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Get ready for Annual Conference 2014

Get ready for Annual Conference 2014

The Mission of God logo in multiple languagesLAKELAND – This year’s annual business meeting of The United Methodist Church in Florida will zero in on all things mission, in keeping with the theme “The Mission of God.”

Scheduled for June 11-14 at The Lakeland Center, the event expands from three days to four this year.

More than 30 enrichment sessions on a wide variety of topics will be offered during the conference itself instead of being pre-conference workshops as in years past. Click here to view the list of workshops and sign up to attend by June 5.

Workbooks are available online, and information about the event, including the agenda, will be updated at

Click here for orientation videos. Click here for the Annual Conference brochure.

New this year will be a mobile app to access all things Annual Conference, including the agenda, floor plan of The Lakeland Center, worship and work books, Ministry Expo exhibitor list, livestream of the event and the conference news page and photo gallery. People can also use the app to make prayer requests. The app is available now at Google Play and is expected to be available next week on iTunes. Enter the keyword FLUMC in the search field.

A few changes are in store for attendees this year.

Plenary sessions will not be held in the center’s Jenkins Arena, where they have been in the past. They will be staged in the Exhibit Hall on Wednesday through Friday, moving to Youkey Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Friday with the Service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination. The final plenary session and closing worship Saturday will be in Youkey Theatre. The conference will adjourn by noon that day.

Check-in for clergy and laity will be in the arena, where Ministry Expo also will be operating. Members should pick up their badges at the check-in table, which will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 11. The desk will remain open in the arena a full day Wednesday and half day Thursday, June 12. It will move to Guest Services in The Lakeland Center lobby Thursday afternoon and remain there on Friday.

The Annual Conference Prayer Garden in Lake Hollingsworth Room B will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, June 11-12, and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, June 13.  

Clergy session crowd from AC 2013
Clergy members meet in Youkey Theatre on opening day of Annual Conference 2013. File photo by Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr.

Worship leaders this year will be Jeremy Hearn of First UMC, Lakeland, and Michelle Weger of Grace Church, Fort Myers Shores. Attendees also have the opportunity to sign up for a volunteer choir that will sing during the Service of Remembrance at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 13, under the direction of Dr. Beth Gibbs of Florida Southern College. Rehearsal will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 12. To sign up in advance, click here.

Storytellers selected to talk about their personal experiences related to the conference theme will be interspersed among worship and business sessions all four days of the conference.

5k run/walk for Imagine No Malaria

New this year will be a 5k run/walk around Lake Hollingsworth at Florida Southern College, with proceeds benefiting Imagine No Malaria. Participants will set forth at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, June 12., at the intersection of Ingraham Avenue and Lake Hollingsworth Drive and run counter-clockwise around the lake. They can pick up their event packet between noon and 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at The Lakeland Center or just before the run, starting at 5:30 a.m., on the day of the event. To register, click here.

Jewelry Re-sale for Mission

Also for the first time this year, conference attendees can help pay for mission experiences in Cuba and Haiti for two young adults by buying donated jewelry. The Re-sale for Missions table, under the direction of Rev. Pam Carter, will operate during select hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as part of Ministry Expo in the arena. People with jewelry to donate are asked to send the pieces in zip-lock plastic bags to their district office by June 1.

Bishop’s offering

The Annual Conference 2014 offering will be taken at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, during the Service of Word and Table, with Florida Bishop Ken Carter preaching. This year, the offering will benefit two ministries: Africa University and the launch of a new young adult mission experience in Florida.

Mission Focus Evening

Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn all about Africa University, a high priority for funding in the Florida Conference and The United Methodist Church, from the institution’s vice chancellor, Jim Salley. The Africa University Choir will perform. The session starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12, in the Exhibit Hall. An offering will be taken.

Ordination and licensing

The Service of Licensing, Commissioning and Ordination will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 13, in Youkey Theatre with Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Conference, who was recently elected secretary of the Council of Bishops, preaching. 

Ministry Expo scene from Annual Conference 2013
Christ-themed wood carvings were among displays for sale at the 2013 Ministry Expo. File photo by Susan Green. 

Ministry Expo

About 60 commercial vendors, nonprofit agencies and ministries have signed up for tables or booths at this year’s Ministry Expo, which will be open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the arena for the first two days of Annual Conference and most of the day Friday, said Janet Earls, Florida Conference congregational vitality specialist, who is organizing the expo this year. The expo will close in the late afternoon Friday and will not re-open on the final day of the event.

In keeping with the Annual Conference theme, the expo will feature two large maps – one of the U.S. and one of the world – that will be at the check-in station during the first two days of the conference and remain in Ministry Expo on Friday.

“We’re going to ask people to put a pin where they have served in mission,” Earls said.

The Cokesbury bookstore is expected to have a wide selection of publications and other Christian wares available. Lifetouch Photography will be set up to take clergy portraits, as in years past.

The expo also will offer a place for fellowship, where people can get refreshments and sit and talk. Earls said massage chairs, an interactive Wii game and a bean bag toss game will be available “just for fun.”

Sign up to help out

Volunteer greeters, workers in guest services, banner carriers and people to help with baptism renewal are still needed. Click here to sign up for a time slot, or email  or  or call (800) 282-8011, ext. 192, for more information. 

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.