By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Hosting the Christian Methodist Episcopal church’s annual conference for both north and south Mississippi has been a lot of legwork for the Rev. Clementine Mays, but as the conference draws to a close, she can look back on the week and smile.
“It’s been a tremendous conference,” she said. “We’ve been highly blessed, and have had great attendance.”
Over the week, elders presiding over specific regions of Mississippi reported the financial and spiritual pulse of their churches. Bishop Thomas Brown, who presides over the Fourth Episcopal District covering Mississippi and Louisiana, said the state experienced a 5 percent membership increase.
“We’ve been very intentional about placing certain pastors in highly populated areas to draw more members,” he said.
In addition, the conference elected delegates, lay delegates and alternates to attend the CME’s general conference. This legislative session takes place every four years, and discusses the denomination’s policies and laws. Eighteen representatives from north Mississippi, and 12 from south Mississippi were chosen to attend.
This year’s meeting was unique, as it incorporated the conference’s leadership school, which helps develop CME youth as well as adults.
“For our pastors who are bivocational, it can be difficult to attend both the conference and the leadership school,” he said. “Also, it saves money by eliminating an extra venue and facilities, and it helps endear the youth to see the business side of the session.”
Having the whole state in one conference allowed Brown to utilize a wide array of preaching styles for the noon worship session. Three preachers gave sermons each of the conference’s five days, totaling 15 unique voices.
“Too often young people have been engendered with a very specific idea of what kind of style a pastor can have,” he said. “I wanted our young people to get a sense of all kinds of personality, that if they feel the call to pastor, they can bring their own amazing uniqueness to the pulpit.”