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Morning Worship, 8:30 a.m., Hoover Auditorium
Morning gilded the skies with sunshine and crisp 56° winds blowing in from Lake Erie. The "freeze or fry at Lakeside" maxim again seemed appropriate as worshipers gathered into Hoover Auditorium clad with sweaters and long sleeves but happy hearts.
A welcome was given by the Rev. Jim Wilson who noted he is stepping aside after nine years of service as Chair of the Annual Conference Worship Committee. Bishop Palmer presented him with a book on prayer as well as words of sincere commendation for a job very well done. The entire congregation offered a standing ovation in gratitude for Rev. Wilson's years of excellent worship leadership.
The worship hour began with a reading from I Corinthians 13:4–13 presented on two large video screens by a diversity of persons reading and one individual using American Sign Language. Following an opening prayer, the Central Avenue Church Worship Team led the congregation in three praise hymns.
Mark 7:31-37 was read by a young girl whose tender voice and demeanor caused worshipers to listen all the more closely to the Gospel reading.
Bishop Palmer introduced Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area who shared a moving sermon titled "Healing". She dealt winsomely and frankly with disability challenges faced by persons and congregations. For 20 years she served as pastor of a predominantly deaf congregation. She showed how deaf persons applaud by raising their hands high and wiggling their fingers. Through gripping real life stories she challenged the conference to view Jesus' healing in multiple ways. She urged everyone to ministry in four areas:
- PROVIDE FULL ACCESSIBILITY so all can hear God's word and respond
- PROMOTE SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY to include everyone
- PUSH EMPOWERMENT so all can use their giftedness
- PERMIT OPENNESS IN ATTITUDES toward disabilities so they are seen as gifts to deepen understanding of grace and hope
Following her memorable message, the conference stood and many raised their hands high, wiggling their fingers in the manner of a deaf congregation applauding. It was a sermon many will never forget.
After a closing hymn, Bishop Palmer offered the benediction.
Business Session, 9:50 a.m., Hoover Auditorium
- Report on Recommendation #6
- Voting on Recommendation #4 (passed)
- Voting on Recommendation #5 (passed)
- Recognition of Certified Lay Ministers
Business Session, 1:30 p.m., Hoover Auditorium
We are a conference of blessings, a “leader-full” church, as we witnessed in the closing session of the 2016 West Ohio Annual Conference. Even in the midst of this season of tension, we can find hope, strength, and acceptance. Our hope is built on the opportunities witnessed through revitalized congregations and in the expectation of a harvest of new church plantings. Our strength is evident in our connectional missions and ministries through which we serve and support. And though acceptance is often a struggle, our Bishop leads us forward in love and unity. Wednesday afternoon was filled with stories of baptisms and professions of faith. We recognized the work of UMCOR who shows up when no one else is there. We acknowledged the Horizon Prison and Reconciling Ministries where the marginalized are welcomed and blessed by those who follow where Jesus already can be found. Our clergy leadership for the coming year was fixed and many, many thanks and goodbyes were extended.
- Nominations Committee Report
- Harry Denman Evangelism Awards for laity went to Rob & Sara Meriweather of Jerome United Methodist Church in Plain City; for clergy to Rev. Miriam (Mimi) Ault, pastor of Mechanicsburg United Methodist Church and Rev. Tim Roth, pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church.
- One Matters Award was given to First United Methodist Church in Bellefontaine.
- Vital Church Award was given to Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in Wapakoneta.
- Fixing of Appointments and Apostolic Letters
Closing Worship, 3:00 p.m., Hoover Auditorium
As we moved into closing worship, Bishop Palmer ended this session of Annual Conference where he started his 2016 General Conference Episcopal Address…”You are a child of God. Hard stop. Period.” He left us with no doubt that we are ALL loved by God…no exceptions! It is God’s nature to love and only love us. We must practice to do the same for ourself and for all others. As our Bishop reminded us, “we are not perfect but we are promising.” Is this not what we need to hear to make us hopeful? Is this not what we need to hear to keep us strong? Is this not what we need to hear to feel accepted? Yes. Yes it is. And with that Bishop Palmer adjourned the closing session of the 47th West Ohio Annual Conference.
At the close of Annual Conference some of us rush to get back on the road to resume our duties in the world. Others of us look forward to lingering with friends, spending time relaxing by the lake or maybe grabbing one last ice cream. But as we all gradually make our way to our respective homes, may we not let the learning and conversations of this gathering die, but, instead, may they continue to ruminate within us and bear fruit in our ministries throughout the year, until we find ourselves together again.
Writers: Phil Brooks, Beth Vanoli
Editor: Lisa Streight