By Susan Sneed
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 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 administrative assistants.
“Today we have 1,200 people in the room representing 773 congregations from throughout the state,” said Jenne. She also recognized all the volunteers from Wesley Church who every year provide volunteers, especially Dewy Agee, a long-time volunteer who passed this year.
“We welcome Mrs. Susan Farr, the Bishop’s wife,” said Rev. Jenne. “While not here, greetings were received by Bishops Sherer, Bishop Schnase and Bishop Mutti.” She also recognized Glorymar Rivera Baez of the United Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, who will present on the Church’s relief work in Puerto Rico.
“We are very blessed to have some of our Mozambican siblings in Missouri during our time in session: MI Coordinator Ezequiel (Ezy) Nhantumbo, Pastor Cremilda Moises Homo, Calisto Chibale and Fatima Vilanculo.”
Representatives from both Discipleship Ministries and United Methodist Communications are 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,” said Rev. Jenne. “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 national recognized. She gave special recognition to those team leaders who helped to make things run smooth despite many challenges: Steve Jones, Rob Barringer, Tina Harris, Linda Gastreich, Sally Hoener, Jill Arnold, Ashley Kirk, Lauren Miers and Heather Birge.
Rev. Marsha West Eichler, chair of the Sessions team works to create 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 hall are a reminder that there are always doors to open to welcome people. 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 delegates.
Hannah Shanks, in-coming 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 5pm April 15. A final vote on these changes will be 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. Any changes printed slate should be made before the final vote on Sunday.
Randy Biggerstaff, head teller provided an explanation of General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference and update on how the voting for those delegates will be conducted. A total of 12 clergy and 12 laity plus 2 alternates of each. Six clergy and Six laity will attend General Conference while all of the delegates attend the Jurisdictional conference. Bishops are selected at Jurisdictional conference. This year clergy and laity will be at different times using electronic handheld voting devices. A printed list of candidates will be distributed to both groups. Only properly badged persons will be allowed within “the bar” to vote. There are written instructions on how to use the voting device in the back of the workbook. Bishop Farr has asked that everyone read up on how it works.