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A virtual first for annual conference

Posted: October 6 2020 at 03:15 PM
Author: Bishop Sally Dyck


Important Dates

  • Oct. 12 Registration opens for Nov. 14 session. Registration is required to receive a Zoom link to participate in the business of AC2020.
  • Oct. 14 Proposed legislation and historical documents available online.
  • Oct. 25 AC2020 registration closes.
  • Nov. 1 Deadline for removal of legislation from Consent Calendar by sending an email to acdocuments@umcnic.org.
  • Nov. 2 Bishop's Appeal gifts postmarked by this date will be included in totals announced at AC2020.
  • Nov. 9 Voter ID numbers distributed to clergy and laity registered for annual conference.
     

Briefings and Services

  • Pre-Conference Briefings (choose one) Wed., Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.
  • Deep Dive into NIC Finances (optional) Tues., Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.
  • Technical Training (choose one) Thurs., Nov. 12 (time TBD) Fri., Nov. 13 (time TBD)
  • Memorial Service Thurs., Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. (video premiere)
  • Ordination Service Fri., Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. (Livestream from Barrington UMC: limited attendance, invitation-only event.)
  • Annual Conference Session Sat., Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., noon to 1:30 p.m. break
  • Retirement Service Sat., Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. (Video premiere)
  • Visit umcnic.org/AC2020 for more information.

“When did I first start zooming?” I wondered one day. I went back in my virtual calendar and to the best of my knowledge, it was September 10, 2019. Almost to the day of writing this, it’s been a year of Zoom video conferencing. But not all days and weeks and months of zooming are equal. Since mid-March, I have been zooming every day, sometimes for hours. My guess is that many of you have been zooming these last months (or using another platform like Zoom). Even my 88-year-old mother zooms (when her computer works), and she’s very proud to be the only person in her senior facility to do so.

Zooming is essential to living in pandemic times for both personal and work-related reasons. And now zooming is essential in order to do the work of the annual conference. Without the ability to meet in person this past June, we will attempt the first virtual annual conference meeting in the 181 years of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference!

All NIC Clergy and Lay Members to Annual Conference should have received my call letter for this historic annual conference session, which will be held on Saturday, November 14, 2020, via a Zoom webinar. The letter provides all kinds of information about AC2020, but I want to highlight a few things about a virtual conference that I hope you will take into consideration as you prepare for it:

  • Annual conference will be an extended experience. Yes, really! We will begin with Bible study with Rev. Junius Dotson, the General Secretary/CEO of Discipleship Ministries. He was invited to be with us in June and he has graciously accepted our invitation to do a Bible study on each of our strategic goals—discipleship, anti-racism, and vital congregations. As a result, he’ll have about twice as long to teach than he would during an in-person conference. These three webinars start in October and they are all part of our annual conference experience! Recordings of the session will be made available.
  • We will have pre-conference briefings that are essential for the virtual conference experience. We’re offering three of them—all the same, but at different times—with the expectation that you as a clergyperson or lay delegate will participate in only one. These briefings will prepare us so that, during our four hours of virtual meetings on November 14, we will be empowered to conduct the essential business for the NIC efficiently.
  • In addition to a presentation regarding the 2021 budget during the pre-conference briefing, the Conference Committee on Finance and Administration (CCFA) will host a special, optional webinar on the financial health of our annual conference.
  • There will be ways to present questions before our annual conference session and it’s very important that you participate in these webinars so that your questions are asked and answered. The presentations on November 14 will incorporate many of the questions with others posted for further information.
  • We will have all the regular worship services that we normally have; they will just be different from how we’ve done them in the past. We will begin with the Memorial Service on Thursday evening, November 12, followed the next afternoon by a carefully planned Commissioning and Ordination Service with all precautions (including a very limited number of persons participating) on November 13. Our annual conference business session takes place Saturday, November 14, followed by the online Retirement Service. We expect every clergy and delegate to attend all of these services (virtually) over these three days in addition to the business session.
  • Two identical training sessions will be held so that each clergy and delegate knows how to use the virtual platform with the ability to participate fully, especially to vote! You may choose the date and time convenient for you. Please note them and make sure that, even if you’ve been zooming for six months now, you will be able to participate. So those are all components of a virtual annual conference session (preceded at the end of June by the annual Clergy Session). I encourage you to put the dates and times on your calendar.
Ac 2020 Logo Virtual Final 2

Having said all that, I want to acknowledge the grief, sadness and loss that accompanies this year’s virtual annual conference. The candidates for commissioning and ordination miss out on all the “pomp and circumstance” (and I use that phrase in the utmost highest regard) that accompanies that service. Only instrumental music will be played (no singing). Only one other person associated with a candidate may attend (no groups of family, friends, colleagues and parishioners who would normally attend). There will be no warm embraces before, during and after this special service.

The whole “cloud” (physical anyway) of clergy colleagues who will walk with the candidates for years to come won’t be in attendance. There will be no reception complete with food, fellowship and photos. It’s a big loss but we really don’t know when a group our size will be able to meet in person again, and so we have taken the precautions and limited part of the experience in order to complete this leg of our candidates’ journey. Please do everything you can to support these candidates—write them notes and be sure to participate in the livestream. I’ve heard that some clergy are planning on robing for the livestream! And I will be asking you to stand where you are in support of these candidates! We will be listing their names and contact information over the next few weeks in the weekly NIC eNews. Make your presence as palpable as possible on this special day!

The service of retirement is always a bittersweet experience. Retirement carries for most clergy a mix of feelings, and not being able to express them (and more importantly to have colleagues and former parishioners express their appreciation) makes it all the more difficult. Again, please reach out to our retirees in the upcoming weeks to let them know what they have meant to you as a clergy person or a layperson. Again, we will be listing their names and contact information over the next few weeks in the NIC eNews. I was thinking that it would make a good spiritual practice for all of us to take the time every day to write notes to those making these important transitions.

The Memorial Service is always a touching time as we remember our clergy, clergy spouses, and lay members to Annual Conference who have died over the last year. The worship team is working hard to make that service meaningful for all of us as we lament in our grief and acclaim our hope in Christ Jesus. Contacts will be available for these families, too. We will miss the breakfasts, lunches and dinners with one another, as well as coffee and other times of catching up with old friends and meeting new people. Conversations outside the plenary hall, in the restrooms and on early morning walks all contribute to what we enjoy about annual conference. How will you find other ways to renew and strengthen your relationships with others?

Lastly, it’s a source of grief for me that I will probably not see most of you face to face before I officially retire on December 31, 2020. We are a connectional church, so I know I’ll see some of you again, but it would have been nice to share a little time with you in my transition, too.

Please keep in mind that this virtual annual conference is a mix of technology and emotions! It combines traditional services with new online expressions. It allows people from all over the world to participate but we’re not gathering in person. We want to allow for as much participation in our business session, but with a sense of good stewardship of time since we only have four hours to do our essential business. This will be my 43rd annual conference since ordination (as a deacon). I remember many of them, but I’m sure that I’ll never forget this one!

See you on Zoom!

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