This year’s annual conference is going to be a bit different. Yes, we’ll do some of the same things we’ve always done: vote for nominations to positions of leadership within the annual conference, worship as a larger community of United Methodists, ordain and consecrate, hear reports and make appointments, and vote on various action requests. But this year, we’ll also re-configure ourselves into four districts from our current five… and in the process decide on new names for each region. We will no longer be the Metro, Oregon Trail, Snake River, Southern, and Western districts… or even Districts 52, 57, 48, and 50. Instead, we’ll be something different and new!
On one level it may not seem like such a big deal, after all what could reconfiguring districts really accomplish? But on another level it reflects that we, as an annual conference, continue to be in a process of active change. In the past year, 38 congregations have participated in Congregational Leadership Development (CLD) sessions (plus 2 ELCA churches and 1 church from PNW, and 2 who are finishing in July). Two congregations are in the midst of a consultation process. Beginning July 1 Steve Ross will be appointed to be the Director of the Vital Church Project, which reflects our strong desire and commitment to make vitality at the local church level the centerpiece of our work together.
So new names for our districts reflect not so much an end point of our work, but instead represent signposts along the journey to a new horizon. And in these new districts, we will continue to work together to individualize our efforts to increase the health and vitality of what we are doing in each ministry location.
So let’s use the coming months to celebrate this latest signpost in our movement together. During the past several weeks, over 224 votes came in on the ten names that were offered for our new venture as a district. From that list, the following two names received the most votes: they are (alphabetically) Bridges and Columbia. At our first gathering as a new district of clergy and lay members of annual conference on June 16th, we’ll vote to determine which of these final two names will become the name for our new district. We’ll share the news with you after annual conference…but let’s also use this as a time to launch a new spirit of revitalization and renewal together as well.