Event planners will tell you that in addition to important factors like site location and facility logistics, successful events have a well-defined theme and purpose. Teams of people spend countless hours trying to come up with the catchy phrase and attractive graphic that will motivate sales people, sway political delegates or excite superhero, comic-book fans. But for those who created the theme and complementary logo for this year’s United Methodist General Conference, the process went much deeper than “catchy” and “attractive.”
The overall mission of the United Methodist Church, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” comes from Jesus’ Great Commission in Mathew 28:19-20 where he says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” (CEB). The 2016 Conference’s Logo and Theme Committee tied the Conference to the mission with a simple, but powerful two-word theme: “Therefore Go.”
“‘Therefore Go’ is really a kind of hyperlink to the end of Matthew 28, the final verses of the entire book,” explains Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett, Worship & Music Director for General Conference 2016. “Matthew’s message throughout the gospel is that we must be going along the Way with Jesus, who walks with us every step. We are called to not only make disciples, but to grow in our own discipleship as we journey together.
“There are many examples in Matthew’s gospel where the Greek verb for ‘go’ is used to remind us that we must go together—together with Jesus, together with one another, as The United Methodist Church, and together with all peoples who find themselves outside the church for whatever reason,” Barlett continues. “The journey is challenging and continual, but the good news is that there is nowhere we can go that is beyond the reach of God’s love.”
Rev. Gere Reist, Secretary of the General Conference, agrees. “We must go together. We really hope to see a General Conference where people are focusing on our common goals and our common concerns,” Reist says. “We’re a worldwide church and people outside of the United States have often felt that they were second-class. The change and makeup of the convention has put more of an emphasis on understanding that this is one body, one church, to serve a one Lord in one world.”
Discover the Symbolism
The General Conference logo for “Therefore Go” conveys much more than the name of the meeting’s theme. For instance, the triangle shape that surrounds the word Go is packed with symbolism.
“The small triangle in the logo is both ancient (evoking the Trinity) and contemporary (think of the symbol for ‘push/play’),” says Bartlett. “ It invites both reflection (simple and uncluttered, with room for each person’s own thoughts) and action (pointing outward, propelling us out from General Conference into the world).”
As a background for the logo, designers chose a silhouette of Mt. Hood, which is nature’s background for Portland, Oregon, the site of General Conference.
At a time when differences of opinion will be met head on, Bartlett hopes the General Conference theme and logo stand as a message of unity. “This is what we will explore throughout our days of worship at Conference.”
To learn more about the theme and logo, click here to access a United Methodist Communication press release and click here to go to the 2016 General Conference website where you’ll find a wealth of resources and information.
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.