Worship as a Means of Grace

The 65th meeting of Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference took place from March 30 to April 2, 2017, in Pleven (Bulgaria).

This year’s Annual Conference gathering offered valuable insight into the church life in Bulgaria and Romania: how the UMC in Bulgaria and Romania reflects about its identity, particularly in regard to worship, without content itself with dissociating from the Orthodox surrounding; how the church is looking for ways to deal with administrative barriers; how both males and females are appreciated and how particularly the contributions of women are valued. «I heard from both clergy and lay how they invite socially excluded people, particularly Roma, and how they deal with the challenges connected with this ministry; how hard they work when they start or revive a new church and only have a few co-workers; how ingenious they proceed when it comes to keeping their churches above water», summarized Rev. Marietjie Odendaal, who participated in the Annual Conference meeting as delegate of Switzerland-France-North Africa Annual Conference.

Some news in brief:

- In his report Superintendent Daniel Topalski described Biblical literacy, an open and authentic fellowship in the local churches, a new access to Holy Communion, and an active prayer life as higher priorities than administrative and financial issues.
- In the area of the ministry with children, youth, and women there are both in Bulgaria and Romania very diverse programs, encouraging camps, and hopeful new beginnings.
- The diaconal activities are maybe even more colorful – in nursery homes, orphanages, centers for socially deprived children and adults, special schools, prisons, etc. However, Rev. Ivan Morunov also drew the attention to the testimony of some churches, which handed out hot tea in the streets of their neighborhood during winter, and which proved that a diaconal commitment does not require a huge amount of money.
- The church building of Mizia UMC, which was destroyed by severe floods in summer 2014, shall be restored during the year of 2017 – a substantial grant from Germany will help making the respective plans come true.
- Ana Marinova and Nina Topalska are part of a team working on a new translation of the Bible, which will be published by the Bulgarian Bible Society.
- The Theme Day focused on the theme «Worship as a Means of Grace».

A special highlight of the Annual Conference was the ordination of Vladimir Zhelezov and Milen Stefanov as elders. In addition, Jessica Morris-Ivanova, who is married to a Bulgarian local pastor, was confirmed as pastor on probation.

An Annual Conference gathering is more than a matter of duty, which one wants to get over and done with as smoothly as possible. Rather then it is an opportunity to experience how diverse the shape and life of The United Methodist Church is. And this is, as Marietjie Odendaal emphasizes, «an expression of the richness of the kingdom of God».

Source: Rev. Marietjie Odendaal / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to Bishop Patrick Streiff
Date: April 5, 2017