The Missouri Conference Center has grown 56 percent bigger, while drawing closer together. A new 9,000 square feet addition was moved into this summer, and officially dedicated on August 24.
The building houses the offices of the Mission, Service and Justice ministries staff, who were previously working out of 3009 David Drive, a leased space about a mile east of the Conference Center. The building is now also home to the Missouri United Methodist Foundation, which had previously been leasing space on Ninth Street in downtown Columbia.
The new sense of drawing together even extends beyond the Missouri Conference, with UMCOR partnering with the mission of the facility (see story on page 11).
Conversations about the new addition started about three years ago. The previous location of Mission, Service and Justice Ministries was less than onethird the size of the new building addition. The biggest change is a 60 feet x 60 feet room with a loading dock that can be used for storage, which will be very helpful with Festival of Sharing ministries, disaster response and partnering with UMCOR.
The occasion wasn’t just a celebration of new bricks and mortar, but also a tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Office of Creative Ministries, which is now known at Mission, Service and Justice Ministries. Rev. Mel West took a break from the PET shop to come over and join celebration. The building was constructed by Professional Contractors and Engineers, Inc., and Peckham and Wright were the architects. These are the same contractors and architects who built the Missouri Conference Center.
West was appointed to a predecessor of Mission, Service and Justice Ministries called Town and Country Ministries. The year was 1965. He didn’t have a secretary or an office, but he had a heart for rural Missouri Churches. He helped connect Missouri Churches directly to organizations like Heifer Project International and Habitat for Humanity. He worked with others to initiate ministries like Prison Patch, the Festival of Sharing, and youth mission work camps.
Max Marble also took a break from his current position as U.S. director of Ludhiana Christian Medical Hospital and College in India to come and join the party. Marble was appointed to the Office of Creative Ministries in 1995. At that time the main focus of the organization with coordinating an interfaith disaster response to Missouri’s flood crisis. He had four staff members in his office, and another six deployed around the state. The response involved $3 million in donations and 8,000 volunteers.
During this era Joe Bartlesmeyer was Missouri’s coordinator of Volunteers In Mission, and also served as the state liaison for the Society of Saint Andrew. Rev. Lynn Stern was working with a traveling dental ministry, and helped establish the McDonald County dental clinic, which is still in service.
Cleo Kottowitz was coordinating Heifer Project International for Missouri from 1997 through 2004, and the Festival of Sharing continued to be an exceptional ecumenical mission event.
“When Bishop Frank retired after serving as Bishop over Missouri for 16 years, he said he was most proud of the Festival of Sharing and Saint Paul School of Theology starting when he was bishop,” Marble said.
Ivan James, chair of the Missouri Conference Board of Trustees, said the new addition serves as an example of what can happen.
“This isn’t just an example of awesome technology and architectural genius, it is also an example of the awesome power of God,” James said.
Bishop Robert Schnase explained to the crowd, which included many Chamber of Commerce members, how the Conference Center serves Missouri’s 800 United Methodist churches, which are comprised of 165,000 members led by 1,000 clergy.
In 2002 the Missouri East Conference and Missouri West Conference voted to merge, and in 2006 the current Conference Center became the office for the administrators and support staff in the Conference. Bringing all the ministries together in one location can be viewed as the final step in the merger process.