Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 Virginia United Methodist Annual Conference

The Virginia United Methodist Annual Conference was held in Norfolk, Virginia this year from the 14th to the 17th of June. We had an especially good time hanging out with other Lynchburg District pastors and church delegates. Joanne and I always like getting together with George and Kathy Schaeffer. The Lynchburg District group all got together for dinner on evening at a local Chili's restaurant. It was nice just getting together for the fun of it, with no agenda or purpose other than enjoying each others company. We have 91 churches in the Lynchburg District and 60+ pastors. Some, like me, have civilian jobs. So its not easy to get most of us together at any one time, without threats that is. But food usually does the trick.
The conference was held in the Norfolk Scope Arena. I don't know the numbers , but there was boat load of Methodists there. I'm one of those people that like to check out the crowd and look at the different types you can find, sort of people watching with a Methodist twist.

I got to see and talk with a lot of my class mates from the 2008 Licensing School.

It was nice being able hear them talk about their churches and what has been happening during their year. What impressed me is that none of them complained. There was no " I wish I had never done this" or "I'm miserable". Each one was excited about what the work they were doing and how God was making things happen. The only problem was that we couldn't sit and talk longer. Some of these guys may get a surprise in the next year when they get a call and I'm in their town looking for some coffee and conversation. Don't say I didn't forewarn you.

I really don't have time or the typing abilities to tell you all the things that happened during conference, but I'll give you this one.

The Cokesbury Company is the publishing arm of the United Methodist Church. Each year at Conference they give a financial gift to the Virginia Conference, amounting to about $25K. A number of years ago the Conference voted that the gift would be sent to Mozambique to supplement the Mozambique Pastors Retirement Fund. It seems that a pastor there has a monthly retirement allowance of between $60 and $100. This year, due to financial difficulties, Cokesbury was not able to give anything to the Conference.

A pastor at the Conference came up to one of the microphones and said that we had enough pastors at Conference that if each one gave $50, we could raise the $25K and send it to Mozambique. It was then decided that we would send in checks to the UMC headquarters and that amount would be forwarded to Mozambique. Then another pastor came up to a microphone and asked if we couldn't just save the price of a stamp and collect right now. So a large basket was set on the platform, people were told that if they wanted to give to simply come forward during the program and put a check in the basket.

For the next hour people were filing out of their seats and placing checks in the basket. It was a wonder to behold. You could see them coming down from the nose bleed section in the rafters. It was pastors ministering to pastors, on the other side of the world. Giving to people who they had never seen and who would never see them. There was a connection, fellow pastors in need.

The Bishop of the Mozambique United Methodist Church was there at our Conference. She was able to see what was happening, to see the response.

Most of the pictures above were taken from our seats, high in the arena. So, I took some pictures of the Jumbotron screen to try and get some closer looking pictures. If you click on the picture, you should get an enlarged view and be able to see it better.
We had a great time at Conference. Each year we learn more and hopefully are able to bring information back to share with our congregations. We want to thank the churches of the Mount Airy Charge for the support they provide us to make coming to Conference not be a financial burden on us. We hope they see it as a worthwhile investment in educating their pastor. Heaven knows he needs it. ;-)

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