To: Clergy and Lay Members of the Annual Conference
From: Meredyth Earnest, Conference Secretary, email@example.com
Re: Important Announcements Regarding 2021 Conference Gatherings
2021 Annual Conference dates, Post-General Conference gathering announced
The 2021 Annual Conference Session is set for June 6-8 at The Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center.
The Annual Conference Session program committee met this week to discuss both the June session and other potential gatherings needed later in 2021. The 155th session of the South Georgia Annual Conference will meet in Columbus, Ga. beginning Sunday evening, June 6 and concluding on Tuesday, June 8. In addition to our time together in June, Bishop Lawson Bryan, in consultation with the program committee, has set a post-General Conference gathering for Saturday, October 9, 2021. The October meeting will be held in a conference-central location to be announced at a later date.
The UMC’s General Conference will take place Aug. 29 - Sept. 7, 2021. An October gathering allows time for South Georgians to meet prior to the Jurisdictional Conference session which is set for Nov. 10-12, 2021, at Lake Junaluska, NC.
“We know our conference will want to gather soon after the conclusion of General Conference to reflect upon the outcome and how that will impact South Georgia," Bishop Bryan said. "Our goal is to do all we can to equip our laity and clergy with accurate information, provide adequate time for discernment, and allow for informed decisions to be made as needed.”
With the continued uncertainty surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic, the committee also discussed the feasibility of an in-person gathering.
“While our plan is to meet in person in 2021, the program committee is wisely preparing for alternatives should an in-person gathering not be possible or recommended,” said Meredyth Earnest, Conference Secretary. “If a virtual Annual Conference is again necessary, we have shown through the 2020 session that our conference is able to embrace technology and conduct business efficiently online.”
In order to help facilitate the planning of the Annual Conference Session and meet deadlines with the convention center and Valley Hospitality - the group that handles the hotel blocks for our conference - a decision on the type of meeting (in-person or virtual) will be reached and communicated by January 25, 2021.
“We find ourselves in a continued state of flux around guidelines surrounding public health and large gatherings. Wesley’s first rule is ‘Do No Harm,’ and the program committee will be evaluating all factors to make the best decision possible by the deadlines that are set. We want to be fair to all those who are a part of planning Annual Conference - the Local Arrangements Committee, the Worship Committee, GNTV Media Ministry, and so many more - as well as meet the terms of our contracts with the convention center and Valley Hospitality,” Earnest said. “We all enthusiastically look forward to gathering together in person once more and sharing in the joy of fellowship. We appreciate the patience and prayers of the conference members as we make plans in these challenging times.”
Bishop Bryan and the program committee realize that one very important aspect of any annual conference session can never be replicated in a virtual gathering: being together.
“It was clear from the 2020 evaluations that we all missed being in the same room, together. Fellowship is an important part of our gatherings and something we all highly value as part of our connectedness,” Bishop Bryan said. “However, we want to be wise in our decision making and make sure we are able to prepare the safest environment for our clergy and laity."
The theme for the 2021 Annual Conference Session, “Alive Together at the Table,” is timely, he said.
“The Lord has prepared the South Georgia table for us, and we want to respond to Christ’s invitation to come to the table,” Bishop Bryan said. “There is a place for each of us at the South Georgia table. Our souls are nourished and our ministries are empowered when we are Alive Together at the Table.”
Hotel room blocks: Hotel room blocks will be announced and opened on January 25, 2021. Valley Hospitality in Columbus has already secured more than 600 rooms for our event.
Banquets, Displays & Childcare: Information regarding banquets, displays & childcare will be communicated in January.
2020 Conference Journal: The 2020 Journal of the South Georgia Conference is in the final stages of production and will be available this fall. When the book is complete, an announcement containing ordering and download information will be sent via email. Information will also be available at www.sgaumc.org/conferencejournal.
Alive Together at the Table: As we spend this year focusing on being Alive Together at the Table leading up to Annual Conference 2021, watch the Advocate and the conference website for stories about churches who are coming to the table in many different ways. If you and your congregation would like help creating ways to be Alive Together at the Table through your ministries, please reach out to Allison Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Connectional Ministries staff will be happy to work with you to provide resources or help design a program tailored to your ministry needs.
Questions: For questions regarding the business of Annual Conference, please contact Meredyth Earnest at email@example.com. For general inquiries, contact Kelly Roberson at 912-270-6172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: This email is being sent to all clergy and (2020 and 2021) lay members of the Annual Conference who have been entered into the Lay Leadership list through the Church Dashboard, as well as conference and agency leaders. Because not all Charge Conferences have concluded, we realize that we may not have names for all lay members. Clergy: please make sure your 2021 lay member(s) to Annual Conference gets this information and that he or she is entered into the Church Dashboard. If you have questions about this process, please contact your District Administrative Assistant ASAP. Laity: please make sure your clergy member(s) have this information as well.