For the past five months, Zoom has become a tool used by United Methodists across The Michigan Conference. Pastors and parishioners have worshiped together over Zoom. Meetings have been held and training sessions attended with the help of that app. But Annual Conference by Zoom? It was a concept that stretched the imagination, until it happened online on July 26-28. The 2nd session of The Michigan Annual Conference is now history. Viewers comment.
Jennifer Jue | Clergy Member, Jackson: Brookside, Trinity, and Calvary UMCs … I missed the Spirit-filled worship, daily dynamic preaching, beautiful music and testimonies, and fellowship when we all come together in person at the Michigan Annual Conference. On the positive side, I thank Bishop Bard and the Michigan Conference leaders who organized and conducted such a smooth, efficient, and informational business session of the Annual Conference. I liked the inspiring mission videos during the lunch break. I loved the “sowing seeds” theme and Bishop Bard’s uplifting and encouraging sermon for these challenging times.
Jim Searls | Lay Equalization … I, of course, missed the greetings, sharing, and catching up on “annual” friendships. Most of all missed the ability to see if my pastor, Brad Bartelmay, actually was wearing those colorful pajama pants. He posted pictures of his attire on Facebook prior to departing for the broadcast session in Lansing. I did appreciate that the plenary went so fast. Might be a good reason to try virtual again.
Jeanette Harris | Lay Member, Detroit Metropolitan UMC … The abbreviated annual conference was more focused. I did not miss the long ride to Traverse City. The business of the conference was smoother-no amendments to the amendments, etc. I missed seeing old friends and the possibility of making new ones. I missed the sessions where we learned from various speakers. I missed the communal communion. I missed the variety of music. I missed the racial diversity; yes, Rev. Margie was the liturgist. I watched the session drinking from the cup from the Methodist Children’s Home Society’s 100th-year celebration.
Diane Brown | Lay Member, General Conference Delegate … Along with almost everything this year, so many changes were made to safely provide an annual conference session. Like so many local churches have done in pivoting to new ways of bringing worship to their congregations while their buildings are closed, this session came to us in very different locations. Though some of the regular legislation work occurred, this marked the first time in 14 years that I didn’t train legislative section leaders and recorders, didn’t stay up late after day one to produce the “yellow page” report, didn’t have spirited discussions about a rules application, and didn’t get to say “Good Morning, Church!” Instead, I wore my Virtual 5K t-shirt, sat at my home computer monitors and watched a smoothly orchestrated, much-abbreviated session of annual conference. During opening worship, I wanted to shout “Amen! Amen!” as Bishop David was charging us to sow seeds, dance and hang on; during the pension and health benefits report, I wanted to watch others laughing with Don Emmert’s presentation-enlivening one-liners; and then I so wished I could hold and hug Sue Buxton as she was presented with the award named after her late-husband, John, for creative conference leadership. While there were numerous aspects of the session that went so well, I’m mourning today. And I’m also hesitantly hoping we’ll be together again next year so annual conference isn’t about a meeting, but about a family gathering of celebration, catching up, meeting new folks, fun and love. In the meantime, I’ll keep my mask on in hopes we can make it so.
Joy J. Moore | Clergy Member, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN … I “came” to the virtual conference aware that what I enjoy most is gathering together with Michigan colleagues. I am grateful that we gathered in real-time, but recognized the distance especially during the time of memorial. Even as I read names and followed posts, the inability to gather together left me profoundly aware of the importance of being together while recognizing the lasting impact of virtual fellowship – from epistles to ZOOM! I appreciated that we respected the work that needed to be done and allowed this format to accomplish it together. Grateful for Bishop’s humor to keep us from just focusing on the tasks, but reminding us we are a community who share both laughter and work. This is yet another chapter in our shared story.
Dillon Burns | Clergy Member, Manchester UMC … There was a lot to miss about the traditional Annual Conference experience, from the comfortable hotel beds to the catered breakfasts all the way to the swimming pools and even sitting in plenary hall! Thankfully, I was able to pull together a relatively reasonable facsimile and the virtual format of the conference made it possible to participate in every location! I will note, however, that the hotel cleaning staff were surprisingly absent this year and the coffee more passable than exceptional. On the other hand, the sprinkler-on-a-garden-hose replacement for the pool was a delightful throwback to my childhood summers! I will look forward to a more traditional conference experience next year but will certainly consider bringing my sprinkler with me. Seriously, I am most missing the Service of Recognition, Commissioning and Ordination as I find it profoundly moving expression of our connection with United Methodists around the state. From a wholly personal perspective, I was anticipating my own ordination this year. Even so, I was incredibly thankful for the decision to protect our collective health and hold this year’s conference online. The seamless transition has been a testimony to the hard work and flexibility of our conference staff and leadership. With the warm sunlight filtering through the leaves of the oak tree shading my back porch, I have to admit that I’m particularly enjoying participating in the conference from the comfort of a hammock! In a season that could so easily be spent pining over what has been postponed and yearning for what will hopefully one day return, I am finding myself increasingly thankful for peaceful moments like these that linger in my heart and spirit. I will look forward to seeing everyone in person again next year but don’t plan on extracting myself from this hammock any time soon.
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Last Updated on September 20, 2022