By: Cindy Gregorson
This news will probably not come as a surprise given the current COVID-19 situation: The Dakotas and Minnesota Cabinets and respective Sessions Teams have made the decision to cancel the joint Dakotas-Minnesota Annual Conference, scheduled for June 10-12, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The May 28 Minnesota Clergy Session has also been canceled and will be conducted virtually at a later date yet to be determined.
As we consider the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” it’s evident that it will be some months before it is safe for large gatherings to take place. This reality is disappointing given that this event was to be a unique occasion to gather as an episcopal area for celebration of our shared ministry over the past eight years. It unfortunately does not seem practical to postpone this joint gathering in hopes we can gather later this year given the uncertainties around the timeline for the virus and the potential for multiple waves, and subsequent restrictions, before there is a vaccine. So the decision was made to cancel our joint event, and for each annual conference to determine how to do its own essential business that requires annual conference action.
So what does that mean for the Minnesota Annual Conference Session? At this point, our plan is to meet virtually for one day in mid- to late-August. In order to do this, we will substantially pare down our session to focus on what is essential. We are still confirming a date and will let you know as soon as the pieces are in place to the point where we can announce one. Because of the scale and complexity of this event, we are contracting with a vendor that will help us manage the technical pieces and ensure things go smoothly—and we will spend the coming months preparing a much shorter, yet still engaging, efficient, and uplifting, online experience around our theme “Be the Light: Live Hope!” and our gospel imperative to heal a broken world.
Meanwhile, we are in conversation with those to be commissioned and ordained to explore how we can do that in safe and creative ways.
If we are able to gather in the fall, we might consider having some pop-up district gatherings, to keep numbers smaller, at which we can engage in dialogue together. Flexibility and being able to pivot as circumstances change will shape our Annual Conference Session planning and delivery, just as they have shaped local churches’ planning and delivery of worship and other gatherings during this season.
Here are the answers to some questions you might be asking:
I already registered and paid for Annual Conference Session and/or the Clergy Session. How do I get a refund?
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church