From the June 11 daily onsite edition, provided for participants of the Holston Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Uptempo praise music from Crossfire got members into their seats 20 minutes before worship began -- and then got them out of their seats a few minutes later as the spirit took over -- on the first night of the 2012 Holston Annual Conference.
The band from Burks UMC in Chattanooga played “Revive Us Again,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Say Say,” drawing members in and away from their conversations outside Stuart Auditorium.
Also during the evening, Bishop James Swanson and Conference Lay Leader Mary Ruth Richards spoke about the denominational “Vital Congregations” program.
Richards shared how her congregation at Ketron Memorial UMC in Kingsport prayed for children and were tested by the arrival of rowdy children from the neighborhood. Prayer to subdue them led her to realize that God was saying, “Mary Ruth, you may just get one or two opportunities to lead these children to Christ.”
Swanson said he was frequently questioned about the need for so many measurements and numbers as Holston congregations prepared their “Call to Action” reports last year.
“Every number represents a story that needs to be told and the power of the church is in the stories,” Swanson said.
Before celebrating Holy Communion, Swanson said that he hoped churches would “get excited about the vitality that’s already there.”
“I hope you will get determined that somehow a fire can burn even in this place, in your church, in such a way that the whole community can catch on fire and we can change this world. I dare to believe it. Do you dare to believe it? Do you dare to believe it?”
Earlier in the day, members drove through traffic and rain showers to arrive in time to register and be present for their 6 p.m. Clergy and Laity Sessions.
Alicia and Danny Cass arrived early at Stuart Auditorium to assist their New Life UMC pastor, the Rev. Sarah Slack, who designs and creates the altars and other settings for Annual Conference.
The couple said they were looking forward to the Tuesday night celebration of Bishop Swanson’s ministry and to hear him preach again at the Wednesday Sending Forth Service. “This is going to be a good one,” Alicia Cass said.
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- Complete Monday newspaper (PDF), page 1
- Complete Monday newspaper (PDF), page 2