Season of change

By Jessica Connor

It's been a busy year, one filled with wave upon wave of uplifting, inspirational tales of Christians being God's hands in the world. We've seen our share of sad times, too—friends and loved ones lost, a longtime ministry closing its doors, daily challenges in our families, communities, our nation and our world.

Speaking at Prospect United Methodist Church in Pamplico the week before we went to press, I had the opportunity to talk deeply with one of the members there, a man who urged me to write about the ways the seasons of life tie in perfectly with themes in Christianity.

Spring is a time of new life, of growth and progress “ the beauty in the bud of a maple tree or the flash of yellow in the season s first daffodils. Lush and fragrant summer is the prime of the year, a time to savor the full bloom of life and enjoy the energy of abundance. Autumn is the harvest time, when we gather up all that has been sown and prepare for the quiet ahead. And winter is a time of renewal, the silent whisper of end with the promise of new life just ahead.

As the Advocate prepares to go to press on this edition, we learned President Barack Obama finally got the chance to officially welcome home troops returning from Iraq as the war there was formally shut down. Great change lies ahead, not only for Iraq but for America, as well, as we work together to foster peace worldwide.

Looking back at a year s worth of Advocates, we see that for United Methodists in South Carolina, change was also a natural part of life “ locally, globally, district-wide and conference-wide.

We started the year with the announcement that apportionment-giving had come in at 83 percent, a relief for boards and agencies who depend on support from UMCs to stay afloat and do their work.

In March, preparation for Annual Conference 2011 racheted up to full swing, as organizers of the yearly gathering planned worship, legislation, leadership development opportunities and more. We also learned about a resolution that would be submitted advocating reducing the number of districts in the conference from 12 to 10.

In April, the conference readied the new structure for Connectional Ministries, rolling out final plans for the conference arm of that structure as work continued on the already-approved district arm. The Advocate also announced it had been named best newspaper publication in its division by the S.C. Press Association.

Work continued in preparation for Annual Conference, with the Council on Finance and Administration setting a tighter budgetary goal (15 percent of total conference average net funds by 2015) and the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits announcing a new percentage-pay pharmacy benefit and the introduction of a health reimbursement arrangement.

Mid-year crested with Salkehatchie, vacation Bible schools and Annual Conference.

In September, news hit that the United Methodist Relief Center would be filing bankruptcy and closing its doors after 21 years of service. Also that month, the newly approved Conference Connectional Ministries elected officers and fleshed out its body in preparation for the official start of work in January

In October, churches began reporting various things they are doing to pay their 2011 apportionments, from cost-cutting to creative fundraising, while Rural Mission announced a new mission, streamlining to focus only on housing and crisis assistance and no longer operating its migrant Head Start program.

In November, a flood uprooted six special needs women in an Aldersgate independent living home, though quick work and donations from supporters and volunteers quickly enabled them to move back home. The Advocate also announced it had won 12 writing and overall publication awards from the United Methodist Association of Communicators “ ‚including Best in Class for writing.

December closed with the news that the UMC s top court, the Judicial Council, had ruled the new structure for Connectional Ministries is not in full compliance, and the conference would need to fix a few defects before it could be fully legal. Members of the structure s transition team are working to fix those four areas. We also learned the longtime conference Print Media Center “ plagued by years of rising costs and dwindling numbers “ was launching a new business plan in an effort to help it stay afloat.

Now, we turn our eyes toward a fresh start, 2012 “ a triple-conference year when we ll head first to General Conference s quadrennial gathering in Tampa, Fla., April 24-May 4; then to Florence for Annual Conference 2012 June 10-13; then to Lake Junaluska, N.C., July 18-20 for the quadrennial Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

As we enter this new season of growth and chance, let s all pray that we can do God s will as we accomplish the work of the church in this state and across the world.

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