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In addition to Pastors Jenny and Claire and several others from our church involved in helping make Annual Conference happen, Marcia Flaherty and Jack Malone were our two lay members to Annual Conference. The Conference was held June 7-10 in Green Bay. Marcia and Jack offer their reflections of their Annual Conference experience.

Marcia Flaherty: If my tallying is accurate, I believe we had 10 wonderful people from SPUMC in Green Bay this year. Instead of recapping the votes or summarizing the reports, I’m choosing to report on my reflections during the Monday morning learning session that followed the Annual Conference. During Monday’s gathering, Bishop Jung spoke about “God’s amazing tapestry of human connections that build a community of inter-dependence bigger than our imagination”. As I listened, I found myself reflecting on an experience I had the day before, while staffing the Reconciling Ministries table at Annual Conference. I would like to share my reflections with you: Many years ago, as UW students and newlyweds, my husband Pat and I attended University Church with the leadership of Pastor Tom Gerhardt. As he passed the Reconciling Ministries table, I recognized him and reintroduced myself. We conversed about our lives to date, the recent UM vote at the General Conference, and the expansion of Reconciling congregations. I shared with him that I have a beloved sister who happens to be trans. Pastor Tom shared that he has a friend, a laity member attending the Annual Conference, who has a trans daughter. He described the pain and worry his friend was experiencing as the daughter was frightened about being accepted by others and most importantly, struggling to accept herself. Subsequently, Tom introduced me to his friend Wes. Wes described his daughter’s limited social interactions and expressed worry about her future. I described my sister’s transformational journey from a troubled, frightened man to a healthy, supported, and very compassionate trans woman. (Continued next page)Ironically, (or rather, through God’s amazing handiwork), Wes and I had attended University Church simultaneously although we don’t remember meeting previously. My sister has counseled several others who have struggled with gender identity and has extended an invitation of confidential support if it would be helpful. We exchanged contact information in case his daughter would like to talk with my sister at any point in her life journey. At this writing, I don’t know if the daughter and my sister will ever connect. However, as Bishop Jung had preached, God’s amazing tapestry of human connections surely can “build a community of inter-dependence bigger than our imagination!”

Jack Malone: I was fortunate to attend my first Wisconsin Annual Conference this year. I did not know what to expect or what would be involved, except for the items in our workbooks. Friday was more of a business day, where we voted on motions brought forth that were in our workbooks. Items from the General Conference dealing with the Book of Discipline and harmful language dealing with LGBTQ+ persons were talked about. Saturday’s highlights, for me, were the worship service for the clergy and others that had passed away over the last year and the lighting of a candle in memory of each person. Bishop Dan Schwerin gave a very moving sermon. The second highlight, for me, was the Ordination Service on Saturday night. It was extra special because I had worked with three of the people during their process of becoming clergy, our own Claire Douglass being one of the three. On Sunday, after worship and Bible study, we voted on the Conference budget for the next year. I thought it might be a long debate, but it was decided in a short time with few questions. It was a pleasure to serve and work with Pastors Jenny and Claire, Marcia Flaherty, Deb Mulhern, Gavin Denning, and Revs. Kevin and Marjorie Rice Myers.