By: Amanda Yanchury
The new Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area will receive a $125,000 grant from the conferences of the North Central Jurisdiction to expand a video conferencing system in the Dakotas and Minnesota Conferences.
“The video conferencing technology will be a quantum leap forward in using technology for training, meetings, and other kinds of conferencing,” said Cindy Gregorson, conference director of ministries. “It will make it much more accessible for people to work collaboratively and serve in annual conference leadership as well as allow our bishop to have face to face time with laity and clergy in a cost and time effective way given the geographical size of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area.”
At North Central Jurisdictional Conference, held July 17-20 in Akron, Ohio, delegates from the constituent annual conferences approved a budget that included the video conferencing grant for the new episcopal area. Dakotas and Minnesota will remain separate conferences under the leadership of one bishop in a new episcopal area.
The Transition Team for the new episcopal area requested the grant to assist the bishop of the new area to lead an area that is almost the size of Texas. The Dakotas Conference has already been effectively using a video conferencing system, dubbed DAVID.
“Videoconferencing is an effective and efficient way to do God’s work,” says Doreen Gosmire, Associate Director of Communications for the Dakotas Conference. “It allows people who perhaps could not find the time or money to travel to conference business meetings a chance to participate.
Gosmire, who has been running the DAVID system in the Dakotas Conference, says the system saves time and money.
“The average costs savings per meeting by video conference is $2,500 due to money not spent on travel, lodging and meals,” Gosmire said. “Each meeting that is held by video conference means an average of 80-100 hours of time because participants do not have to travel long distances to meet in one place.”
“Because the North Central Jurisdictional College of Bishops chose to turn the two geographically largest conferences, Dakotas and Minnesota, into one episcopal area to meet General Conference’s budget-reduction requirement, we appreciate that the burdens and costs of this decision will be borne by the entire jurisdiction,” said Gregorson.
Minnesota has access to the Dakotas DAVID system via a “bridge,” video camera, and wide-screen monitor in the conference office in Minneapolis. The Transition Team, made up of representatives of both conferences, have used the system to plan for the new bishop. It has saved hours of work time that might have been spent on travel and funds that would otherwise have been spent on fuel and overnight accommodations.
“The system works like a telephone call with video,” Gosmire said. “You can talk with each other and see each other in real time. Videos, information on a computer, and images can also be shared during a video call. A video conference can be recorded and then viewed at another time, and it is possible to broadcast the video call over the Internet so that anyone on the Internet can view a meeting. The opportunities to do ministry in this new and innovative way are vast.”
Barb Carroll, director of finance and administration for Minnesota conference and transition team member, says there are currently 5 sites in the Dakotas and one trial site in Minneapolis, and these funds will allow the conferences to establish four additional sites in Minnesota.
“It is anticipated we would install the system within a year to eighteen months,” Carroll said. “We need to dedicate internet access and establish the spaces that could conceivably hold larger groups for meetings.”
“This technology will be initially most helpful to our bishop in that whether in the Dakotas or Minnesota, he can connect with the superintendents of the other conference for cabinet meetings or consultations,” Gregorson said. “It also allows him to join a meeting from wherever he may be. But as the system expands in Minnesota, we expect it to be used by many of our ministry teams to save on travel time for meetings, and for allowing us to create satellite venues for speakers and training events.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church