We get it - it's your first time and you have questions.
We have answers.
We thought a lot about this question and the answer is: business casual. You will most certainly see folks dressed like they are headed into church but you will also find folks wearing slightly more casual dress. Bottom line - dress comfortably but not "chilling-on-the-couch-watching-a-Saints-game" casual.
This is a gathering of Methodists, you know there will be snacks! In the concourse area, snacks such as peanuts and popcorn will be up for sale. You are free to bring your own snacks, such as fruit, protein bars, peanuts, gummy bears or even those fancy chocolate dipped almonds.
You'll hear the term, 'bar' mentioned. It's not this type of bar. The bar is an area located in the center of the floor with tables. This is the area for the delegates to sit. If you are a visitor, you will sit in the rear. For the most part, churches tend to sit with one another. Feel free to head into the bar area and stake your claim!
We should start with the definition of an episcopal area which is the annual conference to which a bishop is assigned by the Jurisdictional conference. In our case, this area is the entire state of Louisiana and Bishop Harvey lives within the bounds of the episcopal area and presides over the work of our annual conference. That said, the episcopal address is the annual address given to the members of the Annual Conference. It's sort of like the State of the Union where the president gives an annual report to Congress.
Bishop Harvey is from the Texas Annual Conference where she served as associate pastor for The Foundry United Methodist Church in Houston from 1992-1996 and as executive pastor for Memorial Drive UMC in Houston from 1996-2008. She then moved to the position of Director of Missional Excellence for the Texas Annual Conference, serving from February of 2008-May 1, 2010. Just prior to her election as a United Methodist bishop during the 2012 South Central Jurisdictional Conference, Harvey served as Deputy General Secretary for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). It's pretty rare for a bishop to serve as bishop to the same Conference where they served. You can read more about Bishop Harvey here.
You might think it references that we conference once a year, and that is true but there it more to it. United Methodist pastors serve in what's known as the itinerant system, meaning pastors are sent, not called or hired. “Itinerancy” refers specifically to the commitment by pastors to go and serve wherever their bishops send them. “Appointment” is the action taken by bishops. These are different, yet related. Clergy in The United Methodist Church commit to serve where their bishop appoints them. Appointments are typically for one year at a time, though the bishop may move any itinerant pastor at any time. The appointments for the coming season will be 'fixed' by Bishop Harvey during the ordination service and while most every pastor in our Conference know where she/he will be serving in the coming year, there was a time not so long ago when pastors would arrive in Shreveport to Annual Conference to find out where they will be serving in the next year.
You can read more about this system here.
In the United States of America, The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas known as jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. Louisiana is a member of the South Central jurisdiction. During this year's Annual Conference, we will elect delegates to both General and Jurisdictional Conference. When those delegates meet for 2020's Jurisdictional Conference, they will gather to to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies.
The Annual Conference design team is a diverse group of leaders inside the Annual Conference. This group meets all year to plan and prepare for the Annual Conference. The group consists of elders, local pastors, deacons, lay members, Conference staff and youth leaders. The theme “Making Disciples, Transforming the World,” which began in 2018, will continue at this year’s Annual Conference, as well as in 2020. The sub-theme for 2019 is “In Love,” with Romans 13:8-10 anchoring our call to love all of God’s people. We are called to make disciples and transform the world in love.
Pretty cool, huh? Read more about those here.