Kenaston Family Photo
The Kenaston Family from West Virginia -- parents Joe and Judi, plus offspring Diane, Rachel and Connor -- are active in The United Methodist Church. Judi is a lay delegate to General Conference, while Joe is a page and Diane an official monitor.
The Kenastons say they're a typical United Methodist family. However, not every typical United Methodist family will converge at the 2012 General Conference in as many capacities as will these folks from beautiful West Virginia.
According to their blog, "And Are We Yet Alive? The Kenaston Family Blog," their roots in Methodism go deep:
"Our great-great-great-grandfather was a circuit rider. Our great-great- and great-grandfathers also chose the itinerant life (and our female ancestors were along for the [circuit] ride!). The grandparents are all lifelong United Methodists, lay leaders and church musicians."
Meanwhile, of the current generations, mom Judi and dad Joe met at a United Methodist youth camp and started dating after going to lots of district meetings. "We love connectionalism!" they say in their family introduction on the blog site.
Joe went into ordained ministry and served for a time in Manchester, England. He and Judi moved back to West Virginia in 1987, when Joe was appointed as an associate at Christ UMC in Charleston, then pastor at Wayside UMC in Vienna. He now serves as pastor at Lewisburg UMC.
Judi chose lay ministry. This has ranged from directing children’s choirs to editing the conference journal as the first lay conference secretary (an administrative position) in the West Virginia Annual Conference.
Their offspring, Diane, Rachel, and Connor have all “served time” (as they put it) as Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) chairpersons. So it's no surprise that each has found church-related vocations.
Rachel is working as an assistant film editor for television and documentaries. Some of her early experience in this field came from editing Lewisburg UMC's yearly video for graduating high school seniors. She also patiently painted and photographed a map of the world on a model's hands to create a cover for an issue of the annual West Virginia Conference journal.
Connor, a sophomore at Yale University, was elected third lay reserve to General Conference, but because the West Virginia delegation only brings two lay reserves, he decided to take his finals this week instead. So while the rest of his family is in Tampa, he is finishing up a paper on the Methodist Episcopal Church, South's response--or rather, lack of response--to lynching in the southern United States. When not writing papers, Connor participates in a United Methodist Church within walking distance of campus; he loves the congregation church because of its intergenerational, multiracial, justice-oriented emphasis on ministry with the poor. Like many United Methodist young adults, he also remains involved in campus ministry and inter-faith meals.
Meanwhile, Diane has been commissioned and ordained an elder in the West Virginia conference. She's in her first year of appointment at Crossroads and Waverly United Methodist Churches in Waverly, WV.
Even with all these connections, why is three-fifths of the family in Tampa for General Conference?
Judi has the "official" position, being an elected lay delegate for the West Virginia conference. "She claims people only elect her because they like her kids, but that doesn’t explain why a) her husband and b) her kids have not been elected!" writes the family on their blog.
Joe is going as a page. That's a bit of a comedown from his previous public presentations as Francis Asbury, but given the Florida heat, he's probably glad to lose the frock coat.
Diane will serve as a monitor for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (see her blog post on the prospect of watching General Conference).
Still in spring classes, Connor will join the family blog as a delegate to the Northeastern Jurisdictional (NEJ) Conference in July.
And what of Rachel the artist? She's gathering inspiration from the sun-drenched fields of New York City's Central Park while her parents and sister escape the Florida humidity inside the air-conditioned fortress of the Tampa Convention Center where General Conference will take place.