2010 New England Annual Conference
The 2010 session of the New England Annual Conference
June 17-19, Wenham, Mass.
The New England Annual Conference met in holy conferencing at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., from Thursday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19, 2010.The clergy session was held in the evening of June 16. The theme of "Up River and Down Stream" was woven through the three days as more than 1,200 clergy and lay representatives from around the conference and for the first time our new Vermont members - gathered together to share in worship, business, fellowship, learning and inspiration.
For a final time, the "old" configuration of New England Annual Conference convened briefly onThursday afternoon, as members of existing New England Conference voted on two important resolutions: transferring membership and voting rights for lay members and clergy members from Vermont churches. Having already approved the same two resolutions at the closing session of Troy Annual Conference in May, Vermont delegates looked on as the New England members approved both resolutions unanimously. This rare and historic vote was hailed by Bishop Peter D. Weaver as a tremendous affirmation of our new ministry together.
Following the vote, the old configuration of New England Annual Conference adjourned so that the new and expanded New England Annual Conference could convene, and all of the voting delegates were issued new voting cards representing our single, unified Conference.
Honored guest The Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes then opened the Conference with his keynote address, affirming our need to be unified in our common love for Christ and in our mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world, while stressing the value of our diversity; of being united but not ubiquitous. "The Holy Spirit is like Clorox 2," he said. "It cleanses, but does not wash out colors. In fact, colors shine brighter."
In a second session on Friday morning, Dr. Holmes led an interactive series of questions and comments from the gathered body. He acknowledged the challenges facing our churches and our denomination, but saying that "our best year is the one ahead of us, as we are invited to claim the brand new future God is offering."
Highlights of Annual Conference:
The lives, and new eternal life, of departed pastors, spouses, and active lay members of the conference were affirmed and remembered. During a memorial service that included the different views of the River of Life, worship leaders named those who have crossed that river this year; clergy and spouses who have passed away, as well as churches that have closed and places where congregations are letting go of buildings and established church settings to embrace new ministries. Family members of those remembered added water to the custom-built fountain at the front of the chapel. Through sacrament and song, the communion service led us into celebration of Christ's victory over death.
For the first time this year, the retirees were honored with personalized videos shown throughout the Conference Session. The retiring class gathered on stage as the Bishop led the body in a prayer of thanksgiving for the witness and service to God and God's church rendered by these leaders.
Seventeen persons were recognized as newly licensed local pastors, one person was ordained as deacon, seven were ordained elders and one was recognized as an elder, one was commissioned for the work of an deacon, and six were commissioned for the work of an elder.
During the ordination service, $3,676 was received for the Bishop's Discretionary Fund. Other offerings received during the conference session included $3,877 for the Conference "Leap Forward in Mission" initiative, $7,823 for youth ministries through the CCYM Check Challenge, and $5,467 for Haiti relief - all totaling more than $20,843 in conference giving.
The Ziegler Preaching Award was presented to the Rev. Dr. Ruth Merriam of Church on the Cape in Cape Porpoise, Maine. In her sermon, the Rev. Merriam reflected on the difference between a thermometer, which measures and reacts to temperature, and a thermostat, which controls temperature. Using this metaphor, she invited the ssembly to decide whether we are "thermometer people" or "thermostat people."
Following the reaffirmation of the New England Annual Conference commitment to combating racism, the chairperson of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race, Lisa Fagerstrom, invited the assembly into small groups to discuss and reflect on our ongoing anti-racism work.
The Annual Conference tech team helped us establish wider connections during our conference sessions.For the first time, conference sessions were broadcast over the Internet in a live webcast. The webcast was viewed 1,996 times over the three conference days. In another conference first, we "Skyped" with missionaries Belinda Forbes in Nicaragua, and Jeremias Francas in Mozambique.
In business, the conference:
Approved an amended 2010 budget of $6,648,548 reflecting the addition of ministries and mission shares from the Vermont churches,
Approved a 2011 budget of $7,265,451,including nearly than $1.8 million for the general church and World Missions;
Approved 43 resolutions; including a resolution calling for an end to the Korean War, a call to reaffirm the sacred dignity and rights of undocumented immigrants, the establishment of a Board of Congregational and Community Development, and a resolution updating the conference's clergy sexual misconduct policy which has been in effect since 1992.
Membership in the previous configuration of the New England Conference stands at 86,094, down 2,706 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 7,784, down 835. Worship attendance stands at 30,692, down 662, however, while worship attendance did decrease overall, 188 churches reported an increase in worship attendance from the previous year.
With the Vermont churches included, the New England Annual Conference now stands at 97,979 members, 35,280 worship attendance and 8,583 church school attendance.
Additional information and news from the 2010 Annual Conference session can be found at www.neumc.org/acnews.
- Alexx Wood,
Communications Director, New England Annual Conference