By David Steele
Dear Friends, grace and peace to you in the name of our God whose love is a powerful gift to us and to the world.
In just a few short weeks we will be gathering together in Tampa for start of the 2015 Annual Conference. It is hard for me to believe how quickly this year has passed. Yet as I reflect on the many miles I have traveled to meet among you at your district conferences and gatherings, Annual Conference briefings, it brings me great joy to recount how we have strengthened our relationships through the bonds of Christ’s love.
Our Annual Conference provides an ideal setting to continue to strengthen the ties that bind us together–renewing relationships, meeting new friends and recognizing that we are part of the Body of Christ that encompasses the global community. I believe that we are at our best as the Church of the Brethren when we are all together.
Your Program and Arrangements Committee has been hard at work these last months in our continued efforts to cultivate a family-friendly conference where our children and youth continue to have opportunities to be nurtured in their relationship with God and grow in their faith. They have also made preparations for the many insight sessions that remain a significant setting to inform you of the ministries of the Church, to equip you in your ministries with your local congregation, and to strengthen and nurture your ministry gifts.
Worship continues to be central to the Annual Conference experience and nothing stirs my soul quite like singing in four-part harmony with my sisters and brothers in Christ. I am excited about the Worship Team that has been called to prayerfully and thoughtfully plan our worships together with the speakers who have been invited that will help us come together focusing on how God is calling and inviting us to live out the 2015 Annual Conference theme: “Abide in My Love…And Bear Fruit.”
In these final days leading up to our “big meeting,” I would encourage you first and foremost to be in prayer–that we come with open hearts and minds ready to be inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit. It is my hope that our work together will be worship-filled and motivated not by our personal agendas, but by love. Gail O’Day writes in the Gospel of John: The New Interpreters Bible, that “There is only one measure of one’s place in the faith community–to love as Jesus has loved–and all, great and small, ordained and lay, young and old, male and female, are equally accountable to one standard.” As we prepare to gather together, may we reflect on her words with John 15: 9-17 in mind and come ready to be held accountable to that standard–that we love as Jesus has loved.
Until our time together, may we all Abide in Christ’s Love and Bear Fruit!
Your servant in Christ,
David A. Steele
2015 Annual Conference Moderator
— Go to www.brethren.org/ac to register for Annual Conference in Tampa this summer, July 11-15, or to get more information about the plans for the Conference, the schedule, special events, continuing education opportunities, and more. Online registration and online housing reservations end today, June 10.