Report to Congregation on Annual Conference 2023
On June 14- 17, the Cal-Pac Annual Conference was held in Los Angeles, and Rev. Patricia Farris, Rev. Larry Young, Rev. Keri Olsen Paget, Jack Fry, and Bee Campbell attended, representing First UMC.
Here are some impressions from Dick and Mary Crawford:
“We attended the 2023 Cal-Pac Annual Conference in person.
It was held at the Sheraton Hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport, about a fifteen-minute
drive from our house in Culver City, and literally next door to a building in which Dick spent about a
decade of his working career.
The primary facility was a ballroom. This room played host to all of the plenary sessions (the conference
business meeting) as well as the worship services. We attended none of the worship services: when we
arrived for registration on Thursday (the first of three days), the noise from the ballroom was painfully
loud even outside the room; we registered and moved away from the ballroom.
The plenary sessions ran quite smoothly. Voting was easy and efficient; since the computer knew
whether an individual was lay or clergy, when we were electing clergy and lay delegates (actually
alternate delegates) to the Quadrennial and Jurisdictional Conferences, the clergy and lay elections
could be held simultaneously. Thus, the entire process took roughly an hour, instead of several days.
Our new Bishop Dottie, as everyone addressed her, is warm, caring, and informal. She also wants all
decision-making in the AC to be as transparent as possible. To that end, many topics, such as systemic
racism within the Conference, multicultural appointments, and so on, that in the past were referred to
the “appropriate Conference entity”, were discussed in the open meeting. We think this is much
healthier. She also encouraged us all to be strong and courageous. (Dick took this to heart; he proposed
an amendment which would have taken some of the sting out of a clearly popular resolution. It failed,
but by a much smaller margin than that by which the resolution ultimately passed.)
As always, we took advantage of the gathering of so many folks to check in with many attendees who
have had a connection with our congregation in the past: Jane Voigt, John Woodall, Greg Batson, and
Kurt Poland, to name but a few. For us, this is one of the more important activities of the Conference.
But then there was the Ordination Service. We, being “high-church” Methodists, see this as the most
important worship moment of the Conference — the time in which the new leaders of the Church
publicly are received into ministry, and we the laity applaud and support them. There is a lot of ritual
and tradition involved in this worship service, and at this Conference, these traditions and rituals were
not supported by the venue, the logistics, or, to be honest, many of the participants. The choice of
music was, to us, appalling: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” set (for us) entirely the
wrong mood for a worship service. The Communion liturgy, in which the newly-ordained clergy offer
communion to the congregation, was poorly organized – people were milling about, not sure what to do
or when to do it, and in many cases not caring. The leaders omitted a portion of the liturgy, and some of
the newly-ordained clergy had to be recalled to the stage after the Communion liturgy was completed.
All in all, the required gravitas was completely lacking. The service had the feel of a grade school
All that said, the Annual Conference is obviously a work in progress. The Conference is adjusting to the
change from a single-venue model (the same place from year to year) to a multivenue model, and we’re
not there yet. But we’ll get there.”