Monday, June 07, 2010

Reflections on Annual Conference

I made it back home and the bags and boxes need to be unpacked as I head into my work week, but the experience of Missouri Annual Conference 2010 is still be processed in my head. Sadly, while this was my first year with voice and vote priveleges, I really didn't get much chance to use them. There was very little debate and just some generic items (like the budegt) to vote on. Of course, that was probably a good thing. Rather than the whole event being mired in politics and heated discussions, this one was intentionally focused on internal spiritual development - feeding the leaders so they in turn can go back and feed their local congregations. I don't know that I feel like I was tremendously fed, but there were definite highlights, like the youth worship service (sand art story telling is pretty cool) and Michael Slaughter (see previous post). Perhaps I would have felt like I got more out of it if I had attended both workshops and wasn't also trying to work a booth in the exhibit hall around participating in the session. I might have to rethink how that goes for next year...

This morning, before I had to leave early to make it back for an appointment, Bishop Schnase gave a really good presentation about how appointments are made in our conference. He told us that he was surprised at how many people didn't know how it was done and took the time to walk us through the process, including showing us a scaled down board that helped them organize each appointment into a chain of movements around the conference. It was fascinating and enlightening to hear what their priorities are and all of the various things that go into their decision making process. It's more complicated than I had realized and it made me glad that I'm not an ordained elder tied to the itinerancy process. The more I learn and hear, the more I feel that I'm in the right place serving as a Deaconess and continuing to be a member of the laity. Now I just have to figure out what that means for my leadership role in the church - meaning the local congregation as well as the district and annual conference levels.

I was disappointed that churches really didn't indicate any interest in working with Habitat KC - I talked to a few individuals who picked up some information to bring back to their churched, and I talked to several people from other areas around the state who work with their local affiliates though. The seeds are being planted... And I talked with the Festival of Sharing folks and it looks like I'll have a booth out there in October to talk with people about donating their money to our local affiliate rather than to Habitat International. I spend a good deal of time educating people about how Habitat is set up. If you donate to Habitat for Humanity International, your money goes towards HFHI programs and affiliate work in other countries. Habitat affiliates in the US, however, get limited amounts of funding from HFHI. We're all independent 501(c)(3) organizations and do our own fundraising for our local projects, BUT we also tithe 10 percent of our funds raised to HFHI. SO, if you want to help local families, donate to your local affiliate (which you can look up at and know that you're also helping others around the world. Right now much of that tithe money is going to Haiti where Habitat International is winning high praise for their house design and organization.

Socially, annual conference was a great experience. I got to catch up with old friends and colleagues from Saint Paul School of Theology, and I got to meet lots of new people - some SPST alumni and friends of friends who I think I can now also call friends. I may have also gotten myself involved in a church camp for this summer - we'll have to see. I've lived in Missouri since 2003, but feel like I'm just starting to learn how things work here. Watching the ordination service, it was very moving to see so many people that I knew entering into that special relationship with God and the UMC. It was also painful to watch other friends that didn't get the blessing to take that next step. The church is still a human institution, flawed in many ways, and it was hard to see friends hurting and feeling personally shunned. Still, I'm confident that most of them are in the right place and that they will get approved next year. Ministry is a strange thing...

So that's where I am for now. There may be more reflections later, but since I'm headed to Iowa for AmeriCorps Buildathon with Habitat this week, chances are there won't be many posts until mid-June.

1 comment:

Patrick Moore said...

I like it when we fight just a bit. That AC was a bit too sterile. Reminds me of Jeremiah's warning, "They cry, 'Peace, Peace,' when there is no Peace."