The West Ohio Annual conference began with almost 3000 clergy and laity gathering at Lakeside, Ohio in early June. Each day began with a powerful worship experience with preaching by Bishop Palmer and guest bishops from other conferences. Holy Communion is celebrated. Worship is an inspiring way to start each day, and it sets the tone for all of us to work together in the unity of the Spirit.
For me, the gift of being a lay delegate is to see the best of our connectional church. It is about learning what our church is doing for mission and outreach in the state of Ohio, the U.S., and the world. It is learning about new initiatives which the conference, districts, and the local church are doing to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world. It is seeing how others are serving to transform the world.
The business portion of the conference was non-controversial this year. There were five recommendations which were discussed and voted on: Finance and Administration; Equitable Compensation; Pension and Health Benefits; sale of Camp Asbury; and a study regarding the benefits and costs of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative. Two years ago we started using the electronic voting process so the actual voting took a lot less time than in the past when we said “Yea or Nay”; raised our hands, or had a written ballot. The administrative and parliamentary procedures may be cumbersome and sometimes tedious (at least for me), but the gift is that everyone has “voice and vote”, and we are part of the holy conferencing process, the solutions, and the future of the United Methodist Church.
We affirm the new clergy who are commissioned or ordained as local pastors, deacons, or elders (including our very own Pastor Ian Strickland at OTRCC). New clergy appointments are announced by Bishop Palmer. We celebrate the retiring clergy who have served us well for many years (although I don’t believe a pastor ever retires). And we honor the saints and spouses who have gone before us with deep reverence and appreciation. Certified lay ministers and other missional lay leaders in the West Ohio are recognized as well for their faithful service.
Every year I am moved when over 3000 people stand and sing the hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” And every year I cry as I sing this hymn. I pray asking God what He wants me to let go of and how I am best to serve Him. Let us all celebrate and sing, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred name.”
-submitted by Diane Weaver