2024 Annual Conference Wrap Up

View a summary of the 2024 Susquehanna Annual Conference, held May 30 – June 1 at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport. The theme for 2024 was “The Harvest is Plentiful.” Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi presided.

See the Daily LINK for each day, the live stream archive, and photo gallery for more in depth information about the events of the Annual Conference. These can be found on our Annual Conference page.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

 

OPENING/CLOSING WORSHIP
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball delivered the sermon during opening worship, inspiring the congregation with a message that spoke of the parable of the sower. She challenged the common interpretation of this parable, proposing a thought-provoking question: “What if this parable isn’t so much about the soil as it is about the seed and the sower?” Bishop Steiner Ball passionately called on all believers, not just clergy, to engage in the act of sowing. Every Christian, she asserted, has a role in spreading the Gospel—through words, actions, and by living out the faith authentically. She drew a vivid picture of a sower who, despite the odds, continues to spread the seed, knowing that while not all will take root, some will thrive and produce abundantly. “We can’t know in advance where all will fall- so just sow. Just sow! Sow the good seeds of God’s word and trust God to bring life to the seed we cast!”

The 2024 Annual Conference of the Susquehanna Annual Conference closed with worship. Diana Trout led in the singing of “Be Thou My Vision” and Rev. Mindi Gochnaur and Pastor Bobby Jones delivered a reflection. During her reflection, Mindi shared a few highlights for this Annual Conference, including the leadership report and the reminder to say yes to the movement of God’s spirit among us. She acknowledged the hard decisions and the heartache felt for some of the decisions, but also the hope. Pastor Bobby Jones followed, encouraging the clergy and laity and emphasizing the vital role they play in the church. He most passionately entreated the youth to use their unique gifts, saying, “The church needs your energy, your creativity and passion. Do not wait for tomorrow to make a difference.”

 

CELEBRATION OF MINISTRY
The Celebration of Ministry Service for the 2024 Annual Conference of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church was held on the evening of May 31, 2024 at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This worship service celebrated the plentiful harvest, culminating in the commissioning of one and ordination of three. Newly licensed local pastors and retirees were also honored. Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi preached a passionate sermon about the movement of Jesus in the Susquehanna Conference and the tools he has given his people for the harvest. The congregation celebrated Holy Communion, and the service concluded with an invitation for those discerning a call to come forward.

Christina D. Moyer was Commissioned as a provisional elder. Elizabeth G. Jackson, Christopher E. Weems, and Adam W. Miller were ordained as elders.

Twenty-three retirees were recognized and thanked for their service.

 

Rev. Dr. Charles Salisbury

 

MEMORIAL SERVICE
During the Memorial Service on Thursday Night, Rev. Dr. Charles Salisbury delivered a moving sermon entitled “God’s Gleaners,” which paid tribute to the legacy of departed members of the Susquehanna Conference community. “On this night,” he began, “we remember those who in their time on earth walked with us as colleagues, served with us as holy laborers, journeyed with us, inspired us and helped to remind each of us of the true greatness of the God we serve.”

Speaking directly to the loved ones of those being honored, Rev. Dr. Salisbury gave thanks for their dedication, unwavering love, and endless support. He pledged to them that in the memory of their loved one, “we will continue to run the race, we will continue to preach the Gospel, we will continue to honor Christ in all that we do.” The work may be hard, but it must be done. As his sermon came to an end, Rev. Dr. Salisbury concluded with a word of encouragement. “Be strong and courageous! Believe in the Good News – the ever-present power of our God to change hearts, change lives and change the world. It’s still the truth that sets us free. It is an old story, but it is still the greatest story ever told!”

 

 

STATE OF THE CHURCH ADDRESS
In their State of the Church Address, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball directly addressed the clergy and laity of the Susquehanna Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Highlighting the diverse make-up of participants from various geographical and social contexts, the bishops shared a message of resilience, unity, and renewal amidst the challenges faced by the church. Read story.

 

Rev. Dr. Ron Bell

 

BIBLE STUDY
Rev. Dr. Ron Bell, Director of Healing and Resilience for Discipleship Ministries, led the Friday and Saturday morning bible studies. On Friday, Rev. Dr. Bell focused on the Book of Joshua to talk about transition and the ways that transition can be handled in healthy ways. The following day, he explored Genesis 1:1-3 to emphasize ways to be in touch with our own emotions and remain connected to God. He covered seven keys of creation, and then highlighted the importance of rest. “Trauma and stress can change our brain chemistry and cause our emotions to become confused. That is why it is important to carefully consider the truth of what we are feeling. Resetting is important because it allows us to get in touch with our true thoughts and emotions.”

 

 

 

LEADERSHIP REPORT
Every year, the Susquehanna Conference Coordinating Cabinet delivers a Leadership Report highlighting the past year while looking towards the future. This year, they focused on what it means to say “YES” – and encouraged a commitment to collaboration, creativity, community outreach, and discipleship. This report not only reinforced the core values of the United Methodist Church but also set a proactive agenda for our Conference to explore and implement throughout the upcoming year. The call to action was clear: to embrace the spirit of “YES” in every facet of life and leadership as we move forward together as the Susquehanna Conference. Incoming superintendent Rev. Dr. Lillian Smith concluded the report with a word of prayer.

 

LEGISLATION

Resolution 1: Mental Health
Resolution 1 was passed with amendments. This resolution resolves that the Susquehanna United Methodist will observe Mental Health Awareness Month by dedicating the third Sunday in May for a special offering. This initiative is designed to enhance educational efforts for our members, clergy, and the wider community, emphasizing the church’s commitment to mental health and wellness. The original resolution (before amended) recognizes Suicide Prevention Month and National Recovery Month in September, and that Mental Health Awareness week be marked by a day of prayer. Amendments were made to add additional observations for Overdose Awareness Month, National Suicide Prevention Month, and World Mental Health Day.

Resolution 2: Disability Awareness Sunday
Resolution 2 was passed with no amendments. Disability Awareness Sunday will be recognized by the Susquehanna Conference on the second Sunday in October (October 13, 2024). The purpose of Disability Awareness Sunday is to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the church. It is our goal to empower clergy with disabilities and to offer support to laity with disabilities. Local congregations are encouraged to observe Disability Awareness Sunday by inviting people with disabilities to help to lead worship or share their testimony.

Resolution 3: Resolution of Acknowledgement of Hope Made Real/Urukundo Foundation
Resolution 3 passed with no amendments. Therefore, we affirm, support, and acknowledge the relationship that exists between the people of the Susquehanna Conference and the 501c3 nonprofit, “Hope Made Real.”

Resolution 4: Church & Land Use
Resolution 4 was passed without amendment. The purpose of this resolution is to honor our Creator through good stewardship of God’s Creation. Our local churches, camps, and individuals are encouraged to consider actions to care for the environment.

Resolution 5: A Resolution to Declare Gun Violence a Public Health Emergency
Resolution 5 was passed without amendment. This resolution encourages every church in the conference to respond to gun violence as a community-wide health care emergency by entering into courageous conversation on the causes and effects of gun violence and by taking steps to prevent violence.

Resolution 6:  Five District Plan Moving Forward in Mission and Ministry
Resolution 6 was passed without amendment. Effective July 1, 2024 this legislation will set the number of districts in the Susquehanna Conference at five. The Bishops and Cabinet will continue to balance the newly aligned districts and each new district will hold a District Conference in the Fall of 2024 in order to complete district nominations and to attend to other matters as needed.

 

Rev. Kevin Witt

REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Camping and Retreat Ministry: After debate, the Susquehanna Conference voted to accept recommendations by the Camp and Retreat Ministry Board that came from a two-year long study on the vitality and viability of the current program. This recommends moves the camping and retreat ministry to support three ministry centers: Wesley Forest as the primary camp and retreat center serving year-round; Camp Penn, offering summer camp; and Sky Lake, which is a camp in the Upper NY Annual Conference and will serve as a collaborative partner site. The other two camps currently owned by the conference, Greene Hills and Mount Asbury, will be sold and the proceeds will benefit the enhancement and strengthening of the other camps in the program. The programs that currently exist at these camps will be transitioned to the other locations.

Other Recommendations: Recommendations made by the Board of Trustees, Board of Pensions, Commission on Equitable Compensation, Council on Finance and Administration, and the Clergy Moving Policy were all approved by the Annual Conference. See the Pre-Conference Journal or Daily Link for more information about these reports.

 

BUDGET
The report of the Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) was presented by Rev. JP Bohanan. He outlined the proposed 2025 budget, which reflects a decrease of 1.3 million in total spending from the 2024 budget. With one million dollars in reserve funds applied to reduce budget pressure on local churches, the gross share total is a little under 7.6 million (an almost 5 million decrease from 2020). A motion was made to amend the recommendation that would limit a local church’s increase in Shares of Ministry. The recommendation of an increase of no more than 20% was amended to decrease the percentage to 10%. This amendment was passed, and then the body passed the main motion. The body then approved the entire CF&A recommendation. The entire recommendation can be viewed in the AC2024 workbook located on the Annual Conference page of the Conference website.

 

AWARDS
Multiple people and churches were presented with awards during this Annual Conference. See the list of award winners on page 7 of the Saturday morning edition of the Daily LINK. The Conference Superintendents presented One Matters Awards to the following churches: Altoona Supervisory Area – Claysburg UMC Charge; Harrisburg Supervisory Area – Fishing Creek Salem UMC; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Supervisory Area – Mehoopany UMC; State College Supervisory Area – Greater Buffalo Run Valley UMC; and Williamsport Supervisory Area – Holy Trinity UMC. The Conference Superintendents also presented New Places-New People Awards to the following churches: Altoona Supervisory Area – 12th Street Huntingdon UMC; Harrisburg Supervisory Area – Mosaic Community UMC; Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Supervisory Area – Chirst UMC, Mountaintop; State College Supervisory Area – Faith UMC, Bellefonte; and Williamsport Supervisory Area – Mainesburg UMC.

 

YPMC
The Young People’s Ministry Council report was anything but typical. In a quest to top last year’s report, the team performed a parody skit in the style of the popular TV show, “Law and Order” and encouraged the crowd to join in with the famous sound effects. Their report wasn’t all jokes, however. They highlighted upcoming opportunities, including the tri-conference youth leader retreat scheduled for September at Jumonville Camp and the Youth Service Fund. They also shared information about the McCurdy Mission trip, the youth convocation before Jurisdictional Conference, and more. While the laughs were numerous, the team drew the most applause by saying, “We are not the church of tomorrow… we are the church of now!” They concluded their presentation by flinging t-shirts into the crowd (with a certain Dean of the Cabinet as the only minor casualty). They truly upped their game and we look forward to seeing what our young people are up to in the next year.

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