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Old and new come together at 2004 event (April 16, 2004)

Old and new come together at 2004 event (April 16, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Old and new come together at 2004 event

April 16, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0059}

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

LAKELAND - The Rev. Kevin James Sr. said the 2004 Committee on Annual Conference Program worked hard to get the agenda for the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event just right.

James, St. Petersburg District superintendent and dean of the Florida Conference Cabinet, served on the committee, along with other conference officials.

The annual conference event is June 3-6 at Bethune-Cookman College (BCC) in Daytona Beach. Its theme is "A Light to the Nations."

This year's event is being held outside Lakeland for the first time in many years. United Methodist-related Florida Southern College served as host for the event until attendance became too large for its facilities. In recent years the college has provided housing and meal support for delegates, while the bulk of the business sessions has been held at the Lakeland Center. This year Florida's United Methodists will spend time on the campus of Florida's other denominationally-related school. The event's plenary sessions will take place in BCC's new Performing Arts Center.

"This has been a long-awaited dream of Dr. Oswald Bronson Sr. and the late Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson and African-Americans in the Florida Conference," James said. "It's a great opportunity to allow others to experience the other institution of higher education and the rich tradition of Bethune-Cookman College and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Indeed, we are excited about annual conference."

James said the conference, like some of the proposals to be presented during the event, is in transformation mode.
"This is a period of transformation for the entire conference. We will be in a new location, in a new campus facility and doing annual conference in a new way. The proposal [coming before delegates] to restructure the conference is a sense of that newness," James said. "We're attempting Romans 12:2. We're in transformation. It's truly going to be an awesome time."

Karen Taylor, executive director of Celebrate Jesus, said the annual conference event will be a time for participants to live their faith by taking part in a mini-mission June 4.

Normally, a Celebrate Jesus mission is a weeklong effort during which local churches reach out to their community. Churches set their own goals, design their campaigns and recruit members to participate. A visiting team of laity and clergy coordinated by Celebrate Jesus organizers helps members of the local churches with their mission projects.

One of the mission's goals is for church members to get to know the people in their neighborhood better, Taylor said. She said the mini-mission during the annual conference event will operate similarly to a regular mission with conference delegates canvassing neighborhoods and business areas close to the college.

"The bishop will dismiss us after lunch, and we're hoping to have 1,000 or 2,000 people come with us," Taylor said. "We will also have a time to share what we learned during the mission with the annual conference later that day. We want to make it real for the annual conference by sharing what we call 'glory stories.' "

To make the event a success Taylor says she needs volunteers. People can register at the Celebrate Jesus table when they register at the annual conference event.

Taylor said volunteers will help make the dream that began with planning for the mini-mission two years ago come true. She said people and churches unable to participate are encouraged to donate bottled water, canned soft drinks and light bulbs to be used during the mini-mission.

"Daytona is a wonderful place to share the love of Jesus," Taylor said.

Churches will also have the opportunity to share their ministries by setting up booths Saturday on Daytona Beach as part of Celebrate Jesus, Taylor said. Churches can share games or other activities as part of Family Fun Day. A live band and free hotdogs will complete the day, Taylor added.
A returning favorite to the annual conference event is Children's Harvest, which will include assembling school kits as part of the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty (BICAP). Last year participants assembled 3,000 school kits for children in Angola and raised more than $60,000. This year the goal is more ambitious. Participants are being asked to assemble 5,000 school kits, and each church was asked to raise at least $150 during a special Sunday offering. The total as of April 1 was $24,849.09. 

Melba Whitaker said Children's Harvest decided to focus on outreach ministries this year. "We wanted to make better use of resources for our children," she said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for us to focus on our own poor in the Florida Conference. Children who would not have had these resources will now have these items available to them."

Other highlights of the 2004 Annual Conference Event include:

*  Small group discussions for delegates before voting. The proposals to restructure the conference's 14 districts and replace the Florida Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM) with a structure called the Conference Equipping Network (CEN) were first presented during a Conference Table meeting Jan. 30. Both proposals will be presented at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event for approval.

*  Bishop Jose Quipungo preaching June 3 during the communion service. Quipungo presides over the Eastern Angola Annual Conference and is working to make sure The United Methodist Church has a vital role in his country's future. The relationship between his conference and the Florida Conference began when a three-person team from the Florida Conference traveled to Angola Jan. 28-Feb. 11, 2003, on a fact-finding and relationship-building visit sponsored by the Florida Conference's BICAP and Hope for the Children of Africa task force. Team members were Melba Whitaker, wife of Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the Gainesville District, and Michael Wacht, the conference's director of communications. The trip was the result of the Council of Bishops requesting the Florida Conference place its attention on the Eastern Angola Conference now that Florida has completed fund raising for the Bishop Cornelius L. and Dorothye Henderson Secondary School in Mozambique.

For more information about volunteering for the Celebrate Jesus mini-mission or setting up a booth contact Celebrate Jesus coordinator Dottie Graves at 321-722-3660.


This article relates to 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.