Monday, June 6, 2011

Annual Conference Recap

I'm back!  Annual Conference was extremely busy but such a wonderful experience.  I kept thinking about how Jesus said, "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst."  Yes, the Holy Spirit was there, moving this body as we asked for His presence and discernment in electing delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conference next year.  We voted, worshiped, voted, heard committee reports, and voted some more.  We did a lot of voting and finally finished selecting delegates on Saturday morning, the last day of the conference.  There were 11 laity and 11 clergy selected to go to General Conference next April, 11 additional laity and 11 additional clergy selected to represent at Jurisdictional Conference in North Carolina next July, and 7 each laity and clergy to serve as alternates.  I was elected as an alternate for Jurisdictional Conference.  Jurisdictional Conference is important because this is where the bishops are elected and there will be 5 new bishops elected next year in the Southeast Jurisdiction, one of them being in Florida, as our Bishop Whitaker will be retiring.  I will attend all of the meetings, however, I won't have a vote unless others are unable to fulfill their commitments.  It is an honor for Hubby and I to represent our church and our district.

I'm pretty sure our congregation knows this, but it needs to be said:  Conference-wide, Pastor David is so well respected and loved.  We have been blessed to have him in leadership.  As I met and spoke with people at Conference, one of the first things people ask is what church you are from.  When I told them, they would all say, "Oh, David is your pastor.  We just love him!" or "I can't believe David is retiring, you are so blessed to have had him as your pastor."  We all know how much we love him, but he and Donna are loved throughout the Florida Conference.  As Trish mentioned in worship yesterday, we attended a retirement service for David on Friday afternoon. 

You can click on the link below to hear what David wrote about his ministry.  As each minister and spouse came up, someone read about their ministry.  We were so proud to stand when David's name was called.  The video was taken with my phone, so you can't see much, but you can hear it. 

After all of the retiring pastors had been recognized they joined together at a round table in the middle of the room and lit candles.  The retiring pastors then lit the candles of all of those who had been ordained this conference.

The theme of Annual Conference was "Living as Peacemakers."  On Wednesday evening we attended worship and communion and were blessed to hear Bishop Ricardo Pereira, from the Methodist Church in Cuba.  He is such a dynamic preacher and the Methodist Church in Cuba is growing by leaps and bounds.  He told story after story about how they are making disciples of Jesus Christ in spite of political opposition and their churches are growing!  Thursday evening we brought our kids with us for the hymn sing and to hear Bishop Whitaker preach.  Princess said she wanted to come and support her Mommy while people were voting for delegates.  It was a sweet moment when she prayed that I would win and be a delegate and it made me realize how important it is for me to be a part of leadership of our church because my children are watching...they watch everything we do or don't do.  It brought tears to my eyes to have my very own little Princess tell me she is proud of me and that she hoped I would win. 
Bishop Whitaker preached on "Churchcraft."  Churchcraft, what used to be known as "churchmanship," is the craft of building up the church.  He pointed to Paul, 1 Corin. 3:10 " By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds."  We must be intentional with what we are building.  Our goal is not to see how many people we can get to join our church.  In fact, Bishop Whitaker says that we should not be using the term "joining the church" because joining something isn't the same thing as becoming a member.  Becoming a member of a church means that you are a part of it and are involved in the body.  When we take our membership vows, we pledge our time, talents and gifts.  We say we will do everything in our power to strengthen the church's ministries.  He pointed to the vows taken in the A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) church, saying that their questions and answers are more detailed than ours and more like the original Methodist intent and questions.  Membership is not loyalty to a program or a person.  IT is a covenant relationshiop with the congregation. 
Bishop Whitaker stressed healthy communication within churches and gave 6 points for healthy communication.
1.  Learn to disagree agreeably.
2.  Speak directly to individuals or groups to address concerns you may have.
3.  Never ask someone else to address your concerns and never agree to address someone else's concerns for them.  It is important that the person with the concerns go directly and address them. (See #2)
4.  Don't create a triangle of communication where you involve yourself in trying to mediate a situation and you end up with a victim, persecutor, rescuer situation.
5.  Don't communicate anonymously or play attention to others' anonymous communication.
6.  Try to teach others appropriate, healthy communication.
*My own observation ~ wouldn't things be a lot simpler around here if everyone abided by these key points?  We would all approach each other with love and we may have to agree to disagree, but there wouldn't be the misunderstandings and hurt feelings of he said/ she said.  Just a thought...

In closing, Bishop Whitaker stressed that our Churchcraft needs to serve our mission.  The mission of the Untied Methodist Church is: Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. 

I think Pastor David has done a great job in our refocusing groups of helping us to evaluate our ministries and how we are going about making disciples in the ministries of this church.  It is important that we continue to evaluate those ministry opportunities and how they fit in with the mission of the church.

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