Annual Conference 2015 was held at the TRAC center in Pasco this year. The laity gathered on Wednesday evening, June 24 where we were welcomed. The theme of conference this year was “Restoring Sacred Space” and during the laity meeting the tone was set. The centerpiece for this event was a huge 6′ x 4′ drum made of cottonwood and covered with buffalo hide. Coyote Marie Hunter-Ripper, a Cherokee and Choctaw Indian helped settle the drum into the space by first caressing the drum then using a large tom-tom drumming various patterns. At the conclusion of the drumming she also chanted to the drum. It was an amazing thing to watch. Christine Gonzales from the conference office concluded the gathering by clarifying the focus of the conference theme that will lead us into acts of repentance for the role of the church in past genocides of native peoples.
As laity and clergy gathered for opening worship on Thursday morning we were greeted by complete silence as members of the Nez Perce and Yakama Nation tribes entered quietly along with the Bishop and others. The service acknowledged the trauma caused by the Doctrine of Discovery and the Indian Boarding Schools during the early years as we grew as a nation. The bishop closed worship by identifying and challenging us to do acts of repentance that were given.
Conference is much more that worship. We spent much time in plenary sessions and in focus sessions. When Conference Lay Leader, Joan Holmes, digressed in her address from the focus on the native peoples to the recent tragedy in Charleston, she focused on what hate and intolerance for those of different races, ethnicities, and cultures is doing in our country. As a person of color herself, she talked about how people are marginalized if they are not white.
We elected delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference, 2016. We have one lay and one clergy delegate to General Conference and laity elected Marie Kuch-Stanovsky and clergy elected Rev. Mary Huycke. David Reinholz was elected alternate for Marie, and D J DelRosario was elected as clergy alternate delegate. These four people automatically go to Jurisdictional Conference. In addition, five clergy and five laity were elected to attend Jurisdictional Conference. The five clergy going to Jurisdictional Conference are: David Nieda, Gloria Kim, Sharon Moe, Kay Barkley, and Monica Corsaro. The five laity elected to Jurisdictional Conference are: Barbara Dodd Shafer, Brent Henshaw, Joan Holmes, Tom Robinson, and Megan Kirkpatrick. General Conference is being held in Portland, Oregon from May 10-20, 2016, and the organizers are asking for volunteers from both Oregon and PNW Conferences to assist in a variety of tasks. Jurisdictional Conference is being held in Scottsdale, Arizona in July, 2016.
As usual, focus sessions occupy a portion of conference time. And, as usual, I attended the focus session of Connection for Mission—Domestic. We had four petitions to discuss this year, all of which were passed by the full conference. These four were: Ethics and the Columbia River Treaty; Ensure Accessibility of Annual Conference Meetings; Endorsement of Initiative 735 limiting money from corporations, etc.; and Call to Reduce Personal Energy Consumption. The Connection for Mission—International focus group looked at petitions addressing climate change. Two of these will be forwarded to General Conference as one would make a change in the Book of Discipline and the other would create a change in the Book of Resolutions. Each of these recommends either avoiding or divesting in companies extracting fossil fuels. A third petition in that group would establish a Divestment Task Force and was referred on to the area of Administrative Support.
Once again, I am pleased to announce our congregation met its assigned apportionment for the past year. Apportionments are extremely important and our congregation has benefitted significantly in the past few years. It would behoove us to do a study on the apportionments so all members understand what those funds do.
It’s not all work at conference. There are other activities as well. Once again there was a time set aside late one afternoon to reach out to the local community. Some people went into downtown Pasco for a “prayer walk” where a young man was recently killed by police. One evening there was a dinner at a nearby restaurant for the Reconciling Ministries group where Izzy Alvaran spoke.
As you know, Jen challenged the congregation to support the 5K Fun Run for Imagine No Malaria and this congregation rose to the challenge. She did run (maybe a bit slowly sometimes) the full 5K, wearing a purple tutu, and singing—and all this started at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday.
For anyone wanting to watch what happened at conference, the sessions were taped and can be seen on the PNW Annual Conference website, Facebook, or YouTube.
Annual Conference Delegate