Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Storyteller inspires laity


Lay Speaking Ministries:
Ray Buckley, left, and Pat Parvin

By Holly McCray

What have you done to hear a word from the Spirit today? Ray Buckley’s grandfather often asked that.

Buckley, a layman from Alaska, answered eloquently when he spoke in late January in Oklahoma City, at the national meeting of the Association of Conference Directors of Lay Speaking Ministries.

About 75 people attended, from as far away as Maine and California, according to the association’s national president, Pat Parvin of Ringwood. She also is the Oklahoma Conference director of Lay Speaking.

Through his acclaimed Native American storytelling, Buckley encouraged laity to study, share their own faith stories, and stand among people, not behind a pulpit. His origins are Lakota and Scottish.

He described the final run of the salmon season, in August, near Nome. Native church members are fully engaged in fishing, and eagles swarm. The people prepare for the harsh Alaskan winter.

"The Church is in the time of winter," Buckley correlated. "God’s grace calls us to go to work, to put away the things of winter and gather in spring and summer.

"There is a world of people around us who have no spirituality. People need to see the theology of our faith in our lives," he said. "If we are not authentic, the world does not know why we gather."

Buckley and his brother live near his mother, age 85.

"She can’t do much, but she does send notes to young people she reads about in the newspaper," he said, "just to encourage the young people." She connects with them through letters to the editor.

"The mission of the Church costs you something," Buckley said. "Don’t be so self-conscious that God can’t do anything with you. The work of the Holy Spirit is to get our eyes off ourselves.

"The transformation of the world begins with yourself."

Also at the Lay Speaking event, Bishop Hayes preached in the opening worship, and Oklahoma district superintendents helped with registration.

About 1,100 laity are Certified Lay Speakers in the Oklahoma Conference, Parvin said. A total of 131 teens have completed the basic course, and 48 have taken the advanced course.


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