Bishop Robert Farr formally opened the 2019 Missouri Annual Conference with the traditional singing of “And Are We Yet Alive.” It is a Charles Wesley hymn that has been sung at an annual conference gatherings since the early days of the Methodist movement.
Rev. Monica Jefferson, Conference secretary established the bar, outlining who is eligible to vote and where they are expected to be physically in order to vote.
Rev. Kim Jenne, director of the Office of Connectional Ministries, introduced the Bishop, Catherine Turner, assistant to the Bishop; Larry Tucker, Conference chancellor, and Amy Thompson, Conference lay leader. She also recognized Rev. Cody Collier, special assistant to the Bishop, the nine district superintendents and their executive assistants.
“Today we have 1,200 people in the room representing 773 congregations from throughout the state,” Jenne said. She also recognized all the volunteers from Wesley Church who every year serve at Annual Conference, highlighting Dewy Agee, a long-time volunteer who passed away this year.
Jenne recognized Bishop Farr’s wife Susan and acknowledged that Bishop Ann Brookshire-Sherer Simpson, Bishop Robert Schnase and Bishop Fritz Mutti all sent greetings but would not be attending the session.
Representatives from both Discipleship Ministries and United Methodist Communications were present this year as well as eight Crossroads interns. There are now 23 NextGen interns working in the field with youth and children’s camps.
“A year ago, Cody Collier and I stood on stage and shared with the body our work of hospitality for the special session,” Jenne said. “We asked you to help us with that work. And, you did – in big ways.” She thanked the volunteers for their outstanding work that has been nationally recognized. She gave special recognition to those team leaders who helped to make things run smooth despite many challenges: Rev. Steve Jones, Rev. Rob Barringer, Rev. Tina Harris, Linda Gastreich, Sally Hoener, Jill Arnold, Rev. Ashley Kirk, Lauren Miers and Heather Birge.
Rev. Marsha West Eichler, chair of the Sessions team, works to plan this annual conference. New Places for New People, this year’s theme is, at the heart of our overall mission, following Jesus’ Great Commission. The doors decorating the stage a reminder that there are always doors to open and people to welcome. Every time you go through a door or cross a threshold, consider it an opportunity to discover a new relationship. Eichler went through the resources passed out at registration, including a flash drive with worship planning resources. She moved for the adoption of the agenda, and it was passed by the body.
Hannah Shanks, incoming chair of the Rules and Procedures committee, highlighted the rule changes to be voted on by the body. The years of service for the district lay leaders has been changed to a minimum of four years but no more than six years. This will allow for more continuity as new Conference priorities are enacted. A specific time to clarify resolutions was established as 5 p.m. on April 15. A final vote on these changes was held on Sunday.
Rev. Jeremy Vickers, chair of nominations, presented the slate of clergy and laity nominated on Conference -wide committees and teams. Over the coming year, nearly half of the current positions will turn over and the work to find those new people will begin within a few weeks of the end of this annual conference. Changes and adjustments to conference and district passed with a majority vote Sunday afternoon.