The team, which meets monthly (now via Zoom), already announced that the usual 3-day session would be shortened to a 1½ day format on Friday and Saturday, September 18-19 at Brentwood UMC.
This will not be the last meeting of the Tennessee Annual Conference. Due to the postponement of General Conference and the Southeast Jurisdictional Conference, the new Tennessee Western Kentucky Annual Conference will not meet until 2022.
At this 2020 annual conference, attendees will experience the laying of the foundation for the new conference and carry forth and cultivate a sense of hope for the mission of the UMC in that new conference. They also will foster and celebrate our connection and God’s provision while also meeting our disciplinary requirements of holy conferencing.
The hope is for the session to meet in-person. However, given the unpredictability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the design team is thoroughly researching remote options as well.
The primary concern is for the safety of those individuals who attend annual conference. In recent years, about 60 percent of conference attendees have been over 60 years old. While COVID-19 is a serious concern for everyone, this older age group is at a higher risk for severe illness from the virus.
We also want to provide a remote way for students to participate this year since the new dates fall when schools will be back in session.
If county, state, and church leadership deem the annual conference is able to meet, all recommended sanitation and hygiene precautions will be taken. Even so, the planning team realizes that some members of the annual conference may feel uncomfortable meeting in such a large gathering.
Currently, two versions of annual conference are being planned.
A hybrid model is being planned that includes an in-person meeting at Brentwood UMC, coupled with the availability of remote participation for those who are uncomfortable attending in person.
Also, a plan for a fully remote annual conference session is being developed. A decision on whether to meet in-person or fully remotely will be made by early July.
Training for how to participate remotely will be made available to all clergy and lay members of annual conference this summer.
No matter which plan is pursued, the Tennessee Annual Conference will convene on September 18-19, 2020. As new information becomes available, it will be posted at tnumc.org/AC2020 and communicated in the E-Connector newsletter.