God’s hope never disappoints: Opening Worship Thursday June 9

Hope was infused into the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Ind. during opening worship June 9, 2016.
 
The session opened with powerful, uplifting, and hope-centered worship by Annual Conference worship leader, Fran Wyatt, who serves as Director of Contemporary Worship and Arts at St. Luke’s UMC. He was joined by a choir of singers throughout the Indiana Conference and the worship team of St. Luke’s UMC.
 
District Superintendent, Bert Kite, in the role of John Wesley, entertained the crowd as he performed the history of Methodism.  “That is what the Annual Conference is for, to celebrate God’s goodness.”
 
Before Bishop Mike came forward to speak this morning, we were led through a time of reciting our mission and vision of the annual conference, our desires for Christian conferencing, as well as reminders of our unified faith in Christ to align our hearts for the remaining time of Annual Conference. 
 
“Hope. It’s quite a theme isn’t it? “, remarked Bishop Mike. Bishop Mike went on to say “if there is anything our world needs, it’s hope”. He also said that true hope is more than wishful thinking.

Bishop Mike invited retired clergy and Theologian in Residence at St. Luke’s UMC, Adolf Hansen, to share his story of how tragedy can be turned to hope.  Hansen began with a simple story, “It began on Georgia Street…” Georgia Street is a familiar street for Annual Conference goers as it runs parallel to the Indiana Convention Center. A road many will encounter over the coming days. Years ago, Hansen’s 31-year old daughter Bonnie began to cross Georgia Street one evening after work to make a simple bank deposit. As Bonnie began to cross the street, a bus ran the light crossing her path and striking Bonnie, leaving her in critical condition. As the night wore on it began to become apparent that Bonnie would not survive the accident. Bonnie died the next day on May 11, Adolf’s birthday and the eve of Mother’s Day.  The days that followed were full of chaos, disbelief, and painful moments no parent desires to experience. “It seemed so unfair, unwarranted, unreasonable,” said Hansen.

Not long after Bonnie’s death, Hansen and his wife decided to return to the place where the accident occurred. They embraced each other, cried, and barely uttered a word as they watched the wheels of buses go by. As the imagined what it was like for there daughter that day they relied on hope in a moment of extreme grief.

On the anniversary of Bonnie’s death, Adolf and his wife will often return to that same spot on Georgia Street. On the 20th Anniversary of her death as they returned to Georgia Street they were able to reflect on Bonnie’s life, all God had done in the time since her death and give thanks to a God who doesn’t disappoint.
 
Hansen ended by sharing three truths that he and his wife clung to that provided them with hope during those years. "God is good always, God works for good always, and we can trust God always."
 
Transforming Lives with Africa University
During Opening Worship, we celebrated how far we have come in our commitment to transforming lives with Africa University. Rev. David V.W. Owen shared stories of the transformation he has seen in Africa through Africa University. The Indiana Campaign for Africa University began in 2014 and will end on December 31, 2016. To date, we have raised $1.3 million of our $1.6 million goal.
 
Though there was one who’s presence and efforts with the Africa University Campaign were missed but not forgotten. We were reminded of the legacy that was created by James William “Bill” Keith Jr. and his passion for Africa University. To honor Bill Keith’s memory, Owen announced the creation of the J. William Keith Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund. Donations for this fund can be given or pledged through the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana. 
 
Transition, Celebrating Bishop Mike, and the Building Discipleship Centers Campaign
 
This Annual Conference we will be celebrating Bishop Mike as he retires. As we honor his 20 years of service as our bishop, Cindy Reynolds, Executive Assistant to the Bishop, shared some of the ways we as a Conference can help with the transition. Top of the list, prayer.  “Praying for Bishop Mike, praying for our new bishop,” said Reynolds. Reynolds also shared another way to celebrate Bishop Mike by giving a gift in his honor to the Building Discipleship Centers Campaign.
 
The Building Discipleship Centers Campaign was launched to create more spaces and places where people of all ages and backgrounds can explore their faith and spirituality in the beauty of God’s great creation of nature. Indiana has been richly blessed with a long history of creating disciples from our camping and outdoor ministries. Since the launch of the campaign, more than $7.7 million of our $9 million goal has been raised to support this endeavor to honor Bishop Mike’s legacy.
 
For more information you can visit, www.discipleshipcenters.org.

Hall Elected as Annual Conference Treasurer 
 
The conference affirmed Ian J. Hall as the newly appointed Treasurer for the Annual Conference. After Hall was affirmed he presented a financial report. We celebrated a 6% increase in giving so far this year, as well as the fact that we will tithe 100% to the General Church
 
 Income 12,991,971
 Expense 12,942,515
 Actual Surplus 49,456
 General Church Tithe 5,285,582