Annual Conference Sneak Preview: Celebrating Vital Congregations

Date Posted: 3/13/2014

From missions to music, inspirational additions await you at the 2014 Annual  Conference:

  • last year, buckets of gift cards for the human trafficking victims - this year, birthday bags for the children at local food banks;  
  • last year, corporate worship - this year, a medley of powerful choirs engaging in a variety of worship styles.
Read more about what is in store at Annual Conference this May.
Those attending 2014 Texas Annual Conference will experience vibrant additions and nuances befitting the focus on vibrant congregations. Dr. Craig Gilbert, Director of the event’s Worship and Planning Committee and Director of Music and Worship Arts at FUMC Sugarland, predicts the conference will be “a beautiful celebration of ministry as presented by congregations representing the diverse majesty of God’s kingdom. Our committee has been working on developing the experience for the past year, and we expect attendees will be deeply blessed.”
Adds Craig, “In the past we have designed worship and then recruited individuals or churches to do the worship that we designed.  This year, however, we put together a team of coaches who could work with different churches to design and implement worship in their unique style.”
Sneak Peek
The worship services, will be organized around five key words that describe a vibrant congregation.
  • “Worship” - Houston, St. Johns – Downtown and Northwest Campuses
The opening service will focus on the action word “worship,” with Bishop Huie’s address featured as the centerpiece of the service.  St. John’s large choir will lead worship featuring a wide variety of instruments and different artistic expressions. The Collide 2014 students  will also be involved in this up tempo, joyful celebration of God.
  • “Witness” – Katy, Holy Covenant and Fulshear, First UMC
The memorial service is going to embody the action word “witness.” The churches presenting this service share a similar approach to worship and are teaming together in a service very much like their typical Sunday morning experience. Attendees will be blessed by a hundred-voice-choir, strings, brass, a modern praise band and a children’s choir in addition to a service of Holy Communion.
  • Work” – Clergy Led
According to Craig, the Tuesday morning retirement service will focus on the word “work” and will highlight the fruit of our labors in the church. “As our clergy retire, we’re going to celebrate the work they have put into the church. Our committee decided to go with a full clergy focus, so this service will be led by clergy and will feature a volunteer clergy choir who will lead congregational hymn singing. Additionally, Marlin Finn from First UMC, Katy, will lead a clergy band. This will be a very fun service that honors our retiring clergy.”
  • “Word” – Beaumont, First UMC, Bryan, First UMC, College Station, A&M UMC, and Tyler, Marvin UMC
 “Word” will be the focus of the Ordination Service, meaning the delivery and explanation of the Word of God for the people of God, a concept especially chosen by the planning committee for this service. This very traditional service will be led by three churches partnering together, and will include a hundred-voice-choir, hand bells, and brass instruments.
  • Welcome” – Gateway Community Church
The going forth service focuses on the word “welcome.” Craig explains, “We’re having welcome be the emphasis of the last service because we’re called to go out and welcome the world into God’s grace, and to make disciples. Gateway Community Church will lead worship with a modern praise team, videos, and an energetic approach to God’s throne.”
Morning Worship to Highlight Diversity
Prior to the morning business matters, the conference will celebrate the vibrant multi-cultural presence in the Texas Annual Conference, with a diverse group of musicians and worship leaders presenting songs and prayers in their various cultural styles and voices.
According to Craig, each service will also feature two scriptures -- one as a call to the action word and the other as an example of that action word in the Bible. “It’s really easy to read about a call to do something, but it’s a whole lot more inspiring to me when you see the call illustrated.”
Operation: Birthday Bags
Annual Conference is also a time when delegates and attendees come together to impact a human need in a Texas-sized manner. “It is hard to imagine, but birthdays often go unnoticed among the many families that struggle to keep food of any sort on the table for their family,” says Missional Excellence Director Rev. Diane McGehee. “Our conference  can help change that. The Texas Annual Conference is collaborating with three major food banks across Texas to provide small birthday bags to give to their clients when one of their children has a birthday. Join with us to make a memory by putting together bags that include some of the items suggested below and bringing them with you to Houston.”
How to “Pack a Bag” for Annual Conference
To maintain consistency, the conference suggests maintaining a $25-50 investment and placing in a handled bag that can be plain, decorated or purchased in a size no larger than 13”H x 5”D x 13”L. and marked with the appropriate age range. Each bag should contain:
  • cake mix with an expiration date over 6 months out
  • frosting with an expiration date over 6 months out
  • candles
  • 1-2 small gifts*
  • OPTIONAL: paper plates, napkins and favors
  • Suggested gifts for ages 1-2 (small toys, board books or stuffed animals without glass eyes)
  • Suggested gifts for ages 3-5 (small toys or games, puzzles, picture books, coloring/sticker books or stuffed animals)
  • Suggested gifts for ages 6-9 (small toys or games, puzzles, card games, story books or crafts)
  • Suggested gifts for ages 10-12 (card or board games, puzzles, small models, crafts or intermediate books)
Simple, safe and significant
Bring gifts to the area on the 4th floor foyer of the Hilton Hotel marked with party hats and balloons! The conference will add a scripture and information to let the child know that the United Methodist Church provided the gift. “Some of you may want to take this idea to your Sunday school classes or small groups as a mission project for now, and the future,” adds Diane. “It would be a great family project as well, to allow children to pack birthday bags for other children who would likely not otherwise have one. What a great lesson can be learned through this act of kindness.”

Share this flyer to let others know about the 2014 Mission Project (PDF)
(*please do not include used items or toy weapons) Address questions to Shirley Broome at 713-521-9383, ext 301 or To learn more about Annual Conference 2014 please visit: