The Annual Conference Serbia-Macedonia met from April 7 to 10, 2016, in Padina (Serbia).
Padina UMC had completed the works on an extension building shortly before the opening of the Annual Conference – and the gathering could not have taken place without this huge commitment of both people from Padina and from neighboring Kovacica UMC. But it was worth the venture, and the invitation to host this year’s Annual Conference meeting proved to be a complete success. On Sunday, the sanctuary, added by the adjoining room and the lobby, even was too small to accommodate all people who were present.
Once again there were official guest from the missionary area in Albania – and they were welcomed with joy. Particularly among the younger generation many friendships have developed as a result of the recent regional Balkans-Camp with participants from Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia. A one-day-excursion from the Macedonian to the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid had tremendously contributed towards overcoming prejudices and fears on the Serbian side. In his report, Superintendent Wilfried Nausner (Macedonia/Albania) reminded the Annual Conference members of the fact that there are still huge tensions in regard to the Kosovo, but that no blood was shed between Serbia and Albania in the nineties.
In a moving celebration, Bishop Patrick Streiff had the joy to commission the first local pastor of the UMC in Albania: Mustafa Isufi from Pogradec. In addition to his work as principal of a school – and serving as a part-time lay worker – Mustafa Isufi had helped to develop and lead Pogradec UMC until the end of 2015. He had also started extra occupational theological studies with the Church of the Nazarene. Since the beginning of 2016, he is a full-time worker of the UMC in Albania, but he is still continuing his studies. There are three more lay preachers in Albania: Florian Cela (Elbasan) as well as Rigels Kasmollari and Gjergji Lushka (both Tirana).
The Albanian guests invited the Annual Conference members to visit the United Methodist congregations in Albania. Representatives from all three countries expressed their hope that the Methodists in Serbia, Macedonia, and Albania would further develop and intensify their spiritual connection and their cooperation.
The next meeting of Serbia-Macedonia Provisional Annual Conference will take place from April 6 to 9, 2017, in Macedonia.
Source: Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich
Date: April 12, 2016