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2013 Susquehanna Annual Conference

June 13-15, Grantham, Pa.

United Methodists from 920 churches in central and northeastern Pennsylvania met for the fourth time as the Susquehanna Annual Conference. Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., was the setting on June 13-15, for worship, celebration, holy conferencing, and to celebrate a church "Alive in Christ on a Journey of Faith." Jeremiah J. Park, bishop of the Susquehanna Conference, declared: "God's presence makes our journey worthy. It is a transforming journey." Bishop Park urged his audience in the Opening Celebration to "dream God's dream with your eyes wide open. A dream without deeds is just a daydream. Keep your eyes wide open to hunger, violence, homelessness, disease and 'isms' so you can sing the hope of God's tomorrow, today."

In her sermon during the Remembrance Service, a service of remembrance of those who joined the Church Triumphant during the past year, the Rev. Kathleen Kind said, "Remember the saints with whom we have journeyed. These are our saints ... from whom we have learned so much."

Bishop Mark Webb, Upper New York Conference, and a member of the Susquehanna Conference, was the guest speaker for two morning presentations. "There are four things necessary for walking the journey of faith: grace, spiritual growth, bold living and surrender," he related.

Thirty retiring clergy were honored for their combined service of 640 years, two elders were ordained, and three individuals were commissioned. One person was recognized as an associate member, 18 were licensed as local pastors, and two lay ministers were certified.

Among the actions of the Worshipful Work Sessions:

  1. Clergy and lay members learned that Mission Central touches 2 million people annually through its ministry, that Giant Corporation was its largest corporate donor, and that the focus for Mission Central in the coming year was business development, sustainable funding, and public relations.

  2. The Young People's Ministry Council reported their activity through a video and expressions of 14 youth and young adults.

  3. After 20 years, the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation has $32.5 million under management, an increase of $5.7 million. The foundation has paid out over 2 million dollars in charitable gift annuities.

  4. The Leadership Report, presented by Jon Konieczny, conference lay leader, and the Rev. Mike Bealla, director of connectional ministries, focused on the message of connectionalism. "We are better together." They shared the purpose and process of restructuring the Susquehanna Conference with a shared vision to turn away from making members, and seeking to make disciples by reaching more people, in more places, in more ways for Jesus Christ.

  5. The Rev. Thomas L. Salsgiver, dean of the cabinet, along with the other district superintendents, shared how we are living out the vision of "Better Together" at the Cabinet level.

  6. Dennis Otto, director of congregational development, shared some of the work of that ministry in establishing new churches and faith communities, transforming existing congregations and raising up transformational leaders.

  7. 1,250 campers were registered for the summer, with more expected.

  8. Conference staff reported on the ways in which the Connectional Ministries Office has been resourcing local congregations.

  9. The Rev. G. Edwin Zeiders, chair of the Commission on Child Advocacy, shared the purpose and function of the commission, and plans to continue to investigate and monitor the well-being of children.

  10. Leaders of the Sierra Leone Initiative reported their aim to support the salaries of 56 full-time pastors, and reported that $237,000 has been given in the past three years to empower rather than to create dependency.

  11. The annual conference supported a study proposed by the Divestment Task Force Special Offerings: Stop Hunger Now, $21,062.; Mongolian Mission, $19,482, Youth Service Fund, $5,931, and Mission Central, $16,549.

Membership in the Susquehanna Conference is 154,994, down 2.0 percent from the previous year. Average worship attendance was 64,168, down 1.8 percent. Church school attendance was 23,139, down 5.2 percent.