Dear Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference Members,

One of the most frequently heard complaints about our in-person Annual Conferences over the past few years has been the venue. While the Philadelphia Expo Center is conveniently located near the Conference Center, its biggest drawback is being an Expo Center, not a Convention Center. It is designed for things like RV shows, gun shows, and the like. We are one of the very few groups using the center as we do. This means many of the items we need for our Conference are not available from the Expo Center but must be rented from outside vendors. This of course drives up the cost!

The Commission on Conference Session has heard you and has been looking for a new venue that will better suit our needs. We inquired with Greater NJ about what facilities they use, and they introduced us to the Wildwood Convention Center, which GNJ has been using for several years. During our Annual Conference, the Commission met to discuss the matter. After careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages, the Commission unanimously voted to use the Wildwoods Convention Center for our 2024 session.

There are several reasons we felt this was the right decision. Believe it or not, the cost paid by Greater New Jersey per person was only $5 more than EPA paid, and the costs to GNJ included the hotel rooms! Next year we plan to have the two conferences back-to-back (similar to what we did years ago with the old Central Pennsylvania Conference at Messiah College).This will allow us to save money on the set-up and tear-down of the lights, sound, and camera equipment. It may also encourage some vendors to purchase space at both Conferences, saving vendors travel expenses.

With the hotel room included, we will have the opportunity to rebuild a sense of community within our Annual Conference. We will be able to meet with colleagues and friends for breakfast and dinner. There will be chances to socialize together in the evening. Members will have the option of extending their stay in Wildwood at the negotiated off-season prices. Make this a family adventure! Bring the kids and take advantage of the childcare services we will be providing during the conference, then stay a few extra days.

Wildwood is further away for many of our members; however, we will only be making the trip once. As one who lives on the western edge of the conference, it will be a longer trip for me personally, but less driving. I could never justify a hotel room near the Oaks, but with the Convention rate hotel room cost it will be less expensive to stay in Wildwood than the cost to commute for three days to the Oaks given the price of gas, and tolls, plus wear and tear on my car. Sessions is also exploring the possibilities of vans or buses for carpooling. There is plenty of free parking at the Convention Center and a shuttle to bring you from the lot to the door, eliminating long walks we had on the college campuses. In addition, there is safe and comfortable seating and areas for socialization and community building throughout the venue.

2024 will be an experimental year for EPA. We are looking for a similar site within our conference so we can alternate between New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the years to come.

I hope you are as excited about this time of new beginnings as I am. After what we have been through these past few years, it will be great to share time and fellowship with other members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. Please save the dates of May 21-23, 2024.

Grace & Peace,
James D. Anderman
Chair of the Commission on Conference Sessions