|Chamberlain chooses a physician, a bishop, and African choir for his final annual conference
by Annette Bender
In planning meetings for Annual Conference 2004, Bishop Ray Chamberlain said that he did not want the focus to be on himself, but on the amazing grace experienced and expressed in Holston. As Chamberlain completes his eighth and final year of service to Holston before retiring in September, it's inevitable that Annual Conference members will want to recognize him. But Chamberlain has chosen music, preachers and presenters that he perhaps hopes will upstage his departure.
Under the theme, Amazing Grace, 1,078 clergy and 885 lay members will gather June 13-16 for the conference's annual meeting in Lake Junaluska, N.C. Representing 925 churches in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia, clergy and laity will worship, hear reports, and make decisions for the future of the Annual Conference.
After years of requesting the Africa University Choir to sing for Holston, Chamberlain succeeded this year, as the 16-member group is expected to participate in Sunday night's opening worship on June 13. The choir previously appeared at General Conference in Pittsburgh and is also scheduled to sing at Fairview United Methodist Church, in Maryville District, this month.
Bishop Jonathan Keaton, resident bishop of the Ohio East Conference, will preach at the Service of Ordination, Commissioning, and Licensing on Monday evening, June 14. His message, Be Certain You Really Are Called, will be delivered at a service for 17 new probationers, five deacons in probationary membership and associate membership, 11 elders, one elder whose orders will be recognized, and 12 to 16 local pastors.
On Tuesday evening, June 15, the conference will pay tribute to Bishop and wife Martha Chamberlain with An Extravaganza of Grace With Great Music! While music will be provided by vocalists and instrumentalists from Cokesbury UMC in Knoxville District and Christ UMC in Chattanooga District, the inspirational message will be provided by Jack McConnell. A retired physician admired by Chamberlain, McConnell is founder of Volunteers in Medicine Clinic on Hilton Head Island, S.C., where retired practitioners provide free medical and dental services to needy families.
On the final day of conference, Wednesday, June 16, Doug Richesin of Annual Conferences past will return to Lake Junaluska. In the morning, the singer from Sweetwater, Tenn., will join with vocalist Willie Kitchens of Chattanooga. In the afternoon, Richesin will sing again during the Sending Forth Service, which also will include the Lake Junaluska Singers. Bishop Chamberlain will preach.
Other preachers during the four-day meeting include the Rev. Stella Roberts, Knoxville District superintendent, leading the Service of Resurrection on Monday morning. The service will memorialize deceased clergy, their spouses and laity. Music will be provided by a flute ensemble from First Broad Street UMC, Kingsport District, and a clergy couple ensemble accompanied by the Rev. Kathie Wilson-Parker.
Other musical presenters include a handbell choir from Crossroads UMC, Kingsport, District; Church Street Choir, Knoxville District; the Wesley Bells of First Maryville UMC; 18-year-old Whitney Castle of Big Stone Gap District; and 14-year-old Britt Brewster of Kingsport District. The Singing Spouses of Holston, a ministers' wives choir assembled by Beth Green of First Alcoa UMC, Maryville District, will provide special music on Monday afternoon.
At Annual Conference 2003, participants slogged through a business agenda that included a controversial direct billing proposal, changes in retirees' benefits, and General and Jurisdictional delegate elections. This year, members will address a relatively tame slate, including a proposed 2005 budget of $14.88 million, reflecting a 2.9 percent increase over the previous year's budget. The budget will be presented by outgoing Council on Finance and Administration President Mai Bell Hurley, who is expected to be followed by incoming president, the Rev. Andy Ferguson, senior pastor at Broad Street UMC, Cleveland District. Ferguson is among those who will be nominated for office by the Committee on Nominations on Tuesday morning.
Members can expect a debriefing from Holston's delegation to General Conference in Pittsburgh. The Discipleship Team will make recommendations for task forces pursuing Hispanic/Latino ministries, healthy marriages and families, prison ministries, and strong Wesley Foundations.
The Board of Pensions will recommend a 2005 past service retirement rate of $425 per year of approved pre-1982 ministerial service, an increase from $411 the previous year.
Two resolutions will be presented. The Rev. Thomas Seay, senior pastor at Bearden UMC, Knoxville District, is sponsoring a resolution that could restructure job priorities for district superintendents. The conference's connectional ministries staff is sponsoring a resolution requiring the conference to adopt a child and youth abuse prevention policy. The resolutions will be presented Tuesday morning. This year, the missions rally will move from its usual Monday afternoon slot to Sunday evening, when the conference will aim for its $125,000 offering goal for India. The Rev. Randy Frye, pastor at First Pulsaki UMC, Wytheville District, will preach, A Place at the King's Table. On Monday morning, the conference will ceremoniously send off supplies collected by local churches for Liberia and Zimbabwe with the traditional honking of the truck horns.
On Monday afternoon, participants may choose from 11 workshops and two chat rooms. Workshop topics include Living to Make a Difference: On Witness and Evangelism by the Rev. Ann Robins, Planning Communication That Appeals to and Reaches Your Congregation by the Rev. Larry Trotter and Print Media Specialist Millie Meese, and Crisis and Disaster Preparation for Congregations and Church Leaders by Pastoral Counselor Gary Mauldin.
In one chat room, participants may question members of the Council on Finance and Administration or the Personnel Resources Team. In another chat room, members of the Board of Pensions will answer questions.
Several honors will be awarded, including the Denman Evangelism Awards for clergy and laity and the Francis Asbury Award for higher education. For the first time, winners of Change for Children grants will be awarded at Annual Conference rather than throughout the year. This year, 17 Holston groups will receive children's ministry grants ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 each.
Annual Conference members will again receive daily onsite editions of The Call, the publication that won a 2003 Best of Division award from the United Methodist Association of Communicators. For church members who cannot attend Annual Conference in North Carolina, a live web stream will be available with video or audio coverage by visiting www.holston.org.
In keeping with the year's theme, participants can expect to hear personal testimonies throughout the four-day gathering, as well as several musical presentations of Amazing Grace. Asbury Inc. will sponsor an ice cream social between Harrell Center and Stuart Auditorium on Tuesday night, following the Chamberlains' tribute.
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