The Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church was held in Norfolk VA this year. We met in the Norfolk Scope, a large convention center/arena, starting Sunday June 13th through Wednesday the 16th. The first night Communion was served to all those in attendance. No small logistical task.
Annual Conference is the time when we have the Ordering of Ministry service, where all the new pastors are licensed and ordained. They all march in together, then the various groupings go up on the platform. There was large group this year; 19 ordained as Elders and 38 licensed as local pastors.
There were are variety of speakers. One was Jim Gulley (lower left hand corner in photo above), who was in Haiti and trapped in the collapsed Montana Hotel for 58 hours. He was in Haiti as part of a three-member team from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) on a quest to improve medical services and agricultural practices in Haiti. The other two were the Rev. Sam Dixon, head of UMCOR, The United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the Rev. Clint Rabb, who led the Volunteers In Mission area. Dixon and Rabb did not survive the ordeal. His story and his call for continued involvement in Haiti was a highlight of the conference for me.
Joanne and I sat with George and Kathy Schaeffer up in the nosebleed section. We tried sitting down front and center, but there were too many folks having their own conversations for us to hear what was going on. There were quite a few resolutions that were brought before the conference and voted on; we wanted to hear the discussion.
There were several resolutions we were very interested in; "A Call to Prayer and Ministry for Military Families", "Coping with Crime", and "Tobacco Policy in Virginia". Some were simply recommendations for the denominational position to be presented to the state legislature. The discussion was interesting, but usually cut short, unfortunately not everyone gets to speak.
On Tuesday evening, during the dinner break, The Lynchburg District pastors and representatives met at a local mall to have dinner together. We did this last year and it helps to meet other pastors and people from the Lynchburg District that you may not know or even see often.
Now this is Joanne's greatest fear, me loose in the bookstore. I'll go wandering off looking at books and every time Joanne sees me she'll ask, "What do you have in your hands now?" Overall I behaved well and didn't come home with too many. Joanne is the rational part of my brain, in person, when I'm in a bookstore.
All in all it was a good conference. A little too much "political correctness" for my taste, but I made it through. Sometimes it seems more like we're running a business than a church. But, I got to see friends I don't get to see very often and that's a good thing. I got to see the diversity of our denomination working together and that's a good thing. I heard about the variety of missions and ministries of the United Methodist Church and that's a good thing. I came away more positive than negative and that's a good thing. I left ready to get back to my churches and ministry; and that's a God thing.
Go to http://www.vaumc.org and click on 2010 Annual Conference for more info.