Look Lovingly


June 28, 2023
A Note from Stephanie Harrell
Look Lovingly

Dear Friends,

West Ohio Conference United Methodist Church

As one of your delegates to Annual Conference, I attended my first conference in early June. I didn’t have expectations, though I’d previously seen part of worship and music from other conferences.

How would voting be done? What speeches and questions would surface before a vote? Who would speak and what would be their topics? Who would preach?

I’m happy to chat with anyone about my Annual Conference experience and about business details.

And, although the preachers took us to church (can I get an AMEN?!) with exhortations and energy and Hammond organ accents, I want to talk about love.

Wait! Don’t stop reading! This is not the “who is your neighbor?” sermon or an article on the different kinds of love, though both are certainly tangential topics. This is also not a guide for “how to (in ten steps or less) love one another.” But it is a “how do you” question to ponder.

Reba Collins (All in Community’s Community Engagement Coordinator) led a teaching segment much like a Ted Talk with somewhat uncomfortable audience participation. So let’s get uncomfortable!

Find a partner, maybe someone you know, maybe someone you don’t — maybe start with “know” and move to “don’t know.”

Now look at each other … lovingly. For thirty seconds.

Hmmm. What does “lovingly” mean? Do we have to look in each other’s eyes? How close do we get — next to each other? Across a table? (Not across a crowded room!) How long is thirty seconds?!

Such fabulous challenges to explore!

Here’s my experience. My partner and I knew each other, not adeepfriendship but comrades in Christ, neighbors, friends. It was uncomfortable to figure out the “loving look.”

We did look in our eyes. I found myself silently validating things I knew about my partner: Creation of God. Christ within. Loving spouse. Good parent.

Thirty seconds passed and then … RAMP IT UP! Repeat but hold hands! Seriously?! (Cue eye rolls and uncomfortable laughter.)

My partner and I did: I held my hands out and up, like welcoming prayer, and my partner laid their hands on top. I repeated the validations: Creation of God. Christ within. Loving spouse. Good parent.

I didn’t have to be blessed with the gift of reading the energy and emotions of a room to know this was uncomfortable. When we came back after lunch, joking comments were, “If we do the loving thing again, I’m with so-and-so and you’re with so-and-so.”

What that told me was the exercise made an impression. It worked (to some level). And now people were saying to practice with someone else (even if it was because the first round was disconcerting).

So, how do you look lovingly at your neighbor? Could you say something positively validating about them? Could you join hands (actually or figuratively)? How long could you do this?

Admit it. We all need love and support and positive validation. We all need grace. We all need Jesus. (What a friend we have in Jesus!) Could you be any of these for someone? Look lovingly through the eyes of Christ.


Stephanie Harrell

Stephanie Harrell