to ask what we are willing to do to advance the cause of Christ in Louisiana and beyond.
“I am a ‘boots on the ground’ type of person,” said Bishop Williamston. “And it just so happens that I am now in a boot-shaped state! I am eager to work alongside you and ready to empower the faithful across Louisiana.”
During each of the stops, Bishop Williamston shared a harrowing story of driving through torrential thunderstorms in Kansas. She shares how she was stricken by fear and wondered aloud why God continued to challenge her with awful weather as she traversed Highway 15. Taking cover in the Abilene McDonald’s, under the “holy arches of hamburger salvation’, she said the Holy Spirit gently asked her, ‘Delores, where is your faith? Why are you afraid?’
“I was sitting in that parking lot, crying, and suddenly, Jesus was sitting in my passenger seat! To be honest, I was embarrassed,” she said. “But in that moment, I was reminded of who I am and how far I have come. Beautiful memories of the early church came to mind. I began seeing those early days in church when women would wear hats to church, and the men would smell of Old Spice! When the choir would enter the sanctuary swaying from the left to the right, singing,

   We have come this far by faith,
   Leaning on the Lord,
   Trusting in His holy Word,   
   He's never failed us --yet.
   Singin' oh, oh, oh, can't turn-a-round,
   We've come this far by faith.
Her story served as a foundational moment, centering everyone on the storms of life but also on the storms facing the denomination.
“I don’t have to tell any of you about the storm that is called ‘disaffiliation’. While we grieve the loss of any church,” she said. “We also know that storms pass, right? This storm will pass, but the best news is – Jesus is in the passenger seat with us, and for that, I am not only thankful but grateful; for the future is bright and hopeful if we keep our focus on Jesus.”
Bishop Williamston’s reminder was and remains especially important in the face of the many challenges that churches and communities all across Louisiana have faced in recent years, from natural disasters to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Another key theme of Bishop Williamston's tour was the importance of recognizing and utilizing the gifts that God has given all of us for the kingdom.
I want us to be a movement again! I want us to re-capture a spirit of revival, the same revival that marked the Methodist movement throughout history.
Bishop Delores Williamston

“I often get asked, ‘what is your vision,’ and I most certainly have a vision for the future, but much of that vision is focused on you and your gifts,” said Bishop Williamston. “Digging in and discovering your own unique gift for the kingdom is incredibly valuable. And remember, we all have unique talents and abilities. It’s just that sometimes we need the prompting of the Spirit to recognize those gifts and put them to use in service to others. My hope and prayer are that all of our churches are doing that, helping all of us see what gifts we have and how they can be used to glorify God and to help others.”
Bishop Williamston paid particular attention to the need to empower and encourage children and youth in the Louisiana Conference.

“I am constantly asking myself, ‘what will the church of 2050 look like? And the answer lies with our children. We all need to do as much as we can to shepherd them and bring them to Christ.”

“At the end of the day, I want us to be a movement again,” she said. “I want us to re-capture a spirit of revival, the same revival that marked the Methodist movement throughout history.”
Looking ahead, Bishop Williamston plans to gather listening sessions to strategize and plan for the future of the Louisiana Conference. With the support and engagement of dedicated believers across the state, there is no limit to what the Church can accomplish in service to God and others.
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