The gathering of God’s people

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”—Proverbs 4:23-26 (NIV)

As this edition of the Advocate arrives, the 2021 session of the South Carolina Annual Conference will be starting. On June 6 and 7, we will gather virtually for 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.

This year’s theme—“Seeking A More Excellent Way: Taking the Next Faithful Step”—calls us to courageously go where God is leading us, entrusting God with each step that we take. Miraculous things can happen when we leave our place of comfort and allow God to stretch us in new and different ways. We will convene filled with hope, remembering who God has called us to be and what God wants for us.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Annual Conference will again be held virtually. We have made this decision to ensure the safety and good health of all involved, and we look forward to engaging with you virtually as we live into the broadened definition of what it means for God’s people to gather.

We are deeply grateful for the perseverance, innovation and faithfulness exhibited by all clergy and lay members as we have navigated the pandemic-driven challenges over this last year. We look forward to celebrating the mission and ministry of devoted South Carolina United Methodists who are answering God’s call and taking the next faithful step.

We are delighted to have Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett join us as the guest preacher for The Service of Commissioning, Ordination and Retirement Recognition, and our very own Rev. Joe Long will join us as the preacher for the Memorial Service.

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. Frederick Yebuah and members of Cumberland UMC, our host church. For many months, this team has worked closely with our conference secretary, the Rev. Ken Nelson, assistant conference secretary, the Rev. Mel Arant, 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 we prepare for the 2021 Annual Conference, 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 online will be a living witness to the grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ for all whom we meet.

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