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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    Perspectives: Behind the Scenes

    Behind the Scenes of Annual Conference: Worship

    May 23, 2017 / By Ashley Riddell / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    As you experience Annual Conference this year, reflect on the effort put forth by the Worship Team to make this Annual Conference one that you will fondly remember. Three members of the Worship Team: Chad Sayers, The Rev. Rachel Morse, and Nancy Diebelius describe the steps involved in creating the Annual Conference Worship experience.

    The Rev. Rachel Ann Morse, Chair of the Annual Conference Worship Team describes the theme for this year’s Annual Conference.

    “When Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb introduced the theme scripture for the quadrennium, our Annual Conference Worship Team discerned a need for a shift in our approach to worshipping together. Bishop Webb’s theme is Together in Prayer: Trusting that God is Enough. We are trusting that God is enough.

    God is enough. So we are paring way back from the complex liturgy and music that so many large gatherings have been using. We are using simple, scriptural liturgy, gentler music, and greyscale art design. Over the quadrennium, as we continue to be Together in Prayer, the textures and colors of worship will build and grow. But for now, God is enough.”

    Chad Sayers describes the process.

    Preparing for worship at Annual Conference is a huge project!  It is a time to gather people and groups from all over the Conference as we share our gifts to praise God for the Spirit moving across Upper NY.  The AC worship team has the opportunity to look across the Conference and use the gifts of both clergy and laity from many different regions. Each year, we pull artists, speakers, musicians, liturgists, photographers, and writers from each of our 12 districts.

    This year, our preparations began last fall shortly after the Quadrennial theme was announced.  Once our team was assembled and assigned roles, we met for a two-day worship retreat at Casowasco. There, we brainstormed, reflected on the scriptures, and pooled ideas. Since that time, we have continued to meet every couple of weeks either in person or through Zoom, refining and evaluating our work to that point.

    Nancy Diebelius describes the process of creating the visuals for the Annual Conference.

    The visuals for Annual Conference (this includes the backdrop, the area in the center of the room, the stage, and all the altars) are created in much the same way as the liturgy…we gather as a team and begin to discuss the theme for Annual Conference and any guiding scriptures that may be part of the work that Sessions has already done.  My role for the past several years has been to see the theme emerging as part of our discussion; as ideas emerge, I have a sketchpad and pastels and sketch what I am seeing for the group.

     As we continue to discuss, to draft liturgy, to choose music, we revise and enhance the sketch.  Once we have consensus with regard to the image for the backdrop (we try to let that emerge first), then other visuals follow based on how the specific services are emerging.  When the services are in final draft form, then we discuss visuals for the altar for that specific service, working to insure that they fit with the overall vision for Annual Conference.

    At the end of Annual Conference, the Worship Team compiles all of their notes along with your comments (please be sure to fill out your evaluation sheets) and begins the planning process for 2018.

    TOPIC / Behind the Scenes


    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 867 local churches and 65 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."