Preparing for big 'family gathering' in Athens


  I am looking forward to a “family gathering” in less than two weeks.
     Our son, Jason, was eight months old when Lena and I moved to Georgia in late June 1972. I have attended every Annual Conference since then.
     The 2011 event will be the 145th session of the North Georgia Annual Conference. A lot of business is conducted and several worship opportunities fill the time. However, the glue that holds it all together is the relationships of the “family members.” There is much laughter and good times as folks renew friendships and make new ones.
       About 2,800 members of the North Georgia Conference, representing more than 350,000 United Methodists, will gather in Athens on June 14-17. It takes an army of people to plan and coordinate an event so large.
      The Annual Conference Planning Committee and the Athens-Elberton District Host Committee have worked for months alongside the staff of the Classic Center in preparation for all the activities of the week. The Athens-Clarke County government, the University of Georgia, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and even the court system, have helped in the effort.
       In addition to the various groups there are 150-200 others who also volunteer. ­There are many community-wide volunteers who help along with the members of United Methodist congregations from the Athens-Elberton District.
       For many years, Judi Barr has taken vacation from her job during the week of Annual Conference so she can staff the Message Center. Ruby Fuller coordinates laity registration, which includes the difficult task of preparing name tags for all attendees.
         Evelyn Wells works to coordinate registration of the equal number of clergy and lay members. Marlene Bryan has served as coordinator of volunteers for most of the 11 years the conference has been held in Athens. Pat Morrison and Keith Wilson work early morning hours hosting breakfasts for various groups. Johnny Fowler, Host Committee Co-Chair, works with the local community to provide parking and transportation. Diane Morrison, the other co-chair, a “preacher’s kid,” has worked all year and will be on site to see that everything is done well.
     If you would like to join this group of wonderful folks, who work tirelessly and with great joy on our behalf, you can volunteer by completing the form which can be found at
        Whether you join the volunteer staff, attend as an elected member, or just come as an observer, you will enjoy yourself and see the church in fellowship, worship, and work. You will be inspired if you attend the worship service on Tuesday evening, June 15, when 43 persons will be ordained or commissioned for service as clergy in the North Georgia Conference.
       You can participate in the Red Cross Blood Drive by making an appointment online: and enter zip 30601, or call Athens Red Cross office, 706-546-0681, ext 229.
        You can help to eliminate malaria by sharing in the Mission Offering for Imagine No Malaria. You may be interested in the 5k Run/Walk on Wednesday morning at 6:30 with proceeds to benefit the North Georgia Housing and Homeless Council. Information and registration links are at
      There are many other activities including special meals for various church related institutions. Gatherings for youth and young adults are planned throughout the week. There are no scheduled activities for Wednesday and Thursday nights in order for those in attendance to have time for dinner and fellowship with friends.
        Oh, I almost forgot, ballots will be taken throughout the week to elect lay and clergy delegates to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
      See you in Athens.
Rev. Jamie Jenkins is Executive Assistant to the Bishop. To contact him, e-mail: