We have planned three 2020 North Alabama Annual Conferences under the leadership of Director of Connectional Ministries Linda Holland and the planning team she leads. That’s right – three! The first one was scheduled for Sunday, May 31- Tuesday, June 2 but due to the COVID-19 pandemic was postponed to Sunday, August 16- Monday, August 17 which for the same reason was postponed to Saturday, September 26. The Annual Conference planning team has been flexible and grace-filled through all of the twists and curves that 2020 has brought us. I invite you to join me in offering a prayer of gratitude for our Annual Conference planning team and their wisdom and patience.*
Annual Conference: September 26, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Though there is still much preparation to do for our September 26 Annual Conference, thanks to the fact that as of July 2 of this year Alabama law allows non-profit organizations to hold virtual meetings, our 2020 Annual Conference date is now a certainty. To ensure that we can meet in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business of the Annual Conference will be conducted online in a virtual meeting format from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 26. The virtual Clergy Executive Session will be on Sunday afternoon, September 20 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Goal: The goal for the 2020 Annual Conference is to do our connectional work safely with the largest participation possible. To participate, members will need a device connected to the internet such as a desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet, cell phone or e-reader.
Those who are able to participate from home are encouraged to do so.
Producers: We will be working with GNTV to produce our virtual Annual Conference meeting. This media ministry has been running the audio-visuals for most of our in-person Annual Conference meetings for more than two decades. GNTV has been working with many Annual Conferences across the country to successfully hold online sessions this year.
Practice Sessions prior to Annual Conference: Prior to the Clergy Executive Session and Annual Conference Meeting, GNTV will help us hold practice sessions, so everyone will have a chance to grow more comfortable with the technology. GNTV personnel will walk individual members through technological challenges as necessary so that each person gains confidence in their ability to participate in the online meeting.
Virtual Meeting Procedures: Holding a virtual meeting is a new experience for not just us here in North Alabama, but many other Annual Conferences throughout our country. I, along with other members of our planning team, have had multiple discussions with leaders in sister Annual Conferences, to discover the best practices for reports, votes, discussion and worship. We will make our virtual meeting procedures crystal clear prior to our Annual Conference so that everyone will feel comfortable to participate. They will be posted and explained on our Conference website at www.umcna.org/ac2020 and emailed to voting members.
Agenda: In addition to the online meeting procedures we will follow, we are finalizing the agenda for our business session. We are designing a way to conduct our necessary business in an efficient fashion so that we can successfully complete it in four hours. Though this means some aspects of our work will be done differently than when we are in person, we will make sure we accomplish our business together. The agenda and all supporting materials will be posted at www.umcna.org/2020 and emailed to voting members several weeks prior to the online sessions.
Holy Moments: We are also looking at the best ways to celebrate the holy moments in the life of our Annual Conference such as the recognition of newly licensed pastors, commissioning and ordination of new clergy, the Retirement Celebration and the Memorial Service. In addition to recognizing these milestones during the Annual Conference session, we anticipate offering these services and celebrations in the days immediately following Annual Conference. We are working to make sure they will be available for viewing online so everyone can celebrate these moments. Dates and times will be finalized and communicated soon.
Thank you for your patience and flexibility in this roller-coaster year of Annual Conference postponements and changed plans. I look forward to a great 2020 Annual Conference on September 26.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference
*Planning team members are: Mike Arnold, Nancy Beard, Rev. Nathan Carden, Rev. Emily Nelms Chastain, Rev. Toby Chastain, Danette Clifton, Rev. Sherill Clontz, Rev. Nancy Cole,
Rev. Dedric Cowser, Rev. Andy Curtis, Rev. John Fleischauer, Rev. Lonna Lynn Higgs, Linda Holland, Rev. Randy B. Kelley, Karen Long, Steve Lyles, Doris McCullers, Terry McElheny, Rev. Matt Reed, Rev. Ron Schultz, Rev. Sarah Smoot, Tyler Smoot, Rev. Tim Tatum and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett