Student performances, fellowship and good food gave delegates and visitors to General Conference 2012 a chance to learn about the global network of United Methodist and Methodist higher education on a more personal level.
“Fellowship, community, gifts all come together – it’s the best way to do it, education at its best,” said Rodney Smothers, a delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference. “It’s a great way to showcase the talents of the different schools. You get a chance to talk to the students when they aren’t performing.”
Guests frequently clustered around one of three stages photographing or taping the performances with their phones or cameras. Choirs from Kentucky Wesleyan College, Wiley College, Martin Methodist College, Candler School of Theology and others performed on three stages. Other performances included a Mariachi band, jugglers and drama. The Africa University Choir also performed.
The event, co-sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Higher Education, the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church, and the Educational and Institutional Insurance Administrators Inc., followed a 20-minute presentation on the floor of General Conference about the importance of United Methodist Higher Education.
That educational network includes 120 schools, college and universities in the U.S., including 13 theological schools, as well as the 520 campus ministries and more than 800 Methodist institutions around the world.
Eduardo Riveria, a reserve delegate from Northwest Texas, said the quality of the event was amazing. “I’m very impressed with all the students,” he said.
Shirley Procter, a delegate from the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, said she was also impressed by the speakers at the plenary presentation on higher education, especially when people stood if they had attended Africa University, a UM educational institution in the U.S., a Methodist institution outside the U.S.; if they had participated in a campus ministry; or if a former student of a UM-related college, university or seminary had had an impact in their life.
Virtually everyone in the hall stood.
Bishop James Dorff, Southwest Texas Annual Conference, serves on several UM-related college and university boards – Southern Methodist University, Huston-Tillotson University, Southwestern University and the Lydia Patterson Institute, and has been nominated for the board of Africa University.
“It’s very energizing, all these institutions have challenges, all of them are highly engaged in meeting those challenges, and that bodes well for the future generation,” he said.
Mike Powers, a delegate from the Kentucky Conference, said the higher education presentation and the ministry fair were some of the best presentations he had seen at General Conference.
“All of those students and representatives of colleges, putting all those young people front and center, not just as speakers, but experiencing their lives,” Power said.
Caitlyn Butler, who is graduating from North Central College in Naperville, Ill., is a leader in her campus ministry, said one thing the event showed was how many students attend UM-related schools.
The Rev. Gerald Lord, associate general secretary of GBHEM’s Division of Higher Education, said he was pleased that the delegates took advantage of the occasion to visit and have fellowship with students and with the many college presidents who came.
“We wanted to have a different kind of occasion after the presentation, and I’m pleased that the students, presidents, bishops, and delegates came and stayed around to learn about our educational institutions,” Lord said.