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2010 Alaska Missionary Conference

Alaska Missionary Conference

June 4-6, 2010, Anchorage, Alaska

The Alaska United Methodist Conference held their annual meeting June 4-6, after having an all-day "Rethink Church" workshop on June 3. The Conference was held at Anchor Park United Methodist Church in Anchorage. Bishop Grant Hagiya presided. At 12:54 p.m. June 4, we began with the singing of "And Are We Yet Alive."

This year's conference was, in the words of our Conference Superintendent, David Beckett, "inspiring, worshipful, respectful, funny, Spirit-filled, challenging, and joyful."

The main action taken at conference this year was a shift in how we understand the direction of our conference. After more than a year of praying and planning and meeting and dreaming, we adopted a new vision for the conference. We began by identifying five top priorities as we move forward: revitalization of churches, new church development, stewardship, Native outreach, and youth and young adults. Next, we adopted a vision theme to help guide us: "20/20 VISION: LEADING TO GOD'S NEW HORIZONS."

We pray that this provides us with a timeline/benchmark of the year 2020 with nine years to be living into the calling that God has set before us. Moreover, we adopted a series of questions to guide our churches in exploring God's calling for their own ministry settings along with a promise of educational materials to come. A new logo for the Annual Conference was adopted at this time as well.

We spent some time in discussing how we would financially support this decision and have set aside funds as we move in this new direction. Furthermore, our support of First Samoan United Methodist Church demonstrated our willingness to deal with difficult issues in order to advance God's kingdom in our midst.

As many conferences and churches struggle with financial issues, we worked hard to pass a budget for 2011 with virtually no increase over the previous year. We were successful. We also struggled with health-care costs and resolved to shift some of the burden from churches to pastors. These were not easy discussions. All along, we had to grapple with what it means to be a church involved in missions while dealing with a new level of economic uncertainty.

It should be noted that, during one of the more entertaining breaks in our business, Bishop Hagiya beat the Rev. Beckett in a free-throw shooting contest that raised funds for Alaska Children's Services. It was quite a battle, and many in the conference can't wait for a rematch.

We look forward to an Annual Conference session in Homer, Alaska, next year.

Membership in the Alaska United Methodist Conference as of Dec. 31, 2009, stands at 3,733, down 132 (3 percent) from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 2,243 for the 28 churches, down 56 (2.5 percent) from 2008. Church school attendance stands at 874 per Sunday, down 98 (11 percent) per Sunday across the Alaska United Methodist Conference.

- Jim Doepken