This was one of those calm Annual Conferences. The only thing really hot was the temperature. In order to ‘test’ their ability to slow cook delegates, the Lake Junaluska people decided to try out the two air conditioning units that the Salvation Army is allowing them to borrow. Two air conditioners, four holes in the walls, does not a comfortable auditorium make. It was still hot and it was obvious most of the cool air was running out of the holes in the ceiling.
Renovations: Lake Junaluska did share its vision for possible renovations to the assembly. Update the Terrace hotel and some of the other rooms/dorms, build new lakeside hotel, fix up Stewart Auditorium and build a 3000 seat conference center with break out rooms and it would be 100% HVAC ready! YEAHH!!!! This is a brilliant idea that is only two decades too late. Seriously, I am happy that LJ is looking into renovations and I do hope I can seem them before I retire in 2042.
Petitions: There were not ‘big’ petitions this year. I guess the big ones were all last year before General Conference. The ‘big’ debate was what type of raise DS, the Conference Treasure, and Assistant to the Bishop should get. This was the big buzz I heard while saying hi to friends I hadn’t seen since last year. The main concern was the ‘sneakiness’ that was being used. This raised was in the last couple of paragraphs in a report which proposed that the DS’s would receive 80% of the bishop’s salary and the other two positions would receive 95%. The bishop makes a little over $125K a year. This means that DSs would receive $100K and the other two $120K. The rational for this was it kept these positions on course with the average compensation in the conference, $63,000. If this had passed the DSs would have received an $8000 raise. In the end they received a cost of living plus 2% merit raise. I hope they are satisfied with that.
Young Clergy: I attended the first ever Young Clergy Gathering but left a little disappointed. The meeting was at 9:00 pm and at 9 they started to play Rock Band on a huge screen a mega speakers. I will admit it was cool but after an hour of it I left, wishing there was some conversation (within that first hour) on how we can help each other in ministry, keep up contact/communication with each other besides at AC, and discuss other Young Clergy topics. Maybe that happened after 10 but I didn’t hang around to find out.
Worship: This was a huge retirement year, with the bishop and the conference secretary hanging it up this year. I was very curious what the bishop would preach on for his last sermon as bishop and as an active clergy person. His sermon was focused on appointments and how we are called to serve the places we are sent. We are to bring “building blocks and watering cans” to build up and nurture the congregations we minister to and with. We are to recognize they have a history before we came and will have one long after we leave. I found his words encouraging and it made me reflect on the appointments that were handed out. During conversations with people (clergy and laity) I heard grumbles about some appointments and praises about others. It is the natural order of things. Some people were disappointed with who or where they were being sent others were thrilled. Still others were simply happy and pleased to be staying where they are. I guess it is key to remember that God can work through and in spite of the cabinet.
Overall, conference was a nice retreat full of long meetings, sweat and worship. There is nothing like hearing thousands of people sing The Church is One Foundation. It is wonderful to see friend’s new babies and learning there are more on the way. There is nothing like sitting under the trees outside Stewart and feeling the breeze come off the lake and the sun kiss the tree filled mountains. Holy Conferencing is a beautiful thing.