From the June 12 daily onsite edition, provided for participants of the Holston Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Annual Conference recognized Vietnam veterans on Monday, June 11, and took an offering for victims of the war chemical Agent Orange. They celebrated the largest-ever collection of supplies for Zimbabwe and Liberia and blessed the trucks carrying them to the coast for shipping overseas.
Leaders of Holston churches also heard stories about how the conference budget supports individuals and ministries that are not stand-alone successes, but the product of numerous, woven experiences and connections. They remembered 36 clergy and spouses who went on before them with handbells or smart phone apps during the Memorial Service.
During the late afternoon and evening sessions, the Annual Conference heard the Rev. Drew Dyson speak on the “missional imagination” and participated in the Service of Ordination and Commissioning.
The Rev. Jerry Russell, senior pastor at Fairview United Methodist Church, shared the need for aid in Vietnam, 40 years after war left scars on the landscape and people. As members gave offerings to the General Board of Global Ministries’ “Victims of Agent Orange Project,” names of Holston’s Vietnam veterans scrolled on the auditorium screen.
Russell recalled generous offerings of years past and pleaded, “Holston, do it again. Please, in the name of God, do it again.” The offering total will be announced today; the goal is $150,000.
Danny Howe, chair of the Missions Ministry Team, announced totals of food, health, school supplies, and more collected by churches in recent weeks for Liberia and Zimbabwe.
“This smells so good in so many ways,” Howe said, explaining that for the first time, collections overwhelmed two 40-foot trailers and a third, 20-foot trailer had to be ordered.
“I would encourage us next year to think of new and different ways to allow our children and young folks to simply share what we take for granted,” Howe said, noting that congregational members of all ages participate in the annual project.
Howe said a mission team to Vietnam would be organized to depart in November. More information will soon be distributed through district offices.
Howe also recognized the May 30 death of the Rev. Herbert Zigbuo, former missionary in Liberia.
Vital Congregations reports
? Charles Stewart, Council on Finance and Administration president, said the 2013 “narrative budget” is temporarily necessary as Holston continues to adjust to a tithe-based apportionment, recent General Conference decisions, and a “Vital Congregations” emphasis. “What we’re asking for is patience,” Stewart said. “Give us time to do this difficult work.” The vote on the projected $9.55 million budget is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The 2013 line-item budget is expected to be completed later this year.
?The Annual Conference approved a bevy of reports after a telethon-style presentation of ministry success stories based on the six “drivers” of Vital Congregations, moderated by Discipleship Team Chair Deb Holly. The drivers are (1) effective pastoral leadership, (2) small groups, (3) authentic worship, (4) spiritually engaged laity, (5) living the United Methodist way, and (6) congregational vitality and missional outreach.
? Thomas Hammontree shared how nurturing and learning experiences at Kodak UMC, conference camps, Resurrection, and Discovery led him to recognize a call to ministry. “I never knew it was going to happen ... God tugged on my heart,” Hammontree said to applause.
? Gary James of Hurst UMC, Chattanooga, spoke of how six congregations had found new strength and relationships by forming Mount Moriah Parish. “Numbers count, we’re engaged, and we’re vital,” James said. The parish includes Hurst, Randolph, Wells Chapel, Eastdale Village, Stanley, and Bethlehem-Wiley.
? Evan Nester of Out of Box Worship Center at First Hillsville UMC told of using two-for-one fast-food hamburgers to invite people to church where they can then be led to Christ. “We treat evangelism like it’s rocket science, but it’s not.”
? Susanna Lopez said that her congregation, Ministry of the Holy Spirit at First Sevierville UMC, is the fast-growing Hispanic ministry in the denomination. First Gatlinburg UMC is beginning a new Hispanic ministry, she said.
? Becky Hall announced the Congregational Development Ministry Team has devoted $100,000 to build four new churches in South Sudan, now in progress.
? Jim Wheeler of the Board of Trustees announced that more than $1 million of “surplus property” has been sold for benefit of districts, new church development, and revitalization.
? Wheeler also reported that a home built in 2007 has been purchased in Maryville for $355,000 to serve as a bishop’s residence. Sale of the current bishop’s residence in Knoxville, appraised at $385,000-$410,000, is planned.
? Rev. Danny Hensley said the Commission on Equitable Compensation recommended a 4 percent increase in minimum salary levels for 2013, the first increase since 2009.
? Moses Kumar, general secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration, included Holston in his round of personal visits to thank 10 annual conferences for paying 100 percent of their general church apportionments.
? Del Holley, head of the General Conference delegation, reported on the proceedings of the April 24-May 4 event in Tampa, Fla. He recognized the April 24 death of “a faithful servant to God and a faithful servant of this conference,” delegate Jay Garrison. (Download complete report.)
? Holley announced that alternate delegates Wilma Snyder and Vic Dingus will be participating in the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference on July 18-20, following the loss of Garrison and the resignation of another delegate.
? The Rev. David Graves, Holston’s nominee for bishop at the upcoming Southeastern Jurisdictional election, received a standing ovation of support from Annual Conference members.
? John Eldridge was nominated by Bishop James Swanson as chancellor, following the loss of Chancellor Garrison. Eldridge is a member of Church Street UMC, son of the late Rev. Ed Eldridge, and current chair of the Resolutions and Petitions Committee.
? The Rev. Grady Winegar preached at the Memorial Service: “A Christian ought to be a hallelujah from head to foot, not on our own strength, but on the strength of the one who said ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’”
? Dyson, chair in evangelism and assistant professor of practical theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, said being missional is “akin to bringing chaos and joy to unsuspecting people in unexpected places.” He encouraged members to use their “missional imaginations” to create “the best day ever” for any group of people -- schoolkids, nursing home residents, prisoners -- “not because they’re ever going to come to your church but just because you love them.”
? The Rev. David Tabor, Tazewell District superintendent, said physician Hughes Melton had convinced him to exercise and eat healthfully as part of the Board of Pensions’ “Healthy Holston” plan. Tabor has lost 40 pounds and his blood pressure has improved from 205/108 to 120/70.
? The Rev. Kim Cape, general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, told last night’s ordinands they should “go in obedience to where you are sent. Christ is the savior, not you, and you will be reminded of that over and over again in your ministry.”
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