Annual Conference Highs and Lows

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>Our family has a tradition at the dinner table. Each time we gather to break bread, we go around the table sharing each person’s “high” and “low” for the day. As you might imagine, we have had to tell our children to periodically mix it up. In other words, “lunch” can’t be the daily high and their least favorite class cannot be the only low. It is a fairly adequate method for pulling information out of reluctant teenagers, given how challenging that task has become these days. In the spirit of our family tradition, I share with you some of what I perceived as my own highs and lows from this year’s NC Annual Conference in Greenville, NC.

Wednesday, June 14th
*Lunch! (Panera Bread Company)

*Greenville. For the first time in 32 years, this year’s annual conference was held outside of Fayetteville, NC. I, for one, enjoyed the change: brighter room, tables to sit at for business sessions, restaurants within walking distance from the Convention Center and from ECU dorms, wi-fi access throughout the building.

*Meeting and greeting of old and new friends and colleagues from around the conference.

*Ordination service in the evening – always a high for me.

*Chairs – maybe I just don’t have enough cushion on my back side. It was ok for the first four hours, but after that – yikes. (think I’ll bring a pad next year!)

*Visibility – think the stage folks may need to move some podiums next year so the bishop and conference secretary can see the room’s extremities a little better.

Thursday, June 15th
*Lunch! (Bogjanles – what’s not to like about spicy chicken?)

*Celebration of 50 years of Women’s Ordination and full connection membership. I was even invited to the dinner that evening and dubbed an “honorary woman” for the day by a female colleague (good food and fellowship).

* Seeing a dream realized – Diego Santiago on stage with his father and mother. Cookie Santiago is our conference director for Hispanic Ministries. Please keep this family in your prayers, as Diego’s cancer continues to be resistant to drugs.

Conference singing – is it just me, or do people at conference not sing the way they used to? Wesley’s second rule could use some dusting off:

“Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, then when you sing the songs of Satan.”

Friday, June 16th
*Lunch! (Mongolian Barbeque!)

* Reconciliation UMC was featured in the Congregational Development report in the morning. We were recognized for our Charter Celebration this year. Special thanks to the members from RUMC that made the trek to Greenville for this special recognition: Dee Gidney (our lay member), Lucy Lincoln, Bernice Johnson, Larry Johnson, Kent and Susan Gill, and Jen Stallings (currently doing an internship in Greenville).

*A very entertaining evening with Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and author of The Art of Possibility. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time (though I didn’t expect to be his “exhibit A” the whole evening … which is exactly what happened).

Before you read my critique in the “lows” – know that I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and did get some important things out of it (purchased the book and two CDs to boot). One phrase that is still with me: “Possibility is always only one sentence away.” Mr. Zander reminded us of the importance of language. I would add: “kindness and encouragement are always one sentence away.”

*A very entertaining evening with Benjamin Zander. This was a low for our bishop and for many others because of some inappropriate language that was used. I was less concerned about that (you get what you pay for – did nobody check the book out first?). What was more disconcerting was the way some people responded to him as a Jew. I think NC United Methodists could do with a bit of a refresher on our denominational stance (click here).

The other low that evening was that few seemed to recognize it as pure secular humanism (and a contemporary version of Norman Vincent Peale). Great entertainment, but rather vacuous theologically. As one friend said: “The best snake oil I ever purchased.”

Saturday, June 17th
*Lunch! (think it was a quick stop at Wendy’s on the way out of town)

* I really do like the way our bishop leads us in the new appointments. Each District superintendent comes up one at a time; newly appointed pastors are announced and asked to stand; reappointed pastors in that district are invited to stand along with all lay members and a prayer of blessing and sending forth is offered before moving to the next district.

No lows – not when it is time to go home and see the family!


  1. >I happened to be on the RUMC website & was looking around and came across Kevin’s description of the Annual Conference.I was curious about the bit on Zander. (NOTE:I was not at the conference.) It certainly is concerning if some NC United Methodist were less than hospitable & gracious because Zander is Jewish. There is plenty in the Bible about how we are to treat others. So, as Kevin wrote, perhaps it is just a matter of reviewing our denominational stance. It is not so concerning if people were reacting to Zander’s poor choice of language – specifically profanity. James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” James 3:12 “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”My question is – was Zander selected to provide entertainment for the conference? OR was his entertainment outside of the conference? (I probably know the answer to that.) If he was invited by the conference – then bad language would have been an issue for me, too. The attempt to add levity is one thing – but a Christian conference should not accept, condone, allow anything that does not glorify GOD. Ugly language does not have a place.GOD bless Zander. I am not perfect – so my intent is not to judge. Just a gentle reminder. Natalie GC

  2. >Natalie,I agree completely about the language issue, though I am baffled how people can be so morally outraged by cussing and so seemingly nonchalant about issues like violence, poverty, and racism (which never seem to create as much buzz as a few well placed Zanderisms).My point about langauge is that “you get what you pay for” so to speak, and Zander comes from a secular setting. Anyone who had done their research should have known what they were paying for before they scheduled him. The language is in his books and virtually all of his other presentations.”Get what you pay for” …that was another issue, since most don’t know what he charged the conference – but it is clear that it was alot since we also needed corporate sponsors to help pay him.To answer your other question – yes, it was a conference event, and it was not intended to be entertainment, but a presentaton on leadership principles that can be applied to the church.Peace,Kevin

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