Holston Annual Conference kicks off on Sunday, June 4, and goes through Wednesday, June 7. You can watch the livestream at AC.Holston.org, but if you're planning to join the 800 to 900 United Methodists representing 578 local churches in Lake Junaluska, get ready to check out and check off these seven nifty things on your to-do list.
TAKE A PRAYER WALK.
The beautiful, beloved 2.3-mile walking trail around Lake Junaluska needs no introduction, but for your 2023 Annual Conference experience, it has an even deeper purpose. Conference staff have designed a “prayer walk” around the lake loop, with signs to aid “intercessory prayers” for other United Methodists. As you walk in one direction, the signs will have names of each jurisdiction and international episcopal areas. Walk in the other direction, and the signs will lead and lift you through the words in Holston’s “Breakthrough Prayer.”
SHARE A STORY.
When you think of “changed community,” what story comes to mind? How about “fruits of the spirit”? Each day at Annual Conference, members will be encouraged to share their stories in response to a “story prompt” phrase such as these. Write your story down, share it in the special story tent outside of Stuart Auditorium, or email it to HearingOurStories@gmail.com. “The idea is that by recalling God's faithfulness in the past we can better recognize God's movement in the future,” says the Rev. Carol Wilson, who is hosting the project.
SIT DOWN FOR GOOD PREACHING.
Bishop Gregory Palmer will speak not once, but three times in Stuart Auditorium, including the Missions Celebration on Monday night, the Teaching Session on Tuesday night, and the Sending Forth Service on Wednesday. Palmer is resident bishop of the West Ohio Conference. Other worship highlights include the Memorial Service with Holston’s own the Rev. Reed Shell and morning learning sessions with the Rev. Sarah Slack and the Rev. Walter Cross.
SIT DOWN FOR GOOD MUSIC.
Or maybe, don’t sit down. Because the music at this year’s Annual Conference might have you dancing in the aisles. Leading music will be the Rev. Willie Kitchens of Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church and Christina Malone of Christ United Methodist Church, both in Chattanooga. On Monday night, Paul Jones will lead contemporary music for the Missions Celebration. Jones is a former praise band leader at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville and Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio.
GET A BRACELET.
Visit the display area in Harrell Center auditorium. You’ll not only learn valuable information from 30 different groups (including Appalachian Trail Chaplaincy, Jubilee Project, and Wesley Theological Seminary), you might also find some cool freebies -- like this “end racism in Holston” bracelet from Holston’s Dismantling Racism Task Force. Buy gifts to take back home from Shop the World fair-trade store, also located in Harrell Center. In Room 202 of Harrell Center (on Tuesday only), visit with the good folks from Wespath and Trinity Benefits Advisors.
GIVE AWAY YOUR MONEY.
You’ll have two opportunities to give to something with potential to change lives. During Monday night worship, an offering will be collected to help the children and families served by Ishe Anesu Mission in Zimbabwe. On Tuesday morning, drop off your money gifts to the “Change for Children” table outside Stuart Auditorium. Change for Children provides grants to local churches that develop various ways to share God’s love with kids in their communities.
Well, sure, you can revel in the culinary delights of Waynesville and Maggie Valley. But why would you, when you can have your lunch at lakeside between Stuart Auditorium and Memorial Chapel? On Monday and Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Annual Conference participants may purchase food from one of three vendors: Appalachian Smoke BBQ, Lenoir's Creek Beef, and Ruthie’s Famous Kettle Corn. Top it off on Tuesday between 1 and 2 p.m. with a free Ice Cream Social to celebrate our 26 clergy retirees!
June 4 update: Lenoir's Creek Beef and Appalachian Smoke BBQ food trucks will also serve breakfast beginning 7:30 a.m.
Holston Conference includes member churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia, with main offices in Alcoa, Tennessee. Sign up for a free email subscription to The Call.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.