Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Annual Conference: Then and Now

John Wesley, founder of Methodism
   In the very beginning of Methodist history (the 1700's) there were no local Methodist churches, only Methodist preachers who traveled from place to place preaching to crowds a message of repentance and good news. Methodist preachers would then organize small groups for the new believers to stay connected and learn both to study the Bible and make offerings to support ministry. Eventually local churches were started and, within a couple of decades, Methodism came across the ocean and spread like wildfire across the American colonies. Back then, Methodist preachers met annually at a conference with leaders, like John Wesley in England and Francis Asbury in the colonies, to give reports of their ministry, to be held accountable, and to be inspired. Conferencing is one of the cornerstones of how we Methodists practice our beliefs. We remember Jesus' promise to be present with us when we gather (Matthew 18:20).
   The first annual conference in America was held in 1784. Ever since then, regional groups of Methodists have gathered every year for Annual Conference. The South Georgia Annual Conference meets this week, Wednesday through Saturday, at the UGA Conference Center in Tifton, Georgia. Laypeople and clergy from every charge are represented. We begin each day with a Bible Study, hear reports, take votes, and pause for worship a couple of times a day. We will also celebrate Bishop King's eight years with us, before he retires in August.
   The best stuff of conference is not in the legislative action, as most actions taken by the 'body' will be expected and the unexpected ones will be talked about for a few days and then be forgotten. The best stuff is often in between every session and around every meal when the 1500+ persons in attendance exchange fellowship, encouragement, and grace. I am especially anticipating a few events, in particular. On Thursday,  I will make a couple of reports on behalf of the Board of Ordained Ministry, for the last time. I have served on this team of 60+ clergy and lay for the past eight years, and rotate off this week. On Friday, I will have the honor of introducing our own Caroline Gowan to share in front of the Conference about our Loads of Love ministry; it would be awesome if other churches adopted something similar! On Saturday, my family will sit proudly for the final worship service where my brother, Kirk, will be commissioned as a Provisional Elder this year, along with a great class of other pastors being commissioned and ordained.
   Finally, the very best moment of Annual Conference will happen on Saturday when Bishop King sends our family back to serve as your pastor. I want that to happen every year for a long time!
   Grace and Peace to you, Scott

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post. If you interest in more on John Wesley and Francis Asbury, please visit www.francisasburytriptych.com. Enjoy the numerous videos, pictures, podcasts, and articles.