By: Cindy Gregorson
“We can preach Jesus. Not an abstract Jesus, but the real one. The one found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The times the church has lost its way is when Jesus is not its way.”
Those are the words of Bishop Michael Curry—author of our Lenten study book “Love is the Way”—to the Leadership Institute at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City last fall. He was responding to a question about how we can be the beloved community and help bridge the divides in our society. Preach Jesus.
In 2019, we adopted a vision for the Minnesota Annual Conference that said we envision a Methodism that is rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all, and engaged in the work of reconciliation and justice. Rooted in Jesus.
It has been a really hard year. When you are in the valley, what do you need? Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me. I need Jesus. Not an abstract Jesus. Not trite religious platitudes. The real Jesus who is God incarnate, who heals the sick, who frees the imprisoned, who speaks truth to power, who welcomed in sinners and outcasts, who stretched out his arms in love on a cross even for a thief, who would not stay dead in a tomb no matter how much the religious leaders of the day tried to silence him. He was radical and real, and he was good news for a whole lot of people who thought they had no hope. That is what we need—that kind of hope and love, the belief that new life is possible today in spite of the daily bombardment of more bad news.
One of the scripture verses that has been a touchstone in recent years is the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:30. Here’s the version from The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out?...Come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life…Walk with me, work with me, watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace…Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” When we don’t know the way, Jesus shows us the way. When we can’t make a way, Jesus is the waymaker.
Our theme for Annual Conference 2021 is “Jesus. Waymaker.” Yes, The United Methodist Church is in a bit of a turmoil. Yes, we have pressing challenges to face as a nation. You are understandably worried about your own local church and hungry to be together in community. We could focus on all of that at annual conference session, but it seems the place where we are going to find our life and our way is Jesus. So we are going back to our roots and centering ourselves on Jesus.
Here are the key things you need to know about this year’s Annual Conference, at which we will celebrate where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished together, and look ahead to where we’re headed on our shared journey:
- Dates: Annual Conference will be Tuesday, June 22 to Thursday, June 24. It will be mostly virtual since we are still unable to hold large gatherings safely.
- Celebration of Life and Ministry: This worship service—which recognizes milestones in ministry, including ordination and commissioning—will be Tuesday evening, June 22. Honorees and their guests will participate in-person, and others are invited to watch via live streaming.
- Small group in-person teaching day: There will be one in-person day on Wednesday, June 23; it’s open to all, and will take place at host sites around the state. Each venue will have up to 50 people and maintain the COVID protocols in place at the time. The day will include a virtual presentation from teaching session speaker, Rev. Rachel Billups—an author who serves as pastor of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio—followed by a live virtual Q&A. We will then have group conversations at the sites, and ZOOM breakout rooms will be available for those not comfortable meeting in-person. This will allow us to have some face-to-face conversation, and provide an opportunity to be in community.
- Business session: The business session, where we discuss legislation, will be Thursday, June 24 and conducted through a ZOOM webinar.
- Registration: Registration on the Minnesota Conference website will open May 1. It will be announced in conference emails.
- Legislation: The window to submit legislation has just opened (submit here), and proposed legislation is due April 8. We request that only essential legislation be submitted as a virtual business meeting is not the most conducive for dialogue and debate.
- Clergy Session: Clergy Session will be virtual and is set for Thursday, May 27.
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.