I have been ordained over 32 years. During those years I have been to many, many annual meetings. Some are ho-hum. Some are innovative. Some are fine. Some are just ok. Last year’s annual meeting was good. This year’s annual meeting was phenomenal. This is not a word I use lightly. There was an excitement and a buzz that was felt and heard throughout our time together.
We have been living through a difficult time in the church with so many congregations in decline and with many closing their doors. Maybe we’ve stopped grieving our losses and trying to figure out how to fix that and just letting go and letting the Holy Spirit come and do what she does.
The focus for this meeting was “Growing Churches.” I was unable to go to the pre-meeting session on Thursday, but the list of presenters that day and their topics hit a chord with many in the conference as the numbers in attendance was significant. On Friday there were two workshop breakouts with a total of five choices to pick from for each breakout. I wanted to go to them all.
I did go to Growing Churches by Enlarging the Table/Building Relationship with Timothy Hogan-Palazzo and Matt Mardis-LeCroy. And Growing Churches Through Coaching with Felix Villanueva. Both informative and helpful, and energizing.
There was much to celebrate within the conference. We witnessed the Commissioning of Gordon Street’s ministry, and Michael Curry received Lay Ministerial Standing. We received Beatitudes Campus and Journey as covenanted communities of the Southwest Conference. We also received Toas United Community Church as a covenanted congregation of the Southwest Conference.
Thursday and Friday lunches could be bought from three different food trucks. What a fun way to try different menus. Friday night we enjoyed a banquet at Beatitudes Campus. Worship – always special at annual meeting – where we gather as the body in worship of the Southwest Conference representing the United Church of Christ in Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
I left this annual meeting feeling hopeful, excited and definitely blessed. Next year the annual meeting will be April 23-25 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Sahuarita, AZ. The theme will be Telling the Stories.