In the final tally, hard work and preparation pay off in Annual Conference


     The planning for Annual Conference begins many months before the event. Lengthy to-do lists are compiled and checked off, one by one: theme, agenda, logo, communications, logistics, special events schedule, volunteers, guest speakers, registration, etc.
      But even with a detailed organizational effort, involving a small army of people, the final days before the event inevitably involve a crush of last-minute scrambling. The 2011 event was no exception.
          Nearly 3,000 United Methodists from across North Georgia descended upon Athens last month to experience four days of prayer, praise, encouragement, balloting, communion, ordination, a memorial service, balloting, committee reports, agency updates, special luncheons, balloting, a road race, health fair, table displays, balloting, the honoring of retirees, missions reports, special music.
       And more balloting.
               This year’s Annual Conference stayed true to its theme: “Engaging in Ministry with the Poor.” The emphasis from various speakers focused on the personal call to “Make Me a Servant Humble and Meek ... Lord Let Me Lift Up Those Who are Weak.”
          On Tuesday evening, the conference commissioned 21 provisional members, ordained six deacons in full connection and ordained 18 elders in full connection. 
       During Wednesday’s session, Sharma Denise Lewis, the District Superintendent of the Atlanta Decatur Oxford District, received the special honor of being the first delegate selected for 2012 General and Jurisdictional conferences. She will lead the delegation next year.
      Also Wednesday, the Annual Conference approved a recommendation that Bishop Watson be given authority to evaluate and make changes to Conference administrative staff.
      On Thursday, scouts from Humble School in Uganda, who are here at the invitation of scouts from St. James UMC in Atlanta as part of the Bridges initiative, blessed Annual Conference with their presence and a special song performed for Bishop Mike Watson.
       In addition, more than $112,000 was collected in a special offering for Imagine No Malaria.
      It was a busy week. Conference members addressed many important items of business, including electing a full slate of delegates for the 2012 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. When it was all over, most organizers, volunteers and conference leaders left Athens with a sense of accomplishment – and a need for rest.
         “It’s a new adventure every year,” said Tim McDaniel, who has worked the past 14 events. McDaniel, who works in the Conference Communications Office, is responsible for all audio-visual elements of Annual Conference. “Overall, it went fairly smoothly, but there is a lot that can go wrong.”
           Not long ago, only a small portion of reports involved video. Now, virtually every conference office, agency, ministry, and organization uses video or PowerPoint in its presentation.
      “It has gotten a bit out of hand trying to manage it all,” said McDaniel. “We want everything to flow smoothly, but when someone walks up 10 minutes before a report, wanting to make changes to his presentation, it can get a little crazy.”
         With microphones positioned over the floor, and many more on stage, managing sound is a big enough challenge in itself without adding in all the visual components, including live streaming of the sessions. McDaniel is one of approximately 20 people involved in the AV technology during conference.
          And, for the people involved in making technology work, the goal is remaining invisible. It is not always possible.
       “It is an uncomfortable feeling when the bishop introduces a report, you hit the button to start the video, and nothing happens,” McDaniel said. “Sometimes, there is no good explanation. We are dealing with machines. Most times they do what they are supposed to do. But when they don’t, everyone in the room turns and looks at you.”
        Fortunately, it only happened once to McDaniel during the 2011 conference. Ironically, the glitch occurred at the Communications report. After an awkward false start, the video finally worked properly.
         McDaniel also played a starring role in some of the light-hearted NGCTV (North Georgia Church TV) video segments that were interspersed throughout the conference.
          They went off without a glitch.
         “It was a tiring and stressful week but I am grateful for how hard everyone worked and how well it came together,” McDaniel said.
           And, for the time being, the entire conference crew can enjoy a little break.
         “We’ll have our first meeting in August for 2012,” McDaniel said.