By: Christa Meland
Wondering how to condense three full days of worship, celebration, learning, and conference business into a succinct report you can bring back to members of your congregation? Click here for a brief highlights video you can download and show. Click here for a printable PDF newsletter containing all articles from annual conference. Here are some additional highlights to consider sharing:
• Theme: The theme of this year’s Annual Conference was “Encounter the Spirit: Live Expectantly!” We focused 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 explored the importance of being evangelistic disciples and sharing our stories with others—and just like the earliest followers of Jesus in Acts 2, we came together for teaching, breaking bread, fellowship, and prayer.
• Bishop’s Episcopal Address: Bishop Ough’s Episcopal Address Wednesday morning encouraged Minnesota United Methodists to live expectantly by claiming and putting into practice the dynamics that led to vitality, growth, and missional passion in the primitive church. He explored five characteristics of fruitful, Acts 2 Congregations—radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith formation, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity—and provided a snapshot of how Minnesota congregations are embracing and living out those practices. A few examples: In 2016, our conference saw an 11 percent increase in the number of youth and adults baptized; a 4 percent increase in the number of people in small groups; a 15 percent increase in the number of people reached through community outreach, justice, and mercy ministries; and a 4 percent increase in the amount given to serve others.
• Missional Report: On Tuesday afternoon, through a spoken Missional Report, Annual Conference attendees learned about and celebrated a variety of Holy Spirit breakthroughs in our midst—places where God is on the move. A few examples: Four churches have launched public worship within the past year, a Hmong ministry in Robbinsdale baptized 18 people in a single day, there are more than 50 church-school partnerships in the conference, and Fridley UMC started a new worship service to reach Liberian immigrants in its community.
• Camp revival at the park: On Tuesday evening, attendees gathered at Lake George Park to celebrate and enjoy fellowship. They listened to live music from the choir at Brooklyn UMC in Brooklyn Center, assembled birthing kits to be distributed around the world, enjoyed food and drinks, and heard from Rev. Junius B. Dotson, Discipleship Ministries’ general secretary, who talked about reordering our priorities and relentlessly focusing on making disciples.
• Teaching session with Rev. Junius B. Dotson: Rev. Junius B. Dotson, Discipleship Ministries’ general secretary, gave a teaching session that was about the importance of focusing on the “why.” He said many churches have lost focus and mistake activity for accomplishment. Discipleship begins when churches and church leaders reconnect with the “why” of their processes, and as a result develop mature disciples that can repeat the processes with others. He said churches must be intentional, innovative, relentless in their pursuit of the “why” of discipleship, and hopeful. “We should always be asking: What role does this activity, event, or program have in helping us make disciples?” he said.
• Acts 2 Talks: Four individuals shared TED-style Acts 2 Talks that painted a bold, provocative vision for the church. The talks focused on everything from embracing failure to how to make disciples to a personal faith journey to a church’s fruit tree program that’s helping it reach out to its neighbors. A couple of quotes: · Rev. Cullen Tanner: “The life of ministry should be like music in the ears of our world…We need to offer one another enough grace to hit some wrong notes—maybe even a lot of wrong notes—if we want to create the kind of music that makes the world want to sing along.” · Steve Fredlund: “People like me are looking for a place…with a grounded perspective of God and faith—but where questions are not only allowed but welcomed and celebrated…where the primary goal is not to convince everyone to think the same way instead to hear and share different perspectives from each person’s own journey…where everyone is invited to participate in this redemptive movement.”
• Recognizing those entering new chapter of ministry: At a Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service Wednesday night, close to 1,000 Minnesota United Methodists gathered to remember 34 friends and colleagues who have died over the past year, honor 20 retiring clergy, and celebrate 7 people being ordained, 10 being commissioned as provisional members, 12 newly licensed local pastors, one person being recognized as an associate member, and one person who completed the course of study for licensed local pastor. Thanks be to God for this group of dedicated leaders!
• Love Offering: As of the end of Annual Conference, $73,192 had been given to the 2017 Love Offering. This year’s Love Offering will go to the United Methodist University of Sierra Leone—School of Applied Health Sciences (60 percent), Emma Norton Services (30 percent), and Volunteers in Mission scholarships (10 percent). Donations can continue to be given to the Love Offering throughout the remainder of this year.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church