LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. -- The Annual Conference finished a day of discussion about new visions and “recalibration” with an evening celebration of Holston’s legacy as a mission-minded body and the urgent call to “finish the job.”
Bishop Gregory Palmer, resident bishop of the West Ohio Conference, was last night’s guest preacher in Stuart Auditorium. Telling the story of the Good Samaritan and how he went above and beyond to provide care and show God’s love, Palmer said that offering a food pantry only won’t eliminate hunger and organizing a Bible study in the local jail won’t solve mass incarceration -- although they’re good starts.
"Even with our good intentions, I’m not sure we always finish the job,” Palmer said. “I’m asking you boldly as missionary people, finish the work.”
Palmer said that mission is all about the “4 S’s” as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan: Seeing, stopping, stooping, and serving.
The Mission Celebration also featured a celebration of Ishe Anesu’s 25th anniversary of serving children and families with food, clothing, education and more in Sakubva, Mutare, Zimbabwe. In addition to sending supplies to Ishe Anesu through the Hands-on Mission Project, Holston churches and members gave an offering to Ishe Anesu last night. The total amount collected is expected to be announced in Tuesday’s session.
Earlier on Monday in Stuart Auditorium, the Annual Conference celebrated the collection, packing and sending of 4,778 mission kits to Zimbabwe and Liberia. The backpacks, buckets and boxes of food, school, health and home supplies were valued at a “low estimate” of $114,000, said the Rev. Chris Brown, missions chair. Eight of nine districts exceeded their goals. See district totals.
Sponsored by the Hispanic Ministries Team, members and pastors of four Spanish-speaking churches in Holston Conference came to the stage to share news of their participation in a new opportunity through United Theological Seminary. “Hispanic Christian Academy” will provide a three-year online educational program to about 15 students, preparing them to be eligible to begin study for a master’s degree in divinity.
Worshippers were primed for the good news of Holston missions and Bishop Palmer’s message by the Magnolia Avenue Praise Team, which included Chris Blue, Knoxville native and a winner of the TV singing competition, “The Voice.”
On Monday morning, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett delivered her “State of the Church Report” which she called a “recalibrated perspective.”
“I bring to you great news at this Annual Conference. Ultimately, all is well,” she said to applause. “And here’s the reason. The head of the church, Jesus Christ, has risen from the dead.”
The reality of Jesus’ resurrection “puts everything in perspective. It recalibrates everything,” Wallace-Padgett said, explaining how Holston leadership is re-focused, not on buildings and finances, but on new visions and strategies to develop disciples.
Other highlights:> The Invitation Team, one year into its existence, extended three invitations in the year going forward, said the Rev. Kim Goddard, co-chair. (1) “We are inviting Holston Conference to embody discipleship.” (2) We are inviting all to community.” (3) “We are inviting you to heartfelt expectant hope for the future.”
Goddard added, “We are not inviting you to do something new. We are inviting you to reclaim a passionate love for Jesus. That is our best path forward.”
> The Strategy Team has reemerged to continue the next phase of the strategic plan adopted by the Annual Conference in 2017, said Michael Eastridge, chair. “The number-one element of the Comprehensive Strategic Plan is to strengthen the connection,” he said. The Strategic Team’s current priorities are to foster “generative hubs” so church members can develop as disciples and leaders in collaboration, and to reexamine the structures and district boundaries of Holston Conference.
> The Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) reported that $8.047 million was received in tithes in 2022. While the approved budget for 2022 was $8,742,252, spending was held to $7,564,689 which left the conference budget with $483,107 to begin 2023, said Carolyn Kidd, CFA president.
A shortfall is anticipated in 2023, Kidd said, a consequence of recent local-church disaffiliations. “We are working with conference staff and leadership teams to take necessary steps to curb spending where it is possible.”
The proposed budget for 2024 is $8.18 million, which will be presented for conference approval (by vote) on Tuesday afternoon.
> Denman Evangelism Awards were presented to the Rev. Jason Gattis, Smoky Mountain District (clergy); Jane Currin, Concord United Methodist Church (lay member); and Kate Ford, Cokesbury United Methodist Church (youth member). “It gives us hope that the work of Jesus Christ and sharing his love never stops, even through all the adversity and challenges that we’ve faced over the past several years,” said the Rev. Ray Amos, chair of the Witness Ministry Team.
> The Memorial Service celebrated the lives and ministries of 24 clergy, five clergy spouses, and 14 surviving clergy spouses, all deceased within the last year. The Rev. Reed Shell preached on John 10:1-10 and the “Assurance of a Familiar Voice.”
> The Personnel Resources Team reported that the Rev. Leah Burns has been appointed associate director of multicultural ministries. The Rev. Terryl James will follow the Rev. Reed Shell as he retires as chair of the Personnel Resources Team.
> The Sexual Ethics and Boundaries Team reported that Holston clergy had received updated training in the past year, as required every four years, in either in-person or hybrid form, according to the Rev. Caleb Pitkin, chair.
See livestream video recordings.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.
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