2014 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
May 28-31, 2014 in Wildwood, N.J.
Arise, shine, for your light has come
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 61:1)
God’s light was shining on United Methodists in Greater New Jersey at the 2014 Annual Conference in Wildwood on May 28 through May 31s as more than 1,500 people registered and attended the conference — a record number for Greater New Jersey. God’s light shines in our congregations, on our leaders and out into our communities and the world.
To kick off the conference, approximately 200 people joined us early on Wednesday, May 28 to participate in mission projects with Stop Hunger Now and A Future with Hope. More than 40,400 packets of food were packed to ship to the developing world and two playhouses were built for families with young children who lost their homes during Superstorm Sandy. One of the playhouses will be given to the family featured in a video shared during conference that highlighted the work of A Future with Hope. (Click here to view the video. http://vimeo.com/88371595)
More than 100 people attended eight workshops covering topics including engaging young people, creating inspiring worship, building leadership in small groups and growing mission.
Key legislation passed by the body includes agreement to explore and expand our mission partnerships to Thailand and Nepal, resolutions to make a stand against poverty in Greater New Jersey and the creation of a Strategic Disciple Making fund to start new congregations and faith communities. The 2015 budget also was passed.
Our conference leaders shared results from our work in 2013 including:
- the number of vital congregations has increased from 14 percent to 31 percent,
- more than 40 percent of churches are growing in worship attendance,
- 14,500 Greater New Jersey United Methodists participated in mission,
- 10 percent more young adults are participating in small groups,
- the conference budget and shared ministry will not increase in 2015,
- the General Council on Finance and Administration presented a plaque to the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference for making 100 percent of its apportionment payments for the seventh straight year
- there was a 33 percent increase in small group participation in our congregations,
- more than 50 percent of our grant allocations were distributed to urban churches,
- the Connectional Table was formed to serve to align committees and agencies,
- the focus of our efforts is on the local church and District Superintendents have been challenged to become missional strategists for our local churches and work in teams with the new Connectional Ministries staff.
Our worship was uplifting and joyful. All of us were renewed during opening worship as we shared the joy of baptism. Bishop Sally Dyck and Bishop Moses Young Hun Kim delivered inspired sermons, and the Rev. Olu Brown from Impact Church in Atlanta led us deeper with teaching on the source of the light and power in all of us. He shared passionately about how to move from a membership church to a relationship church. On Saturday at the Ordination Service, Bishop Schol called us to remember that our light is a reflection of the lost and the least that we lift up around us.
A Future with Hope
A Future with Hope ministry was highlighted in a series of videos and advertisements that were created by a grant from United Methodist Communications. (Click here to view the campaign videos. http://vimeo.com/94551904 ) To date, A Future with Hope has repaired 42 homes, has hosted more than 6,100 volunteers and has set up 14 host sites. An additional 100 homes are scheduled to be completed in 2015. This vital ministry is exemplifying to the world that mission is church by getting people who were devastated by Superstorm Sandy back into their homes. United Methodists are leading by serving as the hands and feet of Jesus throughout the region and their light is shining out to people who have nowhere else to turn for help.
Mission Fund Campaign
More than $126,000 was collected in a special offering for the Mission Fund campaign which now stands at $4 million raised for A Future with Hope, Imagine No Malaria and mission work in our local churches.
Newly Ordained and Commissioned
We celebrated an Order of Commission of Provisional Members, an Ordination of Full Members and a Reception into Full Membership. Eight clergy members were ordained into the Order of Elders of The United Methodist Church and 10 provisional clergy were commissioned as Provisional Members. We also received a new clergy member into Full Membership in our conference. Greater New Jersey needs these leaders to shine their light on their ministry and throughout our conference. These newly ordained, commissioned, and recognized leaders will inspire others, will grow more disciples and will grow more vital congregations. We welcome and support these spiritual leaders on their leadership journey.
Appointments and Retirements
During a service that included the passing of the mantle, we honored the retirement of 30 clergy persons and recognized more than 90 new appointments.
Act of Repentance
One of the highlights of the conference included the Act of Repentance for Native Americans in our conference. Native American elements were woven into the programming throughout the conference and included a Native American celebration during opening worship, a smudging ceremony on the beach, and the distribution of prayer bundles.
Clergy and laity reconnected with old friends and met new ones over lunches, dinners and informal gatherings. Our fellowship included inspiring music by Mark Miller and the Festival Choir and a carnival picnic with a dunk tank set up to raise money for the Mission Fund. More than $3,800 was raised by clergy and laity who paid for a chance to dunk Bishop John Schol and Treasurer John Cardillo while a plane circled over Wildwood carrying the banner “United Methodists stir up faith, hope and justice.”
In an engaging and inspirational address, Bishop Schol laid out the work that is yet to be done including the challenges facing The United Methodist Church:
- Leadership The primary role of the Greater New Jersey Conference is to call, equip and support spiritual leaders They are leaders who will inspire others to arise and shine — leaders who will grow more disciples, grow more vital congregations and lead innovative mission that transforms communities. We need to grow more leaders, particularly lay leaders, so that we grow deeper, wider and farther.
- Spiritual Adaption Faith questions have changed. People know less about the church, Jesus and God. We need to adapt how we communicate, worship and witness in the world so that we connect with the people in our communities. Our number one adaptive challenge is growing our congregations so that the people in the pews look like the people in our communities.
- Unity United Methodists have not been able to find a Christ-like path forward on homosexuality. Our division diminishes our witness of Christ. In light of this challenge, the Bishop pledged to lead to:
- Build bridges among our differences and build bridges to our future,
- Discover the gift of unity that is deeper than our differences,
- Claim grace as our enduring value and let it guide us in our most challenging conversations and decisions, and
- Lead so that theological differences will not impede the mission of the church.
The bishop challenged the conference to honor the Jesus that is in all of us and seek grace space so that the world says of United Methodists in Greater New Jersey, in the midst of differences, see how they love one another.
— Submitted by Carolyn Conover