"Wow" is the only way I can describe my feelings after celebrating and presiding for my last Annual Conference. This one was special for so many reasons. Our theme of "Be. Hope." certainly resonated with everyone, including those powerful "Hope Talks" and the story by Adolf Hansen about living in hope after the tragic death of his daughter 20 years ago – right on the corner outside of the Convention Center where we were meeting. The AC staging was spectacular with the 100 foot screen and lighted curtains. The music was varied in style and excellent in presentation. The memorial and ordination services were especially meaningful (including my privilege of baptizing five children of our clergy). The Prayer Breakfast was meaningful, with an outstanding message from Indianapolis mayor (and United Methodist layman) Joe Hogsett. And of course the Friday night celebration of my retirement was powerful, moving, overwhelming, and full of nice surprises and gifts (even basketball tickets from Purdue Pete). Wow!
It was a "Wow" when we announced the success to date of our "Building Discipleship Centers" Campaign which is nearing the $8 million mark. I can't wait for the Groundbreaking on August 7th at Epworth Forest, and Marsha and I are honored by the generous gesture of naming the Discipleship Center after us.
So many people to thank, so much joy to celebrate (including hearing that our Conference giving this year is up 6%), so wonderful to charter two new churches and to hear about 17 other launches, and so humbling to be loved and sent forth into retirement (yes, I know that I still have work to do between now and September 1st). Marsha and I feel loved by the United Methodist people of Indiana, and we love you, too.
As I said in my Ordination Sermon, the only appropriate response to our discovery of the depth of God's love is to say, "Wow!" Knowing the love of God and the gift of God's grace which overcomes our human frailties and brokenness can only lead to our saying with gratitude, "Wow!"
That is my feeling as I write this E-pistle in the aftermath of Annual Conference: "Wow!"
I realize that I have presided over 8 Conferences during my years in the Dakotas, another 12 Conferences in my first 6 years here when we were separate North and South Indiana Conferences, an additional 6 Conferences since we became the new Indiana Conference, and one other time when I presided over the Red Bird Missionary Conference for my friend Bishop Lindsey Davis when he was recovering from surgery. If I have counted right and not forgotten any others, that makes a total of 27 Conferences. I think I can safely say that this last one was the best – for many of the reasons listed above.
All I can say, and all that needs to be said is "Wow! Thanks be to God!"