This year's meeting of the Bulgaria-Romania Annual Conference was held from September 2-5, 2021, in Varna (Bulgaria).
The UMC in Bulgaria is planning to establish Methodist classes. These are small groups for deepening personal faith. These group meetings were crucial to the development of the Methodist movement already more than 200 years ago. They are - actually - still of great importance today: faith in Jesus Christ leads to relationships. Nearly half the time of the conference was used to explore this theme. Superintendent Daniel Topalski gave very practical guidance on how to build these classes. Bishop Patrick Streiff added that in the early days, the so-called classes were not composed primarily of members of the Methodist movement. Rather, in addition to some experienced believers, they were mainly attended by people who were searching and did not see themselves as practicing Christians.
In his report, the Bulgarian superintendent took up a key challenge: It is difficult to call new people into the ordained ministry. One reason for this is the low income that can be expected as pastors. On the other hand, it is difficult for the church to generate more income because many church members live in poverty. Already today, the UMC in Bulgaria and Romania is dependent on financial support from abroad. Many young people, especially students, migrate abroad and rarely return. It must therefore also be examined whether pastors should work part-time in the future. A plan should be presented by next year on how to find a way out.
The work of the church in Bulgaria and Romania has been severely affected by the pandemic. Neither the children's camps nor the meetings of the women's ministry could be held this year in Bulgaria. Covid-19 also hit hard the pastoral care of prisoners, an important task of the UMC in Bulgaria.
The congregations in Bulgaria and Romania are committed to helping impoverished people, children from precarious backgrounds, the homeless and marginalized. They support discriminated minorities such as the Roma. These social diaconal activities are an important survival aid for many people. The fact that the report on social diaconal activities was the longest one reflects the great commitment of the church.
The meeting of the Annual Conference was overshadowed by a serious accident a few days earlier. This resulted in the death of the wife and one of the two children of a very committed couple from Romania. In order to support the family and prepare for the funeral, the Romanian members of the Annual Conference stayed at home and participated in the conversations via Zoom. The conference also experienced an emotional moment when one of the local pastors joined in from his hospital bed. He had had to undergo an amputation as a result of a Corona infection.
The conference ended with the ordination service. Bishop Patrick Streiff was able to ordain two Bulgarian pastors as elders in the church: Ivaylo Ivanov from Shumen and Krasimir Madzharov from Gorno Ezerovo.
The next Annual Conference will be held from March 31 to April 3, 2022. The Romanian brothers and sisters have invited to hold the conference for the first time in Romania.
Sources: Rev. Stefan Moll (text) / Local Pastor Stoyan Stalev (photo)