By: Christa Meland
Wondering how to condense three days of worship, learning, discerning, and celebrating into a succinct report you can bring back to members of your congregation? Here are some highlights to consider sharing (access more resources, including links to videos, photos, PowerPoint templates, and the Annual Conference logo):
Theme: Drawing on Matthew 11:30, the theme was “Jesus. Waymaker.” We were reminded that when we have lost our way or there seems to be no way, Jesus makes a way by inviting us to “come, follow me.”
Hybrid session: This year, two days of Annual Conference took place virtually via Zoom webinar, and attendees spent one day gathered in small groups at local church host sites across Minnesota. On the in-person day, they live streamed morning worship, heard a presentation about a Journey Toward Vitality map and discussed with each other where they saw themselves on that map and which new territories they might explore, and watched Rev. Rachel Billups’ teaching session while discussing in their small groups key questions she posed.
Racial justice resolution: By a vote of 313-28, Annual Conference members voted to adopt a resolution that all congregations in the Minnesota Annual Conference join in the work of dismantling racism, opposing white supremacy, and advocating for racial justice. The resolution was submitted by five conference teams, and before voting on it, members engaged in 30 minutes of “holy conferencing” to discuss it. Read article
Bishop’s Episcopal Address: Since he was a boy, Bishop David Bard said he has been taken with the idea of new places and has loved maps. In his inaugural Episcopal Address, drawing on Mark 7: 24-30, he explored four lessons we can interpret from that text for the work of the church and our work as the Minnesota Conference: 1. Maps are both helpful and limited. 2. Lean into trauma. 3. Embrace new learning and be willing to cross boundaries. 4. Healing space is often created out of broken hearts. He pointed out that we have been working with a Journey Toward Vitality map as we navigate our future, and while it is beautiful, Minnesotans know firsthand the havoc that both winter and construction have on roads and we are sure to encounter some unexpected challenges. “And yet...we go this way together, welcoming any who will walk with us,” he said. Read article
Teaching session with Rev. Rachel Billups: In a two-part teaching session, Rev. Rachel Billups—lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio—shared some wisdom on how we can be peacemakers as we seek to bridge the significant divides around us. Ginghamsburg has adopted four key practices for navigating difficult conversations: 1. Ask anything. 2. Listen well. 3. Freely disagree. 4. Love regardless. Billups also talked about how sharing our God stories is the best tool for discipleship and the best way to move our mission forward. Read article / Watch teaching session
Through you, Jesus made a way: Attendees learned about how in and through Minnesota United Methodists, the Holy Spirit has broken through in miraculous ways over the past year despite the pandemic. From connecting with people in engaging new and socially distanced ways to protesting racial injustice to helping people access the COVID-19 vaccine, you have made a difference in your communities and served as a vital expression of the kingdom of God. (This would be a great video to show in worship!) Watch video
Missional Report: Conference attendees learned what their apportioned dollars have made possible and how the Minnesota Conference staff have pivoted and walked alongside churches over the difficult past year—from consulting on technology and providing videos for worship to helping churches apply for Payment Protection Plan loans and get donations to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to becoming more intentional around racial justice. Amid the challenges, we learned that when Jesus is our way, we find our way. Watch video
Ordination and commissioning: At a moving worship service, one person was ordained as an elder, one person’s ordination was recognized and she was received as a full elder in The United Methodist Church, two people were commissioned as provisional elders, and one person was recognized for completing course of study. Drawing from Mark 6: 30-44, Bishop David Bard in his sermon reminded Minnesota United Methodists of the story of Jesus taking five loaves of bread and two fish and feeding the 5,000. He said magic happens when we are present in our situation, when we offer our best and give what we have, and when we turn to Jesus who is always with us. Read article
Laity Session: How do you break through gridlock and have conversations in a new way? That’s the question that two presenters from nonprofit LeaderWise explored during the Laity Session. They shared three ways to move difficult conversations forward and deepen relationships: 1. Identify the moral convictions and the scope we bring to the conversation. 2. Connect to our motivations. 3. Understand which types of “bait” you fall for. Read article
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church