In 2012, there was some expectation that it would be a year of significant change and transition for people and churches called United Methodist.
General Conference 2012 met for ten days. Sweeping changes were proposed, but in the end, very little substantively changed in terms of the Book of Discipline. However, there does seem to be a change of attitude by those who attended. Many came away determined to continue to focus on vital congregations and the necessary collaborative conversations that must take place with all levels of the church.
In Minnesota, we said goodbye to Bishop Sally Dyck and hello to Bishop Bruce Ough as we began our journey as the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. While Bishop Ough brings new gifts to us and we are still navigating what it means to be a part of a shared episcopal area, we are continuing to focus on the gospel imperatives of reaching new people, cultivating spiritual vitality, and healing a broken world.
What progress have we made in those areas?
Seven churches are the implementation phase of the Healthy Church Initiative. Nine churches are enrolled this year and just completed their congregational learning sessions. We had our first Healthy Small Church Initiative in the Twin Cities with 15 churches participating. Six churches engaged in the Kaleidoscope journey toward becoming effective in a multi-cultural world.
Three groups of clergy engaged in intentional leadership development groups that used the Healthy Church Initiative curriculum. Several churches engaged Horizons Consulting for strategic planning, using the Discovering Tomorrow process. Many congregations sent leaders to the Church of Resurrection in Kansas City for their Leadership Institute; others participated in the School of Congregational Development and Large Church Initiative. A number of churches have been innovating with the assistance of Investing in Congregation Grants. Our many new church starts continue to be our research and development arm on how to reach new people in this new day. Vital, healthy, missional congregations have been and continue to be our priority.
We prayerfully made decisions at annual conference session to reshape our camping and retreat ministry for the future. Last summer, we successfully moved programming from Decision Hills to Koronis and Northern Pines. It was our last summer of programming at Star Lake and Kingswood. Star Lake has been leased to a new independent entity, as legislated by conference session, and the Kingswood property is available for sale. We hired a new director of camping and retreats, Keith Shew, who is bringing fresh energy and focus to the ministry. We continue to emphasize reaching the next generation through our camping, campus, and youth ministries. (See related story in this issue.)
We are fulfilling our pledges for Imagine No Malaria. Our congregations have been generous, and we are making progress on this killer disease, but deaths from malaria still happen every minute, so every dollar makes a difference in saving lives. We continue to be a church that has a heart for children all over the world.
What are our resolutions for the new year? To keep on keeping on. Bishop Ough is leading conference leaders in a thoughtful, focused strategic plan on how together we can live out our gospel imperatives. One exciting development is that our annual conference leadership team has been invited to be part of a denominational cohort group called Team Vital. We are the only conference in the North Central Jurisdiction to participate, and the gift is that we will be able to collaborate and learn from other conferences about how to grow and sustain vital congregations.
For sure, the new year will bring changes, but in the midst of whatever comes, we will also be continuing to focus on God’s purposes for our lives and the mission we have been given: making disciples for the transformation of the world!
Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church