2013 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
Greater New Jersey Conference
May 30-June 1, Wildwoods Convention Center, Wildwood, N.J.
Theme: "A Future with Hope"
Officiating bishop: Bishop John Schol
The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference session was held May 30-June 1 in Wildwood, N.J. The conference was moved to the coast to be in solidarity with those affected by Superstorm Sandy. More than 113 church properties and 270,000 homeowners had damage because of Superstorm Sandy. The move affirmed the commitment to providing relief and recovery to those impacted by Superstorm Sandy through the conference's A Future with Hope ministry.
More than 100 clergy and laity gathered a day early at the Wildwoods Convention Center to participate in two mission projects: (1) assembling more than 100 flood buckets and 150 health kits for UMCOR and (2) packaging 20,000 meals for the Stop Hunger Now.
The Rev. Joy Moore served as the conference's guest preacher, and the Rev. Karoline M. Lewis centered the conference each morning as the guest Bible study leader. Recognizing the tough times Greater New Jersey has experienced through Superstorm Sandy in recent months and in the struggles faced in all of our communities daily, Moore offered a message of hope: "The day after tomorrow is not always a storm; sometimes it is the silver lining in the rainclouds."
The conference adopted three pieces of legislation that has set the vision and mission for the future: a strategic ministry plan, a mission fund campaign to raise $12 million, and the building of a new conference center.
The strategic ministry plan will revitalize, grow and more effectively resource local congregations in an effort to reverse the declining attendance, baptism and membership trends in Greater New Jersey, transforming the 14 percent vitality rate to having 41 percent of the congregations highly vital by 2018. Celebrating the approval of the plan, the Rev. Bobbie Rambach, co-chair of the Strategic Ministry Task Force, said: "The plan is all about resourcing congregations for mission, vitality and making disciples. We look forward to supporting the ministries that will be relevant and will transform lives in our communities and globally."
The Greater New Jersey Conference also approved A Future with Hope Mission Fund Campaign to raise $12 million, which will be used among three ministries:
- $7 million will be used for Sandy Recovery through A Future with Hope Inc.
- $2 million will help eliminate deaths by malaria in Africa through support of Imagine No Malaria, and
- $3 million will connect local churches with their communities through missions.
The campaign will kick off in the fall of 2013. Rich Hendrickson, stewardship coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference, looks forward to the great ministries and lives that will be changed through support of the mission fund. "I'm excited for the significant financial resources that will be made available to create life-changing ministries in our local communities, Sandy recovery and Imagine No Malaria in Africa."
There were many celebrations of all that God is doing through Greater New Jersey United Methodists at this year's annual conference. Among the many celebrations were:
- A Future with Hope Inc., a Sandy relief and recovery ministry. Five churches and seven parsonages were left uninhabitable. In the face of the storm, United Methodists joined together to provide basic human needs, comfort, shelter, and support to the affected communities.
In the last seven months, Greater New Jersey United Methodists have:
- Provided relief and support for more than 80,000 people immediately after the storm
- Provided day and night shelter for more than 8,000 people
- Begun repair work on ten homes
- Welcomed more than 3,000 volunteers
- Raised $7 million toward a $21.8 million goal
As Greater New Jersey moves into the recovery stage, the conference is committed to repairing 300-500 homes, coordinating the efforts of 15,000-20,000 volunteers, providing case management for those affected and raising $21.8 million to support the ministry.
Bobbie Ridgley, director of A Future with Hope, Inc., is looking forward to the great things ahead: "It is a great opportunity for churches to connect with local communities and make a difference in the lives of people in need. I'm excited for the work ahead and to connect with our local churches."
- The ordination of seven elders and one deacon and commissioning of seven provisional members. The Rev. Shawn Callender Hogan, chair of the board of ordained ministry, celebrates "that God continues to powerfully speak in our midst and that by grace, these wonderful children of God have responded. This is a day of joy!" The Rev. Lin Smallwood, registrar for provisional candidates, is "thrilled to see the composition of the new candidates; the youth and diversity are a great representation of Greater New Jersey."
- Wings of the Morning plane blessed by Bishop Schol. Over the last several years, the
churches of the Greater New Jersey Conference supported the Wings of the Morning Aviation ministry through prayer and financial contributions. Last year, the hope of a new plane moved beyond a dream to a reality when a refurbished plane was purchased to help transport vital supplies to remote areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Greater New Jersey Conference raised $250,000 for the Wings of the Morning plane.
Pilot Gaston Ntambo was overwhelmed by the generosity of Greater New Jersey and other conferences that have supported the ministry. "These are 'wings of hope' for so many. I cannot count how many lives have been saved. They're not just people - they are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, whole villages. These are people who are hopeless and helpless, but they know that they can come to the United Methodists to find the hope and help they need." In a special moment, Bishop Schol blessed the plane as it flew past the Wildwoods Convention Center and a crowd of cheering United Methodists at the conference.
There were two key addresses during the annual conference session: the State of the Church Address given by Bishop John Schol and the Leadership Report presented by six elected leaders. Both reports celebrated all God is doing through the Greater New Jersey Conference and identified the challenges the conference faces.
"It's time for a courageous hope." Those words by Bishop John Schol resonated loud and clear to the attendees of the conference. Schol praised the Greater New Jersey United Methodists for their courage, determination and hope throughout the last year. Despite experiencing one of the most devastating storms in New Jersey history, United Methodists pulled together to support one another and their communities.
Schol and the leaders celebrated the resilient relief and recovery efforts and highlighted some of the inspiring ministries happening in our churches such as: a new Hispanic ministry, multiple second church campuses, large confirmation classes, feeding programs, ministry with the poor, growing worship services, relevant youth and young adult programs, successful small groups, and engagement in global missions. These ministries show great leadership by moving beyond the challenges faced in Greater New Jersey and toward the goal of growing more vital congregations. Schol challenged the attendees to reshape their ministry for strong spiritual leadership, relevancy in their community, mission, diversity, inclusion and making new disciples. "Challenging times call for big visions, bold actions and courageous disciples. This is no time to shrink behind our challenges. The journey is long and I invite you to share in the journey."
Number of people retired: 30
Membership stands at 92,403, down 1 percent from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 47, 311, down 1 percent.
Church school attendance stands at 13,697, down 8 percent.
- Heather Fullerton, media specialist for the Greater New Jersey Conference