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2012 New England Annual Conference

New England Annual Conference
June 6-9, 2012, Wenham, Mass.

The New England Annual Conference met in holy conferencing at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., from Wednesday, June 6 through Saturday, June 9, 2012. The clergy session was held in the evening of June 6. The theme of "Catch the Wave: Cruising to Congregational Vitality" was woven through the sessions as more than 1,200 clergy and lay representatives from around the conference gathered together to share in worship, business, fellowship, learning and inspiration.

Bishop Peter D. Weaver gave a state of the church address which focused on congregational vitality. Five churches were highlighted as just a few examples of some of the diverse and vital ministries in our New England Conference. Bishop Weaver shared videos and stories of some of the transformational ministries happening in these churches, and invited the gathered community to reflect on strengthening their own vitality and transformational ministries in their local settings.

Highlights of Annual Conference:

  • The lives and new eternal life of departed pastors, spouses and lay members of the conference were affirmed and remembered. The memorial service theme of Glimpsing New Horizons celebrated their lives, and Bishop Cliff Ives gave a moving memorial reflection. The service closed with the congregation singing For All the Saints and transitioned by continuing the theme of sailing to new horizons with Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.

  • Twenty-two retirees were recognized, and Bishop Weaver led the body in an expression of thanksgiving for their witness and service to God and God's church. Some retirees chose to share reflections on their years of ministry through short videos, which were shown throughout the conference session.

  • At the Thursday evening commissioning and ordination service, two were commissioned for the work of an elder, four were ordained elders, and one who was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church was recognized as an elder. Newly licensed local pastors were also recognized. Bishop Weaver preached, inviting all to reflect on their call as disciples, and sharing a message of surrendering our lives to Christ.

  • The theme of congregational vitality was manifested in a focus on congregational development, new church starts, and signs of vitality in the ministries of our local congregations. Video stories of some of the transformational ministries in our local congregations were shown throughout the three days, and are now available at http://www.neumc.org/ac2012.

  • In the 2nd Annual "Miles for Mission" 5K fun run there were 65 runners, walkers and strollers who raised more than $3,500 to benefit Imagine No Malaria. An additional $4,455.87 was raised for Imagine No Malaria in a special offering taken during the conference. Other offerings included $4,225 for the Bishop's Discretionary Fund, and a new Mission Scholarship Fund created to honor Bishop Weaver in his retirement collected $8,505.21 during conference.

  • The Ziegler Preaching Award was presented to the Rev. Gary Richards, currently serving New Covenant UMC in East Hartford, Conn. Rev. Richards moved the congregation with his stirring message of how Jesus continues to call us to engage in social justice work.

  • For the third year in a row, the annual conference tech team offered a live webcast of conference sessions to extend conference experience beyond those attending on-site. The webcast was viewed 3,252 times over the three conference days.

In business, the conference:

  • Approved a 2013 budget of $7,510,615, including a "connectional mission share" for churches unable to pay 100 percent of apportioned amounts;

  • Endorsed two Episcopal candidates: Rev. Aida Irizarry-Fernandez, and Rev. Martin McLee.

  • Approved 32 resolutions including: a renewed call for a for a peace treaty between Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and USA; a process for extending a "mission share jubilee" to churches meeting certain criteria; a new set of conference Advance Specials; several amendments to Conference Policies and Procedures, in particular parsonage guidelines for local churches; and a resolution inviting and encouraging churches to join in the denomination-wide Imagine No Malaria effort.

Conference membership stands at 93,658, down 2,209 from the previous year. Worship attendance is at 32,664, down 1,033 from the previous year. Sunday school attendance is 7,174, down 511. Despite decreased membership and worship attendance, all numbers related to mission increased, including:

  • 361 additional people participating in mission teams,

  • an increase of $100,000 given to mission related causes, and

  • an additional 478 new ministries for social justice, outreach and mercy reported by local churches.

  • Additional information and news from the 2012 annual conference session can be found at www.neumc.org/ac2012.

- Alexx Wood, Communications Director, New England Annual Conference