Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Annual Conference Highlights

Some of you may like to see a complete update on all the things that happened at Annual Conference this year. Here is a good synopsis on the conference web page (note that it starts with a report on the last day and moves backward, so you may want to read it "bottom-up"):

Brief Summary of Annual Conference

My son Jeremy served as Youth Representative from the Northeast District so it was nice to share that experience with family. My Dad and sister-in-law were part of things of course. Some of the personal highlights for me:

- We established a new major priority on Missions, in addition to the 4 priorities we already focus on (New Communities of Faith, Natural Church Development, Effective Leadership, and Empowering a New Generation of Christians). The last of these was the focus of this year's entire Annual Conference.

- My sister-in-law, Paulette, who has been on the conference staff in missions has taken a denominational position over Volunteers in Mission in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC and we wished her well. They will be moving the regional office from Atlanta to Birmingham next year.

- In expressing our gratitude to retiring ministers and welcoming new clergy into the fold (one of the annual traditions of Annual Conference), there were 5 or 6 female clergy who retired. Many of them are friends Sandy and I have looked up to for years. It was acknowledged that we have come a long way over recent decades that have led us to the point where we now have numbers of clergy women retiring. I was inspired.

- One of the most difficult parts of conference this year was the honest report on our beloved Sumatanga, which is having a serious financial crisis (in part due to the economy and in part because long-term usage is not as high as it needs to be to make ends meet sustainably). There was lengthy discussion on how we can support this blessed and dear ministry of holy ground and a new plan for the future is being developed to keep it going.

- This was my last year to serve as coordinator for the Ordination Service, the largest (and most complex!) service of Annual Conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed this because of my love for liturgy and worship but will be passing on the mantle to my friend Mikah Hudson since I no longer serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry.

- Because I served as alternate delegate at General Conference 2 years ago, and was one of 2 delegates who responded to the invitation to write position papers on constitutional amendments we were voting on for ratification, I co-lead a discussion session on these amendments and spoke to a couple of them on the floor as they were debated. All in all, this came out pretty well but one of the amendments I spoke to was rather contraversial so it was an ... interesting experience!

- It is always a blessing to spend time with friends and companions in ministry and to meet new friends. Annual Conference is an extended family reunion for me.