By: Christa Meland
In the 1700s, John Wesley annually brought together those involved in the Methodist movement so they could give testimony to what God was doing in and through them—the people who had come to Christ, the class meetings that had been formed, and the way the world was being transformed.
Hundreds of years later, we still gather annually for those same reasons. The 161st session of the Minnesota Annual Conference is scheduled for May 27-29 in St. Cloud, and it promises to be an event that engages, inspires, educates, and unites attendees. The theme of this year’s conference session is “God’s Vision, Our Mission—Unleashed.”
“We come from every corner of the state to reconnect to our common mission and to rehearse God’s vision for our life together,” said Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of ministries. “We seek to discern the missional shape of our movement today and what God is calling us to do next. And then we get our marching orders and we go.”
The three-day gathering is a time for Minnesota United Methodists to worship and enjoy fellowship, learn from teaching session speakers, receive reports, adopt goals and programs, determine budgets, take stands on key issues, ordain and commission clergy, and receive the bishop’s clergy appointments.
Here’s a look at some of the exciting things planned for that gathering:
Celebrate, learn, act: The three days of this year’s annual conference will be structured around these three key actions. On Wednesday, we will hear stories of what God has been doing in our midst and celebrate Holy Spirit breakthroughs throughout Minnesota. On Thursday, we will learn from our conference speakers and explore the new ways God is calling us forth and inviting us to engage within our changing culture. And on Friday, we will act by making key decisions on critical next steps in our journey. We will then be sent out into the mission field inspired and equipped to reach new people, grow in love of God and neighbor, and heal a broken world.
Two engaging guest speakers: Rev. Jorge Acevedo and Rev. Anita Phillips will be our teaching session speakers. Acevedo is lead pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida. The church has grown its weekend worship attendance from 400 to more than 2,600 in the past 15 years. It is also recognized as having one of the largest and most effective recovery ministries in the United States, with more than 700 people involved in weekly recovery ministries. Phillips, meanwhile, is executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan (NACP), a United Methodist entity that resources, strengthens, and advocates for the local church in Native American communities and contexts. NACP also develops and supports Native American congregations, ministries, and leaders.
“50 Ways to Love Your Neighbor” mission fair: On Thursday, conference attendees will be invited to a mission fair that allows us to share best practices and learn from each other. Mission-minded churches that have positively impacted their communities in significant ways will put together a science fair-type display that provides information about their outreach; attendees will then be able to stop by the displays, learn from the participating churches, and pick up information about the various forms of outreach. Prepare to leave with lots of new ideas about how to reach new people in your community! (And if your church has a successful community outreach and you’d be willing to host a display at the fair, please complete this form by April 6.)
Commissioning and ordination: At Thursday’s Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service, eight people will be commissioned and five will be ordained. This is the largest group of honorees since 2010. At that same service, clergy and clergy spouses who have died within the past year will be remembered—and clergy who are retiring will be celebrated.
Inspiring videos: Videos that will be shown throughout conference session this year include one that highlights some of the key ways that the conference and its churches are healing a broken world, a handful of “breakthrough” videos featuring local churches that are making a difference in unique ways, and videos submitted by local churches that illustrate their outreach efforts. The videos will be available to all churches after annual conference session.
Live streaming: For the second year, Minnesota United Methodists who aren’t at annual conference session will be able to participate in some of the activities occurring in St. Cloud. Several events—including Bishop Ough’s episcopal address and the teaching sessions, will be live streamed online, meaning you can watch them on your computer from anywhere that has an Internet connection. Stay tuned for more information on sessions that will be live streamed and how to tune in.
Registration fees for the 2015 conference session will remain the same as last year. The cost will be $250 for delegates; $75 for retirees, equalization members (individuals designated by each district to create a balance between clergy and lay attendees) and those visiting for the entire event; and $25 for single-day visitors. Those fees do include some meals, and scholarships will be available for retirees.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church