“Go and Do Likewise” was the theme of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference gathering June 8-11, held in a hybrid setting at Meridian United Methodist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and online via Zoom, where we boldly proclaimed our intention to follow more closely the directive Jesus offered at the end of the familiar Good Samaritan story in Luke 10: 30-37 to “Go and Do Likewise.”
Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, newly installed resident bishop for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, presided over our hybrid session with grace and good humor as he outlined a vision for us going the M.I.L.E. the coming year. Through each of his sermons preached at the opening of the Greater Northwest Annual Conference session in Juneau, Alaska, to closing in Tacoma, Wash., Bridgeforth talked about a vision for ministry that matters (M), Itineration and location of those serving our ministry settings (I), lay-empowered leadership (L) and eliminating racism (E). Resources around each of these points will continue to be developed to engage local churches and ministry settings in this work in the months to come.
On Thursday evening, as we gathered for an all-Conference picnic at Kleiner Park in Meridian, we created a “living rainbow” with guest photographer Mary Kienzle providing a drone photo and video of participants lined up waving flags in rainbow colors. It’s worth noting that as PRIDE month began, the Oregon-Idaho Conference has been a reconciling Conference since 1996.
Clergy and laity were encouraged to do some mirror work to look at ministry that is and is not working and seek to be doing more window work – reaching out into our communities. With a focus on outward-facing ministries, the Oregon-Idaho Conference offered 16 different “Go and Do Likewise” workshops and field trips for Annual Conference members this year. Participants visited Planned Parenthood of Idaho, Eagle Rock and the Boise Valley People or stayed on site and participated in financial workshops with the Faith Foundation Northwest or heard presentations about the General Board of Global Ministries and other United Methodist Church organizations.
During plenary sessions, members approved legislation that cleans up 57 pages of conference rules, as it relates to the make-up of Conference boards and agencies to be more mission-oriented and less staff-centric. Legislation was brought to the floor and approved by the body calling on Idaho and Oregon federal lawmakers to support the “Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Act.” We approved a 2024 budget as well as recommendations from our equitable compensation commission and board of pensions, respectively. With a grateful heart, we approved the closure of Sutherlin UMC in the Crater Lake District.
As part of our “window” work, members also heard stories from four ministry settings around the Conference – Collister UMC, Aloha UMC, the Stronghold at the old Chiloquin UMC, and Joyful Noise at Madras UMC – that are at work in their communities to provide housing to the unhoused or economically disadvantaged, provide after-school music lessons for students with limited financial resources, and transforming a closed UMC into a decolonized space to resource individuals from the Klamath Tribe in southern Oregon.
While the clergy gathered in an informal setting in the sanctuary at Meridian UMC (the formal clergy session was held online on May 23), laity gathered in the Family Life Center at the church where Conference Lay Leader Paul Nickell engaged Bishop Bridgeforth in a Q&A discussion.
Sprinkled heavily throughout the Conference session were opportunities to worship. Whether it was a morning devotional led by Natalie W. from Gooding UMC in Idaho or celebrating retirees, Conference attendees took the time to hold space for worship since our last in-person gathering in 2019.
Bishop Cedrick led us through opening worship where we talked about itineration and the task of doing more purposeful work around our ministry leadership. We also accepted an offering for our new Conference initiative to eliminate racism.
During the Memorial Service, the Conference honored the lives of 82 clergy and clergy spouses who had passed away since our last in-person gathering in 2019 in Eugene, Oregon. We held an offering during that service for LEAP Housing in Boise. The Revs. Jorge Rodriguez and Clay Andrew preached in both Spanish and English.
We honored the ministry transitions of several clergy colleagues who have either retired, been commissioned or ordained since our last in-person gathering in 2019 but had not had the opportunity to be presented personally in front of the gathered body during the pandemic.
Finally, with great joy and enthusiasm, we held a celebration of ministry, where we lifted up our laity, licensed local pastors, deacons and elders serving in our various ministry settings. The Rev. Rachel Gilmore of the Desert Southwest Conference was our guest preacher, and an offering was taken for the Oregon-Idaho Conference Disaster Response Fund. The icing on the cake of the worship service was the commissioning of Carly Hodge as a provisional elder in the Oregon-Idaho Conference and the ordination of the Revs. Gigi Siekkinen and Mia MiKyung Park as elders in full connection.
While we had much to celebrate this year, it’s worth noting a special-called session of the 2022 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference gathered online May 6 to approve the disaffiliation of three churches: Eagle UMC, Castleford UMC and Fossil UMC, and there is the potential for another special-called session in the fall to process more disaffiliation requests.
We also report the following statistics for the Oregon-Idaho Conference as of the end of 2022:
- Membership stands at 18,835, down 1,317 from the previous year.
- Worship attendance stands at 6,989, down 28 from 2021.
- Online Worship attendance stands at 7,781, down by 2,463 from 2021
- Church school attendance stands at 982, down 376.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2022 were 67, down from 2021 by 19.
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2022 were 5,345, down from 2021 by 270.
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2022 were 4,013, down from 2021 by 221.
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