By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”—Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
When you receive this edition of the Advocate, the 2023 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference will soon be under way. Reuniting in-person this year for praise, worship and fellowship will surely be a time of giving thanks to almighty God and celebrating the ways in which we have been seeking and fulfilling God’s purpose for the church, especially during our recent years of isolation and virtual gatherings.
This year’s theme, “Seeking A More Excellent Way: Breathe and Believe, Hewing Hope,” calls us to cling to our faith in Christ as we seek hope in every circumstance. We will come together with hope, remembering who God has called us to be and seeking that which God wants for us.
We welcome Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, the resident bishop of the West Virginia Annual Conference, as preacher for the Service for Commissioning, Ordination and Retirement, and the Rev. Tim Rogers, Marion District superintendent, who will share the message during the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.
This year, along with the beloved, familiar aspects of our annual conference session, there will be some exciting, new components. We will have the opportunity to hear from several of our recently ordained and commissioned clergy as they lead times of centering and praise each day, and our South Carolina Men N Ministry are sponsoring a prayer room that will be open to anyone seeking a quiet space to spend time with God. Special conference offerings will be received, including for the South Carolina Seminary Student Scholarship Fund and the newly established Bishop Joseph B. Bethea Endowed Scholarship at Duke Divinity School.
The hard work of so many people makes this gathering possible. A profound word of gratitude is expressed to the Rev. Terry Fleming and the people and churches of the Florence District, our host district, and to the Rev. Susan Maddox and members of Highland Park UMC, our host church. For many months, this team has worked closely with the Rev. Ken Nelson, conference secretary; the Rev. Mel Arant, assistant conference secretary; and the Committee on the Annual Conference to consider every detail. I am certain that you will join me in saluting the proactive leadership of all of these people who have worked so diligently on our behalf.
As the 2023 Annual Conference session begins, I ask for your prayers that great and marvelous things will happen through the Holy Spirit who guides and sustains us. Pray that our presence in Florence and online will be a living witness to the grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ to all whom we meet.
Whether you are present at The Florence Center or following along with the livestream at www.umcsc.org, we are grateful for your prayers, presence, participation and commitment to ministry for the sake of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.