Shorter annual event offers much to celebrate, address

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Shorter annual event offers much to celebrate, address

May 19, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0488}

NOTE: This is one of a series of articles about news related to the “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event June 1-3 in Lakeland.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The upcoming annual gathering of more than 2,000 United Methodists from across the state offers the potential to prove good things do come in small packages.

Themed “Witness With Power,” based on the first two chapters of the Book of Acts, the 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event June 1-3 at the Lakeland Center features a strong emphasis on the ministry of the laity. Although it will be one day shorter than last year’s gathering, the conference will conduct its business as usual.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker decided to shorten the conference because it would have ended June 4, Pentecost Sunday.

“I really believe that the great festival of Pentecost should be celebrated fully in our local congregations,” Whitaker said last year. “Therefore, I think pastors and local lay leaders should be back in their own churches.”

Additionally, time constraints placed on the conference by the Lakeland Center mandated a shorter meeting.

The Rev. Charles Weaver, assistant to the bishop and chairman of the annual conference program committee, said he thinks the condensed time frame will be popular among attendees. He said evaluations of last year’s annual conference event support the move because the conference was able to accomplish its business within the allotted time.

“I believe that many will appreciate the shorter conference,” Weaver said. “It will save us money as an annual conference — one less day of rental on the arena, one less night of hotel accommodations for staff and guests, one less day of meal costs, one less day for the contracted professionals that handle various aspects of conference production. It will save individual delegates, and the churches that send them, the same kind of expenses.

“I hope there will be a sense of us not wasting anyone’s time — of us tending to the business of the conference and then allowing clergy and laity to return to their vital local ministries.”

Registration and the event’s Ministry Expo open May 31. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center is also leading two sessions that day that give an overview of the local church disaster training provided by the conference. The next day begins with sessions for clergy and laity, followed by a service of remembrance for clergy who have died and the opening session at 1:30 p.m. The conference ends June 3 with the approval of appointments.

All sessions will be streamed live on the conference Web site, enabling those who can’t attend to see and hear portions of the event that most interest them.

With just under two weeks until the event, Whitaker said he is greatly anticipating this year’s conference. “I am looking forward to hearing our young clergy teach the Bible and share how they reach others for Christ, to hearing our guests preach the word of God, and also to hearing Dr. David L. Watson inspire the laity to fulfill the great ministry to which God is calling them,” he said.

The Revs. Scott H. Smith and Melissa Pisco are this year’s Bible study leaders. They will share what the church can do to reach the unchurched.

Smith was appointed to Community of Faith United Methodist Church in Davenport, a new church start, eight years ago. Pisco is serving the Studio, a mission that is an intentional outreach to people suffering from a variety of addictions.

Other featured speakers include Watson, director of the Office of Pastoral Formation for the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, and Dr. Evelyn Laycock, who served as director of the Lay Ministry Center for the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ) Administrative Council at Lake Junaluska, N.C., for 10 years. Barbara Day Miller, an ordained deacon and faculty member at Candler School of Theology, will serve as worship leader.

Weaver said he believes Watson will be a great speaker. “I believe a highlight will be Thursday afternoon when Watson, a well-known professor and author of early Methodism, will lecture on recapturing the spiritual/pastoral/evangelical/discipling role of the laity in the life of the (United Methodist) church — a role they played in the early days of Methodism, but a role they gradually lost as the clergy became more professional and settled,” he said.

Laycock will preach June 1 during the evening service, which will also include celebrating Holy Communion and receiving the annual conference offering. Sixty percent of the funds will support the work of the East Angola/Florida Partnership, 30 percent will go to Encounter with Christ in Latin America, and 10 percent will go to the Council Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP)/Children’s Harvest to purchase backpacks and school kits.

ANGOLA — Children on their way to school. Photo by the Rev. Armando Rodriguez, Photo #06-353.

East Angola will use its funds to help rebuild the theological school at Quéssua, an area that was once a thriving missionary and spiritual center of The United Methodist Church in Angola, located near the city of Malange in East Angola. Many of the area’s buildings were destroyed during the country’s 27-year civil war. The complex included Quéssua United Methodist Church, an elementary school for boys and girls, residences for missionaries and school and hospital administrators, dormitories for students, and a hospital, college, school of domestic sciences and theological seminary.

The 2005 conference offering helped complete the rebuilding of the church at Quéssua, funded a community health training in Malange last November, and bought bicycles for new pastors who had no way to travel to areas within their jurisdictions and commercial radio equipment to enhance communication within the East Angola Conference. It also helped bring two East Angolan students, Francisco Cautama and Alcides Martins, to Florida for a year to study communications, English and finances at Florida Southern College and share their experiences with local churches.

This year’s offering will help fund ongoing reconstruction of the Quéssua complex, which includes the parsonage, the School of Theology and the orphanage; support children of the region; secure capital purchases for self-sustainable development projects; and fund missionary work.

LAKELAND — Delegates at last year's annual conference event assembled back packs and school supplies for at-risk children and youth as part of the conference's Children's Harvest ministry. A total of 5,000 back packs were distributed by conference outreach ministries. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #06-354.

Children’s Harvest supporters will begin filling 500 backpacks with school supplies as soon as registration opens. The goal is to have all of them assembled by the end of the evening session June 1. Conference delegates are encouraged to stop by the assembly area near registration in the Expo Center to help put the backpacks together. A total of 5,000 backpacks will be distributed through conference outreach ministries to at-risk children and youth.

The sessions June 2 will be devoted primarily to conference business, focusing on financial, property, pension and insurance issues. There will also be a special celebration recognizing the 50th anniversary of women in ordained ministry. The Milestones in Ministry will feature the conference’s ordained clergywomen processing into the arena alongside clergy who are retiring this year and individuals who are being licensed as local pastors, commissioned as probationary members and ordained elder or deacon.

The conference will conclude June 3 with the election of conference leaders, adoption of the 2007 budget, celebration of the conference’s new Haiti/Florida Covenant and finalization of pastoral appointments.

Other highlights of the annual conference event include:

n  Whitaker encouraging all conference churches to support the Council of Bishops’ Katrina Church Recovery Appeal to help churches in Mississippi and Louisiana rebuild. The appeal was developed at the council’s meeting last fall and is being emphasized during U.S. annual conference sessions in May and June. The bishops launched the appeal to raise money to rebuild churches in Katrina-stricken areas, pay pastors’ salaries and re-equip congregations for ministry in their areas. The appeal is different from the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) fund-raising work, which is supporting humanitarian relief on the coast.

n  The conference’s Health and Wholeness Focused Task Team asking church members and delegates to donate blood at the Blood Net Blood Mobile that will be parked at the Lakeland Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 2.

n  The Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (BHECM) bringing its Collegiate Ministry Representative Resolution to delegates for a vote. The resolution cites statistics that reveal only 21 percent of churchgoers in the country are between the ages of 18 and 33, while the majority, 62 percent, are 50 years of age and older. The result, according to the resolution, is a void of young adults involved in the ministry of the local church that needs to be filled through outreach to the colleges and universities surrounding conference churches.

The goal of the resolution is that each church will have a collegiate ministry representative willing to attend district training meetings, be an ambassador for the current campus ministry units, send recent high school graduate names to campus directors and promote the Methodist Student Day Offering in November. That representative should be nominated by the charge conference in October.

n  New Church Development reporting it will be starting 17 churches as missions.

n  The Florida Conference Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries presenting its master plan to integrate ministry with management at the conference’s four camp and retreat centers. Delegates will hear details about proposed plans for ministry and improvements at each site.

LAKELAND — Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker celebrates getting the answer right during the game show challenge played as part of the conference Connectional Ministries' presentation at the 2005 annual conference event. The game helped creatively explain the new Leadership Connection and Conference Equipping Network. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #06-355.

n  The Leadership Connection reporting on what it has accomplished during the past year and any information it has learned about needs and trends of churches and communities across the state. Fifteen laity and clergy make up the Leadership Connection, whose formation was part of the Conference Equipping Network proposal that passed at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference event. The team facilitates the creation and work of both long- and short-term task teams that focus on meeting specific, identified ministry needs of the conference. Representatives will be sharing details about their work during the Connectional Ministries presentation June 2 in the morning.

The theme of the presentation is “Got A Vision? Get Connected!,” and the team is encouraging people across the conference to share their ideas, interests and skills with the Leadership Connection through its pages on the conference Web site. Buttons imprinted with the theme will be distributed to delegates to raise awareness about the need to get and stay connected.

n  The Global Mission and Justice Committee of the Connectional Ministries office highlighting three of eight conference mission initiatives. The team will also serve Equal Exchange beverages, including fair trade coffee and tea, at its booth in the Ministry Expo. Fair trade gives small growers a fair opportunity to trade their products in the United States through churches. All products are chemically free. Local churches can purchase these products tax-free and help raise funds for UMCOR.

A Clergy Kids Pool Party will take place June 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Florida Southern College. Those interested in participating should contact the Rev. Brian Carr at for more information.

Individuals who would like to log onto the webcast at any time during the annual gathering may do so by going to the Florida Conference Web site at and following the instructions posted there.

Details about the gathering can be found by going to the conference Web site and clicking on the event graphic posted on the right-hand side of the home page.

This article relates to “Witness With Power” 2006 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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