The Conference office has announced the locations for upcoming Annual Conferences. In 2018 the annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren will return to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it has been held in previous decades; and in 2019 the event returns to the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, Calif., where it was held in 2009.
Other upcoming locations already have been announced: Tampa, Fla., in 2015; Greensboro, N.C., in 2016; and Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2017.
Conference director Chris Douglas explained that the bidding process for Conference locations has allowed for a choice of best prices for convention centers and hotels, among other expenses. The 2012 Annual Conference made a decision to no longer require a mandated geographical rotation to certain areas of the country, as part of a number of actions intended to help revitalize the annual meeting.
The Conference decision in 2012 releases planners from polity approved in 2007 that required a strict geographical rotation covering the entire US. Instead, under the new recommendation, the Annual Conference may be rotated among a handful of locations that “maximize sound fiscal stewardship for Annual Conference and attendees.”
The previous way of settling on locations by geographical rotation was thought to ensure good participation by Brethren from across the country. However, Douglas explained, in practice it meant only a few cities in some regions could bid for the event. “You take away the competition factor,” she said. The end result, ironically, was higher costs and less incentive for families to attend.
Distance is another factor that used to play in to costs but is not nearly so important anymore, because the cost of airfares no longer relate to actual miles traveled, but rather to factors such as the size of the airport or whether it is a carrier’s hub.
In addition to costs and expenses, the Program and Arrangements Committee takes many other things into account when deciding on locations for Annual Conference, Douglas said. These include the type of meeting facilities in the city, how easy it is to travel to the location, and the number of Brethren living in the area, among others.
The bidding process encourages every city to do its best job in terms of prices, and as more cities are invited to bid, the Conference office is discovering that locations where the meeting has been held in recent years are very competitive. Hence the return to Town and Country in San Diego, and to the convention center in Grand Rapids, which hosted the 2011 Conference.
Douglas shared that after Town and Country was defeated by Cincinnati’s bid for the 2018 Annual Conference, it came back with a more competitive bid for the 2019 meeting that will provide significant savings for Conference-goers, especially larger families: free breakfast, free parking, free wifi, a significantly lower room rate than was charged in 2009, and more.
“We would have never gotten that kind of bid if we had been limited in our geographical area,” said Douglas. “And we want to encourage Brethren from the east to travel out west and experience it. People really loved the setting in San Diego in 2009, there were so many positive comments about Town and Country. So begin your planning now to go to San Diego in 2019!
“I will still try to find some geographic rotation, and I am committed to looking for locations west and east of the Mississippi that offer an opportunity to the whole church for a meaningful Conference,” Douglas assured. “However, we receive lower prices when we are not mandated to only receive bids from one area of the country each year.”