ATHENS, Ga. -- For the 13th time in the past 14 years, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church this week is holding its annual meeting at the Classic Center in downtown Athens.
Preparations for this year’s meeting began Sunday at the Classic Center, with some activities scheduled for today before the event hits its stride with a full slate of activities scheduled for Tuesday. The conference will wrap up Thursday evening as ministers from throughout the conference receive their church assignments for the upcoming year.
While the spiritual nature of the gathering is what brings the Methodists to Athens, the secular consequences of their presence here have been considerable.
The conference brings a few thousand people into the community at a time when convention- and hospitality-related businesses might otherwise be in the doldrums, with most of the college students that feed the local economy for much of the rest of the year spending their summers elsewhere.
Annually in the years since the Methodists’ North Georgia Conference has made the Classic Center the site of its annual meetings, business owners in downtown and the rest of the community — from restaurants to retailers to most anything in between, have reported significant increases in revenue.
In addition to assigning ministers for the upcoming year, the Methodists’ annual meeting features the ordination of new United Methodist ministers. This year, the meeting also will include a blood drive, a 5K run to benefit the homeless and the assembly of boxes of school supplies for children outside the United States.
Throughout the three days of conference activities, a host of religious services will balance the conference’s business sessions.