Organizers prepare for annual conference in new location with new offerings
By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—In two months, United Methodist laity and clergy will gather for an annual conference that is not only in a new city but also features a host of new offerings.
Set for June 4-7 at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, the event will feature the theme “We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight,” something organizers are hoping attendees will embrace not only in their mission efforts but also in their approach to a new location with a number of unknown factors.
“It’s new and different,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, conference secretary, but he noted that between the significantly larger space and the ability to have so many things onsite, plus expansive WiFi, he is confident the changes will be welcome and helpful.
For many years, Annual Conference had been held at the Florence Civic Center in Florence, but the event has outgrown that space, Nelson said, plus the civic center is now under renovation and expansion. Moving to Greenville not only costs about the same as it did in Florence but has the ability to offer so much more, from increased space to an onsite meal plan to a full-scale camp-style children’s conference.
The biggest thing attendees will likely notice is that all voting members will now be able to sit on the same level on the floor. Nelson said this will create a more family-like environment where everyone can be together, plus minimize the risk of fall; in Florence, many attendees had to sit in steep risers.
Also, he said, many of the associated conference gatherings, such as seminary alumni luncheons, had to be held offsite in the past, but the TD Convention Center is big enough to accommodate all of the gatherings in one space, minimizing confusion, transportation and drive-time issues.
“While the location of the annual conference has changed, our aim is still to provide a high quality experience of worshipping God, connecting with one another and serving God and neighbor locally and globally,” Nelson said. “Change is never easy, but when it’s time to stand up and be counted, the laity and clergy of the South Carolina Annual Conference have always risen to the occasion and shown themselves strong, adaptable and faithful to God’s call. We are excited about our transition to Greenville and about the 2017 South Carolina Annual Conference.”
Bishop Jonathan Holston said he is excited about the upcoming session of Annual Conference and the opportunity to experience the hospitality of a new location this year in Greenville
“It is a continuation of our faith journey as we seek a more excellent way to make disciples of Jesus Christ while transforming our world,” Holston said. “I encourage you to come to Annual Conference and share in a glorious time of celebration, generosity and worship.”
Meal plan: convenience, affordability
A ticketed meal plan at the TD Convention Center is one of the biggest changes slated for the gathering. This year, attendees will have the chance to purchase a meal plan that offers a set menu for one low price.
“There’s a level of anxiety about Annual Conference this year and moving, and there’s construction on I-385, and people are worried,” Nelson said, noting they fear they will get lost or not be able to find a restaurant and eat in time to get back to the session.
To alleviate their concerns plus offer more affordability, the conference is offering a three-tiered meal plan. Option 1 offers six meals covering the whole conference for $100 (Sunday dinner, Monday lunch and dinner, Tuesday lunch and dinner, and Wednesday lunch). Option 2 offers people the chance to purchase meals only for a single day for $38/day (either Sunday dinner and Wednesday lunch, Monday lunch and dinner, or Tuesday lunch and dinner). And Option 3 allows people to purchase meals individually ($18 lunch and $24 dinner).
People must register and pay for the meal plan online in advance, no later than May 19, and the menu cannot be changed to accommodate preference or allergies.
Nelson said people should explore the menus and register online at www.umcsc.org/ac2017.
Free Kidz Konference camp
This year, conference organizers will offers a free children’s version of Annual Conference for infants to rising sixth graders.
Called Kidz Konference and held onsite, the camp will host all children of the conference (clergy, laity and volunteers). The camp is more than daycare and features three full days of worship, Bible study, food and fun.
“While the grown-ups all do their version of conference, we will have our own,” said Ruth Hughes, one of the camp’s organizers. “We are going to have an amazing time together playing, learning, singing, exploring, worshipping and more.”
Parents will be able to drop off their children on the lower level of the TD Convention Center each day in a special area with its own drop-off and pick-up drive so they don’t have to walk from the parking areas. The camp will feature lunch and snacks, and children will enjoy Bible stories with Legos, paint, music and drama; daily guests from The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, The Critter Guy, Wasteland Recycling Mobile Unit, Asbury Hills Camp and more; and games indoors and out, including a water day.
“Your kids will be learning and playing, exploring and growing together in a loving Christian setting,” Hughes said. “We want this to be the best week of your summer.”
Children should be registered in advance. Visit the Annual Conference page of the website (www.umcsc.org/ac2017) or call Hughes at 864-380-8706.
Two mission initiatives: bikes, homeless
Annual Conference is offering two mission opportunities this year: a Homeless Initiative and Youth Bike Initiative.
The Homeless Initiative is a partnership between the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and Homes of Hope, an Upstate nonprofit that will provide affordable, low-cost houses for homeless families in need. Between now and Annual Conference, every UMC in South Carolina is being asked to contribute $100 for the project. For every $39,000 raised, Homes of Hope will build a home.
Greenville District Superintendent Dr. George Howle urges churches to step up and be a part of the project. The homes are energy efficient and designed for a small family, which will at first rent the home at low cost and later will be able to purchase the home if they wish. The homes are built by men who have graduated from a Christ-centered shelter program of addiction recovery in a specialized job training opportunity.
The Youth Bike Initiative is a youth mission opportunity. Youth in each district are collecting 100 new and gently used bikes for people in need, plus $1,000, for a total of 1,200 bikes and $12,000 conference-wide. One thousand of the bikes will be sent to people in need across the globe through the nonprofit group Bikes for the World; the remainder will be given to those in need locally through the South Main Mercy Center in Anderson and the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville. (See related article, Page x).
Both the homeless and the bikes projects will be celebrated during Annual Conference, and Nelson said plans are in the works for attendees to be able to tour the homes and possibly volunteer.
Business and legislation
The four-day event will include a host of business and legislation. Not only will the body have the opportunity to vote on the Annual Conference budget for 2018, but also a host of other reports and plans presented by various ministries and agencies. One major item is the presentation by the conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits on new health plan packages. (See article here.)
The body will also have the chance to vote on five constitutional amendments approved at the denomination’s global General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon. (See article here.)
Also, the body will vote on any South Carolina resolutions proposed. As of press time, the conference had received two resolutions—one from the Hispanic/Latino Task Force on welcoming the migrant and another a formal apology from Trinity to Centenary UMC in the Charleston District— and more resolutions may be submitted prior to deadline. The Advocate will feature articles about the resolutions in next month’s edition.
Pre-conference materials are being assembled now and will be mailed to all clergy and lay members of Annual Conference by the end of April.
Nelson said the Lay Session on the first day of conference will be very different. It will feature not only an orientation but also a drop-in reception to highlight Advance Special ministries.
Speakers include Holston, Harvey, Mosley, Hipp
Not only will Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston preside over the proceedings and preach opening worship June 4 and the sending forth June 7, but a number of special guest leaders will also be present.
Bishop Cynthia Harvey, of the Louisiana Conference, will serve as the preacher for the Service of Commissioning and Ordination, set for Monday night, June 5. Dr. Albert D. Mosley, president of Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, will serve as Bible study leader each morning of the conference. Holston called these “two awesome ministry events.”
The Rev. John Hipp, Florence District superintendent, will preach the memorial service Tuesday, June 6, at 2 p.m.
A Service of Licensing of Local Pastors will be Monday morning, and a Service of Recognition of Retirement will be Tuesday.
Pre-conference trainings in April, May
Pre-conference trainings will be held in every district to help attendees better understand the new space and many of the business items to be addressed at Annual Conference.
The dates, times and locations for each district are as follows, and all are welcome to attend:
- Anderson District—May 21, 3 p.m., St. John’s UMC, 515 South McDuffie St., Anderson
- Charleston District—May 21, 4 p.m., Cokesbury UMC, 4990 Dorchester Rd., North Charleston
- Columbia District—April 30, 3 p.m., Ashland UMC, 2600 Ashland Rd., Columbia
- Florence District—May 21, 4 p.m., Lake City UMC, 229 West Main St., Lake City
- Greenville District—May 21, 2:30 p.m., Aldersgate UMC, 7 Shannon Dr., Greenville
- Greenwood District—April 30, 2:30 p.m., St. Mark UMC (Rivers Street Campus), 1633 Rivers St., Greenwood
- Hartsville District—May 21, 3 p.m., Wesley UMC, 145 East College Ave., Hartsville
- Marion District—April 30, 3 p.m., Pisgah UMC, 1600 Pisgah Church Rd., Aynor
- Orangeburg District—May 7, 4 p.m., St. Andrews UMC, 1980 Columbia Rd. NE, Orangeburg
- Rock Hill District—May 7, 3 p.m., Cornerstone UMC, 2697 Heckle Blvd., Rock Hill
- Spartanburg District—May 7, 3 p.m., St. Paul UMC, 1320 Fernwood-Glendale Rd., Spartanburg
- Walterboro District—May 7, 3 p.m., New Life UMC, 763 Green Pond Hwy., Walterboro
Also, a pre-conference video intended to give attendees a glimpse into the new location is available for viewing now at www.umcsc.org/ac2017.
And as with last year and the two years prior, the Advocate and the conference Communications Office will again offer the free Daily Advocate as an educational tool at the event to help people understand the various business, events and other happenings each day they are there.
“We recognize change never comes easy, but I’m sure the people of South Carolina will rise to the occasion,” Nelson said. “We are trying to do everything in our power to help this go smoothly.”
About the TD Convention Center
The conference is committed to holding Annual Conference at the TD Convention Center in Greenville in 2017 and 2018, and the committee is currently exploring options for locations for 2019 and beyond, including Greenville, Florence, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.
Business sessions will be conducted in the 30,000 sq. ft. ballroom of the TD Convention Center, which is on the second floor of the building. There are two escalators and an elevator. Known as one of the largest exhibit halls in the country, the center offers 280,000 square feet of exhibit space and a permanent fiber-optic built into the facility. There is free limitless wireless Internet connectivity throughout the exhibit halls, meeting rooms, ballroom, and lobbies.
For more information about Annual Conference: www.umcsc.org/ac2017.