Stealing a page from my dear friend Talbot Davis, I'm beginning a new feature today called "Top Five Tuesday."
If you're a United Methodist, you know about Annual Conference. It's a yearly meeting of all the UM pastors in a given region, plus one lay representative for each pastor. I'm a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, and we always meet sometime in June, at beautiful Lake Junaluska, for our annual meeting.
Usually I hate it.
The long days, the boring reports, the same old perfunctory business that could be done some other way ... the time away from my church and the work I need to get done ... usually I drag myself to Annual Conference with a sour attitude.
But this year was different. I had a much better attitude. Probably because I'm between churches and right now, Annual Conference is my church family. Or maybe because I'm officially on vacation and I didn't feel the pressure to get back to the office and get work done. Or maybe because I was so happy to get away from the boxes.
And this year I loved it. Here are the top five reasons why:
1. Lake Junaluska -- I've been coming here since I was a child. And so have my kids. I was ordained here. My son was married here. We have a house here.
This place is so full of memories and meaning for me. Yeah, the auditorium's too small, and the facilities are antiquated, and parking's a problem--but I still love the place.
2. Better reporting (of great things happening) -- Gone are the days when people would stand up and read long reports. Now the reports are short, snappy--and with effective use of video, very exciting!
And you know what? There are great things happening in our annual conference. New churches. New life for old churches. Missional outreach to the poor and homeless. Lives changed in Africa. Great stuff. My writing is not doing it justice. So watch some of the videos here.
3. Social Media -- Mike Rich, our conference webmaster, did a great job of keeping the AC2014 website up to date. Summaries of the day, transcripts of sermons ... and live streaming of every session.
4. Great Worship -- This may have had to do with my attitude, but I was really moved and refreshed by this year's worship services. The opening communion service skillfully blended traditional hymns played on a huge organ with contemporary choruses led by a praise team. The Lake Junaluska Singers blew us away at the closing service. And Bishop Goodpaster was on fire as he preached on Extravagant Generosity!
5. Connecting with Friends -- It means more and more to me as I get older. So many great people--some of whom I just met--some of whom I've known since I was a kid.
And one of those, of course, was my dear friend Sam, who reached a major milestone in his life at this year's Annual Conference.