Yes, last week was our UMC Annual Conference at Lakeside, Ohio. If you've never heard of Lakeside, think Mayberry. When you drive through the gates into Lakeside, it's seriously like you're stepping back in time. Kids running amok and nobody's scared of them. (Many, many numerous) shuffleboard courts filled with people, young and old, and everything in between. A pier where people are always fishing and often flying kites. The conference itself is held in Hoover Auditorium, a "they'll never fill this barn" kind of place that is packed fuller than a cattle car full of cattle. Yes, I had to include "full of cattle" or someone would have pointed out that a cattle car can be empty, too. Anyway, Hoover is unairconditioned and only has a certain number of padded seats (for only $300 you can sponsor a padded seat, and you'll get your name on a tiny plaque on the back of the chair).
Imagine sitting in a meeting; it's 90 degrees ouside and humid, and the only thing that makes Hoover better is the fact that you probably aren't sitting in the sun. Then imagine that you're jammed between two large gentlemen whose deodorants aren't up to the challenge. Now, stay there for the next 3-4 hours.
Now, add to that the frustration as one speaker after another pimps the latest Conference decision (this year it was a fundraising campaign that they called "Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow" -- a title borrowed from some old hymn). By the time the parade of testimonials finished, I thought they were going to start "drawing the circles" for us...
Then it's time for legislation, so buckle up as a seemingly endless stream of "amendment to the amendment" motions waste countless minutes, even hours of our lives.
But Annual Conference isn't a bad thing. For one thing, I like Lakeside. It's peaceful, even with the multitudes descending on it. It's a safe, friendly environment. Having been in the West Ohio Conference for 4 years now, I know quite a few people, many of whom I actually like to stop and talk to. The family atmosphere almost makes it vacation-like, especially when one decides to stay an extra day (or when there's another family you like and you can get together with them and let the kids play together, too). And some of the worship services are great.
The Conference (leaders) have been trying (apparently for years) to move the conference to Columbus. If they do, it will stink. There's really nothing for the family to do there. Right now, there is a double purpose that is being fulfilled; one is the business of the church; that would work better in Columbus, to be sure. The other, however, is the fellowship of the church, and that would be killed by a Columbus environment. That discussion was tabled until next year.
So that means we'll be at Lakeside next year for Annual Conference. Anyone want to come up and share a cottage with us?