Bound for Greater Things - Reflections on Annual Conference

Glenn was well represented this year at Annual Conference, June 7-9, in part because of our wonderful lay delegates. The gathering of both clergy and laity from all over North Georgia is packed with worship services, business meetings, legislative sessions, and surprise appearances from the John Wesley bobble head. 

Read below for reflections from those that attended Annual Conference on behalf of Glenn.

From left to right, some of our lay delegates: Roberta Shoup, Dena Mellick, Ginger Smith, Carole Adams. Photo credit: Joseph McBrayer.

From left to right, some of our lay delegates: Roberta Shoup, Dena Mellick, Ginger Smith, Carole Adams. Photo credit: Joseph McBrayer.

When clergy and lay members gathered for the 150th session of the North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, they did so under the banner of the conference’s theme, “Bound for Greater Things,” taken from John 14:12-14.

Conference by the numbers could seem overwhelming: 264 pages of reports and information in our conference notebooks (plus a whole separate booklet of nominations for roles in the work of the Conference), 60+ reports presented by individual speakers and groups, 14 hours spent in five business sessions, and ten worship opportunities, along with four United Methodist history quizzes, two big receptions, and countless prayers.

Some reports reminded us that our church is a serious business enterprise. We heard that the conference’s retirement obligations are currently fully funded, and it was reassuring to learn that our church has experts working on equitable compensation and minimum standards for parsonages. Other reports educated us on the breadth and depth of the conference ministries that reach so many beyond the walls of our churches. We heard about church development, camping, retreats, children’s homes, health care, senior living, and services for the homeless and hungry. We received updates from the General Board of Global Ministries, which is moving its headquarters from New York to Atlanta, and to consider the engagement opportunities this move offers to the Conference.

This was my first opportunity to attend Annual Conference, and one lasting impression for me is the arc of shared worship experiences that took us from the present to the future to the past and back to the future. On the opening day, we participated in a welcoming worship service that included the sharing of communion. That evening, we celebrated the licensing, commissioning, and ordination of the newest clergy who will serve the church into the future. The next day, we reminisced with retiring clergy and remembered clergy, spouses, and lay leaders who have died in the last year. Conference concluded with special liturgies noting church closings and mergers, fixing appointments, and sending clergy forth in service to their new churches.

It was an honor to represent Glenn and I hope what I learned will be of benefit to our church as well as to my own spiritual growth. it was wonderful to see so many Glenn and Emory folks taking such active roles at conference, and it was a renewing experience to return home to Glenn where so many are doing so much to transform the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
                                                                                                                                              Ginger Smith

James Agee liked to say he had an awareness of the sacred - in people, in places, in ordinary things. He liked to say this awareness was the recognition of God’s presence. Way before Agee liked to say these things, William Blake said them with less words: Everything that lives is holy. To understand what Blake said, however, we must use more words: God makes God’s home in all persons and places and things.

Indeed, God makes God’s home in Bishop Mike Watson. We saw God in his smile, and heard God in his Amen and Hallelujah. God makes God’s home in Bishop Bill McAlilly. We heard God in his sermons about ordinary persons and places and things. God makes God’s home in the joy of Blair Setnor and Josh Amerson. We have long heard God in their calling, and seen God in their devotion to that calling. And we also saw the love of God in their faces when they knelt and were ordained.

God makes God’s home in the four youth I chaperoned. I heard God in their songs and stories. I saw God in their willingness to lead: to pray and to preach. I heard God in their questions. I felt God in their confusion and frustration, and I found God in their quick willingness to forgive, and their quicker surrender to laughter. 

God makes God’s home in the unwanted, and despised. We heard God’s voice in those who stood and spoke in support of those who have no voice. We saw God in the tears of both adult and youth, and in the support they gave each other. We heard God, too, in the voice of dissent. We heard both confusion and certainty, and we heard God guiding them slowly but surely to resolute truth.

God makes God’s home in the smiles and laughter and prayers of Alice Rogers and Susan Pinson and Ellie McQuaig. God makes God’s home in a two dollar cup of Chic-fil-A coffee, and a bottomless candy bucket passed around by Sam Halverson. God makes God’s home in the reason and care and resourcefulness of Mathew Pinson. God makes God’s home in the puckered, printed cotton fabric seersucker, that allows God’s people to truly become as one (but only on Thursdays).  

God makes God’s home in overused slogans - such as Bound for Greater Things. We find God in its exhortation: calling us to “bound” - to leap, or spring towards that which is greater than us. But we also find, and perhaps should heed, God’s warning in the dual nature of this slogan’s noun, meaning to be “bound” - limited, restricted, kept or cut off from that which is greater than us.

It is my prayer that all who attended Annual Conference not only find God in all people, places, and things, but also come to an understanding: what limits or restricts us from that which is greater is not God, but rather ourselves.

Stewart Voegtlin

It was an honor to represent Glenn as a lay member at the 150th anniversary of the North Georgia Annual Conference June 7 - 9. While there were some disappointing moments, they were mostly outweighed by the encouraging experiences. As a first time attendee at the North Georgia Annual Conference, here is what stood out to me.

The positives:

- Seeing Rev. Blair Setnor and former Glenn minister, Rev. Josh Amerson, ordained and spending time with fellow lay members and our amazing ministers.

- Seeing Glenn represented so well. Mathew Pinson presented on the main stage multiple times as the Delegation Chair and Conference Lay Leader. Glenn’s Ellie McQuaig delivered a prayer ofthe final day of the conference. Glenn members were also visible in their signatures of support for the “Resolution Against Human Trafficking to Help End Suicide an Homelessness Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Youth.”

- The ongoing connectional work of The UMC. We heard reports on organizations (many supported by Glenn) helping those in need.

The not so positive:

- Witnessing the aforementioned resolution significantly altered. The resolution sought to “follow a Biblical mandate of hospitality to the stranger and edification of the least, the lost and the hurting; and in order to prevent suicide, sexual assault, trafficking, and to end homelessness of LGBTQ youth…” An amendment was put forward to remove any reference to sexual orientation or LGBTQ and instead, substitute “at-risk youth.” One of the signing clergy said in opposition to the proposed amendment to the resolution, “We ask you to see them,” pointing out that LGBTQ youth were “uniquely at risk.” However, the amendment and the revised resolution removing any mention of LGBTQ went through.

- Sitting separately from our clergy. Clergy and lay members sit in different sections in the conference hall, similar to our separate political parties sitting across the aisle from each other in Congress. While I’m sure there is reason for this, it didn’t feel quite right.

Overall, I’m so proud of the work Glenn is doing, and I was grateful to be able to travel to Athens!

Dena Mellick

This year at the North Georgia Annual Conference, there were many reasons for celebration! First, of course, and most importantly to our Glenn family, were the ordinations of Blair and Josh and the commissioning of Kathy Brockman. How proud we all were!

The worship services were focused on hope and our individual and global missions of being bound for greater things. The memorial service was especially tender for our group because Jim Fowler, James Styles, and “Tuck” Jones we all remembered.  Ginger Smith and I participated as bell ringers and as each name was called for clergy, spouses, or significant conference laity leaders, a different tone of bell was rung. Finally one chord was played on the bells. I was reminded of all the saints with whom I have attended Annual Conference and missed their wisdom, laughter, and fighting spirits very much: Mary Tierney, Eleanor Richardson, and Frank Asbury. I remembered Sally Daniel and the year she was posthumously presented a special award for her work with the gay community at a time when few others were so active. 

Our bishop and his wife were honored as he retired to move on to greater things. Mathew Pinson invited the director of UMCOR to speak at the laity luncheon and it was very interesting to hear our newest Atlanta neighbor talk about the plans of this important UMC agency and their work. I predict Glenn will connect with this group and we too will be bound for greater things soon!

Lastly I want to thank Robert Gilileo, on behalf of the whole conference, for his tireless efforts at technology and lots of other elements to help our meetings run smoothly. He is an amazing volunteer who really kept the “show” going! It was delightful to share the conference with our Glenn delegation.

Carole Adams

For many years I attended Annual Conference with my husband, Donald E. Shoup, clergy member of the North Georgia Conference. More recently I have served as a lay member delegate from Glenn.

We were proud of Glenn member Donn Ann Weber who served as secretary of the conference and was re-elected to that position for another year. Mathew Pinson has served as our Conference Lay Leader and head of the North Georgia delegation to the recent General United Methodist Conference in Portland. He presented an excellent report of that very important conference.

Former tenor in Glenn's choir Timothy Miller gave us glorious music during the Service of Remembrance when deceased clergy and spouses were remembered. At another service, forty retirees representing 1,268 years of ministry were recognized. 

We were especially proud of Blair Setnor as she was ordained Deacon in Full Connection and Josh Amerson as he was ordained Elder in Full Connection.

The next North Georgia Annual Conference will be held June 13-15, 2017 at the Classic Center in Athens, GA.

Roberta Shoup