The Regional Conference Administrators – the Presidents, Executive Secretaries, and Treasurers from each conference – plus the two Regional Vice-Presidents of the Pacific and North Pacific Unions, the editor of Message Magazine, and the Speaker-Director for Breath of Life Television Ministries met this past January 23-26 in Destin, Florida for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries (ORCM) Winter Regional Conference Officers Meeting.
This group meets quarterly. Two meetings are in Huntsville, Alabama on the campus of Oakwood University, and two other meetings are at various venues. Because the first meeting is in the dead of winter, traditionally the group will meet in a warm-weather locale. However, the pandemic prevented the group from meeting in-person for nearly two years prior to last July’s meeting in Orlando, Florida.
The rapid rise of the Omicron variant caused the Regional Presidents to pause momentarily to ascertain if the meeting should be done virtually. But in their bi-monthly Zoom conference just prior to the time the ORCM Winter Officers Meeting was to take place, the Regional Conference Presidents in their capacity as the leaders of the Regional work, voted unanimously to move ahead with an in-person meeting. The caveat to that vote was there was to be the option of attending virtually for those who chose to remain at home.
Additionally, there were tighter health and safety protocols. Each attendee, including guest presenters, had to provide proof of a negative Covid test taken no more than 72 hours previous to their arrival in Destin. Temperature checks were taken at the door each morning, and N95 masks were required and were to be worn during the meeting except for the one giving the morning devotional. For those unable to bring said masks to the meetings, they were provided upon arrival on Monday morning.
ORCM is responsible for the logistics and the planning of these meetings. It was decided by the Executive Directors of ORCM and the Regional Conference Retirement Plan (RCRP), the co-leaders in the office in Huntsville, that they would give the staff the option of either going to the meeting in person or fulfilling their responsibilities virtually.
While technology gave the staff the ability to fulfill many of their responsibilities virtually, some things could not be done virtually, especially for a meeting with a virtual option. The worship service each morning was live-streamed and that meant that someone had to set up and operate the equipment providing the livestream. There were separate daily meetings for the Presidents, Vice-Presidents for Administration / Executive Secretaries, and Vice-Presidents for Finance / Treasurers. Microphones and computers had to be set up and operated to allow the individual administrators from each group who were attending virtually to be able to do so.
This called for additional workers “on the ground” to fill in for the staff who opted to work remotely. ORCM / RCRP Communications Director, Elder Darriel Hoy, recruited South Central Conference Communications Director, Elder Roger Wade, who lent needed equipment and expertise. Together, they handled the mammoth task of providing the technology required for a hybrid meeting.
The administrative support staff chose to work remotely, so providing administrative support on the ground was Mrs. Jill Edmond, the wife of ORCM Executive Director Elder Dana C. Edmond. She operated the equipment that allowed the Regional Conference Presidents attending virtually to be a part of the meetings. Also stepping in to provide administrative support were the two Chief Financial Officers – Dr. Margaret Neckles (ORCM) and Mrs. Yvonne Collins (RCRP).
Powerful devotions were given by Elder Calvin Watkins, Vice President of the North American Division (NAD); Elder Julius Everett, Executive Secretary of Lake Region Conference; and Elder Pete Palmer, President of Allegheny East Conference. The live stream replays of their devotional messages can be viewed on the ORCM Facebook page.
Guest presenters for ORCM included Dr. G. Alexander Bryant, NAD President; Dr. Kyoshin Ahn, NAD Executive Secretary; Elder Randy Robinson, NAD Treasurer; and Elder Calvin Watkins, NAD Vice-President. Dr. William T. Cox, Sr., Executive Director for RCRP, hosted representatives from Mutual of America, the financial group that manages the Regional Conference Retirement Plan.
Participants at the Winter Officers Meeting discussed and strategized on topics such as evangelism, finances, and policy as well as received institutional reports from Oakwood University (Dr. Leslie Pollard), Message Magazine (Attorney Carmela Monk Crawford), Breath of Life (Pastor Deblaire Snell), and the Black Adventist Youth Directors Association (BAYDA) (Elder Patrick Graham and Dr. Donovan Washington).
The RCRP board of directors met on Monday, and the ORCM board meeting closed the Winter Meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Afterwards, everyone arrived home without incident and without Covid.
For both of these things – and for His presence in our meeting – we thank our gracious God.
Elder Dana Edmond is Executive Director of the Office for Regional Conference Ministries.