BLACK MOUNTAIN, NC – The hills and mountains of God were alive with the sounds of worship and praise during the 128th Session of the Blue Ridge Annual Conference held May 15-20, 2018 at the scenic and picturesque Dorothy Walls Conference and Retreat Center in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., presided along with Missionary Supervisor Mrs. Iris Battle. Presiding Elders were Dr. Andrew B. Smoke (Host) and Rev. Herbert Grant. The theme was “The Faithfulness of God” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
Tuesday was dedicated to Lay Activities. The workshop presenter was Mr. Bruce Stanback (West Central N.C. Conference) who addressed the group on Church Security. His message at the annual luncheon was “Rise Up But Anchor Deep”.
The speaker for the evening’s Evangelism Service was the Rev. Reginald Coffey, pastor of St. John A.M.E. Zion Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Rev. Coffey delivered a powerful message on, “You Can Walk on Water (Matthew14: 28-29).
Wednesday was the official opening of the conference. The Communion Message was delivered by Dr. Andrew B. Smoke, Presiding Elder of the Hendersonville District. Dr. Smoke set the tone for the week with a thought-provoking message on “The Lord’s Supper is Remembering” (St. Luke22; 19).
Wednesday afternoon was designated as Lay time with the Bishop. Bishop Battle answered questions from the laity of the conference. He concluded the session with a quote from 1st Corinthians and a challenge to the delegation. He said, “God doesn’t want anything but your praise, not phony or superficial but honest praise. Don’t let nobody take your praise.”
Wednesday evening the annual sermon was delivered by Reverend Jimmy Griffin, Pastor of New Jersey A.M.E. Zion Church, Winston Salem, North Carolina. Rev. Griffin delivered a powerful and moving message on “Coming out of Your Cage” (1Samuel 22:1).
Thursday was defined by Bishop Battle as “Spiritual Growth Day”. The model was preaching and teaching. The facilitator for the School of the Prophets was Dr. Haven O. Anderson, Pastor of Marvin A.M.E. Zion Church-Wadesboro-Monroe District WCNCC. Dr. Anderson addressed the delegation on their relationship with the church. His topic was, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church (research from Thom S. Rainer). He spoke of the great commission as being the core message for the reason for the church. He said, “We may have veered off the track sometimes. Some may have been operating on resources of previous generations. We need to get out of the mindset of recycling saints, to get our minds off looking at numbers on Sunday. There is a difference between growth and swelling. Dr. Anderson used as his guide the book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Rainer. He gave the reasons churches closed their doors and shut down and listed prayerful commitments to these issues.
The Noonday message was delivered by Rev. Carolyn Bratton, Pastor of St. Stephens A.M.E. Zion Church, WNCC. Rev. Bratton delivered a challenging message on, “Run Until You Finish” (2nd Timothy 4:6-8).
Thursday evening Dr. Anderson delivered the Christian Education message. He spoke on, “What Shall We Do with the Greatest Gift?” (1st Cor. 13; 1-13).
Friday was Missionary Day. Missionary Supervisor, Mrs. Iris Battle presided. She gave highlights from the previous Missionary Institute and presented certificates of appreciation. Medallions were presented to Presiding Elder Andrew Smoke and Herbert Grant for outstanding service. Mrs. Battle shared information regarding the upcoming Quadrennial Convention in Orlando, Florida. Mrs. Beverly Workman was elected as the delegate from the Blue Ridge Conference.
Friday evening began with a spiritual Candlelight March. The Missionary message was delivered by Rev. William E. Staley, Pastor of Jones Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, Waynesville, NC. Rev. Staley delivered a dynamic and soul-stirring message on, “Reaching the Next Generation” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The Hendersonville District captured the banner for the Missionary offering.
Saturday was youth day. The Christian Education Department was in charge. The delegation was delightfully entertained by musical selections, liturgical dances, etc. by the youth. VICY president, Ms. Kathryn Perkins (Scholarship recipient) spoke of her experiences at Livingstone College. Remarks, comments and accolades were heard from Dr. Raymond Hunt, Episcopal Director of Christian Education.
The Ordination service followed. Sister Myrna Casey and Brother William Staley were ordained deacons. Rev. John Mitchell and Rev. Tammy Logan were ordained Elders.
Words from the retirees were then expressed. The Bishop congratulated the Staley family. Rev. Rob Roy Staley retired last year with forty years of dedicated service. The Staley family is unique to the Blue Ridge. Bishop Battle said this is “history in the making, honoring two from the same family. It’s extraordinary to have so many Staley’s in one place. They have all given the conference a good days work”.
Saturday evening the annual Home Mission Banquet was held. Miss Nikki Harris of Thomas Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church was crowned Queen of the Blue Ridge Conference.
Dr. Michael Ellis, Presiding Elder of the Greensboro District was the Sunday morning speaker. Dr. Ellis delivered a challenging message on, “The Character of Faith” (Hebrews 11:1). He said, “the writer is writing this during a time of crisis, a time of trouble. Life can hit you in such a way that you are willing to give up. The writer encourages them to maintain their commitment to Jesus. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith imparts how you relate to your future. Faith causes you to pleasurably anticipate your future. It is described as substance, support, your foundation. The character of faith is in faithfulness. Faith allows you to have confidence through conviction. Faith causes you to act like you see it before you see it until you see it”.
The Grand Ushers and Men’s Booster March followed. The Men’s Booster Club applauded and recognized men for their commitment and service to God and the church. Those recognized were Mr. Robert Proctor St. John A.M. E. Zion Church (Hendersonville District) and Mr. Booker T. Mitchell, Mt. Zion A.M.E. Zion Church, Sylvia, North Carolina (Asheville District). Rev. Alex Phipps of Belmont A.M.E. Zion Church, Dandridge, Tennessee was the recipient of the President’s award for his faithfulness.
The week was defined as spiritual and uplifting. Great sermons were preached. Numerous choirs and musicians provided an atmosphere for worship and praise.
The 2019 annual conference will be held May 21-26, 2019 with the Asheville District as host.
The 218th Session closed with the reading of appointments and the singing of “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”