By: Jerad Morey
“Dress in layers. It is always colder than you expect.” This is the most important piece of advice that Rev. Becky Sechrist, co-chair of the Conference Sessions Team and Associate Pastor at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church (Edina) has for people attending annual conference this year.
When the conference session of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church rolls around May 29-31 at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, there will be few changes in format from previous years. The content and conference leader, however, will be fresh.
“I'm enthusiastic about a new era with a new bishop,” says Rev. Cooper Wiggen of Minnehaha United Methodist Church in Minneapolis and the Session team's other co-chair.
What will conference feel like with Bishop Bruce Ough, who leads the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area? “My style is collaborative,” says Ough. His priorities for this conference include “grounding everything we do in worship and praise of God,” celebrating the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us, and equipping clergy and laity “to be more fruitful and faithful leaders of the United Methodist movement in Minnesota and beyond.”
One way that leaders will be equipped to be more faithful and fruitful is through discussion of the historic relationship between the United Methodist Church in Minnesota and Native American peoples. In addition to a pre-conference session for interested parties to learn more about this relationship, “a presentation [during conference] by the Native American Action Team will set the stage for an eventual service of reconciliation” similar to the one Minnesota delegates to General Conference witnessed in Tampa in 2012, said Sechrist.
Bishop Ough got to know the conference speaker, Rev. Sue Nelson Kibbey, in West Ohio Conference when she worked at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church. After a few years, he asked her to join conference staff as the Director of Missional Congregations. He hopes Minnesota session attendees have their ears open to what she brings. “I hope conference members will pay particular attention to the activities and teaching that will develop our theme on unleashing bold spiritual leaders,” he says. “I will be asking all conference participants, and every one of our churches, to join me in an Unleashing New Life Prayer Movement.” As part of that movement, says Ough, “I am praying that people will pay attention to our missional efforts, such as the proposal to cultivate resources to expand our efforts to reach new people though new congregations.”
“I expect conference to be a fun, joyful, provocative, moving spiritual experience of the gathered community,” says Bishop Ough. He hopes people leave conference feeling all were honored and celebrated for their participation, and knowing that “I have a sense of humor.”
In light of that, will he be wearing the notorious tie whose sharply contrasting diagonal stripes lit up the Twittersphere during General Conference last year? The Bishop's response: “yes.” See whether he comes through by following the #MNUMC hashtag on Twitter during session.
Jerad Morey is a member of Mosaic in Brooklyn Park and a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @Jerad.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church