The North Alabama Annual Conference opened on Sunday June 1. The theme of the Conference is Plant: Grounded in Christ.
As members and visitors gathered, on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College they started their time of Christian Conferencing with an opportunity to visit mission displays and an opportunity to share a meal together. Dinner on the Grounds was moved inside the Norton Center due to weather, but that did not dampen the spirit of fellowship.
The Conference then gathered in Bill Battle Coliseum for the Opening Celebration Worship Service. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett noted that it was important to the Annual Conference planning team, that the Conference open with a worship service, because all the Conference will do together will be guided by prayer and worship.
During the Opening Celebration, worshippers heard stories of new life throughout Annual Conference. These included stories from members of Crosswinds UMC who over the last year started a new congregation; members of New Beginnings UMC, a new congregation celebrating new life and energy created with the merger of three smaller previously declining congregations, and a member of Living Faith Community UMC who shared about the church family she found in this new congregation.
The Conference commissioned student leaders, mission interns and board members of the conference Wesley Foundations.
Worshippers celebrated the work United Methodists are doing through Imagine No Malaria. Dr. Bill Morgan then shared about former Conference Lay Leader Gloria Holt who was serving as chair of the Conference Imagine No Malaria campaign at the time of her death. Dr. David Chupp also shared about his mission work in Africa and seeing the effects of malaria.
Guest worship leader Cheryl Tolbert then sang a powerful rendition of Blessed Assurance.
Bishop Wallace-Padgett preached a sermon based on the theme verse of the 2014 Annual Conference Jeremiah 17:8. She encouraged worshippers to “Plant where you can bloom.”
Opening worship ended with members of the Conference and visitors sharing Holy Communion together.
Those gathered sang And Are We Yet Alive as Bishop Wallace-Padgett called the Conference to order.
Birmingham-Southern College President Gen. Charles Krulak welcomed the Conference to campus and issued an invitation for the 2015 North Alabama Conference to also meet on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College. BSC Chaplain Rev. Jack Hinnen led the Conference in prayer.
The Bishop moved the Conference to the time of organizing the Conference. Conference secretary Clauzell Williams then led the Conference through electing assistant Conference secretaries, the consent agenda and explaining the process of electing lay and clergy delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
The clergy and laity met in the Clergy Executive Session and the Laity Session. During those sessions, they cast their first ballots for General Conference delegates.