|2013||Charlotte, North Carolina||227th|
The 227th Annual Conference (June 29 - July 3, 2013) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Charlotte Convention Center, located at 501 South College Street, Charlotte, NC 28202. It offers Halls A, B, and C featuring 280,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space that is divisible into separate rooms. Delegates convened in Hall C that provided 80,000 square feet of meeting space, which could accommodate 6,000 people, plus an optional raised seating for an additional 1,400 seats. Additionally the Central Ballroom offered 35,000 square feet with a ceiling height of 30 feet, and the Crown Ballroom is 40,000 square feet with a tiered ceiling height of 24 feet, plus a 17,800 square foot Ballroom Terrace for outdoor gatherings. It covers more than Four City Blocks which presents large trucks with a total of 20 covered loading docks with direct access to all exhibit halls. Bisecting the downtown Convention Center was the easy access Charlotte Area Transit System rail line which afforded Brethren a comfortable ride from surrounding hotels. Students of the University of North Carolina also utilize this service to the main campus which is just north of the city. Every year Brethren are presented with that same initial experience of where do we go? Yet they quickly familiarized themselves with the large Main Concourses which led to Hall C and the main gathering area for Business and Worship. Enhancing the spacious drama of the Center was Hanging Art. Complimenting the fresh exterior was a Fountain & Garden that offered Brethren a quiet respite from the fatigue of business and the scurrying tempo of rushing to meetings. Dominating the skyline above the Convention Center is the Westin Hotel, and immediately to the east is the Nascar Hall of Fame. The Night Skyline of North Carolina's largest metropolitan city is a performance of brilliant colors, enhanced only by a Welcome Sign to the Brethren. It is known as the Queen City, for it was named after Queen Charlotte Sophia and the surrounding county was named for the city of her birth, Mecklenburg, Germany. She was the grandmother of Queen Victoria and the wife of Britain's King George III, the one who fomented the American colonists toward Revolution. Americans looked upon him as a tyrant and the British regarded him as an abject failure at Colonialism. Incorporated in 1768, Charlotte became the center of the nations first Gold Rush when a 17 pound nugget was discovered in 1799. Railroads later made it a textile industry center and distribution hub. Today, it's metropolitan area ranks as the 23rd largest US city with a 2012 Census population of 2,296,569. It is a major U.S. financial center with total assets slightly behind New York City. Bank of America and Wells Fargo's east coast operations center are headquartered here.
Famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham was born just south of the city and raised on the Graham Family dairy farm. A foundation Moved The Buildings to this present site, in order to Preserve The Legacy of this great American. Entrance Is Free to all ages. Photography of the Graham House is permitted and staff graciously explain the Farm Business of that era. Kitchen Stories inspire us about every aspect of life, business, the Church, and the ministry of Jesus. Next to the farm area is a Memorial Garden where one may sit and enjoy the flowers or take a quick stroll to the grave of his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. She was born to missionary parents in China which explains the Chinese letter for Righteousness at the top of her grave plaque. His sermons were broadcast on radio and personal crusades on television. Graham became a spiritual adviser to many US Presidents. It has been estimated that more than 3.2 million people accepted Christ at his crusades. The George Gallup Poll figures repeatedly list Billy Graham as one of the most admired men in the world, appearing on the list 55 times since the 1950s, which is more than any other individual.
Jim Beckwith began his first year of a five year term as Annual Conference Secretary, filling the position of Fred Swartz who completed two terms of service last year. As Moderator of AC2008, Beckwith quickly demonstrated strong administrative capabilities. His reading of motions, proposed amendments, and knowledge of past decisions was articulate and easy to understand.
Online Registration was situated in one of the Main Concourses which conveniently faced worship and business sessions in Hall C. Live coverage was projected on Three Large Screens with a fourth mounted on the rear of a large ceiling support column. Webcasts of the proceedings were also available online. During the opening Sunday afternoon worship service, Conference goers presented their (AC2008) Witness to Host City School Kits. Absent this year were the Message Boards which had been a regular fixture at every Conference in recent memory, including the later addition of a Prayer Board, and the addition of a Call Wall at AC2012. No explanation was given. Pleasingly noticeable was the Signage leading attendees to their proper destinations. Adults received a special treat this year as the Chidren's Choir sang twice. First on Monday Evening followed by a Special Story, and then again at their traditional Tuesday Evening songfest.
INSIGHT SESSIONS:There were many opportunities for Brethren to learn about programs of the church and grow spiritually through numerous Insight Sessions and Equipping Workshops. Springs of Living Water, is a spiritual renewal project of David Young for churches that are interested in revitalization. There were a multitude of other topics such as: Grace, Forgiveness, Worship, Discipleship, Music, Scripture, Youth, Faith-sharing, Diversity, Nurturing, Justice, Evangelism, Service, Loving Others, Demographics, Sharing, Training, Economics, Gifts, Mission, Curriculum, Disaster Ministries, Investing, and Leadership.
This year's Exhibit Hall was spacious enough to accommodate all Brethren interests with room to spare. Virlina District was the host district. Council of District Executives offered an imaginative way to view the Denominational Membership, of course, by Districts. Each Grain represented one member of that Respective District. Most of the regular exhibitors were present again this year. Brethren Affiliated Colleges offered interpretative literature plus an attractive Logo Shirt Display. Brethren Seminary presented a comfortable area to view Mission Statements, Gather Literature, Post Your Thoughts, and then Read Other Thoughts. Brethren Benefit Trust explained their Financial Products (Charlotte had its own unrelated BBT). The Bible Project gave visitors an opportunity to see How It Came into existence in Various Forms with Actual Samples. One even had the chance to have their name automatically written in Five Languages. Also seen were Food Resource Bank, Brethren Press, Brethren Volunteer Service, Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists, Global Women's Project, Brethren Heritage, New Community Project, On Earth Peace, Rule of Faith, and SERRV. There were several Park Benches available for the tired, and Sign Posts for the not so tired. Handouts and Brochures were commonly seen. It was a great opportunity to learn about All Things Brethren. Next year AC 2014 will be held in Columbus, Ohio.
2013 Conference Officers were Moderator Robert Krouse, pastor of Little Swatara COB, Bethel, Pennsylvania; Moderator-elect Nancy Heishman, Tipp City, Ohio; and Secretary Jim Beckwith, Pastor of Annville COB, Annville, Pennsylvania (first year of first term).
Delegates were seated at Round Tables again this year as implemented in AC2012, an innovation of the Revitalization Task Force recommendations of Doing Church Business AC2007. Tables were Numbered from 1 to 100. Last years trial run of this arrangement was enthusiastically received by Delegates for many reasons, such as the increased opportunity to discuss issues with people holding varied opinions on the same issue. Each table was assigned a Facilitator to enhance discussion, request a scribe to document opinions, and call for a Reporter to speak for their Table at the microphones. Having designated speakers from each Table minimizes the inclination of someone to dominate speech at the Microphones for frivolous reasons. The first Business Session convened on Monday morning.
Some thoughtful individual(s) had children in mind by providing them with Activity Materials during business and worship.
WORSHIP:Sunday evening, Moderator Krouse led members in an evening Concert of Prayer since business was limited to Monday and Tuesday only. Moderator Krouse also handed out Wooden Crosses made by his congregation, Little Swatara COB. During the Wednesday morning worship service, the traditional Moderator Consecration installed Nancy Heishman as Moderator for 2014 and David Steele as Moderator-elect for 2015.
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).