“This year we're starting a three-year rhythm for Annual Conference,” says Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey. “The overarching theme is, ‘Making Disciples, Transforming the World,’ which is our Annual Conference mission and the mission of the larger, global United Methodist Church. However, for the next few years - in '18, '19 and '20, we're going to have a sub-theme that focuses on our work.”
Those sub-themes are “Together”, “In Love” and “Day after Day” for 2018, 2019 and 2020.
All of this will be grounded in the Great Commission from Matthew 28:16-20. The sub-theme “Together” is highlighted in Act 2:42-47; “In Love,” from Romans 13:8-10, and “Day after Day,” is taken from The Message translation of the Great Commission, Matthew 28:20, that God will be with us “day after day after day.”
Bishop Harvey is already reflecting on the Scriptural focus out of Acts for this year’s Annual Conference.
“People did everything together,” Harvey remembers. “I always call that sort of the ‘cigar box’ kind of mission, where everybody put everything they owned into a box, and people took as they needed. This is what it means to be in community. So that will be our focus this year, ‘Making disciples, transforming the world - together."
Rev. Lane Cotton Winn enters her second year as design chair for the Annual Conference and is excited about the three-year journey, specifically how the sub-theme of “Together” will be lived out inside the Gold Dome and around the Shreveport/Bossier area.
“Our denomination is looking at how we do church, and how we best make disciples,” she says. “So, here in Louisiana, we want to focus first on how we do that ‘together’. We are going to have a strong focus this year on Holy Communion and will be celebrating communion several times and in different ways. And I think that that's a pivotal part of what we'll do in 2018 because the thing that we remember about Christ's journey and his final days here on earth is he gathered people together. And it was around the table where he shared in this holy meal with us and then invited us to do the same.”
This year's worship services and business sessions will follow the same rhythm as the 2017 Annual Conference, concluding on a Saturday morning inside First United Methodist Church of Shreveport with the Celebration of Ministry Service, which Winn says serves as the exclamation point.
"We'll get to end by celebrating the call to ministry," Winn says. "It's a chance for all of us to remember our call and to also celebrate those who will be recognized as licensed local pastors, certified lay ministers, ordained deacons, and elders, as well as those being commissioned as provisional elders and deacons. It's a wonderful way to end conference. I'm surprised we haven't done this before. But this year, as was last year, will be another wonderful way to end our time together as we go forth ready to live out our calling beyond our time of conferencing."
Winn is also excited about another way the theme of “Together” will be played out inside the Gold Dome, specifically in the form of the dome’s physical space.
“It can be challenging to get around inside the dome; to move and feel like you can visit with people,” she says. “So this year, we're going to try something new. We're going to put aside the tables, leaving us with just chairs, allowing for more elbow room, wider aisles and a bigger space. But most importantly, it's going to foster the sense of togetherness and family, where we can see one another across the space better.”
Annual Conference 2018 is slated for June 6-9 in Shreveport.
More information, including online registration, will be forthcoming on the conference website, various social media channels and email updates.