UPDATED STORY 7/13/20: AC now postponed again because of pandemic. Read updated article here.
After a delay prompted by COVID-19 public health concerns, Annual Conference organizers have released the date for this year’s Annual Conference.
Now a one-day event limited to Annual Conference members and essential conference staff and volunteers, organizers have designated Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, as the date for the 2020 South Carolina Annual Conference session.
Per a release received from the conference just as the Advocate was going to press, the one-day Annual Conference will be held at the Florence Center, Florence.
The health and safety of attendees is the top priority as Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and other conference leaders work closely with the management team at the Florence Center to plan the one-day gathering.
The annual meeting of clergy and lay members representing 975 local United Methodist churches originally was scheduled for June 7-10. The pandemic prompted both the postponement of the session and the truncated schedule.
The annual Service of Commissioning and Ordination, traditionally held during Annual Conference, is now scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Florence Center. This service is not open to the public—attendance will be limited to ordinands and a limited number of guests—but it will be live-streamed online at umcsc.org.
“Central to planning the 2020 Annual Conference has been the health of our delegates and everyone else who attends,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, the conference secretary. “Working closely with our partners at the Florence Center, we are doing everything we can to arrange for the safest gathering possible.
“To those delegates who may not yet feel comfortable attending an event with a large number of people, please know that it is absolutely appropriate for you to choose to stay home. We do not want anyone to feel pressured to attend.”
Traditionally, Annual Conference is open to anyone who wants to attend. This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced conference organizers to limit the number of attendees to better facilitate social distancing for the protection of everyone.
At this year’s Annual Conference, attendance will be limited to delegates and the staff and volunteers necessary to conduct the functions of the Annual Conference. That means guests, such as delegate spouses and alternate delegates who are not substituting for a delegate, cannot attend.
The entire session—with the exception of the Clergy Session, in which confidential matters are discussed—will be live-streamed at umcsc.org.
All attendees must register in advance, to comply with state health guidelines:
- Clergy and lay delegates—whether they plan to attend or not—must register online at umcsc.orgby July 17.
- Lay delegates who choose not to attend must notify their district officeby email by July 17 so alternate delegates can be notified.
- All other attendees, staff and volunteers also must register online by July 17.
Among the safety protocols that will be in place:
- All attendees must wear a mask and practice social distancing at all times.
- On-site check-in will be conducted outside the building and will include temperature checks.
- Delegates will be instructed to arrive for check-in at specific, staggered times to reduce the potential for long lines and close contact.
- Delegate seating for all sessions will be distributed throughout the 10,000-seat arena.
“We are deeply grateful for the patience exhibited by all clergy and lay members as we have navigated the pandemic-driven challenges over these past few months,” Holston said. “Although our time together will be significantly abbreviated, we look forward to celebrating the mission and ministry of devoted South Carolina United Methodists who are answering God’s call to live beyond the bounds of expectations.
“Please join me in prayer for those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, for the members of the Committee on the Annual Conference and others who continue to plan the Annual Conference, for all clergy and lay members, and for our conference staff.”
For information about the 2020 South Carolina Annual Conference session, click here.