By Jessica Connor
In these trying times, churches are often faced with great difficulties: how to serve people hanging on by a thread. How to balance financial needs of the church and our community. How to stay faithful to our ministries in the often-tumultuous world around us.
Organizers hope to address this and more as the 42nd annual meeting of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal is called to order.
Set for Oct. 28-30 at the Embassy Suites in North Charleston, the annual BMCR meeting features a theme of “Equipping the Saints: Risk Taking Steps.” Attendees from all over the South will come together in this state for the first time in years; last year’s event was in Greensboro, N.C., and next year’s will be in Kentucky.
“People should come,” said the Rev. Hayes T. Gainey, coordinator of the S.C. Chapter of BMCR. “It is an opportunity for us to embrace where we are as a church in the midst of difficult and trying times, and also to gain relationships and fellowship so we can be supportive to each other in various ministries.
“It will probably change [attendees’] lives forever.”
The BMCR represents and is dedicated to more than 2,400 black UMCs and approximately 500,000 African-American members across the U.S.
“The October gathering of Black Methodists for Church Renewal is important because these kinds of gatherings bring care and attention to the overall health and well-being of the black churches in United Methodism,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, S.C. conference congregational specialist, African-American ministries. “The Southeastern Jurisdiction still has the largest presence of African and African-Americans in United Methodism. The well-being of the black church in the Southeastern Jurisdiction is a leading indicator of the overall well-being and strength of black churches across United Methodism.”
Gainey said in times like these, churches need to take “some risk-taking steps.”
“There are difficulties dealing with young people in the education area, with the economy the way it is, with how to handle our finances during tough times and still be faithful to our church and ministry and meeting the needs of the communities,” said Gainey, who is also pastor of Edisto Fork United Methodist Church, Orangeburg. “This [meeting] will give them strength, unity and motivation to go back out and work harder to foster each other in our ministry and be that support base.”
Nelson said the meeting is specifically designed to address concerns that are impacting the South, including leadership development among clergy and laity, raising up spiritual leaders who advocate for the unique needs of black people in the UMC and strengthening the presence of young people in the local church and in the denomination as a whole.
“I believe the most significant issue facing the black church is building partnerships between BMCR and annual conferences across the denomination to ensure that the ministry of African-American congregations remains relevant and responsive to the needs of the communities in which they are located,” Nelson said.
The opening plenary begins Thursday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m., featuring the Rev. Zachary Beasley, coordinator of SEJ BMCR, as speaker, and the Rev. Christopher Campbell, Genesis UMC, Louisville, Ky., delivering the keynote address.
After prayer and centering, the late afternoon will continue with reports and presentations from various committees. After dinner, the Rev. Albert Shuler, Fuquay-Varina UMC, N.C., will preach the communion service.
Friday begins with prayer, reports and presentations, followed by a Legacy Luncheon at noon. The evening banquet will feature the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, Mount Pleasant UMC, Gainesville, Fla.
Saturday continues with prayer, a closing plenary and an installation of officers, capped by a covenant and sending forth message from the Rev. Candace Lewis, church strategist for the General Board of Discipleship of the UMC.
“One of the things I love about our annual meetings is they are always opportunities to share with each other and embrace one another,” Gainey said.
Clergy and laity are encouraged to attend the meeting, which organizers hope will draw more than 300 people. The Embassy Suites is located at the Charleston Area Convention Center, 5055 International Blvd, North Charleston.
Registration is available on-site for $190, cash or money order only, and includes registration/materials, one luncheon ticket, one banquet ticket and SEJ BMCR membership dues. Additional luncheon and banquet tickets may be purchased. Hotel accommodations are separate.
For more information on the meeting, call 336-923-9807. For more on BMCR, visit www.bmcrumc.org.