COVINGTON, Kentucky –
More than 1,000 United Methodist clergy and lay delegates began gathering late Sunday at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center for 2019 Annual Conference.
“We are excited to welcome everybody,” said Rev. Julie Hager Love, who is in her 15th
and final year as Annual Conference Secretary, charged with planning and coordinating the church’s annual business meeting and worship time.
In a short interview late Sunday afternoon, Love said she is grateful for the dozens of red-shirted volunteers who were onsite helping to unload the truck, assist with registration, and otherwise work with the staff.
The three-day Annual Conference officially begins Monday at 9:15 a.m. with the Opening Worship service. Bishop Leonard Fairley will preach the sermon, titled “The Mark of Holiness.”
The theme of Annual Conference this year is “See the Possibilities: Holy Imagination,” and each worship service will represent a different part of the Lenten season, starting Monday morning with Ash Wednesday and culminating Wednesday afternoon with Easter during the Service of Sending Forth.
One of the main orders of business will be to elect lay and clergy delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. For the first time, those votes will be taken by electronic ballot.
About three dozen KAC and tech-support staff met for lunch Sunday with Bishop and Dawn Fairley in their hotel room and also took Holy Communion. Much of the day then was spent setting up in various areas of the convention center.
At 2 p.m., the center’s spacious Exhibit Hall 2 on the first floor was still three hours away from opening for registration. Rev. Gary Graves, co-chair of Registration and Credentials, was working with Jill Starkey, a Kentucky Annual Conference staff member, to set up the registration area.
“It is going smoothly,” Graves said, noting with a laugh that registration hadn’t opened yet so they had yet to confront any lines or other challenges. Volunteers were to arrive for training an hour before registration opened.
The final preregistration count was: clergy, 473; laity, 375; guests, 83; and youth/young adult, 19. A significant number of people were expected to register onsite late Sunday or Monday – although Graves said registration would remain open the entire conference.
Delegates had until May 15 to preregister online, and Graves said it was extremely helpful that so many people took advantage of the preregistration window. Those who didn’t register before May 15 must register in person.
“We have had significant preregistration, which is a great help for planning seating, child-care needs,” and other events such as Tuesday’s Church Beyond service event, Graves said.
Exhibit Hall 2 is also where dozens of tables and displays will be available for people to visit during Annual Conference.
People planning to participate in Church Beyond also could begin registering Sunday evening in the hallway on the second floor.
More than 40 youth and young adults will be delegates, representing all nine KAC districts and college campus ministries, said Nathan Calvert, Associate Director of ministry for young people.
About 35 young adults attended a gathering Sunday evening hosted by Northern Kentucky University’s Vine & Branches. Calvert was planning to help register the youth at the same time the young adults were socializing at NKU.
“We’re delighted to have fun, to worship, and to represent the church,” he said.
The Reconciling United Methodists of Kentucky Dinner was Sunday evening at Clifton UMC in Cincinnati, across the river from Covington. Rev. Lisa May, of Shiloh UMC in Goshen, spoke to the group and said there was room for hope in the church.