By: Christa Meland
Reach • Renew • Rejoice reaches $3.7M goal: To date, $3,759,055 has been pledged to this congregational development initiative that aimed to raise $3.7 million. The amount was announced to applause, dancing, and clappers flailing in the air. Prior to the announcement, 10 people representing 10 different groups that gave to this campaign came forward with a puzzle piece that was given to three brightly dressed people and thrown into the air, at which time each piece of the puzzle appeared on a big screen and helped illuminate the Reach • Renew • Rejoice logo. Funds given will be used to start seven new churches across Minnesota, enable 140 churches to go through transformational processes to position them for vitality, and expand seven churches to additional sites. Hundreds of churches and individuals made a commitment to this effort, and funds are already being put to good use throughout the state. “We exist because of Reach • Renew • Rejoice,” Shawn Moore, pastor of new church start The Beloved in Maplewood, told attendees. Rev. Whitney Sheridan, who will be campus pastor of a second campus of Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville when it opens this fall, echoed that sentiment. “There’s no way this could have started without the Reach • Renew • Rejoice campaign,” she said. Rev. Gary Taylor talked about how Grey Eagle United Methodist Church is growing and has begun new outreach efforts in part because of its participation in Missional Journey, one of the conference’s transformational processes.
Love Offering for Missions: As of Thursday afternoon, conference attendees had given $93,767 and donated 13,842 health kits to the 2016 Love Offering for Missions, which this year has a financial component and a hands-on component. Funds from this year’s Love Offering will go to three projects: 40 percent will go to the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services, which welcomes refugees from around the world and provides support through case management, immigration, employment, and education. Ten percent will go to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to ship the prepared health kits to where they are needed most. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the Love Offering will go to International Child Care in the Dominican Republic, a health agency that serves people with disabilities. And the remaining 10 percent will go to Volunteers in Mission scholarships for first-time participants. Karen Thompson, who serves on the conference’s Mission Promotion Team, introduced the Love Offering Thursday morning and explained that her committee each year selects recipients who serve the least, the lost, and the left behind in our world.
Celebrations: Attendees celebrated three significant milestones during annual conference: the 160th anniversary of the Minnesota Annual Conference, the 20th anniversary of the order of deacons, and the 60th anniversary of full clergy rights for women. On Thursday afternoon, they also watched a video commemorating the granting of full clergy rights. (Watch video here.)
Legislation on Orlando shooting, transparency: On Thursday afternoon and after much discussion and several alternate proposals, conference members approved a resolution in response to the recent Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida. The resolution is a commitment to repent for ways that our words and United Methodist Church positions toward LGBTQ people have been used to discriminate, to find timely avenues toward resolution, to practice humility and gentle conversation with those whose convictions differ, and to pray for Bishop Ough in his new role as president of the Council of Bishops. Conference members also approved an amended version of a piece of legislation that aims to increase transparency within the annual conference. Going forward, announcements and agendas of meetings of elected committees will be published in advance on the conference website, and meeting minutes and handouts will be published on the website after they are approved by the group; this new policy excludes items that are of a sensitive nature and those that deal with personnel matters.
Conference preacher: At Thursday morning worship, Rev. Mike Dyrdal—who serves Cross Winds United Methodist Church in Maple Grove—talked about what unites us and gives us commonality. “The gift of knowing Jesus is that you become family with others who know Jesus,” he said. “We are family together.” Preaching on Romans 16:1-16, he said that we can be people who disagree with each other. In fact, we’re better for it if we are in dialogue and help sharpen each other. We are all people who love and who are loved by God. “We don’t always see eye to eye but we love each other because we’re family.” Dyrdal concluded by asking attendees to write down the phrase “I thank God for my memories of you” and to fill in the name of a friend or colleague at the end of that sentence. “Who has loved and served with you for the sake of the gospel?” he asked. “Who has made Jesus’ love real for you? Who welcomed you when you were a newcomer? Who has given resources beyond what could be expected?...God’s dream for us is that we’re sisters and brothers, we’re family that Jesus has given.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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