Conference under contruction

This month’s edition of the Laity Blog focuses on the human bricks required to build a new conference.

ANNE SOLES
Lay Leader, West Michigan Conference

I live on an old brick yard. I can gather up big lumps of clay at the bottom of my garden and send it home with grandchildren. A potter friend tried diligently to shape it into bowls. Too much lime (and sand) and it blew in the kiln time after time.

In the 1870’s early businessmen dug into our hillside, built forms and a firing pad to make bricks. Those white bricks were shipped out with the lumber from the area. The old equipment was around in the 1920s and we found a kiln base while trying to run conduit to the boat house. We may not have made the best bricks, but bricks are still solid!

Building new things. 2018 is a year of construction in Michigan Methodism. District Lay Leaders and the Board of Laity have been given a special assignment. Each district will be finding lay equalization members for the 2018 Annual Conference in May.

In essence, district lay leaders are looking for bricks to build the conference. Voting members are our foundation. On this platform, we build programs and ministries to corporately fulfill our mission: make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Some background. Annual Conference this year will be held at Grand Traverse Resort on May 31st to June 3rd and will technically be a joint session of the Detroit Annual Conference and the West Michigan Annual Conference. By their actions at this session, a new Michigan Conference will be voted (constructed) to begin work on July 1st with final formal pieces coming together on January 1, 2019.

Annual Conference is composed of two elements, lay and clergy. Clergy members of the conference can participate every year whether serving or retired. (If serving they are expected to participate). Each church elects a lay member or members depending on the number of clergy who serve them. As the number and the age of retired clergy members increases, it is necessary to equalize the Annual Conference membership roster with additional lay members. The number of clergy both serving and retired is the starting point. The counting of lay members begins with those elected by local congregations. Then additional lay members come from some named positions such as treasurer, annual conference facilitator, etc. The remaining number of lay members needed to balance clergy numbers is calculated and then divided by population among the districts.

Talent Search. In November 2017, the district lay leaders — with the help of the more than knowledgeable district administrative assistants—went to work to find at large lay delegates. The Board of Laity discussed selection criteria at their November meeting. Are the lay members representative of members in the pews? Is there balance with age, gender, ethnicity? Is there talent in background: school board members who know how to vote; accountants who know how to read a budget; parents of children to look at our evaluation of resources; young adults to measure our understanding of all things new?

Lay members elected by their congregations often come back year after year. At large members fill representation for wider issues and special talents. Each district typically adds 12-18 equalization members. The Board of Laity has directed each district to include youth and young adult members. The registrars, when making name badges, includes a few details so that you can greet and include equalization members. Old hands to new hands.

The Board of Laity has welcomed this opportunity to build a solid foundation for annual conference actions. They are out looking for bricks! (Brick: mud shaped and fired. Tested and solid)

Nominations seeks more talent. In the same theme (looking for bricks for this new building), Conference Nominations Committee meetings this fall-winter have also been building new platforms. There are some good hands to bring forward for continued service. Other members had come to the end of their term of service and would be glad to step back. Both continuity and new experience are important to the building challenge.

Nominations Committee, starting from scratch, asked agencies and boards for recommendations and to give a hand to this naming for 2018. There are fewer positions going from two to one conference. And fewer district positions going from twelve to nine. Some who have been serving conference and district responsibilities will be coming back to their local church. And that is intentional. Balance again is called for in the building.

New boards and agencies need new faces as well. For instance, the new Conference Board of Young People’s Ministries needs 18 to 20 volunteer board members and ten youth. Much building to be done!

So, the building is going on. Are you one of the bricks? Are you clay, Jesus asks? Make me, mold me, fill me, use me says the hymn.

Your district office and lay leader can tell you about Annual Conference lay member positions. We will be organizing by new districts in April-May. If you are interested in a conference position, contact me –Anne Soles (annesoles@ charter.net or 231-239-1694.)

Our thanks to Nominations and to District Lay Leaders out on the construction site.

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