2014 Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

by Bill Clark

The theme of this year’s Annual Conference was “The Mission of God.” Lay delegates from across the conference joined with clergy to celebrate the ministry of Jesus Christ. It was the 177th session of the Florida Annual Conference.

In the Laity Session on Wednesday afternoon, the focus was on the role and importance of laity. Russ Graves, the Conference Lay Leader, stressed that God has called each of us to serve him in ways He has laid out for us.

For the opening Conference Session later in the afternoon, Bishop Carter led those attending in the opening worship service and prayer. During the service, we reaffirmed our Baptismal covenant and sang songs of praise. We were called to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Throughout the conference, there was an emphasis on reaching out to the next generation, to youth and young adults and to the establishment of intergenerational partnerships. We were challenged to be champions in the mission of God in our churches and our communities. In one session, we were reminded of Samuel’s role with David in First Samuel 17. The young David might not have succeeded were it not for the older Samuel being his champion.

We were also challenged to find new places and spaces for mission, fresh expressions, if you will, in reaching the unchurched or those who have fallen away, and to think outside the boundaries of what we consider church. In one Bible study session, we were reminded that the only way to be first is to be last and the only way to be great is to be a servant of God.

Throughout the conference, we heard people telling their stories and sharing their experiences of being in mission with God or observing the mission of God being revealed. They provided inspiring stories about what they are doing individually, in a small group or with a congregation to fulfill God’s dream for the world.

Bishop Carter closed the conference challenging us to cross the barriers and meet the Samaritans, the people who are not like us, and to be a witness to them. For once we get to know the Samaritans, we will get to know we are all the same, he said. The Bishop challenged us to find our Bibles again. He also shared an African proverb, which reads, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.”

With its emphasis on praise and worship and with disciples telling their stories of mission and ministry, this year’s conference was one of the most spiritually engaging and encouraging.

You can view the archived webcasts of the Annual Conference at the following link:

http://new.livestream.com/flumc

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