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The Three “P’s” of Lay Membership to Annual Conference

Posted: May 14 2019 at 12:29 PM
Author: By Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Assistant to the Bishop/Dir. Connectional Ministries


My mother, Martha, has spent her retirement years experiencing the joys of travel. Now in her upper 80s, she has been to Alaska, Hawaii, the Straights of Gibraltar, Spain, Panama, New England, and more. Martha has traveled by plane, cruise ship, bus, train, and even helicopter.

Every trip involves months of planning and preparation. To make the most of the experience, she reads and learns about the places she will be visiting. She plans the side trips and sightseeing. She maps out the big decisions and tends to the small details. Likewise, PREPARATION is the first step in the role of being a Lay Member to Annual Conference.

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Whether this is your first or 31st time as an Annual Conference member, PREPARATION for the conference gathering is key. Your important work of PREPARATION includes reading the legislation, familiarizing yourself with Robert’s Rules of Order, developing a working knowledge of the Book of Discipline, understanding your role in electing Lay Delegates to General Conference, and talking with members of your church about their concerns and issues.

When my mother travels, she takes tours, tries new foods, and attends lectures. She PARTICIPATES so she can get the most out of her experience. Likewise, Annual Conference is a participatory event. As a Lay Member, you are expected to attend the entire session from the opening Ordination Service on Sunday afternoon, June 2, to the closing litany late Tuesday afternoon, June 4.

The days are long and sometimes the reports, the legislative debate, and the voting for delegates can seem endless. Yet you were chosen to represent your church at this critical moment in our life as a conference. What you see and hear, your time in worship and Bible Study, what you learn, and how you vote are part of the important work of PARTICIPATION.

Talk with others seated near you. Explore the display tables. Pick up ideas and share experiences with others to learn more about the United Methodist Church and the ways others experience church in our conference. Participate fully in anticipation of new experiences, ideas, and insights for your faith and for the ministry of your own congregation.

When you head home on Tuesday night, your job as a Lay Member to Annual Conference is not over. When my mother returns from her trips, we gather to look at her pictures and hear her stories about what she saw, experienced, and learned. She relives the highs and the lows of her trip in the retelling of the adventure.

PROCLAMATION is the final “P” in the work of a Lay Member to Annual Conference. You will grow personally in your faith and in your knowledge of the church and the denomination, but that growth is meant to be shared! A good discipline is to journal while at conference, jotting down notes in your conference booklet about what you learn, your observations, your worship experiences, and the election of delegates. Journalling will help you prepare to share information with your congregation about your experience both formally and informally. Offer a report during worship. Write an article for your church newsletter. Share a summary of the work of Annual Conference with your church council. Find ways to engage others in what you have seen, heard, and learned. This is the important work of PROCLAMATION.

Conference staff is deep into the final steps of preparing for the 180th Northern Illinois Annual Conference. I hope those of you who have been elected to attend are already starting to PREPARE, to fully PARTICIPATE, and find ways you can PROCLAIM your experiences when you return home

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