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United Methodist Conference to meet

United Methodist Conference to meet

Posted: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 9:27 am

From the moment the near 1,000 delegates from the 462 United Methodist churches in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky (known collectively as the Memphis Conference) pull into the parking lot at Collierville United Methodist Church for their June 6-8, 2010 annual meeting, they will find themselves surrounded by growing things being tended “In God’s Garden.”
The delegates, representing over 85,000 United Methodists, are meeting to discuss necessary business including a yearly budget of near $9 million dollars that supports mission and ministry locally, regionally and globally. They will also be privileged to hear Dr. Leonard Sweet, a world renowned Christian leader, and to worship together.
From flowers and vegetables under colorful tents outside to vignettes of garden tools and plants inside, Collierville United Methodist Church will be transformed into a symbol of Intentional Faith Development–the intentional cultivation of faith in God’s disciples.
Guest speaker Dr. Leonard Sweet will be talking about how a church that came of age in a print world, a Gutenberg world, can still be relevant, can still grow and cultivate the faith of disciples who live in a Google world. Sweet calls it a TGIF world where Twitter, Google, iPhones and Facebook have replaced the books, newspapers and magazines the Church has traditionally used.
The annual conference will meet from 1:30-2:05 p.m., Monday, June 7; 8:30-9:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 8 and 1:20-2:20 p.m., Tuesday, June 8.
All Annual Conference 2010 offerings taken during the creative worship services are designated for the Central Conference Pension Initiative. This initiative underwrites pensions for retired clergy and their spouses in areas outside the United States. Every $10,000 raised will provide a yearly pension of $500 for people like the Rev. Laas Helde, 86, a retired pastor in Estonia.

Not only is Helde retired, he balances on a cane because one leg was cut off while he was a patient in a Russian Army camp in Siberia during WWII. Together, he and his wife Maimu presently receive about $500 per month in pensions. Finances are tight for Laas and Maimu: “We wanted to collect money for the coffin,” Maimu said, “but it didn’t work out because last winter we had to buy much wood to heat the stove.” Memphis Conference offerings on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings will help people like the Heldes.

To date, $19.5 million has been raised for the initiative with a goal of $25 million. Mr. Tim Koch, Chief Financial Officer of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits which is based in Evanston, IL, will be present at the Sunday, June 6, opening worship service to explain how the plan will provide a basic pension for men and women who have given their lives to serving God and the Church. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, which administers the largest faith-based pension fund in the U.S., is responsible for the retirement, health and welfare benefit plans for more than 74,000 active and retired clergy and lay employees.

Worship Services

On Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Joe Beal of Broadway United Methodist in Paducah, KY will preach the Memorial Service.

“My sermon, Ever praising God, will be about those who have spent their lifetimes serving God, tending His garden, and are now in God’s dwelling place,” said Beal. Leading the service with him will be Germantown United Methodist Church musicians.

Memorialized will be clergy and spouses who have died in the last year. They are: Bonnie Sue Davis, Callie Jordan Gathings, Clarence O. Hampton, Alfred Neal Hinson, Kaulah Holmes, Cora Ann Hood, Joseph B. Johnson, J. Reeves Locke, Shirley Morton, Kathleen Phillips, Mary Lucille Ross and Rosie Scales.

On Sunday evening, the Rev. Rick Kirchoff, senior pastor of Germantown United Methodist Church, will preach the opening sermon based on the story of the miracle at Cana.

“I’ve always been intrigued by this story,” Kirchoff said. “While the other gospels tell us that Jesus began his ministry by preaching or teaching or healing, John tells us that Jesus began his ministry by going to a wedding party where he made a lot of wine. On the opening night of Annual Conference, I hope that we might we might hear this story in a fresh way and catch a vision of what Jesus can do with us, the 462 churches, the 336 pastors and the 85,000 United Methodists of the Memphis Conference,” Kirchoff said.

Joining him for the opening service will be the Company d dancers (these are young persons with Downs Syndrome), and United Methodist singers from Shelby, Tipton and Fayette Counties plus the Chancel choirs of Collierville and Emmanuel United Methodist churches.

On Monday morning, June 7, the conference will recognize those pastors being commissioned for service and those retiring. Retiring after many years “Tending God’s Garden” are: William W. Copeland, Frank Whitty Bratt, Larry D. Humbert, J. Ted Leach, Robert McKinney and Linda McLargin. Those commissioned to begin their ministry are: William Ryan Boatright, Gus Lohrum, Whitney Ward Scott and Toni Gantt Watson.

On Monday night, Bishop Dick Wills will preach the Service during which ten Elders and two Deacons will be ordained. The Elders are: Deborah Joyce Burson Smith, Jerome Scales Jr., John Turner Kilzer, David Brent Hollis, Gail Hampton Bruno, Angela Marie Harris, Lora Jean Gowan, Steven Brice Fonville and Robert Presley Craig. Transferring as an Elder from another denomination is Cynthia Dianne Miller Davis. Deacons are Gary Roy Gunderson and Anne Renee Dillard.

During the Monday service, choirs from Bartlett United Methodist and St. John’s will sing.

On Monday afternoon, the Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, Superintendent of the Timothy District of the Methodist Church of Mexico, will join Dr. Joe Geary, Paris District Superintendent, and Elyse Bell, Paris District Lay Resource Leader, in a report on the “Pacto” (Covenant) between the Eastern Mexico Conference and the Memphis Conference.

The Reverend Roberto Gomez Reyes works closely with teams of United Methodist volunteers from Tennessee and Kentucky that travel to his district to help build churches and orphanages. Reverend Gomez Reyes will visit for a few days after Annual Conference throughout the area meeting people and touring Conference Ministries.

The closing Communion on Tuesday night, preached by the Rev. Richard Smith, will focus on the challenges the Church faces in our modern culture and the ways we can, empowered by God, find our way and then faithfully impact the world in Christ’s name. Smith says, “Recent cultural studies and research efforts have painted a picture of a culture in which the Church is losing influence and credibility. What do we do to restore the power and witness of the Church?”