If you've been to one, you've been to them all? Well, maybe not.
Just this spring, church leaders organized a Special Called Session in Knoxville a full week before the regularly scheduled session in Lake Junaluska, throwing some folks a curveball (not the least, those conference staff members).
Removing the Clergy Session and Ordination Service from the June 8-11 session in itself provides breathing space for the normally stuffy AC schedule. Here are a few other changes that won't leave you gasping in disbelief, but they might give you pause.
1. Go to Bethea first. Located just inside the entrance at Lake Junaluska Assembly, the newly constructed Bethea Welcome Center should be your first stop. Going by your hotel room first? Don't. If you're staying on campus in a hotel or cottage, your keys are waiting for you at Bethea, along with your registration packet.
2. Ice cream in the dark. Remember when the Ice Cream Social happened in the evening, and then there were all those years of cold refreshment in the hot sun? This year, the freebie freeze is back in black: Tuesday, after worship, about 8:30 p.m.
3. Actual Denman awards. Last year, a dearth in nominations resulted in suspension of the Denman Evangelism Awards for 2007. This year, there are evangelism honors for both clergy and lay members, and for the second time in Holston history, a youth member will receive an award.
4. Ten for teens. The first-ever graduates of Holston's Youth Ministry Institute will be recognized this year – 10 of them – along with winners of the Denman and Francis Asbury awards, on Wednesday.
5. Direct invoicing. "Direct billing" was introduced as a possibility for the Holston Annual Conference in 2003, but was later shelved. This year, a Direct Invoicing Task Force will present a report in Stuart Auditorium on Wednesday morning. A "listening post" was scheduled, after the "Book of Reports" was printed, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Terrace Auditorium.
6. $$$ on Wednesday. The major offering for the annual conference missions focus usually happens on Tuesday. This year, the big push for Sudan ($125,000) will occur during the Sending Forth Service on Wednesday.
7. Simmer down. It's not a pre-General Conference or a pre-pre General Conference year, so some of the heat and controversy related to resolutions, petitions, and elections has lessened. This year, only four resolutions have been submitted, as printed on pages 163-166 of the "Book of Reports."
8. Beach party. That's the theme for this year's "Walk for Change" effort on Tuesday (as in, Bring Every Active Child Hope). Yes, you will see Bishop Swanson in a flowered shirt. Yes, you may buy a specially themed water bottle for $5, as long as supplies hold out.
9. Schedule changes. A couple of more post-printing changes to the "Book of Reports" schedule: The General Conference report has been moved from Tuesday morning to Monday at 11:35 a.m. A report from the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools has been added to the 10:35 a.m. Wednesday session.
10. AIR CONDITIONING? According to Jimmy L. Carr of the Southeastern Jurisidiction Administrative Council, it's a possibility. (Note to newbies: Stuart Auditorium is typically not air conditioned, and it gets real hot in there on afternoons in June.) Speaking to The Call on June 4, Carr said the Salvation Army had recently donated three 20-ton cooling units, previously used for hurricane disaster response in Mississippi. A 53-foot semi-truck hauled the units from Bilox to Lake Junaluska. At press time, the Lake Junaluska staff was hoping to offer air conditioning to Holston, "along with several other improvements," said Carr.
See you at the Lake.