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2009 Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference
June 16-18, 2009, Oaks, Pa.

A symbolic cleansing of the space of the spirit of violence and worship took place on June 15, prior to the opening of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Bishop Peggy Johnson joined members of the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Heeding God's Call, a faith-based campaign to stop gun violence, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, where, only days before, a gun show was held.

Meeting with a theme of Sharing the Connection, Eastern Pennsylvania was the first conference to ever offer skilled American Sign Language interpreters, real-time text captioning, assistive listening devises, a large print reader for those with low vision, and video streaming for those who could not physically attend conference because of physical challenges. "We are not fully the body of Christ unless we include the gifts of all God's people," Johnson said. The Rev. Paul Crikelair, a profoundly hearing-impaired pastor attending his 27th annual conference said that it was "an incredible blessing to know that there were those who cared enough about our needs to make it possible for us to be fully included."

In opening devotions, Johnson asked, "What does the Lord require of you?" Preaching from Micah 6: 6-8, she remarked that justice is something we do that everyone gets a fair shake and that all the precious children of God get a chance to get in line to have their needs met.

Opening worship, planned by conference Young People's Ministries, included the preaching of the Rev. Vance Ross of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. He asked, "Children, have you caught any fish? If not, then throw your nets on the right side!" He urged churches to use evaluation, exploitation, and excitement in order to not remain stuck in tradition and tribalism.

The ministry 15 retirees who have 470 years of ministry of were celebrated; they symbolically passed the mantle of ministry and service, as they anointed people to be commissioned and ordained.

Celebration of Ministries

The Rev. Lillian Smith, director of connectional ministries, led the celebration of ministries. A $4,616 check for Nothing But Nets was given to Katherine and Lynda Commale, thus exceeding their initial goal of raising 10,000 nets. Yvette Davis was selected as the new director of the Office of Urban and Global Ministries.The Rev. Irving Cotto celebrated four new churches in 2009: Wendy Orzolek in Exeter, Lydia Munoz in Narberth, Elisandra Garcia in Bethlehem, and Byung Woo Choin Glenside. The Rev. Bickley's New Beginnings United Methodist Church in Philadelphia received its charter. First United Methodist Church and Grandview United Methodist Church, both in Lancaster, Penn. were recognized for their ministry to refugees. The Rev. Dan Ellis-Killian was selected to fill a new position as ecumenical officer of the conference.

Awards:

  • Ken Jefferson Award for excellence in urban ministry was given to the Rev. J. William Lentz and members of the Wesley United Methodist Church, Bethlehem, Penn.;
  • The Denman Award for Evangelism to the Rev. James Brashear, (Bethany United Methodist Church in Wescoesville) and the Rev. Tracy Bass, (Haws Avenue United Methodist Church in Norristown), and to lay person, Mary Alice Law of Haws Avenue United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Harold Recinos, professor of Church and Society at the Perkins School of Theology, led two morning Bible studies--"Jesus, the Poor Stranger" and"God Makes a World of Difference."

In a ceremony of candle lighting and flowers, the conference remembered the lives of bishops, clergy, spouses, widows, and lay members. Ross preached that what is important is "orthopraxy, not orthodoxy deeds, not creeds walks, not talks."

Service of ordination

Johnson, assisted by Bishop Violet Fisher and Mary White, conference lay leader, laid hands on those to be commissioned and ordained. The commissioning included two for ministry of the deacon and two for ministry of the elder. Johnson ordained two people as deacons and recognized the orders of one deacon. Fifteen people were ordained as Elders in full connection, and the orders of one elder were recognized. Johnson told listeners that "before Jesus, our sins were like filthy rags. Our job is putting off the old sin and clothing ourselves in Christ. The clothes of Christ are patience, love, joy." Five people answered a call to ministry at the end of the service.

In offerings, churches and individuals gave:

  • Barrels of gift cards and hygiene kits to Methodist Services for Children and Families in Philadelphia;
  • $3,013 for Hope for the Children;
  • $5,795 for Nothing But Nets;
  • $379 for the Youth Service Fund; and
  • $4,425 for scholarships for undergraduate and seminary students.

In business, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference:

  • Approved a 2010 budget of $6,388,385 for General Conference and Eastern Pennsylvania ministries;
  • Voted on 32 proposed General Conference amendments.
  • Recommended 18 ministries for Conference Advance Specials;
  • Resolved that each church celebrate a Volunteers in Mission Sunday;
  • Urged churches to support the effort to stop the expansion of gambling; and
  • Encouraged appointed clergy to support the Central Conference Pension Initiative with $60 per year.

Membership stands at 121,203, down 2,220 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 48,760, down 1,085. Church school attendance stands at 17,125, up 140.

--Suzy Keenan