AC 2015: Recap of Thursday, June 18

June 18, 2015

Cleaning up at Activa Tree Preschool at First UMC
Karen Cassidy tells the story of the bag at Laity Session.
Choosing stones during
the Act of Repentance service.
See more photos on our Facebook page
The first plenary session began after the opening worship service on Thursday afternoon.
Episopacy Chair Emily Blackadar Kotkowski introduces Bishop and Mrs. Devadhar.
The 2015 class of retirees
is recognized.
The ordinands are asked the historic questions.
GCFA General Secretary Moses Kumar thanks the Conference for supporting our General Church apportionments at 100 percent.

Thursday, June 18, 2015
First day of Annual Conference

Mission in Manchester: More than 30 members began their first day of Conference by living out this year’s theme of service and witness. See more photos on our Facebook page
They helped with five projects in four locations around Manchester:
1269 Café – Food Cupboard/Grocery Store 
Activa Tree Christian Preschool, a ministry of First UMC
First UMC – Making sandwiches for Annual Conference sack lunches 
New Hampshire Food Bank 
New Horizons for New Hampshire, advocates for the homeless

Laity session:  Saturday’s Laity Address will be given by Janet O'Neil, a member of the Moultonboro UMC in New Hampshire. The Laity Address is at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 20. Deaconesses and Home Missioners were recognized: Faith Flannery, Lucie Fortier, Anne Hillman, Kevin Nelson and Jana Marie Whitten as well as two retired deacons: Mary Hill and Marian Styles-McClintock.  See more photos on our Facebook page

The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett led Bible study during the Laity Session. Pointing out the rocks on the floor, Fassett said rocks are important symbol among Native people … everywhere in the world. In many Native traditions stones are the first of creation; that’s why they’re sacred. Not because they have magic … the rocks were God’s first creation and have knowledge as such. Luke 3:8 : “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham …”
“In other words,” Fassett said, “Don’t get too comfortable. Don’t say it’s already been done for you. Repentance is fresh and at hand. We are living stones …We are the stones of the temple; we connect to each other. …Thank you for the living stones that build new tomorrows and new structures of sacred worth, of hope and joy. We give thanks to Jesus Christ, the one who taught us to be sacred people.”

Tricia Waldron, Stephanie Cyr and Karen Cassidy talked about living out the Annual Conference theme: Circle of Hope: Powered by Witness and Service.

In talking about witness, Tricia Waldron said, during the next few days we will hear powerful witness from guest speakers and others, and we’ll have something to talk about when we leave here, but will we? What will we say?
It’s easy to talk with those within the church, but it’s “harder out there,” she said, talking to friends and co-workers “who don’t yet share excitement we have here for our God …” She urged members to witness without “churchy language” and to make their witness “succinct, understandable and with  room for them to respond.”

Stephanie Cyr talked about service saying: “(Laity) serve … every day in every way,” she said by volunteering in soup kitchens or driving someone to church or singing in the choir.
“It is up to us to discern our spiritual gifts that God has given us for service – everyone has one – you just need to find it,” she said, “and as laity we witness our faith through service; we serve because of our faith.”

Witness, service and hope
Karen Cassidy told the story of a bag: It’s not a new bag and looks pretty used, she said. That’s because every Saturday its owner takes it out with him to visit those without a permanent home, the homeless, of Manchester, NH. What began as a six-week Lenten project became an ongoing ministry in which the bag owner takes coffee, muffins and prayer to places many would never visit, Cassidy said.
“It seems like little changes,” she said, the homelessness, suffering and poverty remain, and it’s hard for a muffin and coffee to change that.
“Or is it? I think that with a muffin and a cup of coffee and a prayer, with a promise that Jesus loves you no matter what, there is a change,” she said. The hands that pack this bag are the hands of God working a miracle with the power of Holy Spirit and the grace of God. When you are told that God loves you no matter what … that, my friends, is witness and service, and that is hope.” 

Opening worship: The Act of Repentance with Native Peoples. Rev. Fassett preached, leading members through some history including the Doctrine of Discovery – which gave Christian explorers the rights to whatever they found – the Trail of Tears, the Methodist Church’s role in the Boarding Schools that separated Native American children from their parents and culture and the fact that our founding fathers drew ideas from the democratic principles of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee.
“We are the inheritors off a history, a people of history, and we come here today bound up in a history that not all of us understand and some would like to forget,” he said.
And though we often speak of reconciliation and restoration, the Church rarely talks about repentance, but that is what is needed along with finding a way to see each other as connected and look on each other as “Mitakuye Oyesin” (matakquiase) or “all my relations.”
The Cabinet spoke of their commitment to going beyond the words of the Act of Repentance to actions that the conference will take to build relationships with Native peoples.
The offering was received for the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). 

Read the full story here

Retirees recognized – Members of the 2015 Class of Retirees were recognized. Read more about them here.  
Ordinands Janet Elmas Deranian and Jeffrey Luis Hooker were asked the historic questions and offered advice and encouragement from retirees Heidi Chamberland, Gwen Purushotham and James C. Hensley, who urged them to retain their love of Jesus, to love the people they serve and to “mind the gap,” or the spaces where others don’t want to tread.
Budget presentation: Conference Council on Finance and Administration Rev. Ralph Howe and Treasurer Bill Burnside presented the 2016 proposed budget. There is no change in the bottom line over 2015, but they highlighted the major reduction in Mission Share costs to support retiree health benefits, the changes in Camping and Retreat Ministries funding and the reduction in maintenance costs for Conference housing. See full details here

Mosquito Stomp: Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas welcomed NEAC members to the city saying he was eager to find out what a Mosquito Stomp was, and he and the city got the chance to see United Methodists take a step – or a few steps – to end deaths due to this preventable disease. See more photos on our Facebook page
Emily Blackadar Kotkowski, chair of the Conference Episcopacy Committee, introduced Bishop Devadhar as someone who is “through education, conversation, and prayer, working to make eacch of us a living presence of Christ in our communities.”
Episcopal Address: In his address, Bishop Devadhar offered some “good news” to counter the “bad news” presented by the Barna Group in their book: Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them.
“Friends, I have news for you and for the Barna Group. The good news far outweighs the bad. We offer hope by offering Jesus in new and compelling ways. We offer hope by showing God’s grace. We offer hope by trusting God and allowing the Spirit to empower our way forward. When we come together as brothers and sisters in the faith, we become the circle of hope that God is counting on to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“… God is doing a new thing in our churches. Yes, we may live in a “de-churched area,” but the Lord is offering us plenty of opportunities to invite others to partake in the extension work of the Reign of God. When we do that, God will indeed bless us.”
“Friends, people are smart, and that includes our youth and young adults. They are not interested in sharing their resources for bricks and mortar. They want to make a difference in the lives of others so that everyone can have life in abundance.
“… may I challenge each and every one of us to check how well we are known and for what we are known in our local communities? May God enable us to look at what we discover prayerfully, so we can make a difference in our communities, nation, and world.”

Read the address in full

Offering: Mission of Peace: The offering Thursday evening was received for the Mission of Peace (MOP) and Bishop Devadhar asked Gretchen Wright, who went on the 2015 MOP to India and the Rev. Michelle Grube, who was one of the first youth to go on a Mission of Peace, to talk about their experiences. Grube said that the trip transformed her as a youth, and urged members to support today’s youth on that journey.
Delegates: Two delegates to General Conference were elected Thursday: Bonnie Marden was elected on the first lay ballot, and will lead the delegation, and We Chang was elected on the second clergy ballot.
Setting of Appointments: The evening ended with the District Superintendents introducing the clergy in new appointments in their respective districts. See all of the appointments here.

Guests: Moses Kumar, General Secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration; Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church & Society; and Rev. Jeff Campbell of Discipleship Ministries. Rev. Jim Martin and Chaplain Michael J’Zen from United Methodist Eldercare, and Clare Chapman from the New Hampshire Council of Churches.