Compelled to be weird
Tennessee-Western Kentucky United Methodist Annual Conference, Day 1
“[T]he love of God,” said Dr. Ashley Boggan, “compels us to be weird.”
The United Methodist Church is divided into administrative units called Annual Conferences. The term “annual conference” refers to the geographic region, its administration, and, of course, an annual event.
Each Annual Conference is broken up into districts, and I’m the lay leader for the Stones River District of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference (Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and a chunk of southwestern Kentucky), which means I’m a voting delegate for the event.
When the Tennessee-Western Kentucky (or TWK) annual conference was formed in 2022, by the merger of two other conferences, it was understood that the annual meeting would alternate between the Nashville area and the Memphis area. Last year, the conference was in Brentwood, south of Nashville, at one of the largest church facilities in the conference; this year, it’s in downtown Memphis, at a convention center.
I posted a couple of weeks ago about my denomination’s recent struggles and my hope that this event would be inspiring and energizing.
It has been, so far.
The conference proper began Monday morning, but for those who were in Memphis early there was a special, after-hours guided tour of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. It was a powerful, affecting experience. The museum tells the story of the black experience from the Civil War through Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and then lays out the history of the civil rights movement — Rosa Parks, lunch counter protests, Brown v. Board of Education, the March on Washington, and much more. It ends up at rooms 306 and 307 from the motel, which have been lovingly restored with original furnishings to the way they looked on the day when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, on the second floor walkway right outside those rooms.
Monday morning, the conference proper began with a worship service. It is traditional…