Propelling vision and mission through celebration, connection, education, and inspiration.

A Look Back at Access 2023

Sep 20, 2023

In July over 400 people gathered in St. Petersburg, Fla., for Access, the national conference for the Charis Fellowship. Sessions, meals, and workshops were held in the history Mahaffey Theater with lodging accommodations at the Hilton Hotel across the street. Attendees also had time to enjoy the nearby beaches and local restaurants.

Rich Davies Leading Worship

Rich Davies was the worship leader for the week. The worship team with him included teens and adults from churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario. Dayne Carraway, church planter in Towson, Md., and Wade Rininger, church planter in St. Petersburg, Fla., served as conference emcees. Each session they led group games such as extreme announcements, bactionary, and stump the boomer.

Each session also included a panel discussion, hosted by Joe Caruso, pastor at Grace Church in Akron, Ohio. The panelists discussed the topic from the main session in greater detail, providing additional insights and resources. In addition to the main speakers, the panels included Bartley Sawatsky, Ted Offutt, MaryAnn Barlow, Jeremy Bury, and Megan Johnson.

The conference began on Tuesday, July 11 in the afternoon with a presentation by the Charis Symposium. The Charis Symposium began its second topic, gender roles in church leadership. During the four-hour session, Symposium leaders graciously framed the discussion before presenting 12 exegetical papers based on Paul’s letters, his pastoral epistles, and the gospels.

Volunteers with Assist Church Expansion Serving Snow Cones

The first ministry-sponsored meal of the week was dinner on Tuesday, sponsored by Grace College & Seminary. Jeff Bogue, senior pastor of Grace Church of Greater Akron and president of Momentum Ministry Partners, spoke during the main session on the topic of fresh models for local church ministry. Following the first session attendees headed to the St. Pete Pier for a kick-off party, hosted by Assist Church Expansion who provided glow sticks and snow cones. Dayne Carraway provided music to set the atmosphere for a time of fellowship, fun, and connection.

Wednesday morning started with breakfast sponsored by Eagle Commission and Grace Financial. Mike Yoder, executive director of Encompass World Partners, spoke during the main session on fresh models for global impact. During the session Encompass World Partners had a brief prayer commissioning of Mike and his wife, Letitia, as Mike began his new role with Encompass in July. After the session Encompass hosted a cake reception for outgoing Executive Director Dave Guiles and his wife, Sue. Lunch was sponsored by Inspire Charis Pastors Network and Charis Women. After lunch attendees had four workshops to choose from on topics about reaching the next generation, responding to gender and sexuality questions, a fresh look at communion, and ministry stress (presented in Spanish). In the afternoon Freddy Cardoza, dean of Grace Theological Seminary, spoke during the main session on fresh models for developing leaders. Wednesday evening conference attendees had the option of attending a special concert by musical artist Steven Curtis Chapman with guest Cochran and Co. 

Andrew Saunders and Tim Hodge Presenting Phil Sparling with a Thank-You Gift

Thursday morning Assist Church Expansion sponsored breakfast. During the main session Eric Miller, executive director of ministry at Momentum Ministry Partners, spoke on fresh models for students and families. Lunch was sponsored by Encompass World Partners. Afternoon workshop options included the power of a woman’s story, a conversation about gender and sexual identity, a fresh look at grace, and discovering the Bible (presented in Spanish). The delegates meeting, called Charis Conversation, took place in the afternoon. The meeting discussed topics such as Fellowship Council member additions, incoming executive directors, and updates from the Charis Alliance Forum in Kenya. Thursday evening Destiny Rescue sponsored dinner. Outgoing Charis Fellowship Executive Director Phil Sparling spoke during the evening session on fresh models for the Charis Fellowship. Following his talk, Fellowship Coordinator Tim Hodge and Networking Coordinator Andrew Saunders presented Phil with a gift to thank him for his four years of service as executive director. Conference concluded with a party on the lawn that included music, desserts, and fellowship.

See all the photos from the week on the Charis Fellowship Facebook page here.