2010 Annual Conference at Lakeside, OHJune 7-10, 2010

Tuesday, June 8 News

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Written by John Henderson, West Ohio Communications Intern from Otterbein College
Photography by Benjamin Derkin

LAKESIDE, OHIO:  Morning sunshine and music greeted West Ohioans as they came together once again for worship at Lakeside for the 2010 Annual Conference.  Welcoming everyone into Hoover Auditorium was the Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church Praise Team.  The praise team had everyone in the full auditorium standing, clapping, and singing along to songs with words like “Jesus, your loving kindness is better than life,” and “all things are possible.”

Bishop Bruce Ough introduced the Love First Miracle Offering, announcing a goal of ten thousand pounds of potatoes donated along with the monetary offering being taken.  The praise team led the congregation in song while ushers collected the offering and those with potatoes brought them to the stage.  The potatoes being collected will be donated to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, West Ohio Foodbank, and C.A.R.E United Methodist Outreach.      

Following a prayer over the offering by Bishop Ough, he introduced the morning’s speaker, Rev. Janet Wolf from Nashville, Tenn. Wolf engaged the audience through her passionate tone and her personal stories shared in the morning’s message.  Most powerful was a reading shared by Rev. Wolf and Rev. Karen Cook of West Ohio in which each took the role of one of two womean living contrasting lives and circumstances.  

Wolf said that we must focus on proximity stressing that we cannot wait for people but instead, go to them.  She said that we must be in ministry with the poor but not just to and for the poor, that this is, “who we are as Methodists.” Wolf stressed that we must move into the world of those who are “impoverished and marginalized,” and that we must take the invitation of Jesus to be dislocated and relocated. After providing statistics on poverty, Wolf reminded the audience that John Wesley thought it more important to be in partnership with the poor than to show up on Sunday morning for communion.  She reminded the room of the gospel’s call to challenge, confront, and change us, that we must move from complacency to commitment. 


 

Tuesday morning and afternoon, those at Annual Conference had the choice of nine different workshops focused on social justice and ministry with the poor.

One workshop, “A Bridge Out of Poverty,” was led by Cathy Hamilton.  Hamilton, who came from poverty, told her story of overcoming poverty because of a hope for the future instilled in her by people at key times in her life.  She spoke of the different human responses to life situations because of a need for survival and emotional memories. 

“Reality Check: Is Your Congregation Really Ready for a Ministry WITH the Poor?” was led by Lou Seipel who spoke on the criticalness of relationships in being in ministry with the poor.  Seipel compared the values of different class systems.  Those in poverty rely on relationships and those in the middle class value base everything on achievement. “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”  

John Edgar and Donita Harris led a workshop titled, “Engaging Urban Neighborhoods in Community Development.” Harris said that worship pulls it all together, that passionate worship transforms relationships.  She said that we must think about the sacrifices being made and as a living body of Christ, must be intentional.  Tolerance (of differences) leads to appreciation, which leads to inspiration, according to Harris.  Before turning the microphone over to John Edgar, Harris gave two foundational statements of their church, “God loves us just the way we are,” and “God is not finished with us yet.”  Edgar said that once relationships are developed, we become something different in worship, the body of Christ.  He stressed that everyone has something to share and that we all must understand the power we have when we work together and share with one another. 

Jorge Acevedo spoke to a group on the importance of Recovery Ministry in a session titled, “Recovery Ministry: Connection Recovery to Christ.”  He said that we are all in recovery and that we all need the grace that God provides.  He focused on the recovery ministry that he works with and shared stories from real life situations.   According to Acevedo, we must create a culture of understanding.  “Recovery ministry is messy but the joy of getting a front row seat at life change is worth the hassle.”

Another workshop offered was  “Transforming Lives Through Prison Ministry,” led by Jeff Hunsaker, executive director of the Horizon Faith and Character Transformation Initiative  at Marion Correctional Institution.  That important ministry provides personal connections with prisoners in a dormitory like setting and has greatly reduced the rate of recidivism after release from prison.

“Immigration: Human Rights and Family Values,” focused on issues between immigrants and the United States.   At the session, those in attendance were asked not to generalize immigrants’ stories.  Our conflicts are related to a lack of information. We must recognize the injustice that is a part of this issue today.  Because we are scared, we find someone to blame. 

Two other workshops, “Innocence Lost: Human Trafficking” and “Healthcare Systems Based in Faith” challenged the people to look at issues with the goal of causing change. 

Seth Heckaman, the young man who founded Hope’s Voice, was “broken” by a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico and seeing Human Trafficking take place in the Red Light District.  Heckaman, just a sophomore in high school at the time, knew that he had to do something. He said that although we hear about the issue and ways to stop it now more than ever, we must know what the issue really is about in order to make a change.

Dr. Scott Morris spoke on health care and how we must do better than what we have done in the past. He said that we must switch our focus from preventing death to finding causes of life, that we must change our behavior.  “God gave us a body for a reason.  We have an obligation to take care of it,” said Morris.  He said that we need to make health care extremely important in our lives in order to live out our faith and lead the way to a better life.

Bishop Raul Garcia led a workshop titled “Building Global Bridges,” at the Fountain Inn in which he engaged the audience in discussions about poverty across the world and ways to connect.

 


Tuesday afternoon’s Love in Action Worship was focused on a message of going “to the ditch.”  After a welcoming song by the Reynoldsburg Praise Team, a group of Vacation Bible School children sang a song with words, “In my Father’s house, everything is fine.”  A responsive reading, a song by the praise team, and a story shared from the book of Luke came before the message, again given by Rev. Janet Wolf. Bishop Ough introduced Rev. Wolf saying that her morning message had three things.  It had style, enthusiasm and truth.

Rev. Wolf began with a story of a young child, a disruptive child, who had been transformed by a feeling of importance.   She said that it is important to include those who are on the “edges.”  According to Wolf, it is important to invite not only those who have a means, but more importantly those who have a need.  She told a story of the Good Samaritan saying that this title would not be a “Jesus title.”  She said that today we could never have a story about an ordinary Samaritan.

If we are to know how we are doing on issues, Wolf said that we should not look to those leading the way but those among the suffering.  For example, if we want to build bridges out of poverty, we must not ask state officials about the issue but instead those living on the streets and under bridges.  Wolf said that we must change the church’s social location in order to go to the ditch and build partnerships by being a connectional church.   “The way of love is not a way of domination and division,” said Wolf.  

She said that as United Methodists, we must recognize that, “Homogenous is not Wesleyan.  Everyone has gifts to bring. We are a church when open hearts, open minds, and open doors is not just a slogan,” said Wolf.  To conclude, Wolf had the people repeating “a change is gonna come.”  She said that we must “disturb apathy and challenge complacency,” to make that change.  

Bishop Ough took to the stage asking whether there were any feelings of uneasiness or urgency.  The bishop asked if anyone felt called to go to or get in the ditch.  The audience was invited to make commitments and bring them forward to the stage.  During this time of response, the praise team led worship. The bishop closed by saying, “get out of here and go to the ditch.”  


Everyone at Lakeside got a chance Tuesday evening to gather by the water and unwind from a long day at Annual Conference.  Around 5 pm, the Big Event began and included games for all ages.  By making a donation to the miracle offering, children could play games and win various prizes.  

The carnival-like event had everything from a dunk tank, to balloon hats and a bounce house for the younger children.  A ministry fair focusing on poverty took place between the shops of Lakeside and just down from Hoover Auditorium.  Various organizations had booths set up with informational materials to distribute related to working with the poor. 

The bishop and cabinet defeated the youth with a 4-0 win in The Bishop's Challenge that included four different events.  Events included the construction of a giant block tower and a bridge building competition.    Rock the Dock began at 8pm with a DJ playing songs and a large crowd gathered around enjoying time spent together and dancing to a the songs being played.  Young and old, all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  

If you have any questions regarding Annual Conference, email Tim McCoy, Coordinator of Annual Conference or call 1.800.437.0028 ext. 227.