Dear Friends,

 

It has been about a month since we convened at Lake Junaluska for our 2022 Holston Annual Conference. I left the experience with several positive impressions of my first annual conference as your bishop.

 

Impression #1: Lake Junaluska is a great place to have an annual conference gathering. Though I have been on those holy grounds numerous times for meetings, retreats, jurisdictional conferences and workshops, this was my first annual conference at Lake Junaluska. The outstanding hospitality, beautiful scenery and comfortable accommodations created a warm family atmosphere for our worship, business and work together.

 

Impression #2:  The worship was powerful. Thanks to musicians and groups coordinated by Wesley Rouse, beautiful liturgy prepared by those planning our worship services and strong preaching by Bishop James Swanson, Rev. Sarah Varnell and Rev. Jeff Wright, the rafters shook with songs and words of praise.

 

Impression #3:  Our “Pray Together” theme permeated the entire conference. Stellar teaching by Dr. Tom Albin, prayers via video brought to us from our Christian friends in South Sudan and references to praying together in sermons and presentations kept us focused on the significance of communal prayer.

 

Impression #4: Holston clergy and laity debated with skill, respect and grace. Though we did not agree on every matter, we listened well to each other and honored the various perspectives presented.

 

Impression #5:  The Holston Conference is engaging in anti-racism work. We have miles to go in this area, but the desire to dismantle racism and grow in diversity is evident. Thank you to the various groups and individuals committed to anti-racism.

 

Impression #6:  Holston clergy and laity enjoy being together. Smiles, hugs, laughter and fellowship infused the conference from start to finish. Being together, in-person, after two years of virtual meetings made the conference feel more like a homecoming than an annual meeting.

 

Impression #7:  The Holston Conference’s focus is on discipleship. This was clear from the opening worship service to the adjournment of annual conference. It was evident in the reports, floor debate, preaching, teaching and generous offerings of over $68,000 for South Sudan brothers and sisters and $40,000+ for Change for Children. The Holston Conference consists of disciples who are growing in the likeness of Christ day by day. As a result, we are changing the world.

 

There are more impressions I have about my first annual conference in Holston. However, since seven is considered a perfect number in Scripture, I’ll conclude this article now. In short, I loved my first annual conference with you.

 

As always, it is a joy to serve as your bishop.

Blessings,

 

Debra Wallace-Padgett

Resident Bishop

Holston and North Alabama Conferences