The big annual meeting for leaders of Holston churches happens again this Sunday, June 14-17. As veterans of The Lake Junaluska Experience know, some things are as sure as death and taxes. It will be hot. The food will be bad. The Sending Forth service will lift you up.
Is there anything you don't know about Annual Conference? Maybe. Let's see.
1. The cafe in Harrell Center is closed. While some members like to skedaddle to the Terrace or off-campus for lunch, others counted on getting a quick sandwich at the Harrell Center cafe. The cafe is closed this year, but an option is to buy lunch outside Stuart Auditorium from local vendors: Bojangles, Coffee Zone, or Smoking Pig Barbecue.
2. Water bottles are still free. The conference will provide a limited number of free bottled water during the afternoon breaks, and the Ice Cream Social on Tuesday is still free. However, budget cuts have required the elimination of complimentary coffee, juice, and popcorn. You can still buy coffee in the morning from a local vendor outside Stuart Auditorium. And if you truly love your neighbor, please only take one water bottle per person.
3. Somebody is watching. Representatives from COSROW (Commission on the Status and Role of Women) and RRC (Religion and Race Committee) will be "monitoring" sessions for participation levels of female, male, racial/ethnic, lay, clergy, and youth/young adults. They'll also be noting use of inclusive language and respect given to diverse categories of speakers by officiators and other participants. Statistics from these observations will be published in The Call.
4. We're missing some folks. The Service of Remembrance on Sunday night will acknowledge a record number of clergy deaths in the past year: a total of 30, including 24 elders, one associate, and five local pastors. "I checked back 30 years and the next closest year was 2002, when we had 25 deceased," says Sheila Knowles of the Clergy Services office. "Most years we have an average of 10 to 15."
5. We're missing some others, too. Statistics that will be reported to United Methodist News Service immediately following Annual Conference show that Holston dropped in membership, worship, and Sunday school attendance. Membership stands at 166,805, down 326 from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 71,677, down 265. Church school attendance stands at 38,034, down 732, according to Sandra Ruebush Seay, database administrator.
6. The youth are selling out. The Conference Council on Youth Ministries will be showing off multi-colored water bottles, which they hope you will want for an unspecified donation (but it would be nice if it's generous). The money will go for Youth Service Fund.
7. Some members will go clubbing after hours. Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center is offering a special rate for golfers who want to stay an extra night after Annual Conference. For Wednesday, June 17 only: $36 per room, any facility. Special rate for 18 holes of golf with cart: $16. Call 1-800-222-4930 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. The Bishop will not be virtual. For the last several years, Change for Children has sponsored a "Walk for Change" stroll around the lake, and for the last two years, members could get their photos made with a life-size replica of Bishop James Swanson. This year, the Children's Ministry Team has new ideas, and they hope you'll visit the tent on Tuesday to see. (Bring your Change for Children offering when you come.) If you see the Bishop around this year, remember that he can actually hear what you're saying.
9. We've got you covered online. Daily news reports from The Call will be posted online at www.holston.org each morning, with a final AC report made available by Friday, June 19. Proceedings may also be viewed through live streaming at http://www.lakejunaluska.com/streaming.aspx
10. You should eat a big breakfast on Wednesday. Annual Conference is scheduled to conclude earlier this year. The Sending Forth service is expected to begin at 11 a.m. (instead of 2 p.m.) and to wrap up before lunch. However, as an executive conference staff member was overheard to say, "It's going to be a late lunch."
See you at the lake!