I love Annual Conference! For some it’s a time for the church to do its business, for others it’s a time to learn, debate, and try to make a difference in the world by making the world a different place. Still for others it is a time of amazing worship and powerful preaching. I love Annual Conference because it’s a time for the church to be the church in a way that can only be experienced when the connection gathers together. It’s a time for the church to proclaim its faith in the midst of the negativity of the world. It’s a time when for a few days we realize that the presence of the Holy Spirit is real and that when God’s spirit moves, wonderful things happen.
I praise God for the graciousness of our pastors and laity who attended and passionately participated through the long hours of plenary sessions that lasted into the nighttime hours … for the spirit of patience and grace expressed as we experienced our first electronic voting marathon despite the technical difficulties that tried to dampen our spirits. I praise God for the marvelous reports celebrating churches of vitality as well as churches that moved from zero growth toward new lives changed and professions of faith made. I thank God for the times of singing and worship that are seldom experienced except when almost 1,600 gather together in one place.
I love the generosity of our people who answer the call to serve on important Boards and committees to make possible the work of the conference. I thank God for the gifts received for Mission Central, UMCOR, and the Bishop’s Partners in Mission. Amazing! For the news that we have contributed over $6 Million to UMCOR over the past ten years. I want to believe that the Connectional Ministries resource packs and the learning opportunities will have been helpful for your church’s disciple-making mission.
I celebrate the wisdom of Bishop Park and the calming presence of our conference secretary, Larry Leland, who together moved us through a daunting agenda with much grace. I give thanks for our conference staff, talented musicians, technical crews, and tellers. And, of course, I give thanks for the staff at Messiah who welcome us so warmly and do their best to make us comfortable. And the list of thank-yous could go on and on. I love Annual Conference because I love being among you all as we travel the journey together in Christ. Nothing more profound than that I offer you these heartfelt words.
And finally, after years of attempting to share an annual chicken joke and often being told no one really wanted to hear one, we voted on it. I am vindicated! While testing the voting devices the question was asked, “Should Mike tell a chicken joke this year?” The results were shown upon the big screen … 54 percent said yes, 44 percent said no.
Unfortunately, the agenda time ran out and many of you (at least 54 percent) were disappointed I was unable to offer the joke … So …
If you are part of those voting no, please do not go on to read the following. If you voted yes, here it is …
Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide.
Another successful Annual Conference. Thanks be to God!