I first started going to Annual Conference for Conference Youth Day at the University of Redlands in 1963. With the exception of one year (the year I was moving back to California from seminary in Illinois) I've been there every year since. From June 16-20, I will be at the University of Redlands participating in Annual Conference. It is mandatory attendance for clergy.
Annual Conference is a combination of denominational business meeting, camp meeting, evangelistic rally, series of polite fights, and a time to see old friends. You may or may not know that as a minister, my church membership is not held at the church I serve. Instead, my membership in The United Methodist Church is held at the Annual Conference, along with all the other clergy who are alive. It is for good reason that at the beginning of every Annual Conference, we sing the traditional Charles Wesley hymn, "And are we yet alive, and see each other's face; glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace." Every year, some clergy, mostly retired but also a few who are still serving, pass away. The older I get, the more of those brothers and sisters who have passed away, I have known for a very long time.
As of this writing, I am saddened that we do not have anyone to represent our English-speaking congregation as a lay member. If you would be interested in attending, or are willing to attend, please let me know. Representing our Latino congregation will be Alex Fausto, Sr., and Giovanni Gonzalez. Pastor Sergio has drawn "temporary additional duty" at Annual Conference as the one to manage the exhibit area. I drew the short straw and am chairperson of the Rules Committee.
The youth and young adults at Grace River UMC will be helping to lead the youth worship service on Saturday, June 19, at 10:00 a.m. Donna Daniels has been working with this group. We invite you to come out to the University of Redlands on that date, if you can, to be supportive of these young people from our church campus. Donna will also be preaching for me on Sunday, June 20, at our 9:00 a.m. worship.
But above all, pray for us who are at this Conference. Pray for our Bishop, and all at the Conference. Our Annual Conference is faced with the same problems we face here at OUMC: aging (Anglo) membership, reduced income, and a reality that within a very few years, most of the ministry of The United Methodist Church in Southern California and Hawaii will be to and with persons who are not white, and not African-American. We haven't yet figured out how to make that work. Pray that we, to quote one of the Proverbs, "may find a heart of wisdom."
See you in worship!
Tom Griffith, Lead Pastor