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2011 West Ohio Annual Conference

West Ohio Annual Conference
June 6 - 9, 2011, Lakeside, Ohio

The 42nd session of the West Ohio Annual Conference began with music from the Marty Ford Experience, ushering in vibrant praise and a spirit of celebration that would continue throughout a week of "Unleashing New Life." For the third year in a row, the annual conference focused on one of the four areas of focus this year, Creating New Places for New People.

Resident Bishop Bruce R. Ough, in his Episcopal Address, focused on the impact of a transformed life that comes from giving oneself to Christ. He implored congregants to break free from restraints that would prevent the empowering of believers to share their stories and give new life to others. "What people want," Bishop Ough expressed, "are transformed lives and an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Faith is about transformed lives and about transforming lives."

The Rev. Vance P. Ross challenged attendees. "We gotta recognize what it means to say we really met the Lord," he urged, because "God is looking for a people and God is looking for a church that would dare to be unleashed in new life." He encouraged listeners to take the Message past the altar railing and step out to reach the lives of others, refusing to be bound within the church.

The Rev. Martha Grace Reese supported the strengthening of evangelism in the congregation, pointing out that many churches need to focus outside the church walls. "The really fascinating thing," Reese said of successful churches she had researched, was that they "have this immense motivation. They care. They have a sense of how powerful and majestic and real and glorious God is," which drives them to take steps to impact their communities for Jesus Christ.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost," The Rev. Dr. Terry Teykl quoted from Luke 19. Teykl spoke of the need and passion for reaching the lost and unbelieving. Teykl challenged everyone to create a list of ten people who have no relationship with Christ and pray fervently for God to move them to make a decision to believe.

The Rev. Joyce Fry, assistant to the bishop, also gave her own "God story" in her retiring address, showing how, through any experience, God can bring forth a blessing to others. "I have given my life to this ministry," she concluded, "because I believe that the way God has shown us through Jesus Christ is the very best way in the world to live life and that God wants everyone-everyone-to have abundant life through Jesus Christ."

During the Celebration of Life and Ministry Service, the bishop encouraged the 13 provisional elders being commissioned, and the two deacons and 19 elders being ordained, to hold the heart of the Father with a sense of urgency, extravagant love and relentless searching for the lost. Forty-five retirees were honored for their sacrifice and service, and the bell tolled 24 times for the Clergy Roll of the Victorious.

Gifts of the people totaled $159,000 to the Love First Miracle Offering, "helping to create the settings for unleashing new life," starting new congregations in each of the West Ohio Conference's four global mission partners, as well as three churches within West Ohio.

Throughout the week, Breakthrough Ministry videos were played, telling stories of how churches across the conference are transforming lives. Copies of all the videos, including daily conference updates, can be found on the West Ohio YouTube Channel.

Eleven intensive workshops on ways to create new places for new people were held during the week as well as a series of "summer shorts," practical hour-long courses on enhancing ministry.

All elected delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences were invited to the stage, and the entire congregation lifted hands and prayed for God's wisdom and guidance in their newly chosen roles.

Recommendations adopted at Annual Conference included a call to align UMC investments with resolutions on Israel/Palestine, guiding principles for the State of Ohio biennium budget and a call to missional alignment for our churches.

With the closing of business at annual conference, attendees were dismissed and the words of their litany directed them on their way, reminding that "God it is who leads us on the way and makes of us companions in the work. Where God goes, we go too."

Membership stands at 200,045, down 5,844 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 112,442, down 3,639. Church school attendance stands at 35,785 down 1,244.

- Lisa Streight, Director of Communications,
West Ohio Conference

Daily written summaries, videos and a gallery of photos can be found on the Unleashing New Life website.