Photography by Jamison Mosley | Shot on location at Canvas Community
Fellow Arkansans – neighbors, colleagues and friends – are sharing a light of peace, kindness and generosity that makes The Natural State a little brighter. Inviting Arkansas and Methodist Family Health celebrate individuals who illuminate our community with goodness. Nominate someone today for a future feature that SHINES.
Bishop Laura Merrill is a seventh generation Texan with a family history of Methodist pastors. “My father and mother’s father were both United Methodist pastors, and while I originally had no intention of following them into this work, here I am,” she remarks. She has worked in various roles and locations across Central and South Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Chile learning about the world and serving the church.
As the new bishop of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Merrill’s primary responsibility includes working with churches, pastors and members to improve the welfare of the world. The Arkansas Conference coordinates nearly 600 United Methodist churches and ministries as well as 590 clergy throughout the state with the purpose to “make disciples of Jesus Christ who transform lives, communities and the world.”
In this new role, Bishop Merrill feels grateful for the warm reception she has received. “Despite being new to the state and having minimal personal connections, the people have made me feel right at home,” she admits. She’s been particularly impressed by the optimistic + energetic community and its steadfast determination for positive change. As she navigates her new environment, Bishop Merrill feels very blessed to be surrounded by such kind and dedicated individuals.
Through the years, the bishop has observed many United Methodists who are dedicated to contributing generously with time and resources. “We always try to make room for one more at the table. Feeding ministries are central to our work, and we aim to create respectful relationships with our neighbors as we share food with them,” she notes. In addition to providing physical sustenance, the church cultivates respectful relationships with neighbors through these shared meals. Bishop Merrill recognizes the current societal divisiveness, she but sees the United Methodist Church as a place where “we can think differently yet love alike.”
Bishop Merrill believes that all congregations can share this kind of faith, possibility and joy. “I truly hope we can continue to provide a living witness of the abundant grace of God, in every situation. I’m grateful to be part of a faith tradition that looks for the good and seeks to make the world more kind and whole.”
Sponsored by Methodist Family Health | Nominations accepted at Foundation@MethodistFamily.org
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