Dec 17, 2021

Group surveys conference members for help with decision

The Eastern PA Annual Conference will meet May 20-21, 2022, with the usual highlights, including:

  • the Ordination and Commissioning Service;
  • Ministry Reports and Holy Conferencing with Resolutions;
  • the Service of Passage to recognize retirees, ordinands, commissioned clergy, local pastors and Certified Lay Ministers;
  • the Laity Address; and
  • the Memorial Service for deceased clergy and clergy spouses.

Plus, Bishop John Schol will present an Episcopal Address as our new resident bishop.

There’s even a timely, one-word theme for the Conference session—one that captures the immediacy and urgency of our times: “NOW.”

Bishop John Schol will deliver his Annual Conference Episcopal Address in May 2022.

What has yet to be determined, however, is where and how we will meet: either onsite at the familiar Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, or online via Zoom as in the past two years. Or maybe both onsite and online in a hybrid arrangement to accommodate the safety concerns of some and the desires of others for face-to-face proximity.

As COVID-19 infection rates escalate, amid new variants and resistance to vaccination and masks, concerns for health and safety are rising, too. The conference Commission on Sessions discussed all meeting options and considerations at its Dec. 13 virtual meeting.

The 2022 Annual Conference has been shortened from three days to two—a savings in time and meal costs. We will forgo the customary plenary teaching session. And resolutions will again be published online early to allow for comments, corrections and changes prior to the Annual Conference.

Even the Clergy and Laity sessions are removed from the 2022 Conference agenda and will occur in advance instead: the Laity Session on Saturday, April 2, 10 AM to 12 PM; and the Clergy Session on Wednesday, May 4, 9 AM to12 PM. The Laity Session will again meet online. Board of Ordained Ministry leaders are deciding about the Clergy Session. And District Conferences will each convene on May 1, most likely on Zoom.

The Commission on Sessions hopes to decide in January how to meet, which may affect logistics, participation and costs for both the conference and its paying registrants. So it is asking voting Conference members for their onsite or online preferences in a new survey questionnaire. Members are asked to complete and submit the online questionnaire by Thursday, Dec. 23.

“The members of the Conference Sessions Commission are prayerfully weighing the creative options and challenges around whether to meet at the Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, online via Zoom as in the past two years, or the possibility of a hybrid model meeting both onsite and online,” reads the questionnaire introduction. “The safety of our members is of the utmost concern and we want to hear from you about your desires and concerns.”

Besides choices of in-person, online and hybrid attendance, it also asks, “If a hybrid option was offered and the cost was the same as in-person, how would you attend?”

The commission is analyzing all costs, including the conference’s commitment to the Expo Center venue.

The questionnaire further asks if members would attend the Ordination and Memorial services onsite if there was open attendance again next year, even if they attended the Conference business online. Finally, it asks members to judge how much COVID safety concerns affect their choice to attend the session onsite or online.

Clergy and lay conference members are urged to respond to the survey by Dec. 23. The results should help the Sessions commission make decisions when it meets again, scheduled for Jan. 11, 2022.