By: Christa Meland & Cindy Gregorson
We have been given an amazing gift to be alive, to experience this incredible world, to love and be loved, and to wake up every day able to make a lasting contribution. But how often do we find ourselves going through the motions—rushing to work, or to drop the kids off at their sports events, or home to make dinner and do laundry, only to fall into bed exhausted, having missed the opportunity to experience and appreciate the beauty around us? Or maybe you are in a different stage of life in which you wake up with the day looming before you, with no work to give yourself to, no people to sit at a table with—one lonely day leading into another, and life feels empty and hollow.
Do you hunger for a life that is deep and rich and meaningful? A life in which you taste and see the goodness of each day, have a deep sense of belonging, and know who you are uniquely called and gifted to be?
Jesus came to give us abundant life. Drawing on John 15:1-17, the theme of this year's annual conference session is “Discover Joy: Live Deeply!” We will focus on the pathway to a deep, well-lived life, which comes as we abide in Jesus. As we gather in St. Cloud from May 29-June 1, we will connect to our collective story of how God has named and claimed us, and explore how we have found life in Jesus. We will look at the practices that sustain us and give depth to our spiritual lives—those that allow us to discover the joy that comes when we invest ourselves in growing in our love of God and neighbor. We will celebrate the multitude of ways that we are sent into the world to live fully and offer the goodness we have discovered in living in the way of Jesus.
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 2018 Annual Conference:
• Guest speaker, Rev. Olu Brown: In January 2007, Brown peered through the windows of Brown Middle School Auditorium and saw the perfect beginning of his vision for a multicultural gathering of people who would be committed to sharing the love of Christ with the world. A short time later, he started Impact Church, and within months, Impact launched a second worship experience. By 2008, Impact welcomed 1,000 worshipers each week. In 2016, Impact Church was the 56th-fastest growing church in America. Brown will lead two teaching sessions—one in which he shares his own faith story and another in which he talks about staying connected to God and bearing fruit.
• Festival with Carrie Newcomer and exploring art as spiritual practice: On Wednesday night, May 30, singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer will give a concert for conference attendees and the St. Cloud community. In her newest album, “The Beautiful Not Yet,” Newcomer invites listeners to “pause the perpetual motion” of their lives” and live more present and more engaged, even in the face of division, uncertainty, or heartbreak. In addition to sharing her music, she’ll also talk about her own spiritual practices. The festival will also feature a variety of opportunities for participants to explore art as spiritual practices—including photography, body movement, weaving, and/or other art forms.
• Conversation and talks on a way forward: On Thursday, May 31, we’ll come together to talk about finding a way forward for The United Methodist Church. The Commission on a Way Forward is a 32-member group of United Methodists from around the world that’s been working to address the denomination’s differences regarding human sexuality. The commission’s recommendations are expected to be released a short time before annual conference, and so a portion of time will be devoted to learning about them and exploring how we can stay connected to each other and God in the midst of our various perspectives on this topic. TED-style talks delivered by Minnesota United Methodists will return to this year’s annual conference and will be related to unity and finding a way forward.
• Celebrating 50 years: April 23, 1968 was the birthday of The United Methodist Church. So this year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of our denomination. While we are gathered, we will explore what we’ve accomplished together over the past five decades and how to continue to stay connected to each other, grow deeper in our faith, and share God’s love with others in the decades yet to come.
• Celebration of Life in Ministry: This year’s Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service will move to Friday afternoon, June 1, and provide a meaningful and inspirational end to our time together. This service is a time to remember friends and colleagues who have died over the past year, honor retiring clergy, and celebrate newly licensed local pastors and those being commissioned and ordained.
• Love Offering: This year’s Love Offering for Missions will be collected on Wednesday, May 30. The recipients of this year’s offering are: Puerto Rico hurricane recovery trips (65 percent), Park Avenue UMC Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program (20 percent), and NUMAS Haus (15 percent). By early March, materials to promote the Love Offering will be mailed to all churches. Learn more about recipients
Annual conference registration opened March 1. Fees for the 2018 conference session are the same as last year. The cost is $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 community festival on Wednesday and the Celebration of Life in Ministry on Friday, and there is no cost to attend either.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church