Let Us Worship: Moving Toward Perfection in Love


Photo: Impact UMC leads closing worship at the 2017 Annual Conference.


“Moving Toward Perfection in Love." This theme for Annual Conference 2018 seems simple enough, but how do we plan and order worship in a way that will help our gathered community deepen their connection to God when their needs and personalities are so diverse?

According to author Corinne Ware, it is possible. Ware’s spiritual growth book, Discover your Spirituality Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth, was first released in 1995 but its principles still remain relevant to this day.

From Urban T. Holmes's spiritual typology and her own experience as a spiritual director and pastoral counselor, Ware provides a framework for readers to name and understand their spiritual experience in much the same way the Myers-Briggs typology provides a framework for understanding personality types.

This Annual Conference, as we think together about Perfection in Love, may we practice together the means of grace that respond to our spiritual identity in Christ and worship style within the church.  

"Spiritual disciplines are the ways in which we are intentionally present to God and reflect on our experience and awareness of God's movement in our lives and hearts," said Rev. Ellen Shephard, senior pastor of Stone Mountain First UMC and Director of Women Theology and Ministry at Candler School of Theology. "Marjorie Thompson writes that spiritual disciplines keep 'us open to the mysterious work of grace in our heart and in our world. They enable us not only to receive but to respond to God's love, which in turn yields the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.' In Wesleyan theology, we understand the work of spiritual disciplines as a means of grace."

When the Annual Conference worship planning team convened in April, Rev. Shephard prompted the committee with this question: 

“Why do two people walk out of the same service with two completely different experiences?”

It all boils down to your individual spiritual type and where you land on the ‘Spirituality Wheel,' she explained.

It's a philosophy that she'll explain during Annual Conference, and something our worship planners for the four primary services of Annual Conference took to heart. They have worked carefully to consider every spirituality type as well as reflect the vast diversity within The United Methodist Church.

The goal is to "find a way to be one in the body of Christ together" and to plan worship that will appeal to different ways we connect with God.

Bishop Sue prays that our time together in worship will be filled with the Holy Spirit and that it will deepen our relationship with Christ. The four services follow a pattern of gathering (Opening Worship), moving into the word proclaimed (Service of Remembrance), a time of response (Ordination), and sending forth (Closing Worship). 

Opening Worship: Service of the Word - Tuesday, 2 p.m., Grand Hall

Planned by Rev. Eric Lee and Arturo Quintanilla of Chapel Roswell with preacher for the service Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, this service will appeal to each spiritual type with prayer and songs in various languages, color, and movement, and a call to action as Annual Conference gets underway. Music will be provided by the Chapel Roswell Band.

“An artist will begin a large work during opening worship on stage,” says Rev. Dave Allen Grady, who is coordination worship along with Rev. Susan Allen Grady. “She will continue interpreting annual conference through this work throughout the week.” This service will be a time to center our hearts and minds around why we are gathered together.

Service of Remembrance - Wednesday, 2 p.m., Grand Hall

Rev. Elaine Puckett, retired, will bring the message for this powerful service, with music from Peachtree Road UMC. In a service planned by Rev. Bill Britt and Rev. Dr. Dana Everhart, various forms of imagery and readings that will take place in the service. Bagpipers, the ringing of the bells, presentation of laurel wreaths and much more will engage every spiritual type.

We will remember clergy, spouses and laity who have finished their race and have been welcomed home to the Kingdom of God.

Service of Ordination, Commissioning, and Licensure - Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Theatre

Rev. Dr. Byron Thomas from Ben Hill UMC will deliver the message and encourage the newly ordained and commissioned pastors of the North Georgia Conference. The St. James UMC Alpharetta Celebration Choir will excite every person in the congregation during this joyous service.

Be sure to notice the newest gold banners which were created from t-shirts of those being ordained this year. The banners celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all those called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Service of Sending Forth - Thursday, 2:30 p.m., Grand Hall

Rev. Rodrigo Cruz from The Nett will preach this service and charge everyone to leave Athens “with a sense of urgency.” Hillside UMC will provide the music and plans to create a happy atmosphere and encourage all to “have a moment of joy when they come to the table.” The service was planned by Cruz along with Michael Cromwell of Hillside.

As always, the Spirit sends us forth to serve. As we conclude our week together, we will go forth enthused and ready to lead and participate in vibrant worship in our local settings.


Morning Communion & Morning Prayer—Empire Room, 7:30 a.m.

In addition to the worship services, a brief service of Word and Table with music will be offered Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Thursday morning will be a service of intercessory prayer, guided by words and images.

Morning services will be offered in Empire Room of the Foundry Building led by clergy couples representing elders and deacons and diverse ministry settings.

More information and resources on The Spirituality Wheel can be found in each tote bag at registration. Take a moment to look over the material, discover your own spirituality type, and reflect on how you can bring this knowledge to your own worship services.

The Annual Conference Worship Planning Team:

  • Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
  • Executive Assistant to the Bishop: Jane Brooks
  • Conference Secretary: Donn Ann Weber
  • Visuals: Cyndi MacDonald, Ellynda Lipsey, Deanne Lynch, and Pamela McCurdy
  • Logistics/Production: Robert Gilleo
  • Acolytes/Host Committee: Betsy Butler
  • Worship Music Audio coordinator: Atticus Hicks
  • Worship Coordinators: Dave Allen Grady and Susan Allen Grady