The first-ever hybrid General Conference (GC) session got underway on Monday morning, June 6, with delegates attending in person and online.
Delayed twice due to the pandemic, the session has undergone a number of significant changes, including relocating from its original venue in Indianapolis, Indiana, to The Dome convention complex in St Louis, Missouri.
“What a great privilege it is to welcome each of you to the 61st session of the General Conference,” said GC president Pastor Ted Wilson in his opening address.
“This is going to be an interesting arrangement with a hybrid connection of our electronic and on-site presence.
“It’s been two years that this General Conference session has been delayed and by God’s grace here we are and even though we have a shortened General Conference schedule, we believe that God is going to help us to make very efficient use of our time.”
GC secretary Pastor Erton Kohler said the pandemic made preparations for the session a much more complicated process.
“And added to the challenge was organising our first hybrid GC session, but we have a courageous team that has worked with all their hearts under challenging conditions to prepare everything in the best way possible,” Pastor Kohler said.
“We consider this session an unusual session where many things will work differently to the past, but we believe that all things will work well, and the Holy Spirit will be the Leader of everything that will happen here.”
With a theme of “Jesus is coming! Get involved”, the session will be held over six days. Monday to Thursday will primarily be focused on the business sessions while Friday will be dedicated to sharing the mission reports from each of the world divisions. On Sabbath, Pastor Wilson will be presenting the worship service.
Monday morning’s worship session—led by Pastor Mark Finley, Dr Dwight Nelson and Dr Barry Black—was centred around the power of the Holy Spirit to encourage, to empower and to guide, with a call for daily prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our lives.
“When you have the Holy Spirit you have Jesus and when you have Jesus you have everything,” Dr Nelson said.
A special highlight of the morning session was the baptism of a couple from the Philippines by Pastor Wilson and Duane McKey, president of Adventist World Radio (AWR). The couple was part of the Philippines military who used to fight rebel forces. After seeing dramatic changes in the rebels brought about by the influence of AWR, they too were impressed to gives their lives to Jesus.
Another new aspect about this year’s GC session is a virtual exhibition, where there are opportunities to engage with Adventist ministries and organisations from around the world, attend workshops, play games and more.
South Pacific Division (SPD) Discipleship Ministries is operating one of the virtual booths. Visitors will have the opportunity to attend webinars, and find out more about Discovery Bible Reading, the World Changers Bible Project, The Tui’s children’s series and other SPD discipleship activities.
Adventist Media is operating a Hope Books virtual booth where visitors will be able to shop for Adventist audiobooks and eBooks, as well as chat with the team.