The team planning our Annual Conference Session for June 7-9, 2012 has chosen the theme of “Making Room.” This theme continues our emphasis upon the Five Fruitful Practices of vital congregations as outlined by Bishop Robert Schnase. You may remember that our first session of the new Indiana Conference in 2009 included teaching by Adam Hamilton around the practice of Risk-Taking Mission and Service.

We also had Bible studies by David Bell about the practice of Extravagant Generosity – which helped us to introduce our Rejuvenate Project to improve our stewardship education and practice, along with providing grants to help our pastors and their families.

In 2010, we had Bishop Schnase himself teach about Radical Hospitality, as well as providing an overview of all the five practices. This past June for our 2011 Session, we had Marcia McFee teach and lead us in the fruitful practice of Passionate Worship.

In June 2012, we will focus on the fruitful practice of Intentional Faith Development as we focus on “Making Room.”

As I think about that theme, I understand we will be:

  • “Making Room” for God in our lives;
  • “Making Room” for newcomers to be welcomed into our congregations; and
  • “Making Room” for the next generation of leaders.

Any theme for an Annual Conference Session has to be inclusive of the many activities of that gathering, and it is also helpful to realize the Five Fruitful Practices always overlap, enhance each other, and continue to grow and evolve. So we are never finished with Passionate Worship or Radical Hospitality or Risk-Taking Mission and Service or Extravagant Generosity – even as we focus on Intentional Faith Development. Rightly understood, these faith disciplines and practices always “slop all over each other” as one of my seminary professors used to say. We can learn about these separate disciplines and practices in distinctive ways, but they always are inclusive and organic in nature.

I very much look forward to our 2012 Annual Conference Session. For the first time ever in Indiana Methodism, we will gather in a convention center – this time at the new Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. That location will have many advantages, especially being able to walk under one roof (and walkways), having plenty of room and being able to both serve and witness in downtown Indianapolis.

In the Dakotas Conference, we always met in convention centers in places like Fargo, Bismarck, Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City. Obviously those were smaller venues than the Indiana Convention Center, but there were similar advantages of accessibility, being together in one place and not having to walk around a college campus. I think we will enjoy that kind of experience in Indianapolis in 2012.

There are many other plans in the works, including a “United Methodist Night” at an Indianapolis Indians baseball game (I am told I should practice my pitching to throw out the first pitch), opportunities to serve in various ministries around the city the day before the Annual Conference Session, and plans to allow us to make a difference in our capital city as we meet.

In the midst of all those plans, I invite us to remember the first aspect of our theme: “Making Room for God.” If our gatherings are just fun or business meetings or even service to others, and we forget to focus upon our own Intentional Faith Development, then we will have missed the proper focus of our Session.

Let’s begin now by praying daily that God will use our gathering next June to make a genuine difference in our own personal faith, as well as making a difference in the faith development of others. Let’s remember to make room for God in our Annual Conference Session.

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world.”

Let’s remember to make room for God…