Annual Conference begins today


PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church will meet in Peoria for the ninth consecutive year, beginning today and running through Saturday, June 5. The Peoria Civic Center will serve as the conference’s central location for the more than 2,400 expected to attend.

The theme of the conference is Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise, which will focus on passionate worship.
Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the denomination’s General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn., will be speaking Thursday and Friday mornings. Australian-born evangelist Mike Rayson and musician Grant Norsworthy will be leading worship times during the conference. Rayson is president of Mike Rayson Ministries and has traveled worldwide as a speaker, preacher and worship leader. Norsworthy, also originally from Australia, is a former member of the Christian pop group, SonicFlood.
The conference has planned an all-conference dinner in which Rayson, Norsworthy and the liturgical dancers from Springfield Grace UMC will provide a celebration around Sing, Sing, Sing.
The 2010 conference will be the second for Bishop Gregory V. Palmer as presiding bishop of the Illinois Area. Palmer was assigned to the Illinois Area in September 2008 and just recently finished a two-year term as president of The United Methodist Church’s executive branch – the Council of Bishops. Bishop Palmer will open each morning of the conference with a short devotional time called Morning Manna.
Liberian pastor Rev. Jerry Kulah will be a guest of the conference and address its members Friday afternoon as part of the conference’s celebration of its partnership with the west African country which is still recovering from a 14-year civil war. The conference has focused on four critical areas: educational scholarships for children; pastoral salary support; funds to rebuild churches and schools; and funds to provide bed nets to combat malaria.
Conferees will be collecting special offerings will include funding for construction of the John Kofi Asmah School in Monrovia, Liberia; an offering for Africa University; the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the denomination’s Black Colleges; and one for this year’s class of ordinands who will be going as a group to engage in mission work.
In addition to legislative sessions, United Methodists will also be sharing in special collections which include items for emergency health kits assembled by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham and sent worldwide as part of the United Methodist disaster response as well as bringing bags of rice to assist the Liberia Annual Conference.
Conference attendees will celebrate opening worship on Wednesday evening with a memorial service, as pastors, pastors’ spouses and lay members to annual conference who have died in the last year are remembered.
A service of recognition of retiring pastors will be held on Thursday afternoon as well as the commissioning of persons for ministry. A Service of Ordination will be held Friday evening.