At Wednesday afternoon’s Service of Remembrance, the Rev. Jamie Jenkins explained how the Bridges theme of Annual Conference has eternal applications, as well as global.
“The resurrection of Christ is our bridge from earth to eternity,” he said. “All those we honor today have crossed that divide. They have passed over the chasm of death and now reside in peace in Christ’s presence.”
Jenkins, who just a couple hours earlier had delivered a short, poignant retirement speech, used 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 as text for his Remembrance sermon, entitled “Absent but Present.” A total of 38 clergy, clergy spouses and lay leaders were honored.
It was a solemn, sacred service marked by fond memories, warm smiles, and the joy of knowing there is a resurrection.
“These loved ones are gone but they are certainly not forgotten,” he said. “Though they are absent from us, they have a presence with us.”
The sermon was followed by the reading of the names of the Honored Dead and the ringing of a bell for each.
The Annual Conference Special Offering was taken for “Bridges to Mission.”
DAY 2 at a glance
Off And Running
The second day of Annual Conference began bright and early with the Annual Conference 5K to benefit the Housing and Homeless Council. The run/walk event set the tone for a day filled with hands on mission work and opportunities to learn about where we can serve in our own communities and around the world.
Bishop Watson called the session to order and Dawn Townsend, a lay person from Calhoun, delivered the morning devotion.
Board of Pension and Health Benefits
All recommendations from the Pension and Health Benefits committee passed. The service year costs reported were: $4,292,277 in 2013 and $3,121,964 in 2014.
Modifications in the clergy retirement plan were passed during the last General Conference. Information can be found on the website, www.gbophb.org. The committee recommended the same health care plans for the next year. Life insurance will be self-funded in the future with no changes in the pay-out amount.
Bishop Watson took a moment of witness and declared can-do laity cause the work of God to be done in the world. He expressed his love and appreciation for the laity.
BRIDGES: El Salvador
Our Bridges partners from El Salvador listed the following areas of partnership: house construction, medical clinic, children with a future, Salvadoran youth, training for church leaders, and theological education for pastors.
Our Bridges partners from the Philippines listed the following areas of partnership: skills training, education and campus ministry, adopt a church/community, disaster management/relief operations, and caring for the environment.
The Communication report began by saying goodbye to the printed edition of The North Georgia Advocate. After 177 years, the last print edition was mailed May 31. There are many ways to stay in touch and informed including e-newsletters (subscribe at www.ngumc.org/site/stayconnected), the NGUMC.org website, and social media. There is an NGUMC app in the development stages for iPhone and Android smart phones.
Keith Cox, Conference Treasurer, reported a larger percentage of apportionments were collected on a smaller budget last year. Total apportionment payments were $22,165,590. Payments to Conference, General Advances, and special offerings totaled $1,657,976. 79% of our churches paid 100% of their apportionments. This marks the third year in a row we have increased this percentage.
The 27 retirees entertained and delighted the conference attendees. Their service totaled 775 years. Those retiring are:
Cheryl N. Maxfield
Macie B. King
Donn Ann Weber
Joe Peabody, Sr.
The Conference was called back to order in the afternoon by Bishop Watson.
A video was shared showing worship, youth studies and Sunday school classes in Portugal. Bishop Sifredo Teixeira of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Portugal brought greetings from the churches of Portugal. He shared information about the community centers and the hope and dream that they can send people out into the communities.
Rev. Skip Matson thanked Bishop Watson for his service to the North Georgia Conference and welcomed the Watsons back to the Conference for a second quadrennium. Margaret Watson was given red carnations and yellow roses.
Dr. Sergei Nikolaev, president of the UM Seminary of Moscow, greeted the Conference. With him were Rev. Artur Rakhmankulova and Sarah Goodloe Rakhmankulova who is from North Georgia. Also with them was Rev. Daniel Starikov, District Superintendent of the Moscow District. He shared that the church covers nine time zones and is spread across six million square miles. New church starts are key to the area. Much opportunity is available to partner with Moscow seminary where the need for visiting professors is great. If you have credentials to teach, please consider volunteering to help. They want to secure four Ph.D.s to teach at their seminary. They currently have a Ph.D. candidate at Candler who will come back to Russia to teach.
The residents of Wesley Woods are “rocking and rolling their way in ministry, and not just rocking in rocking chairs,” said Ken Weber, president and CEO Wesley Woods. The residents of Wesley Woods are active and engaged and support Bridges in their own community and take part outreach ministries.
On behalf of the Simpsonwood Board, Atlanta-College Park District Superintendent Coy Hinton said that Simpsonwood’s biggest challenge is financial. They continue to focus on providing guests a great experience while operating as efficiently as possible.
Tom Cook, conference chancellor, called for a closed session of the Conference so that the Declaratory Judgment Task Force could present. Members of the Annual Conference remained in session while others were dismissed.
UMCOR Cleaning Buckets
Outside the Grand Hall, the Conference United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women carefully organized donations of cleaning supplies, clothes hangers, work gloves, dust masks and more so that Annual Conference members and guests could assemble UMCOR Cleaning Buckets.
Bridges Breakout Sessions
Hundreds of attendees filled rooms throughout the Classic Center and Foundry Building to learn more about the North Georgia Conference’s eight Bridges to Mission partners: The Bahamas, El Salvador, East Africa, Portugal, Russia, The Philippines, Action Ministries and World Methodist Evangelism.