Hello, beautiful people of South Georgia!
As we begin this session of Annual Conference we are continuing an old tradition that is at the heart of Methodism. The first conference that formed The Methodist Episcopal Church began in Baltimore’s Lovely Lane Chapel on Christmas Eve, 1784. This conference took place 47 years after Rev. John Wesley had spent a year and nine months in the new colony of Georgia. Although a preacher was assigned to the settled portion of Georgia in the 1785 Conference it took another 45 years before the Georgia Conference was created in 1830.
The point is that we have been conferencing in America for 227 years and that is a long time. Conferencing is at the root of who we are as Methodist. Bringing together itinerant preachers and lay members from the various congregations to consider the business of the church is something that is old and yet remains a meaningful part of our identity as Methodist.
This year there will be services of Ordination and Commissioning. We will hear reports and adopt a new budget. We will take up an offering and join others around the world who also desire to help eradicate malaria. We will celebrate ministries that are making a difference as well as hear sermons to bless us and speakers to help us get better. This is the year when we will elect delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference for 2012. There will be special gatherings at breakfast, lunch and dinner where information will be shared and action taken to further ministries in the midst of rich fellowship.
And speaking of fellowship – this year our conference will center around the theme “Never Alone” as we focus on the disciple value of fellowship. As we nurture the vision to grow a Christlike World it is so important to teach and practice fellowship as an essential value of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. In fellowship we find loving support as a sign of the kingdom of God.
In addition to all the matters that we will address at this conference there are some new experiences I would like to lift up.
First, we will acknowledge the Five Star Pastor award this year. Our hope is to make our goals clearer and affirm those who reach these benchmarks as a way of giving more attention to what we consider important to the life and work of the church.
Another new experience this year will be the way we will fix the appointments during our Sending Forth Service. Each clergy under appointment will receive a covenant token from me and each lay member of annual conference will receive a token from the conference lay leader. Also every pastor under appointment will have their picture displayed as I read the name of their appointment.
Regarding new experiences, my prayer is that when the 2011 session of the South Georgia Annual Conference is over we will be able to say that this was the best conference ever … not because everything was carried out perfectly but because we receive a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The world is looking to us to see if we mean what say about Jesus. Are we truly seeking to follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? Have we received God’s forgiveness? Have we forgiven our brothers and sisters (who are a part of the church) for things that were said or done that caused hurt and left deep scars? Unless the world can see how we love one another the mission given to us as the church will be weaker and a Christlike world will be delayed.
Praying for the best conference ever.
I love you South Georgia,