This past June marked my 17th Annual Conference with the United Methodists of Missouri. It’s only been 15 years, but my first two years I worked at both the Missouri East and Missouri West before the merger. While there, I’m writing stories for both this publication and for the Daily Journal, the daily newsletter of Annual Conference Session. I have help with the Daily Journal, which primarily came from Rev. Susan Sneed, an ordained deacon, and Rev. Pam Ekey, an ordained elder. I also had some help from Rev. Linda Gastreich and Rev. Jeannie Martin Duddenhoeffer.
The last couple of years I’ve had outstanding photography assistance from Rev. Eric Mattson, an elder who serves New Madrid and Lilbourn UMCs. You’ll see his pictures on the cover, from the Ordination service, opening worship service, and various others throughout the magazine.
Although everyone who is directly providing me with help during Conference happens to be clergy, I continue to be impressed with the laity. I’m impressed they show up at all. The Annual Conference agenda tends to be rather clergy-centric, just because it is the one time of the year we have to do all the things we do with clergy: we approve clergy, commission clergy, ordain clergy, retire clergy and memorialize clergy. Some of these things get squeezed together, but it still takes some time.
Even the clergy that aren’t meeting one of the aforementioned milestones have to attend – it’s a requirement of the job. For the laity, they are having to miss work at their jobs to participate in Annual Conference.
As spiritually fulfilling as Annual Conference can be, it’s also taxing. When Rev. Alice Fowler mentioned in her Sunday morning sermon how too much sitting during the day is a major cause of health problems, I thought of how the people hearing her message had already been sitting for a couple hours, and had another several hours of sitting on the agenda ahead of them that day – a pretty typical day at Annual Conference.
But it’s not all work. Although seeing old friends is great, my favorite thing to do at Annual Conference is to sit down at the table with someone I don’t know and get to know him or her. I’m grateful for every opportunity for this that arises.
July is the annual “Nothing but Annual Conference” issue. I hope this issue gives you an look inside the one event that connects all the United Methodists in Missouri in a special way.