Sunday night at the 2012 Tennessee Annual Conference marked the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the formation of the Conference and two-hundred years of Tennessee Methodism.
“The Tennessee Annual Conference was organized in the year 1812, two-hundred years ago. Geographically it was the largest conference in American Methodism. It embraced eight states and the southern part of a ninth (Kentucky). It was formally organized by two of Methodism’s most famous and historic figures, Bishops Francis Asbury and William McKendree.” (excerpt from Tom Nankervis’ Connector introduction article)
The character of Bishop William McKendree, portrayed by Ray Newell, opened the 2012 TN Annual Conference at 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoon by presenting the ceremonial gavel to Bishop Benjamin Chamness.
The character of Green Hill portrayed Fred Mindermann, presided over the opening portions of the celebration service. Hill was quite the “character” and it was an interesting juxtaposition to experience the characters representing a time period, but also fully “here” in the modern day. Hill joked that his two wives “would have loved the Green Hills mall.”
Green Hill, a colonel in the Revolutionary War from North Carolina, was chosen to host the first meeting of an annual conference of the brand new Methodist Episcopal Church a year after Bishop Asbury presided over the 1784 Christmas Conference. He later started one of the first meetinghouses in Methodism near what is Brentwood, TN today. At this place he entertained the famous ninth session of the Western Conference on Oct. 1-7, 1808 with Asbury and McKendree in attendance.
David Barton, portraying historical character David “D.C.” Kelley, introduced CCPI Director Dan O’Neill before his presentation. After the Revolutionary War, Kelley eventually became the presiding elder of the Nashville District, was a missionary in China, pastor of McKendree UMC (Nashville), and heavily contributed to the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society. The Sunday night offering totaled almost $9400.00 (including pledges) for the Central Conference Pension Initiative.
Bishop Joe Pennel (retired) was the speaker of the evening and offered a powerful message to the Conference membership and guests. “One thing that really stood out to me from tonight’s sermon was when Bishop Pennel said ‘A vital congregation is one that practices the means of grace.’ That is one of the few times I have heard the term ‘vital congregation’ defined, and I believe that Bishop Pennel’s definition is a good one,” (from Rev. Brad Smith’s blog, Love Radically).
A reception followed the evening’s service of celebration featuring displays created by many of the historical churches throughout the TN Annual Conference, an ice cream social, and a cutting of the cake resembling the first meetinghouse by none other than Green Hill himself.