A 23-foot digital waterfall was central on stage as the 2019 Indiana Annual Conference kicked off with a Praise and Celebration service. Greg Krempel, Director of Worship Arts at Covenant UMC, Fort Wayne, and the worship band opened the evening with “In the River” as attendees waved blue ribbons reinforcing our theme, From Water to Witness.

Krempel penned a new song “One True God” specifically for the event and led members in the anthem as resident artist Rev. Kristine Marshall, Pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church, added brush strokes to her canvas forming the image of a dove.

Throughout the evening, our Annual Conference theme verses Ephesians 4:1-7 were read multiple times—each from a different version of the Bible.

Ian Hall, Conference Director of Administration and Finance, led the Conference in a Call to Worship, during which members were called to turn and face the 4 cardinal directions. “From each direction we return to the center reminded that Christ brings healing and salvation,” he said.

An offering was received to be donated to ministries throughout the state fighting the opioid crisis: Lucille Raines and A Better Life – Brianna’s Hope. A collection of lap blankets will be collected throughout the Conference to be handed out to new Brianna’s Hope participants at their first meeting as a powerful reminder that the community is always available for them.

Rev. Rudy Rasmus from St. John’s UMC in Houston, Texas, blessed the Conference with his vulnerable keynote address “Just Cross the Doggone Street!”

Referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was read earlier in the evening, Rasmus said, “The people who need Jesus, the ones who are down on the road, who have been beaten up by the challenges in and around those communities, don’t care about your discipline or your doctrine or your polity. What they really want to know is do you love them?” Throughout his message, Rasmus challenged members to love the person in front of them.

Bishop Julius C. Trimble led the Conference in Holy Communion.

The evening concluded with an ice cream social sponsored by Church Mutual.