Sunday at Annual Conference: 'Engage with God, engage with one another'

Sunday at Annual Conference: 'Engage with God, engage with one another'

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (June 8, 2015) -- Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor wanted to engage worshippers who came to Stuart Auditorium last night for the opening service, so she started with a Top 10 list.

“I know you’ve been missing David Letterman,” Taylor said, before rolling out 10 reasons why members are here at the 2015 Holston Annual Conference.

Most of the reasons were humorous -- in the spirit of the recently retired talk show and host. Taylor’s listeners laughed at #9: “You came to see if your pastor really does attend Annual Conference.”

Moments after the choir, band and praise team from Christ United Methodist Church brought worshippers to their feet, reason #7 seemed prophetic: “You wanted to hear for yourself if the music is as wonderful as people say it is.”

Taylor used #1 – “Engage with God and Engage with One Another” -- to share the theme and her hopes for this week’s five-day gathering of church leaders.

She spoke of Matthew 12:28-31, and said that “loving God is like breathing in” and “loving your neighbor is like breathing out.” Holston’s mission emphasis on children in poverty is an opportunity to live out the breathing out, she said. “Even the smallest expression of loving our neighbor brings honor to God.”

Earlier in the day, members from east Tennessee, southwest Virginia and north Georgia arrived here in Lake Junaluska with a mixture of gratitude and expectation for the week ahead.

While registering at the Foundation for Evangelism building, the Rev. Harvey Brown spoke about the election and what he believes are “pivotal times for the larger church.” He also said he looks forward to attending the Extension Ministries breakfast on Tuesday morning and seeing old friends.

“I’ve been a conference member since 1972, and I enjoy being with the older guys and gals like me,” said Brown, president of Impact Ministries in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Waiting outside Stuart Auditorium before the Clergy Session began, the Rev. Doug Grove-DeJarnett said he was a “little bit droopy” to be in Lake Junaluska after returning from a 31-member choir tour through South Carolina. Grove-DeJarnett is minister of music at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tenn.

“I actually enjoy Annual Conference,” he said. “I love the worship and seeing colleagues and friends.”

Anthony Vaughn, age 12, said this is his third Annual Conference, and he loves it. He’s the youngest of the Rev. Michael Vaughn’s children -- and the only family member who came along with the pastor of Telford United Methodist Church.

He said, “It’s cool to have some time with my dad, just the two of us,” as they sat on a bench overlooking Lake Junaluska.