June 27, 2020
My report of the Holston Conference Annual meeting, this year comes not from Lake Junaluska, but Lake Chickamauga. Lay members were asked to stay at home and attend the annual conference virtually.
The meeting was held on Saturday afternoon, June 27. One of the beneficial things this year is that the conference was recorded and is on-line for everyone to view at https://www..org/annual-conference . In additional to gavel-to-gavel action of the conference, the website includes a video of the Memorial Service recognizing pastors, administrators and spouses who died during the year, a video concerning Abuse of Clergywomen, another Responding to the Opioid Crisis, and the Juneteenth Video produced by the Council of Bishops. Conference lay members were asked to read The Book of Reports prior to the conference. That publication is also available at https://www..org/annual-conference.
The theme for the conference was the title of an old hymn by Katherine Hankey “I Love to Tell the Story.” Committees reported on actions and plans for telling the story of Christ.
Since it was a virtual meeting and the digital platform did not allow for real time questions and debate, no votes were taken during the meeting. Committees requiring official action are to submit recommendations to the extended cabinet which has the authority to take official action.
Conference reports highlighted mission activities. Since 2006 the Conference has been in relationship with the United Methodist of South Sudan in Africa. Civil unrest in South Sudan made it necessary for many, including orphans from Grace Children’s Home, to escape to refugee camps in Uganda. The update at the conference was that Ugandan officials determined that an orphanage was not allowed in the refugee camps so government officials took the children and have offered them for adoption in Uganda. Methodists in Africa have asked for funds for their ministry. The Holston board as agreed to match each dollar given up to $75,000. Those from our church who wish to give to this need should designate South Sudan Ministry on their check.
A U.S. ministry being supported by Holston Methodists is in Willow, Alaska. An appointed husband and wife pastor team serve the church and work closely with the local food pantry which in addition to food provides a variety of health and community services. Four evangelism teams from Holston were scheduled to go to Alaska this year to conduct VBS. One fund raising activity by the church is a zip code auction of donated items from across the conference. The auction sounded like something our church might like to participate in by contributing items from Dayton.
Buckets for Liberia and Zimbabwe has been a multi-year project of the Holston conference. This year a total of 1,779 food buckets and health kits for an estimated value of $39,269 were collected by Methodists in 5 of our 9 districts.
Dismantling Racism and Responding to the Opioid Crisis were presented as primary focuses for the conference this year.
Statistics of concern were included. At the end of 2019 the membership of United Methodist churches in the Holston Conference was 1,663 less than the year before. Only 1 district had gained in membership. Hiwassee was 2nd from the top of churches in least amount of membership lost. But in another area Hiwassee did not fare as well. This year Holston closed 8 churches, 3 of which were in Hiwassee. One of those closed churches had been in existence since 1840. Last year an additional 8 churches were closed. Those numbers represent people and souls. That report spoke to me of the need for local outreach and evangelism.
Becky Tucker, Lay Member