By: Christa Meland
Wondering how to condense two full days of worship, discerning, and celebrating into a succinct report you can bring back to members of your congregation? Here are some highlights to consider sharing:
Theme: Drawing on Luke 24:13-35, the theme of this year’s gathering is “Encounter. Transform. Respond. The Emmaus Experience.” This post-resurrection story where everything has changed and the implications still seem a bit cloudy mirrors the time and space we are living in as a church. We, like the two disciples, are on the road, asking deep questions, and trying to make sense of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus today. And we, too, are finding that we encounter Christ in transforming ways when we do.
Bishop’s Episcopal Address: In the Emmaus Road story, the impossible becomes possible as the world is made right again through encounters with the resurrected Christ who brings healing, reconciliation, and hope. Bishop Lanette Plambeck, in her inaugural Episcopal Address, reminds us that this story for the two disciples on the road is our story too. During this challenging time in The United Methodist Church, she invited those of us in the Minnesota Conference to lean in to one another and declare that there is enough love for all of us, and she reminded each person: You are loved. You are a child of God and a person of worth. There are no exceptions. (Watch or download Episcopal Address.)
Milestones in ministry: Those gathered honored and thanked 14 clergy entering retirement, and they celebrated four pastors ordained as elders, two commissioned as provisional members, three local licensed pastors who completed their five-year course of study, and 13 people authorized to serve as local pastors in the congregations and ministry areas in which they are appointed.
Fresh expressions with Michael Beck: Rev. Dr. Michael Beck is co-pastor of two Florida churches and a network of “fresh expressions” led by laity that gather in various community venues and public spaces around shared interests and hobbies. He talked about fresh expressions as a new movement of Christian communities where people with no connection to the church are finding life and encountering Christ. Dinner church whereby people gather to share a meal is an easy starting point for a fresh expression, Beck said. Some of the other fresh expressions he’s involved with take place in a tattoo parlor, at a restaurant, in a virtual reality space, at dog park, and even at Tesla charging stations.
Connectional address by Bishop McAlilly: Bishop William (Bill) McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area took part in Annual Conference and reminded attendees that we are a connectional church. In his connectional address, he spoke about what it means to live with courage and boldness. This includes knowing and living our “why” as Christians, loving God and our neighbor, and leaning into the future with “holy boldness”—not knowing exactly what’s in store but trusting that God is with us.
Sermon by Rev. Becky Jo Messenbrink: This year’s conference preacher (selected by a random drawing at the end of last year’s Annual Conference) was Rev. Becky Jo Messenbrink, who serves Eden Prairie UMC. She talked about her desire for an expandable table and reminded those gathered that Jesus’ table was for everyone. “Perhaps the church is called to mirror the table which Jesus sets—an expansive table of belonging and community where all are welcome, where all are included and celebrated and treasured, an expansive table at which Jesus can be recognized, and where the kingdom of God is present and talk about God turns into encounters with the living God,” she said.
Love Offering: Conference members, on behalf of their churches gave just over $40,000 to the 2023 Love Offering. Sixty percent of it will fund a new grant to support churches that have partnerships with mental health services offered in local schools or communities, 30 percent will go to three Minnesota nonprofits engaged in mental health education and advocacy, and 10 percent of the Love Offering each year goes to Volunteers in Mission scholarships, which support first-time mission trip participants. You may continue to donate throughout 2023.
Legislation: Hundreds of voting members in attendance at Annual Conference approved all pieces of legislation before them, including resolutions opposing assault-style weapons, addressing the Israeli detention of children, and supporting both a U.S. Regional Conference and the removal of all discriminatory policies and harmful language related to sexual orientation from the Book of Discipline.
Disaffiliating churches: Members ratified the terms of disaffiliation agreements made between the conference Board of Trustees and 14 local churches that have discerned that their path goes a different direction from the Minnesota Annual Conference. After the vote, Bishop Lanette asked Minnesota United Methodists to keep these congregations in their hearts and to pray that even as we part ways, they may continue to live out their faith and serve as a beacon of light and hope for all.
Videos: Throughout annual conference, attendees watched videos that highlighted ways that churches and individuals are fulfilling our gospel imperatives of growing in love of God and neighbor, reaching new people, and healing a broken world. Please share these videos with your congregation so they can learn about and celebrate what we are accomplishing as The United Methodist Church in Minnesota!
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church