By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE—In three months, thousands of United Methodists will converge on the Florence Civic Center for Annual Conference 2014, where they will pray, worship, do business and vote on key legislation impacting the denomination in this state.
Set for June 1-4 (a bit earlier than years past), the 2014 event is carrying on the more excellent way theme from last year ”this time focusing on creating corridors of faith, hope and love.
Corridors is an allusion to the conference s push to combat poverty, particularly among children and particularly in S.C. s rural, often-forgotten towns along I-95 dubbed the Corridor of Shame. Conference leaders, especially those in the conference s Children in Poverty Task Force, are hoping to rename that section the Corridor of Hope.
The Rev. Scott Smoak, chair of the AC2014 production team, said children are the first voices attendees will hear at this year s conference, and children will also speak throughout ”sometimes in person, sometimes in video, sometimes in song.
The message we are communicating to people is that we re focusing on children and youth, Smoak said.
S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston said he is excited about this year s Annual Conference.
Annual Conference is more than a business meeting; it is a place and time where we celebrate our ministry, Holston said. We re creating corridors of faith, hope and love. We re still seeking a more excellent way. ¦ We re thinking God-sized visions and dreams.
One of those God-sized dreams is a conference-wide book drive to collect one million brand-new elementary and preschool books for children throughout South Carolina. (See article page 1.) The event piggybacks on the momentum created by the highly successful S.C. Hunger Project at last year s Annual Conference, where scores of people packed 285,000 meals and donated 8,000 canned goods and non-perishables for the hungry.
At a recent meeting of the Annual Conference planning committee, the design team unveiled this year s logo design (see image this page), and organizers are working fast to finalize the gobs of details necessary to produce a fruitful, uplifting event.
March 1 is the deadline for all pre-conference materials, and the conference will again produce a digital and print packet for the thousands of lay and clergy representatives from every church across the state.
The agenda is set, and most of the details of the conference are finalized or close to it. Some highlights:
¢ Dr. Robin Dease, Hartsville District superintendent, will lead Bible study each morning.
¢ Holy Communion services will be offered each morning.
¢ Awards will again be presented in a breakfast session Tuesday morning.
¢ Worship will celebrate diversity and include youth in leadership.
¢ A variety of musical styles will be featured during worship, from drumming to Gospel to guitar.
¢ A young adult-focused worship service will again be held Tuesday night; this year s event will feature what planners call some of the best South Carolina has to offer. The Rev. Tiffany Knowlin will be speaker, and the Rev. Scott Johnson and his band, My Dear Demas, will perform.
¢ Daycare will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily at Highland Park UMC, Florence. Evening childcare will be at Pisgah UMC, Florence (no onsite nursery for evening services). The cost is $30 for childcare for the whole event (day and night).
Pre-conference materials will be posted soon to the conference website at www.umcsc.org/home/resources/2014-annual-conference/ .