Annual Conference 2012 – Bits and Pieces

Photo by Glenn Riegel
This morning the new Annual Conference officers were consecrated for their service to the church with prayer and laying on of hands: from left, kneeling, moderator-elect Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, moderator Robert Krouse, and secretary James Beckwith.

Registration figures for the 2012 Conference included 731 delegates and 1,610 non-delegates, for a total of 2,341 people attending.

Five new fellowships and congregations have been welcomed to the denomination: Nuevo Amanacer Church of the Brethren in Bethlehem, Pa.; Renacer Iglesia Cristiana in Leola, Pa.; Rockford (Ill.) Community Church of the Brethren; Sanford (Maine) Fellowship; and Sierra Bayamon Iglesia de los Hermanos in Puerto Rico.

Fred Swartz finished his term of service as Conference secretary with this annual meeting. The “Conference Journal” news sheet noted that the numbers 10, 28, and 42 describe his career in church leadership, representing the number of years that he served as Annual Conference secretary, as previous editor of the “Conference Journal,” and in pastoral ministry, respectively.

A total of $38,595.82 was received in Annual Conference offerings: $6,332.35 received in Saturday evening’s offering during worship, $8,526.96 received on Sunday, $7,790.61 received on Monday, $9,550.75 received on Tuesday, and $6,395.15 received on Wednesday.

The all-Conference service project this year collected 417 backpacks full of school supplies, and 40 additional boxes of supplies, during a Sunday morning offering and additional day’s collections. Also monetary donations of $543 were given to the project. The offering for the St. Louis schools was both a service project and an outreach and witness to the host community. The additional boxes are estimated to be enough to fill another 600 backpacks, making a total of more than 1,000 backpacks’ worth of supplies donated by Brethren to the children of St. Louis.

— Three churches–Hanover (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, Mountville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, and Wabash (Ind.) Church of the Brethren–received the annual Open Roof Award, presented Saturday during the Mission and Ministry Board meeting. The award recognizes Brethren congregations or districts that have made great strides in becoming more accessible to people with disabilities. Said Congregational Life Ministries executive director Jonathan Shively. “With such excellent nominations this year, we decided that it’s more important to recognize the work being done in our congregations rather than single out one winner.” Created in 2004, the Open Roof Award was inspired by scripture from Mark 2:3-4: “Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when whey could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him.”

CODE, the Council of District Executives, held its first ever Annual Conference dinner, July 9. Craig Smith, chair of the executive committee and executive minister for Atlantic Northeast District, opened the meeting stating that the dinner was to be a “Celebration of Leadership.” A highlight of the dinner was a new award for pastoral excellence. Southern Pennsylvania District executive Georgia Markey presented the Award for Excellence in Pastoral Ministry to Janice Custer, pastor of Huntsdale Church of the Brethren in Carlisle, Pa.

— Attendees at this year’s Brethren Press and Messenger Dinner received a coupon for a special “after-dinner gift” through a generous donation from an anonymous benefactor. Each was eligible to pick up a free copy of the new book “A Dunker Guide to Brethren Beliefs” when they made a purchase at the Brethren Press bookstore.

Photo by Regina Holmes
A group of 16 moderators–15 past Annual Conference moderators and the current moderator–were at a moderator’s luncheon on Monday July 9. The group is pictured in chronological order of their service (left to right, front to back) with at front left Earle W. Fike Jr. having the most seniority, and 2012 moderator Tim Harvey at back right.

A group of 15 past Annual Conference moderators joined moderator Tim Harvey at a luncheon in St. Louis–the first moderator’s lunch in well over 12 years according to one of those who attended. Photographer Regina Holmes took the opportunity for a historic group photo.

The Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF) continued its long-standing practice of giving free meal tickets to all those interested in attending its events. The BRF offered a lunch on Monday on the topic “Brethren Mission Fund Workcamp/Mission Trip to Haiti,” led by Doug Miller; and a dinner program on Tuesday at which Bob Kettering spoke on the topic, “Going Out on a Limb.” Also, the BRF offered a prayer and fasting session on Sunday over the lunch hour. Craig Myers, moderator for the dinner meeting, announced upcoming BRF events including Brethren Alive and the Brethren Bible Institute. He stated that a Fall BRF meeting will not be held this year, with Brethren Alive serving that purpose.

Voices for an Open Spirit (VOS) also held its annual dinner in St. Louis. The group celebrated 10 years of existence, with guest speaker Jim Lehman who helped found VOS at Annual Conference a decade ago, and announced that it is considering passing on its legacy to the newly formed “Open Table Cooperative.”

The Blood Drive came close to meeting its goal of 200 units, collecting 191 useable units of blood out of 196 attempted donations. The blood drive was one way for Brethren to give back to their host community, held during what the American Red Cross (ARC) is deeming a time of “national emergency crisis” in terms of blood being available across the US. The bench mark is 150,000 units by this time of year, an ARC representative told reporter Mandy Garcia. However, the ARC has only 60,000–and St. Louis is on the low end, nationally. Blood drive promoter “The Count” reports that since the year 2000, Conference blood drives have collected about 2,200 units of blood over 12 years. “With the splitting of platelets and red blood cells,” he says, “we could up the 2,200 to 6,600 units. Most hospitals use about 6,000 units a year. So the donations at Annual Conference have filled the need of one of those hospitals for a whole year.”

— The Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC) held a service project during Conference to collect donations of personal hygiene supplies for homeless and at-risk people in St. Louis. The project was in cooperation with The Bridge, a ministry of Centenary United Methodist Church, which serves over 3,000 meals weekly and provides a safe place for people to relax, make phone calls, use the Internet, and find support.

The Quilt Auction raised $6,000 for hunger relief, sponsored by the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren (AACB). The seven pieces auctioned included two mini quilts and five quilted wall hangings. Eddie Edmonds was auctioneer this year, with Fred Bernhard and Dan Poole as spotters. Tara Hornbacker of the Bethany Seminary faculty was one of those organizing the event, with many volunteers helping to do the quilting during Conference.

After the SERRV store in the exhibit hall suffered a robbery, losing several hundred dollars worth of jewelry merchandise, $750-plus was donated back to SERRV by concerned Conference-goers. Conference director Chris Douglas shared the gratitude of the SERRV staff for the care they received from many people who stopped by the store.

— The St. Louis pavement was steamy Sunday morning as runners and walkers gathered at Forest Park for the Brethren Benefit Trust Fitness Challenge. Despite the heat and humidity, 81 Brethren turned out at 7 a.m. to participate in this popular Annual Conference event. The top finishers were: Chelsea Goss, first place female runner; Nate Hosler, first place male runner; Don Shankster, first place male walker; and Susan Fox, first place female walker.

“Move in Our Midst” has been announced as next year’s Annual Conference theme. Bob Krouse, who will serve as moderator for the Annual Conference in Charlotte, N.C., on June 29-July 3, 2013, made the announcement. Krouse said that next year is, coincidentally, the 100th anniversary of the birth of hymn writer Ken Morse.

The 2012 Annual Conference news team includes writers Don Fitzkee, Mandy Garcia, Karen Garrett, Randy Miller, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Debbie Surin, Alysson Wittmeyer; “Conference Journal” editor Eddie Edmonds; web staff Amy Heckert and Don Knieriem; and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

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