It is one of the activities under the Manila Episcopal Area if not the only activity that addresses church growth and introduces a program for church growth and discipleship from United Methodist understanding. It has been the prime goal of Bishop Arichea to implement the program of vital congregations among the churches under him and it was also the main concept of his last episcopal address to the latest sessions of the annual conferences. Though the Philippines according to the report in the General Conference is one of the Conferences which includes Africa is growing and increasing especially compared to the continuing decline of membership of UMC local churches in US the program of Vital Congregation is still pursued and given emphasis.
Bishop Schnase shared his insights from his book presenting a United Methodist perspective of fruitful, vital and growing congregations even to the Filipino audiences. Fruitful congregations according to Bishop Schnase can be realized through but not limited to the five practices. Though according to him the congregation can have more than five practices in order to be a vital congregation these five practices are one of the important points in which a congregation can be vital and fruitful. These five practices were radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk taking mission and extravagant generosity. These are areas that need to be addressed in a local church but not necessary transformed into committees or specific programs. Programs can be made out of these practices but it calls for deeper and more practical applications.
In a panel discussion included in the Convocation program it has been noted that most of these practices already existed in the local church in the Philippines. Especially the radical hospitality is a very characteristic of the Filipino culture that even extends to the congregational life. But this practice opens the possibility more to accommodations of guests and visitors but it also includes all people that need our welcoming, accepting and affirming ministry of the church and of the individual Christian. Rev. Dexter Ceballos of Pacita UMC and member of the STPPACE pastors who sits as one of the panellist also noted in the area of passionate worship is the inclusion of contemporary music as part of the church music as the practice of the Wesleys and the early reformers and revivalists that encourages and strengthens the faith of their followers. Church music is not limited to what has been used by church before it includes the music of the contemporary Christian as it uses their own language, music and culture celebrating God’s goodness and grace.
Included in the convocation program are seminars about church music and liturgy by Ruth Arichea the bishop’s wife, and group discussion on how to implement and incorporate this identified five practices for vital congregations in every local church. Bishop Arichea also conducted seminar on the Bible and the Church worker and Biblical interpretation as United Methodist do.
The Convocation are attended by church workers of STPPACE both from the Laguna and Quezon Districts. It is a blessing that the MEA Office included the Quezon District workers in registration subsidy for they can’t afford the registration fee and transportation.