Annual Conference 2017 offers special programming, opportunities for spiritual enrichment, continuing education

Church of the Brethren Newsline
May 22, 2017

Organizers of the 2017 Annual Conference highlight special programming for this year’s annual meeting of the Church of the Brethren, taking place in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 28-July 2. In addition to business sessions for delegates, all attendees will have opportunities for spiritual enrichment, continuing education, fellowship, and family oriented activities.

Highlights include a “Jubilee Afternoon,” when a wide range of activities replace the business session, inspired by the call for jubilee in Leviticus 25:10-12. Other highlights are an opportunity to participate in “Witness to the Host City” to aid local ministries for refugees and the homeless, and the annual BBT Fitness Challenge 5K, among others. Pre-Conference events add additional continuing education opportunities. On Annual Conference Sunday, July 2, all Church of the Brethren congregations are invited to worship as one virtual church by sharing in the worship webcast from Grand Rapids (find more information about these activities below).

A key business item–“Authority of Annual Conference and Districts Regarding the Accountability of Ministers, Congregations, and Districts”–already is prompting much discussion. Denominational leaders have prepared a “Q&A” guide to help answer questions in advance of the Conference. Go to .

June 5 is the last day for online registration and housing reservations for the Conference. After June 5, the next opportunity to register is onsite in Grand Rapids, where registration fees increase from $105 to $140 for nondelegates, and from $285 to $360 for delegates. For registration and more information go to .

Annual Conference Sunday

Congregations and individuals from across the country and around the world are invited to worship together as one virtual church on Annual Conference Sunday, July 2, by sharing in the worship webcast. “You can broadcast the service live to your church and worship with thousands of other Brethren!” said the invitation. Go to for information and instructions.

Participants in a variety of time zones will be able to join in the webcast at any time, or restart the broadcast from the beginning, and will be able to comment and chat online with the webcast coordinator. A bulletin for the Annual Conference Sunday worship service will be available in June, to download and print from the Annual Conference website.

Also to be webcast are the business sessions and the daily worship services from the Conference, according to the following schedule (all times are Eastern):

June 28: Opening Worship at 7-8:30 p.m.

June 29: Morning Business Session at 8:30-11:30 a.m., Afternoon Business Session at 2-4:30 p.m., Evening Worship at 7-8:30 p.m.

June 30: Morning Business Session at 8:30-11:30 a.m., Evening Worship at 7-8:30 p.m.

July 1: Morning Business Session at 8:30-11:30 a.m., Afternoon Business Session at 2-4:30 p.m., Evening Worship at 7-8:30 p.m.

July 2: Annual Conference Sunday Worship Service at 8:30-10:30 a.m.

There is no registration fee to participate in webcasts, but viewers are asked to consider making an online donation to help make the ministries of the Church of the Brethren known through the webcasts.

Pre-Conference continuing education

Three Congregational Care and Vitality Workshops are offered by Congregational Life Ministries on June 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. “Growing in Faith, Faithful in Service: Deacon Ministry 101” will be led by Stan Dueck, director for Transforming Practices. “Becoming a Listening and Discerning Congregation” will be led by Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries. “Conflict Transformation 101” will be led by Josh Brockway, director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship. To register using a credit card, go to . Cost is $15 per person, with an additional $10 for ministers wishing to earn .3 continuing education credit.

The Brethren Ministers’ Association Continuing Education Event on June 27-28 will feature guest speaker Lillian Daniel on the topic, “Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong to.” Author of the book with the same title, Daniel is from First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa, and has taught preaching at a number of schools including Chicago Theological Seminary, the University of Chicago Divinity School, and her alma mater, Yale Divinity School. The three sessions are “Four Types of Nones” on June 27, 6-9 p.m.; “Spirituality Without Stereotypes” on June 28, 9-11:45 a.m.; and “Religion Without Ranting” on June 28, 1-3:45 p.m. Register at or request a registration form from .

Training in Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation is offered by On Earth Peace on June 28 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The training will provide an introduction to the philosophy and methodology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Cost is $60, with .7 continuing education credit available to ministers for an additional $10.

Jubilee Afternoon

For a second year in a row the Conference schedule will include a “jubilee break” on Friday afternoon. “It was in that spirit of celebrating God’s blessing and mercy and of returning to right relationship with God and with each other that Annual Conference instituted its first Jubilee afternoon last year in Greensboro,” explained moderator Carol Scheppard. “The plan rose in response to concerns voiced by brothers and sisters from across the denomination. They worried that the heavy focus on contentious issues during business sessions would eventually erode the effectiveness of Annual Conference in meeting its own mission statement.”

This year’s Jubilee Afternoon will include, among other things, musical performances by Ken Medema and Jonathan Emmons; opportunities to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (with a special exhibit by the famed artist Ai Weiwei), and the Grand Rapids Art Museum; equipping workshops; special programming in the exhibit hall; and service projects benefitting greater Grand Rapids.

Witness to the Host City

Four ministries in the Grand Rapids area are the beneficiaries of the “Witness to the Host City” this year: Bethany Christian Services, the Refugee Education Center, Well House, and Mel Trotter Ministries.

Donations will be received for Bethany Christian Services, an affiliate of the Church World Service (CWS) Immigration and Refugee Program, and the Refugee Education Center.

Service projects on the Jubilee Afternoon will take volunteers to the Well House, an urban garden project for the homeless, and to Mel Trotter Ministries, a shelter that also offers food for the homeless. Volunteers who do not want to go offsite will have an opportunity to sort and box donations at the convention center.

Find suggested donations by clicking the “Witness to the Host City” link at .

BBT Fitness Challenge

Brethren Benefit Trust is sponsoring the annual BBT Fitness Challenge, a 5K run/walk on the morning of Saturday, July 1. The event starts at 7 a.m. at the Meadows at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids, about six miles from the conference center and about a 10-minute drive. Participants are responsible to secure their own transportation.

Register by downloading the registration form from and mailing a completed copy to the address indicated. The early-bird fee is $20 until May 26, increasing to $25 for onsite registration after that date. Families of four or more people may register for $60. Participants will receive a race packet including a T-shirt and bib number, which they may pick up at the BBT booth in the Annual Conference exhibit hall prior to the race or at the race start.

For questions, contact Diane Parrott at 800-746-1505 ext. 361, or .

For detailed information about Annual Conference scheduling and events, as well as business items and more, go to .

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