Weber keeps focus on big picture as she sorts out details for Annual Conference

6/4/2012

By GLENN HANNIGAN
     When it comes to seeing the big picture, Donn Ann Weber likes first-hand knowledge of how all the pieces fall into place.
     Which is why, at the recent 10-day General Conference in Tampa, you could find Weber dutifully sitting through every plenary session, paying rapt attention and taking detailed notes.
     “I find it extremely helpful to see how it all comes together,” she said. “Or, in some cases, how it all falls apart.”
     Though Weber was neither a delegate nor a volunteer at General Conference, she was no casual observer. Weber, who for the past 17 years has served as North Georgia Conference Secretary, believes the time she spent in Tampa will help her as she prepares for the upcoming Annual Conference in Athens.
     “There are many benefits in being at General Conference,” she said. “It is the one place where you can watch the big picture unfold. I like to listen to the debates, read all the details and track the results. It is good to be able to see the system at work.”
     Weber had plenty of company in Tampa. Not only was North Georgia well represented with 26 delegates (13 clergy and 13 lay) out of 988 delegates from across the world, there were numerous other local folk serving in various roles.
     Wiley Stephens and Beth LaRocca-Pitts served as reserve clergy delegates at General Conference while Keith Cox and Gary Fuller were reserve lay delegates.
     In addition, there was a strong contingent of volunteers from North Georgia, including: Catherine Boothe, Pam Buzbee, Joe Crawford, John Cuentas, Chris Selleck, Becky Shirley, Jasmine Smothers, Beth Steed and Jacqui Rose-Tucker.
    Weber also believes there are other meaningful reasons to attend General Conference.
     “I want my presence to be a reminder to the delegates that lots of people are covering them with prayer,” she said. “When they are tired, dragging and weary, they need to know many people are supporting them and lifting them up, praying for them individually.” 
      Though Weber, who serves as senior pastor of University Heights UMC in Decatur, knows the importance of organization, administration and legislative details, she also stays keenly focused on the big picture.
     “We can easily get caught up in the business of the church and negotiating and arguing over issues,” she said. “But that is not who we are. The sense of coming together Annual Conference isn’t just about the bishop or the cabinet but the joy and delight of gathering together as a great cloud of witnesses. That is what sustains me as an elder in the church.”      
    Weber has a keen appreciation for the effort of volunteers at such large events, particularly with an eye toward Annual Conference. Weber is expecting approximately 2,800 from the North Georgia Conference to be in Athens. There are tote bags to pack, registrations to oversee, name tags to sort, meals to organize, along with all the other special events, services, etc.        
      “We are blessed with an incredible organization and host committee in Athens,” Weber said. “And the volunteers you normally see helping out in the hallways, in session and in worship are only the tip of the iceberg.” 
     The theme for the 2012 Annual Conference is “Seeing the World Through the Waters of Baptism.” It will be the thirteenth time in 14 years that the event has been held at the Classic Center in downtown Athens.
    Elements of our 2012 logo include four visuals:
•   The globe reminds us of John Wesley’s words “the world is our parish.” As United Methodists we are called to continue Wesley’s passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This also reinforces the importance of the 2012 Mission Offering that supports World Methodist Evangelism.
•   Ripples of water that cover the globe are symbolic of the baptismal covenant that brings hope and healing to a hurting and broken world. We are reminded of our own baptism and our call to witness to the world.
•   The dove above the globe reminds us not only of the dove that descended at Jesus’ own baptism, but it also reminds us of the spirit of God that brought order out of chaos in the creation story of Genesis 1:2.
•   Hands remind us of our corporate and personal witness. We are called to greet the world with open hands, rejoicing in acts of Christian hospitality and invitation.
    In seeing the world through the waters of baptism, as laity and clergy, we remember our own baptism and our call into ministry. Baptism calls us into many different ministry functions in the life of the Church. It is in this call to leadership that there is a corporate and personal witness that reaches out to neighbors, near and far.
    Bishop Mike Watson, who will serve as the Chair of World Methodist Evangelism for the next five years, is calling for a special offering to support the effort.
   “As we prepare to gather as an Annual Conference from June 12 through 14 this year, we have the opportunity to give through this year’s Special Annual Conference Offering which will support the powerful global ministry of World Methodist Evangelism,” Bishop Watson wrote recently. “I am making this special appeal for you to do all that you can do to enable your congregation to contribute significantly to this year’s special offering so that it can be presented during the Annual Conference Session in Athens.”
   In addition, Dr. Eddie Fox, World Director of World Methodist Evangelism, will be preaching:
•  the opening worship session on Tuesday afternoon;
•  the Service of Ordination/Commissioning on Tuesday evening;
•  the final session on Thursday afternoon.
   Bishop Watson, in highlighting both the local and global nature of evangelism, recently wrote: “We can multiply the witnesses of Christ Jesus through connecting congregations, connecting with evangelists, international Christian youth conferences on evangelism, faith-sharing initiatives and resources, training leaders through regional evangelism seminars in every part of the world, and inspiring young clergy through The Order of the Flame (Faithful, Leaders As Mission Evangelists) events to ‘do the work of an evangelist, to carry out the ministry fully.’ (2 Timothy 4:5).”
   Online registration for Annual Conference is available at www.ngumc.org. All active clergy and lay members are required to register.
   Photos will be taken of all clergy, active and retired, during Annual Conference to be used for a pictorial directory. Photographers will be available: 1-6 p.m. on June 11; 7:30-a.m.-6 p.m. on June 12-13; and 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on June 14.  
      The Quest Diagnostics Blueprint for Wellness screenings will be held 6:30-10:30 a.m. each day of Annual Conference in the Parthenon II room. Screenings involve a blood sample and a few quick measurements to evaluate more than 30 health factors. You can also earn $100 in HealthCash. 
   Volunteers are needed to assist as greeters, with tote-bag assembly, registration check-in, parking assistance, blood drive attendents, and van drivers. To volunteer, see the online registration form at www.ngumc.org.
   “For the last forty years, World Methodist Evangelism has labored to see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus throughout the whole world through word, deed, and sign that the world may know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” Bishop Watson wrote recently. “This is a holy calling and it is still our calling today!”


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