On Thursday, March 9, 2023, the Eastern Conference of Original Free Will Baptists convened at Sound View Church in Newport, NC. Everyone was registered by quickly flashing their coded name tag at the registration tag to be swiftly and electronically registered as present. The group enjoyed much fellowship, laughter, and hardy handshakes.
After some preliminary business and greetings from the host church, the “angelic choir” sang opening songs to bless the hearts of all who were in attendance. Reports were given as custom, and the worship service began at 11:15 a.m. The Reverend John Hill was the invited speaker for the event. He presented a sermon from 2 Chronicles 32 challenging those in attendance to be prepared when evil makes war against (or within) the church. The purpose of the whole message was to encourage the brothers and sisters to work hard, dedicate themselves, and remember “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us!”
After the worship service concluded, the group retired to the fellowship hall for a delicious catered meal by The Flame from New Bern. This wasn’t your typical old barbeque lunch with slaw and hushpuppies. Instead, it was a complete meal with steamed vegetables, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken, and a mouthwatering dessert selection. As dinner concluded, the host church sponsored a simple game with the participants and gave our door prizes to winners.
The Eastern Conference took action on several important items. First, they established an agreement with CareNet Counseling East to provide counseling services to ministers, much like the agreement previously formed by the Central Conference. When needed, a minister may contact CareNet in Greenville to schedule an appointment. The name will be confirmed on a list of ministers provided by the Conference. If the minister has mental health services covered by insurance, CareNet will file the insurance, and the Conference will pay the copay. If the minister is not covered by insurance, the conference will pay a portion of the cost, and the individual will cover the remainder. (For more details, contact Crandall Fountain or Craig Simmons.) The process is anonymous (HIPPA compliant) and ensures quality service with face-to-face or virtual meetings with qualified clinicians.
The Conference adjusted the educational requirements for ordination and then established the Eastern Conference School for Ministry. The purpose of this school is to provide educational opportunities to licensed ministers seeking ordination. The details of this process are still fluid and would need to be discussed further with the Eastern Conference Executive Committee and the Board of Ordination. Financial and other business information will be available at the Annual Convention at Mount Olive on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
The annual meeting concluded with song, prayer, and devotion.
Rev. Mitchell Parker, Moderator of the Eastern Conference
Rev. Craig Simmons, Chair of the Board of Ordination
Sound View Choir and Mitchell Parker