|Des Moines, Iowa
The 220th Annual Conference (July 1-5, 2006) of the Church of the Brethren was held in the Iowa Events Center, 730 Third Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309, a four-time All American City. Finished only about two years ago at a price tag of $217 million, this complex is the most costly public project in the state's history. It consists of the renovated 7,200 seat Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the 250,000 square-foot Hy-Vee Hall, and the 17,000 seat Wells Fargo Arena. When the Auditorium was first constructed in 1954, it was one of the largest auditoriums in the nation, rivaling those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Especially appropriate for the gathering of a peace church was the Veterans Peace Memorial which stands just outside the Auditorium. Two Hands reach skyward beckoning passersby to pray for peace. Worship services and business sessions were held in the Auditorium. Registration, Exhibits, Insight Sessions, Message Boards, and the Cash Buffet were located in Hy-Vee Hall.
It was in 1908 Des Moines that the German Baptist Brethren decided to change their name to the Church of the Brethren. The divisions of twenty years earlier had left them groping for a new identity. The conservatives departed in 1881 and the progressives two year later. Few members spoke German anymore and their agrarian subculture was slowly disappearing. They simply were not who they used to be. No longer distinctly German and eschewing the word baptist, the label Brethren was the only thing left, so, they became the Church of the Brethren. In 1958 in this Same Auditorium, the Church of the Brethren celebrated its 250th Year of Existence and 172nd Annual Conference. Several Brethren who had attended that 1958 Conference posed for a commemorative Group Photo. Madison County to the southwest has many Covered Bridges that have been featured in books and movies.
Iowa leads the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs. Alternative fuels proponents will be happy to know that at 1.2 billion gallons annually, Iowa produces more ethanol per year than any other state. Just a few miles south is the little town of Winterset, birthplace of television and movie star John Wayne. The house is, naturally, located on Wayne Drive. The capital of Iowa is Des Moines and boasts nearly Three Miles of enclosed climate-controlled, overhead walk-ways called Skywalks. You see them all over town. There are Short Spans, Long Spans, and Inside Building spans.
It was especially nice for Conference Goers to be sheltered from both rain and traffic. It's the most extensive such system per capita in the world. After Monday evening services, a beautiful Rainbow blessed worshippers as they walked back to their hotels. Conference is also that time of year when Brethren are blessed with the opportunity of renewing friendships. In addition to regularly scheduled agency luncheons and dinners, many Brethren arrange private group get-to-gathers such as the members of Southern District, Northern Zone at the Spaghetti Works. Tuesday evening is the traditional time for the Children's Choir. Of special appreciation were the Shuttle Buses that operated on a regular loop from all hotels to the Auditorium. Lunch and dinner were again served with a Cash Buffet which permits good dining without leaving the convention complex. This year Brethren had the opportunity to post special prayer requests on the Prayer Square board. A small textual change to the Conference Theme added Spanish to the common English version.
The spaciousness of HY-Vee Hall provided Ample Room for Exhibits. Brethren agencies and related organizations were well represented such as Church World Service. At the booth of Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists Thomas Liby explains their work and provides tips on research. Northern Plains District was the host district which typically provides a Hospitality Center. SERRV had a special table for Nativity Scenes.
Association of Brethren Caregivers sponsored a wellness campaign this past year called Lighten Up, Brethren! It challenges members to re-examine their lifestyles and adopt behaviors that would promote better physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Posters throughout the complex reminded Brethren to consider healthier living practices. Brethren Benefit Trust promoted this theme by constructing a working Miniature Golf course in their exhibit area. Bethany Theological Seminary president Eugene F. Roop will be retiring after fifteen years of leadership.
2006 Conference Officers were Moderator Ronald Beachley, District Minister of Pennsylvania Western District; Moderator-elect Belita Mitchell, pastor of Harrisburg First COB, Harrisburg Pennsylvania; and Secretary Fred Swartz.
They determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain other of them,
should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (about this question).