Planning for Annual Conference 2015 in Tampa, Fla., on July 11-15, is in place and the Conference officers and staff are highlighting the number of special speakers, unique events, continuing education opportunities, and possibilities for church fellowship and family fun offered at this Conference. The Conference centers on the theme “Abide in My Love… and Bear Fruit” (John 15:9-17). David A. Steele, district executive of Middle Pennsylvania District, will preside as moderator, assisted by moderator-elect Andy Murray and secretary James Beckwith. Chris Douglas is the Conference director.
Online registration for the Conference closes on June 10, after which registration will be open onsite in Tampa prior to the start of the Conference.
Special speakers and international guests
Christian musician and composer Ken Medema joins up with Ted Swartz of Ted & Co., a drama and comedy troupe, to perform together on Sunday night, July 12. The two will lead “Heart to Heart: A Reflection in Drama and Music.” Medema and Swartz have been popular presenters at previous Annual Conferences, National Youth Conferences, and various other Church of the Brethren events and venues. Medema also will perform an original song to accompany a video about the Nigeria crisis during the Sunday morning worship service.
Well known spiritual writer Joyce Rupp, who is a member of the Servants of Mary religious community and author of 22 award-winning books on spiritual growth, will lead the pre-Conference Ministers’ Association continuing education event. The theme is “Delving Deeply into Compassion.” The event is for ministers in the Church of the Brethren, and begins the evening of Friday, July 10, and continues through the day on Saturday, July 11. Find out more at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/documents/other-events/brethren-ministers-assoc-flyer.pdf .
Alex Awad will present “A Palestinian Perspective of the Middle East: A Personal Narrative” at the Global Mission and Service dinner on Monday, July 13, at 5 p.m. He pastors East Jerusalem Baptist Church and is dean of students at Bethlehem Bible College where he directs the Shepherd Society, an organization that assists struggling Palestinians living in the West Bank.
Two Nigerian Brethren groups are among international guests expected to join the Brethren in Tampa: BEST, a group of business professionals, and the EYN Women’s Fellowship (ZME) Choir. President Dr. Samuel Dali and Rebecca Dali will attend the Conference to represent Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Also from Africa, David Niyonzima, director of THARS (Trauma, Healing, And Reconciliation Services) in Bujumbura, Burundi, will be attending along with Etienne Nsanzimana of the Evangelical Friends Church in Rwanda.
The Haitian Church of the Brethren will send Vildor Archange, who works with the community development team in Haiti, and possibly other Haitian guests will receive visas.
Sunday worship webcast
Congregations that want to join in and worship along with the Annual Conference Sunday morning service on July 12 may do so via a live webcast. Worship planners are hoping to keep the service to 65 minutes in order to facilitate congregational participation.
Rodger Nishioka, professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia and one of the speakers for National Youth Conference last summer, will bring a message titled “Embody a New Community…Among Us.”
The EYN Women’s Fellowship (ZME) Choir will sing, and during the offering Ken Medema will perform an original song composed to accompany a video about the crisis in Nigeria, which was taped by David Sollenberger last fall.
A bulletin will be posted in advance at www.brethren.org/ac and will include hymn numbers from “Hymnal: A Worship Book,” the hymnal published jointly by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.
Find out more about joining in the live webcast at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/webcasts.html .
New and unique events
A free ice cream social for all Conference participants helps open the Conference after the conclusion of worship on Saturday evening, July 11.
A reception in honor of Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger will be held on Tuesday, July 14, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., offered by the Mission and Ministry Board. The reception is open to all Conference-goers and will include opportunities to bring greetings to Noffsinger, who is to conclude his service as general secretary by July 2016.
Prior to the start of the Conference, Congregational Life Ministries offers two new workshops led by staff member Stan Dueck on topics related to grief and healing: “Clearing Your Grief and Bereavement” is on Saturday morning, July 11, from 9 a.m.-12 noon; and “The Circle of Care: Being a Dynamic, Caring Congregation” is that afternoon from 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Congregational Life Ministries is combining its annual dinner with the Intercultural Ministries meal event this year. The speaker will be Richard Zapata, a pastor and moderator-elect of Pacific Southwest District, on the topic, “Unidos por una sola palabra.”
A Dolphin Tour is offered for non-delegates on Monday, July 13, with three options for times to take the tour by boat. Find out more at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/dolphin-tour.html .
Witness to the Host City
This year’s Witness to the Host City supports Metropolitan Ministries, a faith-based organization serving poor and homeless families in four Florida counties. The mission is to “care for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in our community through services that alleviate suffering, promote dignity and instill self-sufficiency–as an expression of the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.”
According to the Conference Office, “the ministry serves 69,000 meals and goes through 16,500 diapers every month. It operates Miracle Place, transitional housing for 100 families including 250 children. The scope of the work also includes offering financial services, employment skills, classes and counseling, and spiritual development to name just a few. All in all, over 25,000 families get help each year from Metropolitan Ministries.”
Conference-goers are invited to bring items to donate to this work. Find a list of most-needed items at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/witness-to-the-host-city.html . Donations will be collected at the start of Sunday morning worship and will be presented to Metropolitan Ministries on Tuesday afternoon of the Conference. For more about Metropolitan Ministries see www.metromin.org .
The following new business items will be presented to the 2015 delegate body:
— Amendments to the Bylaws of the Church of the Brethren, Inc.
— Amendments to Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) Articles of Organization
— Polity Change Proposal from Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT)
— Interpretation of Polity Regarding Agency Financial Reports
— Mandate for the 2015-2017 Review and Evaluation Committee
— Query: Future District Structure
— Resolution on Christian Minority Communities
Reports will be received from the Annual Conference agencies–the Church of the Brethren, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Brethren Benefit Trust–and from the Program and Arrangements Committee and the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee. Ecumenical organizations to which the denomination relates also will report to the delegate body including the World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches, and Christian Churches Together in the USA.
Business sessions will include presentation of the 2015 ballot and elections to fill church leadership positions. There are no items of unfinished business at Annual Conference this year.
A full listing of business with links to the text of each item is at www.brethren.org/ac/2015/business.html . A business briefing video featuring moderator David Steele and secretary Jim Beckwith is viewable at www.brethren.org/ac .
In other Conference news
Continuing education opportunities: Many of the presentations at the Conference including a number of insight sessions, workshops, meal events, and pre-Conference events offer continuing education credit for ministers. Consult schedule and activities listings at www.brethren.org/ac .
Ride the Streetcar: A half-price deal is offered to Conference-goers who want an easy and affordable way to get around downtown Tampa, as well as the historic Ybor City and Channel District. To claim the half-price fare on the streetcar, Conference-goers will need to wear their name tags and purchase their tickets at the Ticket Vending Machines.
AC App: An Annual Conference app is available for the 2015 Conference, created by Church of the Brethren website staff. With the app, users of mobile devices may plan their Conference with a customized schedule, integrate iCal and Google Calendars and add Conference events to personal planners, stay updated with push notifications, navigate around the Conference and to local attractions with maps of the Tampa Convention Center and Marriott meeting rooms and an area map, view profiles of speakers and exhibitors, and stay informed with news and Twitter updates. A device running iOS 6 and higher or Android 2.3 and higher is required to download the app. More information is at www.brethren.org/ACApp .
Volunteers needed: There is a desperate need for volunteers to help with children’s activities at the 2015 Conference. “Anyone who is willing to volunteer for a session or a day or whatever they can give to help our children” should contact the Conference Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up online at https://cobrethren.wufoo.com/forms/annual-conference-volunteer-signup-form .
For more detailed information about the schedule and events at the 2015 Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac .