May 07, 2024 | John W. Coleman

As of May 13, 526 members have registered online for the United Methodists of Eastern Pennsylvania (EPA) Annual Conference. Online registration is closed.  

Following his ascension, Jesus Christ’s followers gathered in a room to meet, pray and await the Holy Spirit’s power, until it came upon them with wind and flame on what became the Day of Pentecost. The United Methodists of Greater New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania will do likewise, as they gather at the Wildwood (NJ) Convention Center, one after another, from May 19, Pentecost Sunday, until May 23, the day before Aldersgate Day.

Fittingly, one day celebrates the birth of Christ’s church and its mission; the other celebrates John Wesley’s spiritual conversion that gave birth to Methodism.

United Methodists of Greater New Jersey (GNJ) will hold their Annual Conference at the Wildwood center May 19-21, followed by the Eastern PA Annual Conference (EPA) May 21-23. Both assemblies will meet, pray and seek the Holy Spirit’s power as they:

  • Worship and praise God in song, sermon and ceremony.
  • Hear reports and resolutions, and then legislate through Christian conferencing.
  • Honor the sunsets and sunrises of professional ministry careers.
  • Remember recently deceased clergy and clergy spouses.
  • Celebrate ministry progress and accomplishments through awards.
  • Feast and fellowship with one another.
  • Learn new knowledge in interactive workshops.
  • Share in collective stewardship as they vote on 2025 budgets, give to special offerings, and approve funding to Advance Special projects and other ministries.
  • And consider the endorsement of clergy nominees for election as bishops.

The EPA & GNJ conference sessions will share the same embracing theme, “Belong,” drawn from Romans 12:5: “…So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” That theme was inspired by the 2023 IGNITE Youth Conference last fall, whose young participants from GNJ, EPA and other conferences met under the same theme.

Two conferences to share similar agendas

The two conferences will also share similar agendas. Preceded by Laity and Clergy sessions and worship services to commission and ordain clergy, they will open by conducting business and legislation, followed by moving memorial services for deceased clergy and spouses. Members may vote on clergy nominees for episcopal openings the Northeastern Jurisdiction will fill in July when it elects bishops.

Both conferences will offer five hourlong workshops on various, interesting topics. They are:

  • Fresh Expressions of Church, led By Michael Beck
  • Build, Paint and Name a Birdhouse for Camp & Retreat Ministry, led By Apryl Miller and the Camp and Retreat Ministry Team
  • Embodied Serenity: Mindful Movement & Breathwork, led by Alyssa Ruch and Jessica “Jess” Curtis
  • Foundations for Healthy Teams, led by Shelley Smith and Lisa Depaz
  • Generative Ai and the Future of Church Ministry, led by James Lee

Members will discuss and vote on a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue the EPA&GNJ Collaborative Partnership that elected committees, leaders and staff of the two conferences have been working to develop for a year and a half. The historic proposal, presented by both conferences’ Connectional Table chairpersons, will further engage them in collaborative decision-making, staffing, budgeting and ministry.

“This MOU was developed and prepared by a joint task force of EPA&GNJ involving 15 elected and staff leaders from each conference and was reviewed and approved by CFA and the Connectional Table of both conferences,” reads the resolution. “It involved a survey of both conferences, Zoom and in-person feedback sessions, and the affected agencies of both conferences working together.”

‘Together we belong to God and to one another’

Bishop John Schol will speak to both conferences in his final episcopal address before he retires in August. He will likely review their progress and challenges and offer a deservedly hopeful outlook for their future—one that relies on living out the unifying and outreaching spirit of their common theme, Belong.

“Together we belong to God and to one another,” he writes in his introductory, Pre-Conference Workbook letter. “As United Methodists…we are interconnected throughout our conference and with congregations around the world. Our connectionalism as the body of Christ guides our work together….We have much to celebrate about our ministry locally and around the world.”

Clergy retirees will be honored, as they pass their wisdom and mantles of leadership onto the already emerging next generation of clergy leaders in the annual Service of Passage with Anointing. In addition, district superintendents will announce new church closures and new clergy appointments to churches.

Both conferences’ 2024 Pre-Conference Workbooks, with detailed agendas and plenty more information, have been mailed to members and are available on their respective Annual Conference web pages.