2019 New England Annual Conference

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Some 900 people gathered for the 2019 New England Conference session June 13-15 at the DoubleTree Manchester Downtown in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Conference continued our quadrennial theme of Vital Conversations with “Vital Conversations: Justice.” Our guiding scripture was Micah 6:8 NRSV

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar was the officiating bishop. In a break from tradition, Bishop Devadhar delivered his episcopal address at the beginning of the session reflecting on the conference theme.

Other speakers:

  • Ophelia Hu Kinney delivered the annual laity address
  • The Rev. Rene Perez delivered the annual state of the conference report from the cabinet
  • The Rev. Dr. Jay Williams was honored with 2019 Wilbur C. Ziegler Award for Excellence in Preaching

Guests:

  • Our guest preacher and teacher was the Rev. Elaine Heath, scholar and author of “Five Means of Grace: Experience God's Love the Wesleyan Way,” among other works. She led Bible study and preached at the annual Memorial Service.
  • Once again we were treated to the talents of Mark Miller and his band Subject to Change as our musical guests.
  • Bishop Yanghee Jung, Sanman Conference, South Korea KMC. The New England Conference is working on a sister conference relationship with Sanman Conference. 
  • Dr. Leonard Young, professional parliamentarian at the 2019 General Conference. 
  • The Massachusetts Council of Churches coordinated the presence of the ecumenical bishops and leaders throughout the annual conference to show solidarity and support.

The New England marked some significant milestones in the denomination and conference this year. The General Board of Global Ministries marks its 200th anniversary in 2019. The Rev. George Howard presented a short video celebrating this remarkable milestone. Watch it here

In March 2019, the New England Conference hosted a 150th birthday party for United Methodist Women, which began in Boston. The conference celebrated the UMW with this video.

The United Methodist Economic Ministry (UMEM) has been celebrating its 50th year of mission and ministry in some of the most impoverished areas of New England with a year-long celebration that began in November 2018.

At the 2018 Annual Conference Bob Parker challenged the conference to raise $30,000 for NE JFON. Gary Richards, president, said JFON would match that. On Thursday, it was announced that local churches had raised more than $33,000 for JFON, and a grant from the national JFON for $30,000 fulfilled the match.  Read more about the grant

The Mission Celebration on Thursday, June 13, included the commissioning of the Rev. Patricia Regina Moreira Marques, a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries. Originally from Brazil, Marques serves as a pastor of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Portugal.

One Matters Awards from Discipleship Ministries recognize churches that have gone from none to at least one baptism and/or profession of faith. This year’s honorees are:

  • West Baldwin (ME) UMC 
  • People’s UMC Newburyport, MA
  • Pearl Street UMC Brockton, MA

The Preachers’ Aid Society of New England presented two Lifetime of Discipleship Awards: The 2019 honorees are Marcia Hoyt, Fisk Memorial UMC in Natick, MA, and Linda Reiber, Portsmouth (NH) UMC.

The Conference passed a number of resolutions related to General Conference 2019 including:

Approved 19-210 COMMISSIONING THE OPEN SPIRIT TASK FORCE. The resolution would create a task force "to examine whether and how United Methodists of New England might align with, create, or form a new church body in the Methodist tradition (independently or in collaboration with others)."

Looking ahead to 2020, the Annual Conference approved a measure to give full voting rights to clergy who do not have those rights now. The resolution was strongly supported.

Approved RS-19-306 RELATED TO VOTING RIGHTS AND CLERGY MEMBERSHIP STATUS

This would amend the Book of Discipline to give licensed local pastors, provisional deacons, associate members, provisional elders and student pastors “the right to vote in the annual conference on constitutional amendments, the right to vote to elect and be elected as clergy delegates to general and jurisdictional or central conferences, and on all other matters except matters of ordination, character and conference relations of clergy.”

In addressing matters pertaining to the annual conference itself, members approved a measure to reduce the number of districts.

Approved RS-19-209 DESIGNATION OF NUMBER OF DISTRICTS

The conference approved reducing the number of districts from nine to seven beginning July 1, 2020.

The conference also elected its delegates to the 2020 General Conference and Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. The delegation includes two members under 30 and is representative of our Conference in its ethnic and racial diversity. The members are:

GENERAL CONFERENCE

Clergy
Jay Williams
Becca Girrell
Effie McAvoy

Laity
Bonnie Marden
Amanda Bonnette-Kim
Ralph Oduor 

NORTHEASTERN JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE
Clergy
Rene Perez
Leigh Goodrich
Sandra Bonnette Kim

Laity
Ana María Rodríguez Alfonso
Noah Spicer
Claire Holston

RESERVE DELEGATES TO NEJ CONFERENCE 
Clergy
David Calhoun
Cristian De La Rosa
Charlotte Pridgen-Randolph
Laity
Adama Brown-Hathaway
Uchenna Joan Awa
Roberta Bragan

As it is each year, the Service of Ordination and Commissioning was a highlight of the annual conference. This year, the New England Conference welcomed one of the largest and most diverse classes in recent memory. There were 13 ordained as elders. Nine were commissioned as elders and two as deacons.

This year’s class of 15 retirees offered the new clergy advice about how to spend their time: More time with family, and less on paperwork. They gave the new clergy rubber wrist watches that read simply: Now.

Conference Statistician Joy Mueller for the second year quizzed members on their knowledge of the conference’s numbers. Find the quiz here. Here are some additional statistics on the New England Conference:

  • Membership stands at 76,369, down 2,613 from 78,982 the previous year.
  • Worship attendance stands at 25,219, down 881.
  • Church school attendance stands at 5,511, down 157.
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018 were 944, down 197.
  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018 were 12,237, down 474.
  • Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018 were 13,176, up 750.
  • Online worship attendance is up from 644 in 2017 to 1,143 people in 2018.
Beth DiCocco, director of communications

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