Covenant church pastors and members will gather April 26-28 in Glen Ellyn for Celebration 2018, the Central Conference Annual Meeting. I know that doesn’t sound terribly exciting to most people, but I hope you will join me in praying for the work of our conference and the decisions that will be made at the annual meeting.
What happens in the Central Conference and nationally through the Covenant is an extension of our local ministry. Broadway does not exist alone. We are part of the Kingdom, and more specifically, we are connected with the Covenant churches across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri. We are blessed to share in ministry much larger and further-reaching than what Broadway can accomplish on our own.
The annual meeting actually consists of two meetings. First, the ministerial association, made up of credentialed clergy, will gather for continuing education and our own business agenda. Later, delegates from each conference church will meet to hear reports and make decisions on behalf of the conference. The agendas for these meetings can look similar from year to year, but just as our congregational meetings help advance the ministry of our local church, the conference annual meeting enables ministry across our region.
Let me highlight a few items we will deal with later this month. I currently serve as the conference ministerial association treasurer, so I have an inside view of how our finances advance our shared ministry. For example, one of the largest expenditures each year out of the dues paid to the ministerial association goes toward the Ministerial Care Fund, a resource managed by the conference office to assist pastors and their families who face financial hardship. Every year, these funds help pastors through difficult life moments.
The ministerial association also elects pastors to serve on the Committee on Ministerial Standing (COMS), a position I held several years ago in the East Coast Conference. COMS interviews, prays for and encourages young pastors working toward ordination. Before a pastor can be credentialed in the Covenant, he or she has to complete theological education and ministry training, receive a call from a local Covenant church, and write a lengthy paper responding to theological questions. COMS reviews these papers and interviews each pastor as a way to ensure spiritual, theological and ministry readiness. While working behind the scenes, COMS plays a vital role in preparing young pastors for a life-time of ministry.
This year’s gathering will be especially meaningful as it will be the first meeting for Danny Martinez, our newly elected Conference Superintendent. Danny brings joy, passion, vision and excitement to our shared ministry. He has particular interest and experience in developing Hispanic churches, which can help the Covenant reach more effectively into a large and growing segment of the population.
The conference also puts resources into planting new churches. Church plants have historically been the most effective means for reaching unbelievers and drawing the unchurched into fellowship.
Beyond the important business items that will be considered at Celebration 2018, this gathering of pastors and church members will also deepen relationships and strengthen unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Friendships formed through shared ministry, shared values and shared experiences shape the Covenant community and give life to our theological affirmations. As you pray for the Spirit to guide our discussions and decisions, pray also for unity and joyful fellowship among pastors and church leaders.