One of my favorite moments at Annual Conference is the opening of the clergy session, which for us was this past Thursday morning. That session of our Annual Conference gathering is limited to clergy–ordained as well as provisional elders and deacons, and licensed local pastors. There’s always some work we do in those hours that pertains specifically to clergy. It’s not the work part that makes it one of my favorite moments; though, I do believe in the work and think it’s good. I love standing during the opening hymn and looking around at the faces of all my sisters and brothers, my co-laborers in God’s vineyard.
There’s nearly a thousand of us. I don’t know anywhere close to everyone, but I know a bunch. And there are several with whom I’m close friends, and we’ve walked through the ups and downs of life and ministry together. I love looking out at that sea of faces because I know these are men and women who’ve given their lives in service to God and the church, and my heart swells with pride and gratitude to get to be part of that covenant community.
One of my other favorite moments comes in opening worship, which was yesterday (Friday morning). That’s when all of us are together–clergy and lay delegates. We sing an old song Methodists have been singing at Annual Conference for generations: “And Are We Yet Alive.” It used to be that Methodist clergy were out on horseback in the frontier, riding through rain and snow, often alone, persevering in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations all to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. So when they gathered together and sang “And Are We Yet Alive” they really meant it! It was a gift to all be together, some for the first time in the whole year.
When we sing that opening song, I look around again (like I do in the clergy session), and my heart again swells with pride and gratitude. I remember my place in God’s church and God’s call on my life. I know that when are together we come from so many different experiences: churches that are anywhere from thriving to barely surviving, and everywhere in between. The same is true for every person. And we give thanks to God that we are together, a snapshot of United Methodism in Western North Carolina. In those moments, I give thanks for First United Methodist Church in Murphy. And my heart swells with pride and gratitude that I am part of that body and that we are part of this bigger body.
At Annual Conference, we are about the work of The United Methodist Church in Western North Carolina. Today we’ll continue casting ballots for elections to Jurisdictional Conference, hearing reports, voting on petitions, and listening for how God might be leading us–our conference and our churches–to fresh and invigorating visions of Christ’s mission. We have lots of work to do–it’s important, and I believe in it. I’m going to share some links below that you can use if you’d like to follow along and stay up to date on what’s going on at your Annual Conference. Esther Manchester, your AC Delegate, and I will find ways to share with you what’s taken/taking place at AC once we return.
Sunday, Annual Conference will conclude with closing worship. I’ll miss being at First Murphy on that morning, though I know you will have a wonderful worship service! It will be a gift for you to be together, just as you are every Sunday, to look around and see each other’s face. “Glory and thanks to Jesus give, for his almighty grace!” (“And Are We Yet Alive” v. 1).
- For all things Annual Conference click this link. You can find summaries of each day’s work, reports, etc. You can also find a live stream link to watch AC proceedings if you’d like.
- One of the cool, new things our conference communications team has published this year is a magazine that tells some powerful stories of faith and ministry taking place across the conference. I encourage you to give it a read here. It includes a story about Riley Howell, the UNCC student (and United Methodist) who sacrifices his life to save others during the recent shooting at their campus.
- The Clergy have elected all of our delegates to General Conference 2020 as well as Jurisdictional Conference 2020, and the Laity have elected their full slate of delegates to General Conference 2020 as well. They still have to elect delegates to JC. Here is the list of delegates.
- Some of the petitions we will vote on today are related to the 2019 called Special Session of General Conference and the Judicial Council decision that followed its passing of the “Traditional Plan.” Follow this link, and you can read about the Judicial Council’s decision to uphold some parts of the “Traditional Plan” while ruling other parts unconstitutional.