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Local United Methodists will ring church bells for denomination’s future

Staff report • Apr 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM

ALCOA, Tenn. — About 164,000 United Methodist church members living in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia will unite in a massive prayer effort for their denomination’s future during a 10-minute period on Tuesday.

Many of the Holston Conference’s 890 congregations will also ring their church bells from 5:10 to 5:20 p.m. that day in spiritual preparation for the upcoming meeting of United Methodist delegates and leaders from across the world. The 10-minute time slot represents the dates of the denomination’s General Conference, which meets from May 10 to May 20 in Portland, Oregon.

“We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to be there, to soften our hearts and open our minds to do God’s will,” said the Rev. David Graves, leader of the Holston Conference’s delegation and senior pastor at Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville.

The Holston Conference is one of 131 United Methodist conferences throughout the world, representing 7.2 million total members. Each regional group was assigned a day to pray for the denomination’s top policymaking meeting, which takes place every four years. The Holston Conference was assigned Tuesday.

In every town of the Holston Conference, United Methodists are making plans to stop where they are — or to ring their church bells — from 5:10 to 5:20 p.m.

“Pause where you are to remember the General Conference, all who will attend, the work that will be accomplished, and the ministry of our church that will continue long after the conference is adjourned,” Holston leaders suggest.

Some members will also participate in a more general 24-hour prayer effort, “seeking that God’s will be accomplished and that we offer a positive witness as we participate in Christian conferencing,” according to Holston.org.

For more information, visit www.April12DayofPrayer.Holston.org or www.GC2016.umc.org.