SHINE by Nona Ostrove – July 15, 2014
Arise, Shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you (Isaiah 61:1)
Each year, United Methodists from Greater New Jersey meet in Annual Conference. This year, 1,500 people registered and attended— a record number— and despite some clouds and cool weather along the Jersey Shore, God’s light was shining from the Wildwood Convention Center May 28 – May 31.
Conference leaders shared results from work throughout the conference during 2013 – 2014. This included:
- The number of vital congregations increased from 14% to 31%.
- More than 40% of churches are growing in worship attendance.
- 14,500 Greater New Jersey United Methodists participated in mission work.
- 10% more young adults are participating in small groups.
- The conference budget and shared ministry will not increase in 2015.
- The Connectional Table was formed to serve to align committees and agencies.
The Conference highlighted A Future with Hope ministry set up last year to raise $12 million to fund global, regional and local mission projects. (Our church participated last year with our Christmas Stars campaign.) We saw the tangible results of that ministry right here in New Jersey. To date, A Future with Hope has repaired 42 homes, has hosted more than 6,100 volunteers and set up 14 host sites. An additional 100 homes are scheduled to be completed in 2015. With a video link, the Conference “toured” one home that had been restored in Atlantic City with the grateful homeowner describing the joy with which mission groups tackled the many projects.
The Conference passed key legislation, including an agreement to explore and expand our mission partnerships in Thailand and Nepal, resolutions to make a stand against poverty in our conference, and the creation of a Strategic Disciple Making fund to start new congregations and faith communities.
The Conference gives all of its members the chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones over lunches and informal gatherings. One lunch was a carnival picnic with a dunk tank set up to raise money for the Mission Fund. More than $3,800 was raised by clergy and laity who paid for a chance to dunk Bishop John Schol and conference treasurer while a plane circled over Wildwood carrying the banner “United Methodists stir up faith, hope and justice.”
Bishop Schol also laid out the work that is yet to be done including challenges that continue to face the United Methodist Church. We need to grow more leaders, particularly lay leaders so that the church can grow deeper, wider and farther. The church must adapt how it communicates, worships and witnesses to the world as people in our communities now know less about the church, Jesus and God. He also pledged to strive for unity in the issues that can divide a faith community in order to build bridges among our differences and build bridges to our future.
Bishop Schol challenged members of the Conference to honor the Jesus that is in all of us and to seek grace so that the world says of United Methodists in Greater New Jersey, “In the midst of differences, see how they love one another.”The bishop concluded by saying that making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world must be core because the world needs passionate, Christ-like disciples who stir up faith, hope and justice. I pass that challenge onto all of you here at HOPE.
Filed Under: Sunday Bulletin Articles