2011 Grand Rapids, Michigan 225th
2011 Logo

The 225th Annual Conference (July 2-6, 2011) of the Church of the Brethren was held in DeVos Place, located at 303 Monroe Avenue, NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. The conference center features a 162,000 square foot column free space for exhibits or conventions, a performance theater, four ballrooms, and 26 meeting rooms. DeVos is home to the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. Michigan is the eleventh largest state and the eighth most populated. Education is a premium in Michigan, offering 22 colleges and 29 universities. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, and a three time All-American City. It gets its name from the Grand River which is the states largest inland river. Before roads and railroads provided faster travel, the 225 navigable miles of the Grand River served as a major transportation route. The city was built next to a large rapids (thus its name), much of which has disappeared from the installation of a low-head dam and fish ladder. The current rapids is actually a series of Smaller Ripples. Grand Rapids hosts several noteworthy museums, such as the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Van Andel Public Museum. Fountains and Water Art are possible from the Grand River's rich supply of water. Lengthy River Walks on both sides permitted conference goers easy access to a Relaxing Stroll. The usual catered buffet dining was served indoors and Al Fresco.

Annual Conference was previously held twice in Grand Rapids: 1950 and 1955. It was then held in the adjacent Civic Auditorium, a neo-classical building completed in 1932 which still remains apart of DeVos Place. The anchor hotel for this year was the Amway Grand Plaza, a 1981 renovation of the 1913 Pantlind Hotel offering 682 guest rooms, spas, gift shops, Meeting Rooms, and 5 restaurants. Skywalks above street level traffic offer greater safety. Many of the other downtown hotels also Connect to the same Walking Network that also includes Parking Garages. Some Brethren took advantage of Horse Carriage transportation. The Amway hosted numerous Insight Sessions and provided several ball rooms for Reserved Dinners. Monday evening (July 4) the downtown area was treated to a brief yet enjoyable Fireworks display.


Registration took place in the immense lobby where Attendees frequently stopped at the Bulletin Board and the Prayer Board. What would a Brethren gathering be without Four Square. Lunch & Dinner buffets were also served in the main lobby, and beautiful weather made Outside Dining especially enjoyable. Unfortunately, sound on the main conference floor was disappointing as reverberation was strong from the middle backward, and especially near the back wall of the large room. The suspect unlowered Middle Partition may have contributed to the poor sound quality. People seated in front of the Partition were able to sense better sound quality. Thus, seats at the front of the hall became a premium. During the Saturday evening worship service, and immediately following the receiving of the regular offering, worshippers brought forward School Kits that had been assembled and collected during the previous months. Church World Service will distribute these to needy children. Each of the twenty-three districts were asked to bring a Comforter (similar to a quilt) that would be sold during a silent auction to also benefit Church World Service. Tuesday evening continues to be the traditional time for the Children's Choir to precede the evening worship. Reflecting on the Conference Theme of Extending the Table, Moderator Alley arranged for a Special Table at each worship service. Each evening/morning, worship participants sat around this table to express harmony and unity of spirit.


A new first-time exhibit from the Council of District Executives appeared this year. Maps & Greetings were to the left, and various pieces of Resource Literature was on the right. District Staff have worked together since the early 1970s for these Statements of Purpose. Monday afternoon they presented their Annual Report to the delegate body. The high ceiling Exhibit Hall provided ample space for the usual booths from the Colleges, a lofty On Earth Peace, Brethren Press, SERRV, Church World Service, Mutual Aid Agency, Outdoor Ministries, and many other Projects & Interests.


Brethren Benefit Trust arranged for Free WiFi throughout the conference building. Technology is becoming more important to the Brethren as numerous Laptops and hand mobiles were seen on the main conference floor. WiFi first appeared at 2007 Cleveland in a very limited area. Bethany Theological Seminary again provided Webcasts through LiveStream.com which made it possible for anyone with a computer and Internet connection to view worship and business sessions.


2011 Conference Officers were Moderator Robert E. Alley, pastor of Bridgewater COB, Bridgewater, Virginia; Moderator-elect Tim Harvey, pastor of Central COB, Roanoke, Virginia; and Secretary Fred Swartz.






“They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).”
Acts 15:2