By Jessica Connor
United Methodists across the state will gather this month to learn key elements of this year’s Annual Conference—and have the chance to ask plenty of questions.
The pre-conference trainings will be held in each of the 12 districts (see sidebar at right for dates, times and locations). The will view a video with presentations from S.C. Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston and other conference leaders who will discuss everything from the 2015 budget, pensions, health benefits, resolutions, children in poverty and the Million Book Effort, among others.
Held June 1-4 at the Florence Civic Center, Annual Conference 2014 is a time for United Methodists in S.C. to pray, worship, do business and vote on key legislation impacting the denomination in this state. This year’s theme carries 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 are hoping to rename that section the “Corridor of Hope.”
Anyone representing their church at Annual Conference, clergy or laity, is urged to attend the pre-conference trainings so they can be fully prepared for the gathering.
“It sets the stage for everybody to be ready for Annual Conference,” said Karen Radcliffe, conference secretary, noting the trainings are useful whether this is the first time a person will attend Annual Conference or the 20th. “Everybody should bring their pre-conference materials, and if there are any questions, there should be enough connectional people there that any questions should be answered.”
Dr. Paul Harmon, Spartanburg District superintendent, said attending the trainings is important for clergy and laity.
“Informed members are effective members,” Harmon said. “Knowing something about the items and issues that will be part of this upcoming Annual Conference will help eliminate unnecessary questions and misdirected debate from the floor. Another good reason to attend the training is to connect with others from the district who will be attending Annual Conference, to share information, develop friendships and perhaps arrange carpooling or other ways to cut down on expenses.”
Dr. Robin Dease, Hartsville District superintendent, said the trainings help provide needed information and preparation so that we might improve the quality of the decisions we make on proposed legislation: “When we have the information prior to Annual Conference in order to decipher and have dialogue, we can create a habit of making decisions on purpose that will create more successful outcomes for our life together as the people called Methodists instead of just waiting to ‘see what happens.’”
Long-time Annual Conference attendee Martha Thompson, member of Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, said the trainings help give a clear understanding of how our conference operates.
“I have had the privilege of serving my church for over 35 years as a lay member to annual conference, and I still remember the first time and how ‘lost’ I felt,” Thompson said. “The pre-conference material was difficult to follow until I attended the district training. The district trainings highlight the important issues and concerns, as well as the resolutions. The conference budget is discussed and explained.”
Rhonda Jones has assisted with and attended pre-conference trainings, as well, and said they are help people review, discuss and get clarification on any items to be addressed.
“Second and most important you give yourself the opportunity to seek prayerful guidance individually and collectively for the administrative ministry in the Annual Conference,” Jones said. ”When we approach our work as delegates from a position of prayer, God’s plans are fulfilled.”
For more information about Annual Conference 2014, visit www.umcsc.org/home/resources/2014-annual-conference/ .
- Anderson—May 18, 3 p.m., at Trinity UMC, 1809 North Main Street, Anderson SC 29621
- Charleston—May 4, 4 p.m., at Cokesbury UMC, 4990 Dorchester Road, North Charleston SC 29418
- Columbia—May 4, 3 p.m., at Mt. Horeb UMC, 1205 Old Cherokee Road, Lexington SC 29072
- Florence—May 4, 3 p.m., at Lake City UMC, 229 W. Main Street, Lake City SC 29560
- Greenville—May 4, 3 p.m., at Trinity UMC, 2703 Augusta Rd, Greenville SC 29605
- Greenwood—May 4, 4 p.m., at Main St UMC, 211 North Main Street, Greenwood SC 29646
- Hartsville—May 18, 3 p.m., at Trinity UMC, 226 West Liberty Street, Sumter SC 29150
- Marion—May 18, 3 p.m., at First UMC, 307 E Godbold Street, Marion SC 29571
- Orangeburg—May 18, 3:30 p.m., at St. Andrews UMC, 1980 Columbia Road, Orangeburg, SC
- Rock Hill—Two sessions, one May 4, 3 p.m., at Richburg UMC, 124 E. Lancaster Street, Richburg, SC 29729, and one May 4, 6 p.m., at King’s Mountain Chapel UMC, 1130 Philbeck Road, York, SC 29745
- Spartanburg—May 18, 3 p.m., at St. Paul UMC, 1320 Fernwood Glendale Road, Spartanburg SC 29307
- Walterboro—May 18, 3 p.m., at Bethel UMC, 355 Hampton Street, Walterboro SC 29488