"Who are you?" asks Bishop Swanson at annual guy gathering (and the answer is not your job)

"Who are you?" asks Bishop Swanson at annual guy gathering (and the answer is not your job)

With a new format that was briefer and required less traveling for most participants, "Calling All Men" finished its fourth year with positive feedback and total attendance of 369.

The annual gathering for men, sponsored by the Holston Conference United Methodist Men, was held on two subsequent Saturdays in Kingsport and Knoxville, a departure from its August 2007 beginning as a two-day event in a Sevierville resort.

"Our goal is to bring men to Christ," said Mike Smith, president of the Holston United Methodist Men. "So our design team talked about what might be best to get men to come into an atmosphere that would not be intimidating to a man who does not go to church but would also be acceptable to men of the church."

Calling All Men was held Aug. 20 at Christ Fellowship Church in Kingsport and Aug. 27 at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville. Attendance was 158 and 211, respectively.

All 12 districts were represented including Knoxville with 33 participants, Maryville with 29, Kingsport with 27, Chattanooga with 26, and Abingdon with 22.   

Morning speakers included the Rev. Greg Depriest, lead pastor at Christ Fellowship, and Bob Kesling, University of Tennessee director of broadcasting.

Workshops included "How to Help Men Worship" with the Rev. Jeremy LaDuke; "How to be Christian in a Secular World" with the Rev. Randy Frye and the Rev. David Graves; and "Addiction: Unmanagable" with the Rev. Mark Bebee.

Bishop James Swanson led a clergywomen's small group and also preached at concluding worship with Holy Communion.

Swanson said that men should contemplate the answer to, "Who are you?" The answer is not what you do for a living, he said, but what God created you to be.

"You are created in the image and likeness of God, and you are created to give God praise," he said.

Most of the world's troubles -- budget deficits, war, violence -- are related to the inner wars that people fight because they don't know who they are, he said.

"These are tough times, times when men's hearts are challenged. It's a time when men, like the church, has to decide what are the things that are most important?"

  • See Bishop Swanson's blog post on Calling All Men.  

"Bishop Swanson set my feet on fire for Jesus," said Tim Bogan, member at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Sneedville, Tenn. "If anyone has not heard this man preach, they are missing a blessing."

Bogan said he was the only participant from his church but plans to recruit more from his charge to attend the 2012 gathering. "I strongly suggested to our morning congregation that every man in our church should go next time," Bogan said.

Music was provided by the praise band, "Offering."

Offerings for the two weekends totaled $1,845 and will be distributed equally for "Strength for Service" devotional books; Society of St. Andrew; Upper Room Prayer Line; and Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries

Men are encouraged to attend "UMM Day with the Bishop," March 10, 2012, at Concord UMC in Knoxville.