By: Christa Meland
The power of the early church came from an experience of the Holy Spirit. The earliest believers waited and prayed—and the Holy Spirit broke through and set a people and movement on fire.
For the past four years in the Minnesota Conference, we have been praying for Holy Spirit breakthroughs as we seek to reach new people, grow in love of God and neighbor, and heal a broken world. We yearn for fresh experiences of God’s presence, power, and purpose in our lives, our churches, and our world. We are expecting Pentecost for our time and place!
Come join us in St. Cloud from June 20-22 as we gather in our own upper room, praying for God to do it again: to re-ignite our hearts and lives and fill us with Holy Spirit power, so that we are so excited about what we have seen and heard that we can’t help but share it with everyone we meet!
The theme of the 2017 Annual Conference is “Encounter the Spirit: Live Expectantly.” We will focus on what it means to be an Acts 2 church and to fully claim our identity as people of Pentecost—filled with the Holy Spirit and called out into the world to share our faith and be the presence of Christ to others. We will explore the importance of being evangelistic disciples and sharing our stories with others—and just like the earliest followers of Jesus in Acts 2, we’ll come together for teaching, breaking bread, fellowship, and prayer.
The three-day conference session is a time for Minnesota United Methodists to worship and enjoy fellowship, learn from teaching sessions, seek God’s guidance as we make decisions about ministry direction, determine budgets, ordain and commission clergy, and receive the bishop’s clergy appointments. Again this year, those who can’t attend in person are invited to watch the key sessions—including the bishop’s episcopal address and the teaching sessions—online via live streaming.
Here’s a look at just a few of the new and exciting things planned for the 2017 Annual Conference:
· Acts 2 Talks: You spoke, and we listened! Many clergy have expressed the desire to learn from their peers—and there will be three opportunities to do that. We are soliciting TED-style talks that paint a bold, provocative vision of how and where God might be creating Pentecost afresh and how the vital, vibrant Acts 2 church is being birthed in our world today. Three individuals will be selected to present their Acts 2 Talk before the annual conference body on Wednesday or Thursday. Learn more and apply to give an Acts 2 Talk
· Guest speaker, Rev. Junius B. Dotson: Dotson—former pastor of a 3,500-member multi-campus church in Wichita, Kansas—became general secretary of Discipleship Ministries in April 2016. Before starting his current role, he helped launch the #NoFergusonHere effort to bridge police and community divisions in Wichita, and his work on the Kansas State Sentencing Commission resulted in changes in the sentencing guidelines for persons facing incarceration. “We must shift the conversation from fixing churches to reaching people for Christ, not to save or preserve the institution, but because we are committed to living out of the biblical mandate that Jesus gave us, called the Great Commission,” Dotson said when being installed as general secretary. In Minnesota, he’ll deliver talks about the “why” and “how” of evangelism and provide both inspiration and practical ideas for sharing our God stories.
· Camp revival: This year’s party in the park will take the form of a camp revival worship experience on the first night of annual conference. Pentecost will come alive through a Spirit-filled worship service with great music in different languages and dynamic preaching. Concessions and games will be available, and attendees will be invited to participate in a hands-on mission project: assembling birthing kits that will be distributed around the world through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
· ‘Get engaged’ workshops: Last year, attendees participated in open-space conversations on what matters most to them. This year, you’re invited to take the next step and explore how you can get engaged and make a difference. On Wednesday, the second day of conference, mini workshops on a variety of ministries and topics will enable you to learn more about how The United Methodist Church is seeking to heal a broken world. This is a great opportunity to connect with others who share your passions and interests and discover ways you can work together to make a real impact in the world.
· Enhanced worship: Worship will have a different look and feel this year. Instead of having two rooms, one for worship and one for business, we will use one room that has a large stage and a worshipful look and feel. Like the early church, we want our entire gathering—everything we do and decide—to be infused with worship and prayer. Chuck Bell, who coordinated musicians for the 2012 General Conference and has planned and produced more than 3,800 corporate worship services, will work with musicians and leaders from our conference to plan deeply meaningful worship experiences.
· Love Offering: This year’s Love Offering for Missions will be collected on Tuesday, the first day of annual conference. The recipients of this year’s offering are: United Methodist University of Sierra Leone, for the creation of a School of Applied Health Sciences (60 percent), Emma Norton Services (30 percent), and Volunteers in Mission scholarships (10 percent). Later this month, materials to promote the Love Offering will be mailed to all churches. Learn more about recipients
Annual conference registration will open by March 15. Fees for the 2016 conference session will remain the same as last year. The cost will be $250 for delegates ($275 after May 1); $75 for retirees, equalization members and those visiting for the entire event ($100 after May 1); and $25 for single-day visitors. Those fees include lunches, and scholarships are available for retirees. All are invited to the camp revival on Tuesday and the Celebration of Life in Ministry (commissioning and ordination service) on Wednesday, and there is no cost to attend either.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church