Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Annual Conference Reflections

Sorry for the blog silence. I've been quite a delinquent blogger lately. I've just returned from NCNY's Annual Conference. The internet access wasn't great (neither is my laptop battery), which makes blogging difficult. I remember after being a delegate to GC in 2000, coming to annual conference a month later and thinking that it was rather boring in comparison. I didn't have that overwhelming sense this year, although I can tell you that hardly any items had debate around them. In fact, we didn't even debate over the budget this year, which has to be a first. How did this happen? The finance team gave us ice cream and cookies right before we voted on the budget. An excellent strategy. :) Some thoughts on the high points:

CCYM -I just finished my fifth year as the conference youth coordinator, which sounds weird to me. I can hardly believe that. When I began working with CCYM in 2003, I have to confess that I wasn't really enjoying my work. It took a while, a long time of transition. But in the last couple of years, due to many factors, I've come to really love working with the youth of the conference. When I was in high school, I actually planned on studying and working in youth ministry. It was only during the transition to college that I felt a call to pastoral ministry. I became somewhat disenchanted with youth ministry. But in the last couple of years, I've really found my joy in youth work again. The young people in NCNY are fabulous. Every year, they lead a worship service for the conference, and every year, they touch hearts and souls with their gentle wisdom. Every year I think: I wasn't so brave, so bold, so articulate, so... when I was that age. Our CCYM has been through some tough times as we prepare for a probably merger with three other annual conferences. In the midst of these changes, our youth continue to do the work of Christ, setting an example for young and old to follow.

General Conference Report - Our delegation focused our report around the Three Simple Rules that were a thematic focus in Fort Worth. We each got a couple of minutes to highlight what we saw as essential action at the conference. For Church and Society 1, I spoke about the Social Creed Litany.

Bishop Fisher's Retirement - We celebrated the retirement of our Bishop, Violet Fisher. Bishop Fisher has done a great job in leading our episcopal area in a time when we really needed some strong spiritual leadership. She commissioned me and ordained me. I'm glad I got to complete my process with her - I know some of my colleagues who will be (likely) ordained in the next year or two are feeling a sense of loss of having their journey to ordination divided between two bishops. Given that we are going to head into a merger, our new bishop will likely be a seasoned bishop. Bishop Fisher came to us as a newly elected bishop, and we certainly enjoyed our time with her.

Ordination - I love attending the service of ordination. (See also Wes Sanders' comments about ordination here.) I just love watching others go through what was for me the most meaningful day of my life so far. I have now also officially handed away my title of "youngest elder" to my friend Richelle, who is eight days younger than me.

Sharon Fulmer
- This year at our memorial service, we said goodbye to Sharon Fulmer, our Director of Communications, who died last month after a long illness, but who had been working with energy right up to the end. My friend Heather, who drove with me to Fort Worth, filled in for Sharon, covering the Conference for NCNY, and she and Sharon spent a lot of time chatting and joking on the phone, just a few days before Sharon died. Sharon encouraged us to have fun and enjoy ourselves (and sent us with a bottle of Advil.) We invite folks to stand to honor their loved ones when their names are read at the memorial service. Nearly every person at conference stood when Sharon's name was read. She was just that kind of person - made you feel so special. Was so loving. A great, fun spirit. She will be dearly missed.

Since NCNY and GNJ hold annual conference at the same time, and my membership is still in NCNY, I wasn't able to attend GNJ conference. Every once in a great while they fall on different weekends, so maybe next year I'll get to check out how another conference does their work together.
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