Dear Friends,

It’s that time of the year when churches send ministers and lay representatives to Annual Conference. What is Annual Conference? It is the annual summertime pilgrimage to the University of Redlands where we meet, vote, and worship. On the larger ‘conference’ level we receive reports, we approve budgets, and enact new legislation. We also hear about endings and new beginnings.

This year we will have a new bishop presiding over our sessions. After twelve years of faithful service from Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, we will now welcome Bishop Minerva Carcaño. In addition to this change, we have also realigned to five districts and are dealing with consolidations and mergers.

For us clergy, the exciting part is always seeing who is newly ordained, who will be retiring, and who is moving to which church. In July, I’ll be beginning my eighth year at Torrance First UMC, the longest that I’ve stayed at any church.

Although it sounds very business-like, we do manage to find some time to network, visit, and hear what other churches are doing. We reconnect with old friendships and make new ones. It was three years ago at Annual Conference that Brenda D. asked me if I was interested in meeting her best friend Marlou.

This year we have the theme “How Firm A Foundation.” How appropriate it is in light of what we have been through – the shootings in Connecticut; the bombings in Boston; the tornado and the devastation in Oklahoma; and the overall global upheaval. I hope to receive inspiration during the June 12 – June 15 event. Our foundations need to be strengthened in these tumultuous times. We also look to have ideas of how to be of help in these crises and how to respond.

— Pastor Bob