By Kindalin Moses
The Mississippi Annual Conference wrapped up its Friday session with a special Homecoming Service at the Jackson Convention Center followed by an old-time fish-fry with all the fixin’s, music by Galloway UMC, and a remembrance of Hurricane Katrina. The celebration began with an electric worship service led by the evening’s guest speaker, Bishop James Swanson, Sr., of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Bishop Ward’s introduction of Bishop Swanson was heartfelt and personal, with several humorous anecdotes that kicked the service off on an uplifting note.
The Annual Mission Offering was designated for Pre-82 pension liabilities and facilitated with words of inspiration from Rev. Steve Casteel who reminded all present that the mission offering was about fulfilling a promise of a sacrifice from us to make sure that our retired clergy can truly retire with a living wage. Messages of Faithfulness, Hope, Sacrifice, Grace, and Promise were the resounding themes of several pastors and missionary student Holly Powes-Weeks, who boldly witnessed to the congregation how great and awesome is our God. Evan Cochran led the body in prayer and throughout the evening Rev. Gus Shelly — identified as ‘that Jerry Clower preacher’ by Bishop Swanson — served as the master of ceremonies, leading the service with grace and humor.
Bishop Swanson came to the podium and with his larger-than-life presence took command of the service and led all present in a rollicking, spirit-filled, and God-inspired worship that had people stomping their feet, singing, crying, and longing for more. Bishop Swanson shared that he is one generation removed from being a native of Mississippi because his mother had been born in Corinth, Mississippi. The scripture passage chosen by the Bishop was taken from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and his message was titled “There Is Something We Look Forward Too After This Cycle of Life.” Moving from the podium to the stage and down the stairs to the floor of the Convention Center and back again, Bishop Swanson was clearly animated by the Holy Spirit and delivered a powerful, life-changing message to over 1,200 people in attendance. His overarching message was that God wants all his children on the boat to that ultimate Homecoming celebration. He suggested that the way God’s children can stay together on the journey is by celebrating the Good News of Jesus’ death for all, remembering that God’s Grace goes before us, and understanding that our debt has already been paid.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and her husband Mike received a special blessing at the conclusion of the worship service as Bishop Swanson invited all those persons who had been ordained, commissioned, or licensed during her tenure to come down front and lay hands on them.
The 2012 Mississippi Annual Conference Homecoming Celebration was a glorious celebration of God’s love for us. To God be the glory, for the great things He has done, He so loved the world that He gave us His Son!