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2009 Louisiana Annual Conference

Louisiana Annual Conference
June 7-10, 2009, Kenner, La.

More than 1,200 United Methodists focused on "Creating New Places for New People" as they gathered at the Pontchartrain Center for the 2009 Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The decision to hold the event in the Greater New Orleans area was made at the 2007 Annual Conference to show support for areas of the state affected by the hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina and Rita) and 2008 (Gustav and Ike).

A highlight of the conference was a Mission Project held June 9 during which more than 170 conference delegates helped with the rebuilding of 12 storm damaged New Orleans homes.

At the same time, nearly 300 delegates assembled cleaning buckets and packed health kits that will be distributed internationally through the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La. Another large group took bus tours of those areas in the city that were devastated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The mission event also served as a launch for the "Rethink Church" initiative in the Louisiana Annual Conference. Volunteers, wearing bright red "Rethink Church" t-shirts, greeted shoppers on the sidewalk across the boulevard from one of the 12 disaster response work sites. The volunteers distributed iTune cards good for one song download that promote, a new web site to which The United Methodist Church is directing people unaffiliated with the denomination. Volunteers at the work sites also wore the Rethink Church t-shirts.

"And Can It Be?" was the theme for the 2009 Louisiana Annual Conference, with Acts 16:25-26 as the inspirational Scripture for the theme. This year's theme was the first in the quadrennium that supports the Four Areas of Focus, the priority ministry areas of The United Methodist Church and of the Louisiana Conference. The visual logo and conference decor on the stage continued the theme by using doors to represent the many entryways offered by the church to seekers.

A special poster picturing 36 different doors from sanctuaries and church buildings throughout the Louisiana Annual Conference was on sale during the annual conference. Proceeds from the poster sale-which is ongoing-will help to support new church starts.

The memorial and communion service, held June 7 at the Ponchartrain Center, featured Bishop Charles N. Crutchfield, episcopal leader for the Arkansas Conference. An offering of $20,000-dedicated to the pension program for pastors of the Central Conferences--was received during the service.

Nine people were ordained as elders in full connection, three were ordained deacons during the service of ordination, and commissioning held June 8. Bishop William W. Hutchinson presided over the service, which also featured the commissioning of 10 provisional elders and four provisional deacons. Twelve retirees were recognized during conference.

The four areas of focus for The United Methodist Church were lifted up by Provost Don Cottrill and members of a subcommittee of the Vision Team. This year's focus of "creating new places for new people" was central to the Church Extension report given by the Rev. Steve Stephens which highlighted the progress of three new church starts-The Well United Methodist Church, serving Tangipahoa parish; NewSong United Methodist Church, located in Prairieville; and Faith Crossing United Methodist Church in Denham Springs. The Rev. Leslie Stephens, pastor of Faith Crossing, was honored as the recipient of the Harry Denman Award, along with Brooke Dynes, a member of Jefferson United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.

Rethink: Evangelism, a gathering designed to equip laity for effective mission, was promoted during the conference. Slated for Nov. 14, the daylong workshop will feature Tony Campolo as keynote speaker.

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, co-pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Houston, served the annual conference as worship and Bible study leader for June 9 and 10. The Rev. Fred Allen, National Director of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century Initiative, served as keynote speaker at the annual W. T. Handy Luncheon. Jon Stinchcomb, an offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints and a member of Munholland United Methodist Church in Metairie, spoke at the Laity Breakfast.

In keeping with the conference location, guest musician and New Orleans native Allen Toussaint provided music prior to the memorial service on June 7. Aaron Niequist served as music leader for the conference.

Conference delegates voted on the 32 proposed Constitutional Amendments, approving amendments II, III, VI, VII, VIII, IX, XII, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XXII, XXIV, XXVII and XXXI.

Average worship attendance is 42,563, down 1,299. Church school attendance is 17,681, down 940. Membership stands at 123,187, down 2,450.

-Betty Backstrom