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Annual Conference Reflections

Germantown United Methodist Church Administrative Meeting
2017 Memphis Annual Conference
By Barbara Schanson

It is always a privilege for me to represent our church as a Lay Delegate to Annual Conference! I sincerely mean this for I never get tired of, for one thing, listening to Bishop McAllily!!!! There is always such wonderful preaching and music at the conference. To hear all those preachers, and committed laity raise their voices in song and praise is a gift! Our own choir sang along with 5 different choirs at the ordination service on Tuesday night.

The Mission of the Memphis Conference is to “Discover, Equip, Connect and Send” lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time. 416 churches were represented at the conference.

Well, we got our marching orders this year!!! The Bishop delivered a very strong sermon on Sunday night. The title was “Thoughts on the Way Forward”, and it dealt with the controversies our Methodist Church is facing now. The matters of human sexuality and unity are presenting issues for a deeper conversation that surfaces in different ways of interpreting scriptures and theological tradition, the Bishop said. The Bishop said that he wants us to be careful and he said that the word careful is to be full of care. The Bishop asked the question, how do we care for each other in the midst of our differences? He said that over the history of Christianity over the last 2000 years there has not always been smooth sailing but out of those bumps in the road, God has still prevailed. He said that God is still on the throne and is still the God of the future not just the past and will show us the way.

The Bishop said his little 3-point sermon would be something like this: rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love! He said that if we keep God’s mission at the forefront of our lives, other conversations will not distract us so much. We might limp as a church and we have to figure this out, but the Bishop said let’s stay together as we do it, and let’s love each other!!!

The Bishop gave me such hope with this message because the voices are getting strong out there. However, when you attend Annual Conference, you feel the dynamic nature of our denomination – you hear the stories of those whose lives have been changed because individuals or churches were brave enough to trust God and make a difference. Grace Methodist Church was recognized as it celebrated its ten years of serving women prisoners within the walls of the Mark Luttrell prison. Rev. Diane Harrison was one of those brave souls who heard the call to minister in this way. Grace Church has now moved to the Fort Pillow facility due to the increased number of women prisoners.

An offering was taken throughout the days of the conference to benefit the new center being built in the East Congo, named after Bishop’s wife, called Mama Lynn Center. It will give hope and a future to women who are trying to rebuild their lives.

We were treated to a worship service led by the Rev. Dr. John Kilsner, who has started a recovery service at St. John’s UMC. The impact of this program is changing lives in big ways. One of John’s remarks stayed with me: He told us how his church provides food in the Narthex to those who come on Friday night, and then lets them go into the sanctuary to eat and fellowship. He posted the questions, “Is your sanctuary really a “Sanctuary”?

Scott Chrostek, who is a pastor of a UMC church in Kansas City, MO, a satellite of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, where Adam Hamilton is senior minister, taught us in two sessions.

He stated that our walk of faith starts when we feel that we have nothing left to give – even if we feel that we have no time! He said Jesus wants us to live extravagantly, which means that our time is not our own. He wants us to think about how we are seen in the community. He said that we are to be seen as Christ-followers. He told us the amazing story of how he grew his church from 9 members to 1000 today after 6 years. He would put 35 pennies in his left pocket and go seek to talk with 35 strangers each day – transferring each penny to the right pocket as he engaged with people.

He shared the many ways that he uses to reach folks for Christ. He said that if we don’t take the risk, that no one will experience growth or Christ.

We need to pray for our world and believe that we do have the answers for this hurting world. We need to be bold and let God do the work through us. We need to work to create heaven on earth so that God will be glorified!

I found an article written in 2009 by a seminary student. She wrote about why she stays in our Methodist Church. Here are a few of her reasons: “Our faith is active. We get our hands dirty as our hearts engage in service and relationships. Every United Methodist church is connected through our network of gatherings, prayer, service, money, agencies, and leadership. We do our very best to love the person whose words we disagree with! We hold things in tension. God is big enough for our questions. We are a middle ground between two polarizing issues. Our hearts beat for grace and mission!”

We’re real people, serving a real God, in a real world that is in need of real love!

Let us pray: Dear Lord, help us to be all that we can be to make you known, to change the world, to have people see you in us, to heal the hurts, and not be ashamed to have others know that we love and follow you. In your Holy name, Amen.


Conference Reflections

By Bill Nation

Being a first timer at the Annual Conference, I was intensely interested in how our larger Methodist Church family conducted business.  I have attended many local, state and national government proceedings and was very pleased to see our Methodist organization did not mirror those contentious processes and formats.  I encountered a very welcoming atmosphere and found that we, as delegates, were more alike than different in our desires to move our church forward and outward.  Everyone I met has the wish to make our larger Church more appealing and open to bring more people to Christ just as we wish the same for GUMC.  Our Bishop’s agenda represented a very similar purpose to help grow our Church.  He and his assistants moved the subjects along well despite reducing the length of the Conference by a day.  I was very pleased in the manner in wish Bishop and staff constructively handled the very sensitive change from apportionment to tithing.  In all, it was a very productive Conference.


Annual Conference

By Roz Ashworth

First, let me thank GUMC congregation and board for the privilege of representing our church once again at the Memphis Annual Conference.  Held in our own area at Collierville UMC, it was 2 ½ days of worship, business and study under the supervision of Bishop William McAlilly, a most inspiring spiritual leader.  The theme for us was “Sent to Serve God and Neighbor”.

Worship services were varied styles, having the more contemporary event Sunday evening where our young adult interns were commissioned for service through the Project Transformation Initiative, helping children maintain and improve reading skills and building relationships throughout the summer in their communities.  The Collierville praise band was in full swing and the Bishop was the preacher.

On Monday, conference opened with a communion service (Rev. Randy Cooper, preaching) and later followed by the recognition of our conference retirees (our own Richard Smith among them).  After more business and lunch, a Memorial Service was held for those pastors or spouse who have died this past year.  Rev. David Comperry gave the message.  Both services were more traditional in nature.  However in the evening we experienced a “worship of recovery”.  “The Way”, provided by an awesome jazz band and singer, who serves in this successful outreach and evangelistic ministry at St. Johns UMC on Friday evenings.

The Tuesday evening services was of the “High Church” variety with a mass choir of 100 voices from across the conference.  (Our Metro district was well represented, as well as, GUMC.)  This was the time for recognizing those being licensed, commissioned, ordained and appointed.

Business sessions were interspersed throughout these 3 days.  Your conference adopted a new budget formula.  Each church will send in a tithe of their income to support our connectional ministries.

Scott Chrosteck of Resurrection UMC, Kansas City, taught “Imagining the Possibilities”.

Collections for the Jerusalem Fund and the Mama Lynn Center in E. Congo from the conference were in the thousands.