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2017 Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference

 

This year, as we went “Down to the River to Pray,” both thematically and literally at the Christina Riverfront, the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference experienced worship in new ways during its 233rd session.

We combined one of our worship service components (the Celebration of Ministry) into the other services, so we had one worship service each day of Conference. Sitting around tables allowed us to invite more participation in worship, as members served one another communion and participated in the Service of Remembrance by dropping pebbles into bowls of water, reminding us of the impact the deceased members still have on our lives. The visual displays highlighted our theme of “Down to the River to Pray.”

In opening worship, the young people’s dance ministry from Centennial United Methodist Church in Smyrna, called “Greater Is Coming,” led the processional with ribbons. Following the dancers, the Rev. Nancy Greenwell, a deacon, carried the Bible; the Rev. Alexinia Seldon, a licensed local pastor, carried the cross; and Isaiah Embert, a young adult layperson, carried the light. After a call to worship and prayer, we celebrated the different areas of ministry and the ordination anniversaries, with the Rev. Sally Stewart and Karen Stigars-Jones reading the names. We then celebrated the retirees, with a video listing their years of service, their favorite Bible verse, favorite hymn and last appointment. We prayed for them to find continued work for the Lord in their retirement years.

Our music for Opening Worship came under the direction of the Rev. Kevin Benjamin. Following a couple of music selections, Bishop Peggy A. Johnson preached on the passage from Acts 16:13-15, where Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, went down to the river to pray. The Bishop used “P.U.R.P.L.E.” as an acronym for her message. As a response to her message, we shared an offering for our Congo Partnership and enjoyed a dance offering by the young people from Greater Is Coming. Then, we celebrated communion, using a Great Thanksgiving written by the Rev. Michael Johnson, and serving one another around our tables. This opening celebration set the tone for the work of annual conference.

On Tuesday evening, we worshiped at the Ordination Service. We remembered our own baptisms and celebrated the ministry of all the baptized, from which clergy arise. The conference registrar, the Rev. Karen Dize, presented the candidates to be ordained — the Rev. Eric Warner; commissioned — the Revs. Ronald Bell Jr., Blair Hall, David Ingalls and Gary Priddy; and recognized as an associate member — the Rev. Yvonne Paxton. The Men’s Choir from Simpson United Methodist Church ushered in the Holy Spirit through their music, especially their song, “Down to the River to Pray,” featuring Paul Ford as soloist.

Bishop Gregory Palmer, from the Ohio West Episcopal Area, brought the message, reminding us to listen to the voice of God, calling us in the night. He preached from 1 Samuel 3, the calling of Samuel while he served the priest, Eli. Bishops Palmer and Fisher assisted Bishop Johnson in the ordination. After ordaining our elder, commissioning our provisional elders, and recognizing our associate member, we offered our gifts to the Board of Ordained Ministry Scholarship Fund. Then, we remembered Elisha receiving a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, as the Rev. Bo Gordy-Stith read the passage from 2 Kings 2:6-14, and the Rev. Ron Bell Sr. passed the mantle to newly ordained Rev. Eric Warner. Bishop Johnson closed the worship with an Invitation to Candidacy for Ordained Ministry and we had two women respond to God’s call.

Finally, on Wednesday morning, we closed annual conference with our Service of Remembrance. After a call to worship, opening hymn and opening prayer, we received the gift of the Rev. Tina Blake, who danced to “How Great Thou Art.” The Rev. Timothy Duffield read the names of the deceased as the bell tolled in honor of each person. We also invited people around the tables to drop a pebble in the bowl of water on their table if they had been touched by the ministry of the deceased. As the water rippled, we remembered that the person’s life continues to affect our own, even after they are gone. The Rev. Ashley Jones offered her gift of music in song, after we had watched a video with pictures of the deceased. The Rev. Sung Ho Bae brought the message on Paul’s thorn in the flesh, as he shared his personal story of his mother’s suffering. As the choir sang, “Thank You,” Bishop Johnson shared gifts with the families of the deceased. After a closing hymn, benediction and sending forth, our worship and our annual conference, came to an end.

We hope and pray that people experienced the presence of God — our Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit — in our worship at annual conference. We came down to the Christina River at the Chase Center Riverfront, to pray, to worship, to experience community and to dialogue. We hope that people returned filled to overflowing with God’s amazing grace and love.

Memorable points or quotes by the Rev. Terry Teykl, guest speaker:

  • “We’re not a hotel, we are a go-tell.”
  • “Before we are to talk to our neighbor about God, we need to talk to God about our neighbor.”
  • “Inch by inch we draw closer to God's vision when we pray.”
  • “God loves us, not because we’re lovable, but because God is love.”
  • “We all have a name, a need, and a creed. It’s time to start learning some names.”
  • “It's time to stop making God in our image and remember we are made in God's.”

Resolutions that were adopted as presented:

  • RESOLUTION ON DELAWARE CONFERENCE ACADEMY (UMES)
  • RESOLUTION ON THE JOHNSON AMDENDMENT
  •  RESOLUTION TO RETAIN CURRENT GENERAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES
  • RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR NATIVE AMERICANS
  • RESOLUTION IN RECOGNITION OF THE 500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
  • RENTAL/HOUSING ALLOWANCES FOR RETIRED OR DISABLED MINISTERS OF THE PENINSULA-DELAWARE CONFERENCE
  • OFFSET RATE INCREASE FOR HEATH/DENTAL INSURANCE
  •  SETTING THE PRE-1982 PAST SERVICE RATE
  •  2018 COVENANT FUNDING PLAN RESOLUTION

Resolutions that were voted down:

  • REJECTING “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM” AS A MEANS OF DISCRIMINATION

Resolutions that were adopted with amendments:

  • RESOLUTION FOR REDUCING HARM FOR LGBTQ CHILDREN AND YOUTH :
  • RESOLUTION RELATING TO COMPUTER NETWORK AND INTERNET ACCESS POLICY:
  • RESOLUTION TO SET MINIMUM SALARIES FOR CALENDAR YEAR 2018:

Offerings at annual conference:

  • Clergy Assistance Fund: $2,787
  • 10,000 Churches: $1,175
  • Abundant Health Initiative: $8,736
  • Central Congo Partnership: $12,565
  • BOOM Scholarships: $11,441
  • Africa University: $600
  • Imagine No Malaria: $507
  • Volunteers in Mission: $100

Grand Total: $37,911

The current membership is 75,761, down from 78,284 last year. Worship attendance is up to 30,534, a slight increase from last year. Church school attendance in down this year, 7,559, compared to last year’s 8,409. The biggest increase this year was the amount given to missions! This year, we gave increased our giving by 21 percent and gave a total of $3,042,067.

The conference was recognized for paying 100 percent of its general church apportionment for 31 consecutive years.

The 234th Session of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference will convene on May 31-June 2, 2018 or at the call of the president. The 234th Session of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference will return to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

— Doug Lanter, communications coordinator