By Woody Woodrick
Annual conferences in the United Methodist Church are more than business conventions.
One of the differences from a corporate convention is the worship services. That difference goes beyond simply holding the services, says Dr. Marcia McFee, who will serve as the worship leader for the Mississippi Annual Conference, set for June 11-14 at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.
“I have designed and led worship for over 30 annual conferences, jurisdictional and general agency meetings. I see these times of worship as vital to deepening our connections — with God and one another — as well as vitally needed times of spiritual nourishment for our healing and renewed strength for our ongoing work,” McFee said.
McFee, who led worship at the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, incorporates a variety of media into worship, drawing on a background in music, theater and dance.
“Music, the spoken word, visuals, symbols and the people’s action all work together to bring the transforming story of our faith to life,” McFee said.
“Each worship service has been designed to communicate aspects of the theme in various ways — drawing on the symbol of light and the desire for Christian unity and fellowship.
“Those who attend Annual Conference should come expecting to actively worship God in ways that live out the literal meaning of the word ‘liturgy’ — the ‘work of the people,’” she said.
In addition to leading worship, McFee will conduct a workshop called “The Rhythms of Liturgy and Life: Worship Dynamics and Spiritual Formation.”
Two visiting bishops will be part of Annual Conference, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of the Zimbabwe Area and Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Conference/Pittsburgh Area. Both bishops will speak.
Bickerton will preach the mornings of June 12 and June 13. The Pennsylvania bishop sparked contributions of $104,000 from pastors in his conference to aid clergy in Mississippi and Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.
Nhiwatiwa will preach the opening worship service, which will be a celebration of “chabadza,” a Shona word meaning helpful partnership.
The Mississippi Conference and Zimbabwe have been forging a long-distance relationship Bishop Hope Morgan Ward is calling the Chabadza Covenant.
“We practice chabadza when we join friends already at work in the field. Through chabadza we are mutually enriched and blessed,” Ward said. The conference mission offering will support ministries in Zimbabwe, including Africa University. The offering will be collected Sunday evening.
Nhiwatiwa will also speak at the Celebration of Youth Ministry dinner scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 12 at Madison United Methodist Church.
The Rev. John Moore, director of Connectional Ministries, said the agenda will be more streamlined this year, focusing primarily on the five missional initiatives – health and wellness, racial reconciliation, mission, small-membership churches and congregational development – established last year.
“In so doing,” Moore said, “we want to look at how we’ve done so far and the direction we want to go as an annual conference.”
Several workshops have been planned for June 13 relating to the initiatives. Members will have the opportunity to attend one of the following workshops:
In other business, the Board of Medical Benefits will propose the option of a high-deductible medical savings account plan. The plan would raise the deductible for those who choose to participate, but would also allow for medical savings accounts that can carry over from year-to-year. Also, optional vision and dental coverages will be recommended.
The Council on Finance and Administration will present a proposed 2007 budget of $18,605,585, reflecting no increase from this year. With Mississippians facing huge expenditures related to Katrina, CF&A asked committees to seek no additional funding. Any funding for new programs must be balanced by reducing or eliminating an existing program.
A dozen resolutions have been submitted to the Committee on Resolutions and Petitions for consideration at the Annual Conference. Among them:
A measure calling for naming the Mississippi Conference endowed scholarship at Africa University “The Henry C. Clay-Merlin D. Conoway Scholarship.”
A resolution to transfer the property of the former East End United Methodist Church in Biloxi to Seashore Mission UMC. East End was closed in 1990 and the property was conveyed to the Seashore District Board of Missions. However, the deed of conveyance was never recorded. Seashore Mission was destroyed by Katrina in August. The transfer would provide Seashore Mission UMC with property to continue its ministry.
A resolution calling for a pardon for Clyde Kinnard, who attempted to become the first African-American student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Before he could enroll, Kinnard was convicted of robbery. He died of cancer after serving time in prison. However, recently the key witness against Kinnard admitted that he lied under pressure from state officials, and over the past several months, many people in the state have called for Kennedy to be pardoned.
A measure asking the conference to urge the General Conference to consider setting term limits for bishops.
A call to reaffirm the position that the United Methodist Church is not made up of all people, but comprised of a community of repentant believers who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.
A resolution urging Lake Junaluska, a facility owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction, to hold no events that promote the acceptance and practice of homosexuality. The resolution stems from the controversial “Hearts of Fire” conference held in September.
A call to observe Pastoral Care Week the last full week of October each year. The week would honor those who serve in chaplain ministry.
A resolution calling on the General Board of Pensions to revoked a 2003 action that affected the pensions of clergy in a certain group. The petitioners contend the plan reduces their pension benefits and calls for the Board of Pensions to restore those lost earnings.
A resolution calling for the conference to adopt policies and procedures to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults from abuse and staff from unwarranted allegations of abuse.