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Thursday - January 29, 2015
VBS preview reflects needs of today's children

CLEARWATER -- Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a tradition that dates to the mid-1890s, when an Illinois schoolteacher, Mrs. D.T. Miles, grew frustrated at the short time span for Sunday school and started a daily summer Bible school. In 1898, Eliza Hawes rented a New York saloon to teach Bible lessons to immigrant children.

Shirts, pamphlets and other VBS materials with scriptures on display table
Lots of color and an emphasis on scripture are among characteristics that stay constant in Vacation Bible School curricula. Photos by Kathy Steele.

Over the next two decades, tradition took hold and today thousands of children participate in VBS, a rite of summer that combines arts and crafts, music and sometimes puppetry in a way to make learning about the Bible both fun and meaningful.

But VBS requires a lot of advance planning. Take it from the church leaders and lay volunteers who put these programs together.

"The earlier and the sooner, the better," said Deborah Johnson, children and youth ministry director for Mount Zion UMC, Clearwater. She and Tyna Middleton, Sunday school superintendent, spent a recent Saturday morning reviewing their options for the upcoming summer VBS.

"We can plan out and see what we can do with it," Johnson said.

Johnson and Middleton were among dozens of people from churches of all denominations who came to the Cokesbury VBS 2015 Showcase Preview on Jan. 24 at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

More showcases hosted by Cokesbury, the distributor for United Methodist Church Publishing House, will be popping up elsewhere in Florida and around the country during January and February, the months when most VBS organizers start shopping around for programs.

In the education building at Skycrest UMC, eight VBS starter kits, including Cokesbury's G-Force, were open for inspection. Starter kits from other publishers, including Abingdon Press, Concordia Publishing and Group Publishing, also were displayed. People moved from table to table looking through the booklets, posters and CDs, taking notes on what they saw.

VBS consultant Lionel Trujillo discusses an item with church leaders
Lionel Trujillo, right, talks about this year's VBS curricula from Cokesbury with church leaders at a preview showcase set up at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

There was something to pique everyone's interest.

Carole Anne Agnew, a volunteer with First Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, wanted a kit with music and drama that would appeal to about 50 children, from preschool through fifth grade.

"We need a program that offers a puppet skit,” she said. “The kids love the theater."

For Mount Zion, Middleton said she was looking for a multicultural starter kit for up to 40 children expected to enroll from a predominantly African-American congregation, “so the kids see themselves and feel it is a part of their experience."

One kit featured African-American historical figures and modern-day personalities, including Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth and Jennifer Hudson. But another multicultural curriculum also was appealing for its music and energy.

"We're looking to get them excited, learning about Jesus," Johnson said.

Cokesbury's community resource consultant, Lionel Trujillo, hosted the Clearwater event. He serves South Central, Gulf Central and South West districts of the Florida Conference. A second showcase will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Shore UMC, Riverview.

About 20 people from eight churches in the Jacksonville area attended a similar showcase on Jan. 25, hosted by Bob McLeary, Cokesbury’s consultant in the northeast part of the state.

Many people seemed to focus on science activities for children of all ages and on mission projects, both local and global, he wrote in an email.

"I get excited seeing two leaders discussing what works and what doesn't work in the children's ministry," McCleary wrote. "This is especially good for the new leaders, who always come in with big eyes and big ideas."

With many churches opting to purchase VBS kits online, Cokesbury closed down its brick-and-mortar bookstores in 2013. The showcases give people a chance for an up-close, personal look at what's available. Consultants also visit individual churches, offices or other organizations by appointment.

Women browsing VBS items at tables
Children's and youth ministry leaders get a sneak peek at curricula and items to enhance Vacation Bible School this summer at a preview showcase offered by Cokesbury at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

"We're providing a venue where church leaders can make educated decisions on what to do for VBS this year," Trujillo said.

Social media is playing an ever-increasing role.

"The changes tend to focus on advancements in technology," Trujillo said.

Downloading software and applications for use on mobile phones and iPads is routine now. The "apps," he said, let parents join in. "What's done at church, parents can follow up with students at home."

VBS programs also are becoming easier to use, which is an advantage in recruiting volunteers.

"They don't require as much training to do the lessons," Trujillo said. "Technology really helps there too."

But the importance of music in VBS is probably the biggest trend.

"I have had some people choose a program solely on the music," he said.

Music gets the attention of children in a big way, said Amanda Bressler, youth director at First UMC, Clearwater.

"That helps them remember," she said. "I still remember songs from when I was a kid. That's why it's important for music to reflect the action world where children live."

VBS Showcases planned

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31

Where: South Shore UMC
             11525 Big Bend Road, Riverview
 
Contact: Lionel Trujillo, (727) 216-6208 or
              
ltrujillo@cokesbury.com

When: Morning hours, Saturday, Feb. 7

Where: First UMC, 263 King St., Oviedo
           
Contact: Bob McLeary, (904) 223-4333 or
               
bmcleary@cokesbury.com

Can't get to a showcase? Contact Trujillo or McLeary for assistance or click
here to locate a Cokesbury resource consultant in your area.

 

First UMC, with a membership of about 500 people, usually has about 100 children in its VBS. They range in age from preschool through fifth grade.

Bressler and two church volunteers moved from table to table at Skycrest UMC, taking notes and conferring. In all, Trujillo said there were about a dozen programs from which to choose.

Mary Speck recalled when VBS kits held a few materials inside slim tubes. They have become more sophisticated, with posters, handouts, CDs, videos and applications.

"Before, they were much simpler," said Speck, a volunteer from St. Giles Episcopal Church, Pinellas Park. "You had to come up with your own stuff. They gave you a few ideas but didn't give you templates and CDs."

St. Giles has about 150 church members. About a dozen or so children are expected to enroll in VBS. Among the congregants are many new Hispanic members, so Speck was interested in Spanish language and multicultural programs.

"This is kind of like spiritual renewal for kids," Speck said. "You don't have enough time on Sunday. We want them to fall in love with Jesus."
 

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.
 

Thursday - January 29, 2015
"Difference Maker" by NEED TO BREATHE

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine, click here for the music video for NEEDTOBREATHE's "Difference Maker," which is available on their album "Rivers In The Wasteland."

Lyrics:
 
Verse 1:
Isn't it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that's he's never known
Isn't it amazing how God can take a broken man
Let him find a fortune let him ruin it with his own two hands
 
Pre Chorus:
And he walks on up the hill
on the rock on which he stands
he looks back at the crowd
And he looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
Verse 2:
Isn't it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that's he's never known
 
Pre Chorus:
And he walks on up the hill
on the rock on which he stands
he looks back at the ground
And he looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
Bridge:
I am on the fence about nearly everything I've seen
And I have felt the fire be put out by too much gasoline
We're all strangers passing through, place and time, afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we're peeking through
 
It's a helpless conversation with a man who says he cares a lot
It's a hopeless confrontation about who might throw a punch or not
And we are all transgressors, we're all sinners, we're all astronauts
So if you're beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you're not.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
 
See more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rtv/music-videos/difference-maker#8xZtZ6WvjC5sVy7Z.99. Photo courtesy Bigstock.com.
Tuesday - January 27, 2015
Joe Engle: We need to let them out

With more than 2 million inmates -- including 3,000 awaiting execution -- our nation’s correctional system is in effect a giant caging and killing machine, says the Rev. Joe Ingle, a United Church of Christ minister and longtime prison minister.

“We need to let them out,” Ingle said. “We should be about freeing the captives and coming up with a new paradigm that has restorative justice in it, not retributive justice, which is what we’re doing now.”
 
Ingle, a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, has worked in prison ministry and with people in the criminal justice system for more than 25 years. He is the author of “The Inferno: A Southern Morality Tale,” an account of his friendship with Philip Workman, a Tennessee inmate who was executed after 25 years on death row.
 
Ingle was at Duke Divinity School recently and spoke with Faith & Leadership. The following is an edited transcript.
 
Q: Tell us about your work and how you got into prison ministry and advocacy against the death penalty.
 
It’s something I backed into. I was living and working in East Harlem in New York City while I was a student at Union Seminary. My senior year, Attica happened, which was a rebellion at a prison in upstate New York.
 
And here I am living in this ghetto, where I made a lot of friends who were dealing with the criminal justice system left and right, and I hadn’t even been in a jail or a prison. And as I watched Attica unfold on TV and talked to my neighbors, I thought, “I want to spend my senior year of seminary visiting prisoners.”
 
So I spent 20 hours a week visiting prisoners at the Bronx House of Detention, a giant jail across the river from East Harlem, up in the Bronx, and frankly, it changed my life. I went in there not knowing what to expect. I went up, I was oriented, I had my little chaplain badge, and I went up to the sixth floor, and a guard let me in.
 
We walked across the top of the cellblock to this little interview room, and the guard said that clergy and lawyers visit in this room. I’m a naive seminary student -- right? -- so I said, “Why don’t you let me in there with these guys?”
 
The guard looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and opened up the door to the cellblock. I stepped across that threshold, and the guard slammed the door. I had thought each individual cell was locked and that I would just go down the line and visit the prisoners in their cells.
 
But once I crossed that threshold, I realized that every one of those individual cell doors was open, so I was in there with these guys with nothing between us.
 
The first thought I had was, “Oh my God, I’m locked in here with these animals.”
 
And that is what we’re all taught in this country. We’re socialized to regard people in prison as less than human. But no sooner did I have that thought than the guy in the first bunk who was sitting there looked up and said, “Man, what are you doing in here?”
 
I laughed, and I said, “Well, I’m here to visit you guys for the year.” And he introduced himself and took me down and introduced me to everybody else on that cellblock. So I spent that year visiting them.
 
I didn’t do anything for these guys, and I think that’s the reality about Jesus telling us to go visit the prisoners. Jesus’ point is this: Go visit the prisoners, yes, but it’s not like you’re doing something for the prisoners.
 
What you find out when you visit prisoners is they’re doing something for you. The ministry that goes on is not me ministering to the prisoners. It’s the other way around, and I think Jesus really knew that, and that’s why he wanted us to get in the prisons.
 
When you do that, you realize you’re in solidarity with people in prison, that they’re your brothers and sisters -- they’re not less than human, and they’re not animals. And then when you pick up the Bible and start reading it in a prison, you have a whole different perspective than what you were taught in Sunday school, like I was, growing up in the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina. You’re seeing Scripture from a whole different perspective.
 
It shows you that God is a God of liberation in the sense that Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:18 talk about -- “free the captives.” That’s what we should be doing. It’s not prison reform. We should literally be freeing the captives. We have over 2 million of them in this country.
 
Q: More than any other country in the world.
 
By far. It’s not even close, and we have 3,000 set for execution. So what are we doing? When you look at the gospel, which is about love, grace and reconciliation, and you have this machinery which is really a giant killing and caging machinery, as a Christian, you are called to stand up to that and to address it.
 
We need to let them out. Now, some of them are so damaged because of what happened to them before they got to prison or after they’re in prison, you can’t let them out, for their own good or for our good. But most are truly victims of what is really a racist system. So we should be about freeing the captives and coming up with a new paradigm that has restorative justice in it, not retributive justice, which is what we’re doing now.
 
Q: Why the racial and religious divide over the death penalty? Pew Research says 67 percent of white evangelicals and 64 percent of white mainliners support the death penalty, slightly more than white adults in general, while black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics are virtually the opposite, with majorities opposing it.
 
When you look in the pews, you get a representative sample of society. The problem I have with all this is, where’s the leadership of the church? I mean, thank God for the pope saying what he did recently [about abolishing the death penalty], but when’s the last time you went into a Catholic or Protestant church and heard a sermon about the death penalty or had a Sunday school class about the death penalty?
 
It doesn’t happen very often. There’s a real moral failure by our leaders in the church on this issue. You can’t expect the people in the pews to respond to an issue if you’re not educating them and helping them understand what the position of the church is and why it’s there, and I think, frankly, we have a huge teaching failure on the part of the leadership, of our clergy, on this issue.
 
Q: What should they be doing? What should pastors and their congregations be doing?
 
They should be preaching. They should be teaching. They should be taking people into their local prison or jail.
 
That’s what Jesus says to do: visit those in prison. So let’s get them in there. Let’s visit those in prison. See what happens. I found it to be not only enlightening but liberating.
 
Q: Where do you think the church is now on these issues broadly? Do you see any hopeful signs?
 
I see hopeful signs across the country. I think this is percolating as an issue like it hasn’t done in 40 years.
 
There’re some reasons for that. We haven’t really had a serious crime problem in 30 years, so we have these excessive punishments now for people when we don’t even have a crime problem.
 
So people are beginning to look around and think, “We’re spending millions of dollars on this, and to what gain?” It seems like a waste of human life and a waste of the taxpayer dollars, and that conversation is percolating all over the country.
 
I took a trip and visited criminal justice systems in Europe, and the Swedes are in the process of phasing out [some of] their prison system right now. I went to the maximum security prison in Sweden -- Kumla.
 
It’s just tundra. It’s desolate, and I go in there, and every man in that prison is in an education program or a vocational program. That person is being equipped to come back into society, because the Swedes know that they’re coming back, and when they come back, you want them to be equipped to succeed.
 
We have none of that going on in this country. We’re into punishing them, so when they come out, they’re even worse than they went in, usually, unless they’ve somehow transcended while this has happened to them. So it’s a whole different way of looking at corrections. Needless to say, that’s why our incarceration rate is out the roof, and the Swedes are doing away with [a number of] their prisons.
 
These issues are resonating throughout the country, and I think it is because there’s no crime problem, and people are beginning to realize we have a basically wasteful, inefficient, unjust system, and we need to address it. And as Bonhoeffer says, if we wait for the Christians to address it, it might not ever get done. So we’re looking for people, whatever walk of life, to help us address this problem.
 
Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. Photos courtesy Bigstock.com. The opinions are those of the author and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
Friday - January 23, 2015
The modern church looks nothing like the early church

I often hear Christians say that we should be more like the early church. And I must admit, I’ve been one of those Christians. But if we linger on how this would look, I wonder how many of us would rather stay put in our 21st century churches. After all, first century Christians clung to a set of values that differs quite radically from most Christians today.

How We View Other Christians
One uncomfortable value trumpeted by the early Christians was their view of the church as a family. The first Christians saw themselves as brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers to everyone who was part of the Christian community.
 
This is, of course, well known to anyone who reads the New Testament. But we shouldn’t read the church-as-family metaphor through the lens of our modern-day Western family values, where our high-maintenance grandparents are shuffled off to retirement homes and annoying siblings are treated as outcasts.
 
In the first century, the family unit extended far beyond the nuclear family and was held together by an unconditional bond of commitment and service. You didn’t have to like your relatives, but you were expected to love them.
 
It’s within this context that Jesus and Paul blew open the doors of the home and welcomed in all believers as brothers and sisters. They created a new focus on the family that extended far beyond one’s nuclear relatives and included people of every race and social strata who gave their allegiance to the risen Christ.
 
How We Spend Our Money
Many churches today spend most of their revenue on salaries, building mortgages and other material supplements to ministry. Look at any church budget and you’ll probably find 1 or 2 percent of church funds allocated to benevolence—helping poor people in need. Maybe another 5 percent, or 10 percent at best, is given to needs outside the church that on some level help the poor.
 
But such distribution of funds runs counter opposite to how the early church spent its money. The New Testament talks a lot about giving money, but rarely—if ever—talks about giving toward salaries, and it never mentions giving money toward a building. (For what it’s worth, it also never mentions giving 10 percent, which is still a staple value in modern churches.)
 
When the New Testament talks about giving, it refers to redistributing money to the poor—usually, poor believers outside church walls (Romans 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9). When Paul declares “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) for instance, it was in the context of Gentile churches giving money to poor Jewish believers living in Jerusalem. In fact, Paul spilled more ink talking about giving to poor people than he did on the doctrine of justification by faith.
 
Jesus Himself said that giving to the poor is one of the main criteria of genuine faith (Luke 12:33, 14:33, Matt 19:16-30) and the primary means by which He’ll sort out the wicked from righteous on Judgment day (Matt 25:31-46). If we take Jesus’s words seriously—and our church budgets suggest that we don’t—our suburban churches might look a little different.
 
How We Think About Power
Another modern value that was unknown to the early church is militarism. Militarism refers to the “belief or desire that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.” There’s no doubt about it—militarism profoundly shapes American values.
 
But it also shapes American Christian values. Military historian Andrew Bacevich has unearthed the roots of American militarism and has discovered that the man behind the curtain has been none other than the evangelical church. After much research, Bacevich concludes: “Were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable.”
 
But the early church was unmistakably not militaristic. Early Christians were never fascinated with the power of the Roman military; rather, they clung to the rhythm of the cross, where evil is conquered not by swords and spears but by suffering and love. In fact, the most quoted verse among early Christians was Jesus’s command that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44); it was the John 3:16 of the first few centuries.
 
Today, it’s buried under a pile of caveats and footnotes—we can’t really love all our enemies. When it comes to people perceived as threats, most people today—ironically, even Christians—prefer justice to grace.
 
Maybe Christians should serve in the military or use violence as a last resort to defend the innocent. These are tough questions to answer. But when the Church has become the turbo engine behind the military machine—to aggressively defend or promote national interests—we flee from our early church roots, whose allegiance to God’s Kingdom demoted their allegiance to Rome’s kingdom.
 
How We Study the Bible
The early church also valued the corporate study of the Bible. You may think the modern church has this one down. Most Christians own several Bibles, and church programs often contain a wide array of Bible studies and spiritual classes.
 
Be that as it may, Christians today exhibit an unprecedented biblical illiteracy despite owning dozens of Bibles. According to one statistic, 60 percent of confessing born-again Christians can’t name five of the 10 commandments, 81 percent don’t believe (or aren’t aware of) the basic tenets of the Christian faith, and 12 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
 
Early Christians eagerly soaked up the word of God like a sponge. The New Testament letters, for instance, not only contain direct quotations from the Old Testament but also many subtle allusions (brief phrases) that were expected to be understood by the reader. For instance, the book of Revelation alone does not contain a single direct quotation from the Old Testament, and yet has more than 500 allusions to words or phrases from the Old Testament. These allusions could only be picked up on by readers who were intimately familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.
 
The early church took seriously Jesus’s statement that people can’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the Lord’s mouth (Matthew 4:4). And when Jesus told His disciples to teach others “all that I command you,” they did it (Matthew 28:20).
 
This is why Christian leaders in the first centuries of the faith mandated a rigorous, communal study of the Bible for everyone who became a believer. Every new convert to Christianity spent their first three years of the faith studying through the entire Bible so that it seeped down into their bones.
 
This wasn’t an option. To become a Christian meant becoming reconfigured through the Word of God. And here’s the thing: Prior to the printing press (A.D. 1450), most people couldn’t read. The whole idea of doing private devotions was unthinkable until 500 years ago. And yet—despite being illiterate—Early Christians became fluent in Scripture by listening to the communal reading and teaching of God’s word.
 
The first Christians actually lived as if the same God who breathed stars into existence also breathed out His Word for us to cherish, memorize, and read ten thousand times over. They would have been mystified by our modern ability to own, read and yet neglect the priceless written word.
 
I fear that our desire to get back to the early church would require a rather extensive overhaul of the shape of contemporary gatherings.
 
Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. Feature photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
 
 
Annual Conference
Annual Conference Event Logos
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Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

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Hotel Information
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Click Here for Annual Conference hotel list.

Pre-Conference Brochure
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Annual Conference 5K Run
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Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 6:30 am - Lake Hollingsworth - Lakeland, FL

The inaugural Florida Annual Conference 5K is an opportunity to unite our Clergy and Lay Members of the Annual Conference - and connect with the greater Lakeland community - in an initiative to promote faith and fitness in a 3.1 mile fun run/walk around beautiful Lake Hollingsworth. 100% of the proceeds from the 5K will go towards our Annual Conference's support of the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Join this race towards greater health - for ourselves and for our sisters and brothers around the globe.

PACKET PICK-UP & RACE INFO:
Pre-Race Packet Pick-Up ~ Wednesday, June 11 at The Lakeland Center (8 am to 6 pm)
Race Day ~ Thursday, June 12 at Florida Southern College (corner of Ingraham and Lake Hollingsworth Drive, across from the Florida Southern College Wellness Center)
5:30 am Packet Pick-up & Registration
6:15 am Late Registration Ends
6:30 am 5k Start!!!

CLICK HERE to register

      

 

 

 

Group Meals Alphabetical
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Click Here for Group Meals by Day and Time

All events below require advance reservations and payment.
 
Asamblea Hispana/Hispanic Assembly Dinner
College Heights UMC, 924 South Boulevard, Lakeland, 33803 
Friday, June 13, Dinner 5:00 PM
To register contact: Mercedes Andrades, mercyc004@yahoo.com

Asbury Theological Seminary
Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Seminary, featured speaker
The Lakeland Center, Room Hollingsworth A
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Cost of meal: $24.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2, 2014
Payment Deadline:  Monday, June 9, 2014
To register contact Bill Tillmann: bill.tillmann@asburyseminary.edu or 407-760-8665

Black Methodist for Church Renewal
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $25.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact: Gertrude Stewart, gjarrett38@aol.com

Candler Club (Florida)
Contact:  Sarah Miller; sarah.miller@flumc.org
Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy
3700 Lakeside Village Blvd
Lakeland, 33803
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 11:45 PM

Celebrating Our Beloved Community
Contact: Sandy Voigt, flumc-sw@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes K
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $20.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Clergy Mates
Contact: Tasha Smith, flumc-se@flumc.org
Florida United Methodist Center, 450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.
Third Floor Conference Room
Friday, June 13, Breakfast 9:00 AM
Cost of meal:  $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:


Clergy Women
Contact: Anne Butcher; abutch413@yahoo.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Wednesday, June 11, Dinner
Cost of meal: $23.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Council on Finance and Administration (CFA)
The Lakeland Center, Morton
Friday, June 13, Lunch
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact:  Sue Bennett, sbennett@flumc.org

Deacon/Diaconal Ministers
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker D
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
To register contact Winnie Dean, wdean@flumc.org
Cost of meal: $17.00 per person
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2

Duke Divinity Alumni
Guest Speakers: L. Gregory Jones and Susan Pendleton Jones
Contact:  Katie McNichol, mkmcnich1@gmail.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes I
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $22.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

East Central District
Contact:  Janet Kelley, jkelley@flumc.org
Trinity UMC 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland, 33815
Friday, June 13, Breakfast 6:45 AM
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register go to https://florida-reg.brtapp.com/EastCentralDistrictBreakfastatAnnualConference2014 .

Educational Opportunities Tours
Contact: Kathy Bouchard, kbouchard@travelwithus.com
The Lakeland Center, Sikes F
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:15 PM
Cost of meal: $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  Friday, June 9
To register contact: kbouchard@travelwithus.com

Extension Ministry
Contact:  Aaron Rios, arios@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Parker
Saturday, June 14, Breakfast 7:00 AM
Cost of meal:  $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors
Bishop Ken Carter, featured speaker
Contact: Susie Horner, susie.horner@flumc.org
Trinity UMC, 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland 33815
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:15 PM
Cost of meal: $17.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
Payment Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:

Florida United Methodist Evangelicals
Contact:  Rod Groom, rod.groom@gmail.com
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
Payment Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

Florida United Methodist Foundation, Inc.
Learn about our new investment offerings and meet Fund Manager Bob DiMeo
Contact: Nadara Brock, nbrock@fumf.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes J
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch at 12:00 PM
Cost of meal:  $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:

Haitian Ministry Committee
Contact:  Rosemary Gagliardi, rbgaglar@att.net
Florida Southern College Cafeteria, Lakeland, 33801 
June 13, Breakfast – 6:30 AM
Cost of meal: Individuals pay for their own meals

Historical Society
College Heights UMC, 924 South Boulevard, Lakeland, 33803 
June 11, Dinner – 6:00 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00
Reservations Deadline:  Thursday, June 5
Payment Deadline:  Thursday, June 5
To register contact Nell Thrift, thriftmail@aol.com

Lay Servant Ministries
Contact:  Rod Groom, rod.groom@gmail.com
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $12.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
Payment Deadline:  Thursday, June 2
To register click here:

Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA)
United Methodist Temple, 2700 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland, 33803
Thursday, June 12, Dinner 5:30 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00 adults; $13.00 children
Reservation Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register contact:  Marta Burke, martabee@aol.com, 305-975-2032

Reconciling Methodists
Contact: Martha Rutland, Martha.rutland@vitas.com
Fred’s Southern Kitchen
2120 Harden Blvd., Lakeland, 33803; 863-603-7080
Friday, June 13, Dinner 5:15 PM

Retiree Luncheon
Contact:  Lois Durham, ldurham@flumc.org
The Lakeland Center, Sikes H
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $10.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

South West District
Contact: Sandy Voigt, flumc-sw@flumc.org
Florida Southern Alumni Room, Charles Thrift Alumni Center
Florida Southern College
Thursday, June 12, Ice Cream Social 8:30 – 10:00 PM

United Methodist Connectional Federal Credit Union
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker C
Friday, June 13, Lunch 11:45 AM – 2:00 PM
Reservations Deadline:  Friday, June 6
To register contact:  Renea Hazelbaker at reneacu@verizon.net or 863-687-2136

United Theological Seminary
Contact: tmmercury@yahoo.com
The Lakeland Center, Lake Parker C
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Cost of meal: $15.00 - $16.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2

To register click here:

Youth Ministry Luncheon
Contact:  Joel Pancoast, jpancoast@flumc.org
First UMC – Lakeland, 72 Lake Morton Dr., Lakeland  33801
Thursday, June 12, Lunch 12:00 PM
Reservations Deadline:  Thursday, June 2
To register click here:
 

News
Thursday - January 29, 2015
VBS preview reflects multicultural, technology needs of today's children

CLEARWATER -- Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a tradition that dates to the mid-1890s, when an Illinois schoolteacher, Mrs. D.T. Miles, grew frustrated at the short time span for Sunday school and started a daily summer Bible school. In 1898, Eliza Hawes rented a New York saloon to teach Bible lessons to immigrant children.

Shirts, pamphlets and other VBS materials with scriptures on display table
Lots of color and an emphasis on scripture are among characteristics that stay constant in Vacation Bible School curricula. Photos by Kathy Steele.

Over the next two decades, tradition took hold and today thousands of children participate in VBS, a rite of summer that combines arts and crafts, music and sometimes puppetry in a way to make learning about the Bible both fun and meaningful.

But VBS requires a lot of advance planning. Take it from the church leaders and lay volunteers who put these programs together.

"The earlier and the sooner, the better," said Deborah Johnson, children and youth ministry director for Mount Zion UMC, Clearwater. She and Tyna Middleton, Sunday school superintendent, spent a recent Saturday morning reviewing their options for the upcoming summer VBS.

"We can plan out and see what we can do with it," Johnson said.

Johnson and Middleton were among dozens of people from churches of all denominations who came to the Cokesbury VBS 2015 Showcase Preview on Jan. 24 at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

More showcases hosted by Cokesbury, the distributor for United Methodist Church Publishing House, will be popping up elsewhere in Florida and around the country during January and February, the months when most VBS organizers start shopping around for programs.

In the education building at Skycrest UMC, eight VBS starter kits, including Cokesbury's G-Force, were open for inspection. Starter kits from other publishers, including Abingdon Press, Concordia Publishing and Group Publishing, also were displayed. People moved from table to table looking through the booklets, posters and CDs, taking notes on what they saw.

VBS consultant Lionel Trujillo discusses an item with church leaders
Lionel Trujillo, right, talks about this year's VBS curricula from Cokesbury with church leaders at a preview showcase set up at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

There was something to pique everyone's interest.

Carole Anne Agnew, a volunteer with First Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, wanted a kit with music and drama that would appeal to about 50 children, from preschool through fifth grade.

"We need a program that offers a puppet skit,” she said. “The kids love the theater."

For Mount Zion, Middleton said she was looking for a multicultural starter kit for up to 40 children expected to enroll from a predominantly African-American congregation, “so the kids see themselves and feel it is a part of their experience."

One kit featured African-American historical figures and modern-day personalities, including Nelson Mandela, Sojourner Truth and Jennifer Hudson. But another multicultural curriculum also was appealing for its music and energy.

"We're looking to get them excited, learning about Jesus," Johnson said.

Cokesbury's community resource consultant, Lionel Trujillo, hosted the Clearwater event. He serves South Central, Gulf Central and South West districts of the Florida Conference. A second showcase will be held Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Shore UMC, Riverview.
 
Another is planned Saturday, Feb. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon at First UMC, Oviedo, for VBS planners who find it easier to get to the Orlando area.

About 20 people from eight churches in the Jacksonville area attended a similar showcase on Jan. 25, hosted by Bob McLeary, Cokesbury’s consultant in the northeast part of the state.

Many people seemed to focus on science activities for children of all ages and on mission projects, both local and global, he wrote in an email.

"I get excited seeing two leaders discussing what works and what doesn't work in the children's ministry," McLeary wrote. "This is especially good for the new leaders, who always come in with big eyes and big ideas."

With many churches opting to purchase VBS kits online, Cokesbury closed down its brick-and-mortar bookstores in 2013. The showcases give people a chance for an up-close, personal look at what's available. Consultants also visit individual churches, offices or other organizations by appointment.

Women browsing VBS items at tables
Children's and youth ministry leaders get a sneak peek at curricula and items to enhance Vacation Bible School this summer at a preview showcase offered by Cokesbury at Skycrest UMC, Clearwater.

"We're providing a venue where church leaders can make educated decisions on what to do for VBS this year," Trujillo said.

Social media is playing an ever-increasing role.

"The changes tend to focus on advancements in technology," Trujillo said.

Downloading software and applications for use on mobile phones and iPads is routine now. The "apps," he said, let parents join in. "What's done at church, parents can follow up with students at home."

VBS programs also are becoming easier to use, which is an advantage in recruiting volunteers.

"They don't require as much training to do the lessons," Trujillo said. "Technology really helps there too."

But the importance of music in VBS is probably the biggest trend.

"I have had some people choose a program solely on the music," he said.

Music gets the attention of children in a big way, said Amanda Bressler, youth director at First UMC, Clearwater.

"That helps them remember," she said. "I still remember songs from when I was a kid. That's why it's important for music to reflect the action world where children live."

         VBS Showcases planned

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31

Where: South Shore UMC
             11525 Big Bend Road, Riverview
 
Contact: Lionel Trujillo, (727) 216-6208 or
              
ltrujillo@cokesbury.com

                              ***

When: 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 7

Where: First UMC, 263 King St., Oviedo
           
Contact: Bob McLeary, (904) 223-4333 or
               
bmcleary@cokesbury.com

Can't get to a showcase? Contact Trujillo or McLeary for assistance or click
here to locate a Cokesbury resource consultant in your area.

 

First UMC, with a membership of about 500 people, usually has about 100 children in its VBS. They range in age from preschool through fifth grade.

Bressler and two church volunteers moved from table to table at Skycrest UMC, taking notes and conferring. In all, Trujillo said there were about a dozen programs from which to choose.

Mary Speck recalled when VBS kits held a few materials inside slim tubes. They have become more sophisticated, with posters, handouts, CDs, videos and applications.

"Before, they were much simpler," said Speck, a volunteer from St. Giles Episcopal Church, Pinellas Park. "You had to come up with your own stuff. They gave you a few ideas but didn't give you templates and CDs."

St. Giles has about 150 church members. About a dozen or so children are expected to enroll in VBS. Among the congregants are many new Hispanic members, so Speck was interested in Spanish language and multicultural programs.

"This is kind of like spiritual renewal for kids," Speck said. "You don't have enough time on Sunday. We want them to fall in love with Jesus."
 

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.
 

Wednesday - January 28, 2015
Florida United Methodist Men offers springtime getaway

Married couples and single adults of all ages can step away from the world and recharge their spiritual batteries at an upcoming weekend retreat.

After a one-year hiatus, Florida Conference United Methodist Men (UMM) is bringing back its annual spiritual retreat for couples and expanding its reach. For the first time, singles are welcome.

The Life Enrichment Center on the shores of Lake Griffin near Leesburg will be the site of the "Springtime by the Lake," a United Methodist Men retreat slated for March 6-8. 2013 photo by Susan Green.

"It's basically a time (people) can relax, get away from everyday pressure and get in touch with their inner spiritual beings," says Don Heishman, retreat registrar for the conference's UMM.

The three-day "Springtime by the Lake" retreat will be held March 6-8 at the conference's Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park. It will be an opportunity to spend time with friends, make new friends, listen to Christian music and join in Bible study and worship led by enrichment leaders and worship teams.

About 150 to 200 people are expected to come from all over the state, Heishman says.

Invited speakers are Rev. Deborah J. Nelson, pastor at Ridge Manor Community UMC, Dade City; Dr. Riley Short, former senior pastor of First UMC, Lakeland; Rev. Harold Lewis, director of the conference's Justice and Multicultural Ministries; and John Riley, an inspirational leader who has spoken to more than 9,500 audiences in 15 countries.

The Lighthouse Band from First UMC, Coral Gables, will perform and serve as praise band during worship.

The event's cancellation last year disappointed people, including Jim and Dot Blaney, who had been regulars for years.

"I think it's just a chance to get away by ourselves," says Dot Blaney, a member of First UMC, Seffner. "It's a time to be together to worship outside of church. It's a good bonding time for couples and to strengthen your faith."

Inviting singles to the mix can bring in more people and keep the tradition alive, she adds.

"It's really a good program."

Harold Lewis Headshot Deborah Nelson headshot Deborah Nelson headshot
Rev. Harold Lewis Dr. Riley Short Rev. Deborah Nelson

And some guest speakers in past years and again this year, she notes, are single, including Nelson, who is known to her congregation as "Revvie Debbie" for her energetic style of preaching.

Dot Blaney first met the pastor at a women's spiritual retreat.

"She is so dynamic," she says of Nelson’s style. "She'll have you laughing and crying and you'll be right with her."

Short, who is one of the retreat's enrichment leaders, says his father helped start the UMM'S first men's retreat in the late 1940s. Couples' retreats were started nearly four decades ago.

"I'm glad to see they are trying new stuff," he says.

Attendance had been declining in recent years. Heishman says that was due, in part, to the death of loved ones.

"They'd tell us 'we love coming but our mate isn't with us anymore,'" Heishman says. "So they felt left out."

John Rley portrait
John Riley

The idea of holding a singles' retreat also had been floated but never came together.

Heishman and his wife, Sue, have been host and hostess since the retreat’s beginning. He also handles the sound and recording equipment for the event.

But it's not all work for the couple. "We get an opportunity to be with people and enjoy fellowship," Don says.

Thinking about the spiritual and not about worldly things "is a healthy thing to do for everyone," Short says.

The retreat can be a path to improving a marriage, bringing new life to a church or just a time to get away from the daily "rat race," Short says. "There's some value in that, some real value."

Registration will start at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 6, followed by a dinner, general session and, at 9 p.m., an ice cream social. Saturday will begin with devotions and breakfast.
 
There also will be general and enrichment sessions geared to both couples and singles, and about four hours of free time before dinner.

The retreat concludes on Sunday with breakfast and worship.

The message can be simply to enjoy a peaceful, quiet weekend, Short says.

"I think it would be great if they would be still and know He is God," he says. "That's what I hope to get out of it. I can be recharged, refueled and renewed -- just get excited again."

Dot Blaney enjoys the fellowship. It makes no difference whether people at the retreat are couples or singles.

"It's a great opportunity for ... wonderful worship," she says. "You come away with such a great feeling. I never want it to end."

For registration information, click here
 
-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.

Monday - January 26, 2015
Churches play role in new Children's Home thrift shop

ORANGE CITY -- Heart & Home Resale Shop is a thrift store with a faith-based difference.

The newly opened shop in Four Townes Shopping Center in Orange City is a first-time venture for the Florida United Methodist Children's Home (FUMCH). The shop's proceeds will add needed money to the coffers of a Methodist ministry that for more than 100 years has given shelter and hope to hundreds of children.

But that's not all that sets Heart & Home Resale apart.  

Shoppers outside front doors to Resale Shop waiting for opening
Shoppers wait for the doors to open at the new Heart & Home Resale Shop in Orange City.  Photos from the Florida United Methodist Children's Home.

Volunteers from area churches, including First UMC, DeLand, and St. John's UMC, Winter Haven, pitched in to clean up and refurbish the former location of a Goodwill thrift shop. Church volunteers also help staff and operate the shop.

"This has been an amazing thing to see all the churches and support from the Methodist family across the state," said Mark Nelson, FUMCH'S vice president of development.

Al Miner helped organize a group of 11 volunteers from St. John's UMC. They spent up to three days painting, repairing display cases and countertops and sorting clothes prior to the shop's preliminary opening in October. A grand opening was held in December.

"It was really neat to be a part of this," Miner said.

Area businesses also supported the enterprise. Hora Construction in Gainesville donated paint for the entire building. Upgrades to the plumbing, electrical system and ceiling tiles were done free of charge. Managers from JCPenney in Daytona Beach offered advice on the store’s layout and design, and the retail giant also donated five truckloads of fixtures, such as display cases, clothes racks and mannequins.

Everything from lighting to floor displays to the decor is meant as a visual welcome mat to customers.

"We're not trying to be a garage sale," said Jennifer Lichtenwald, FUMCH's director of support services. "We get comments every day on how beautiful it is. It almost looks like a retail store."

Customers can browse the 10,000-square-foot store for clothing, jewelry, furniture, shoes, sporting goods, housewares, books and more. A boutique section includes a selection of more high-end women's clothing and accessories.

The goal is to offer reasonable prices for quality merchandise to the community, including low-income families that rely on thrift shops for basic items.

Two women browse among displayed wares inside new thrift shop
Shoppers check out wares at the Heart & Home Resale Shop. Purchases help support Florida United Methodist Children's Home programs, including preparing teens for independent living as adults.

"There is just a huge community that looks for thrift shops," Lichtenwald said. "But we don't view them (thrift shops) as competition. We're letting people know who we are."

The shop also will benefit FUMCH's Independent Living Program, which helps older teenagers prepare for living on their own. One teenager already is on a work/study schedule and helps at the shop.

"It's a learning experience for her," Lichtenwald said. "We are hoping to expand on the program and teach basic work ethics."

The idea for the shop had been discussed for some time. About a year ago, the search for a location began. When word got out that FUMCH needed new and "gently used" items for its thrift store, donations poured in from businesses, churches and individuals in the community.

The items were in storage in various locations until the shop opened.

About $180,000 was budgeted to support the shop's first year. So far, less than $40,000 has been spent.

"We're very efficient with funds," Lichtenwald said. "We've had a positive response. It was a good location to be where a thrift store used to be. Many customers every day ask who we're affiliated with, and they are very excited to know who we are."

Many church volunteers have longstanding relationships with FUMCH and were eager to help with this latest project. The agency provides a family-style home for school-aged children, generally ages 6 to 17, as well as foster care, adoption services, an emergency shelter and child care. The Independent Living Program serves children and young adults up to 26 years old. FUMCH is funded largely from offerings from churches within the Florida Conference as well as individual donations and legacy gifts.  

Professional retail displays inside the thrift store
Professional retail displays and fixtures at the Heart & Home Thrift Shop came courtesy of corporate donors, and local churches supplied volunteers to bring the project to reality.  

"It's just a climate over there and the work being done and what people have done with their lives after being there," Miner says. "It kind of touches you."

Miner and other St. John's volunteers built a welcome center and check-out area using pallets that looked as if they belonged on a trash heap. But the group brought a special skill set to the task. Some are retired schoolteachers with carpentry experience. Co-leader Richard Blue is a retired engineer who started his own handyman business.

"We were able to make a neat (rustic) design," Miner says. "You'd have thought it was antique lumber."

About 15 volunteers from nearby First UMC in DeLand helped out. Many serve on the church's disaster relief mission team, which responds after storms, hurricanes and other emergencies.

"The shop needed a lot of work," said Carmon Ungaro, who organized the volunteers.

The group helped with painting, putting display cases in order, sorting clothes and delivering truckloads of goods to the shop.

Volunteers also help staff the shop, but Lichtenwald said staffing has been the biggest challenge.

"We're not having consistent volunteer support. We would like that," she said. "Right now our focus is on building the volunteer base."

The shop operates from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Click here for more information, including donation and volunteering opportunities.

Ungaro said a sign-up sheet system at area churches should resolve the shop's staffing problem. "I know there's more people who want to volunteer," he said.

And two garage sales to benefit church missions at First UMC will continue the church's support for FUMCH.

"Whatever is left we'll take to the shop," Ungaro said. "And that usually is a (good) bit of stuff."

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa. 

Wednesday - January 21, 2015
Praising the Lord with puppet power

One summer, Cindy Young and a handful of volunteers at Community UMC, Fort Pierce, tried to come up with something new for the dozens of children who came to Sunday Bible school.

"We opened a closet and found materials and music and puppets," Young says. "We loved the puppets and said we've got to use them. We knew some skits. And then, after using them one summer, we had so much fun we didn't want to quit." 

Group shot of Venice-Nokomis UMC puppet team
Members of the award-winning EPIC puppet team lead worship services at Venice-Nokomis UMC, as well as perform at special events. Photo from Venice-Nokomis UMC.

Young found out later that the puppets had been for a ministry that lasted only a short while. But the new "Hands of the Lord Puppeteers" took hold and has remained active for more than 18 years.

Community UMC is among Methodist churches embracing performance art, and puppet ministries in particular, as a way to praise the Lord, teach Bible lessons and reach out to the community.

Young found her inspiration in the chance discovery of puppets stashed away in a closet. Other churches find the power of puppet ministry in different ways.

At Wesley UMC, Melbourne, a church member tacked up a blanket on a Sunday school classroom door and performed a one-man puppet show.

"He sang a song or two," says Jack Dawkins. "They loved it."

Thus, the puppet ministry took off, teaching and entertaining for the past 20 years or more. The ministry hasn't been as active in the past three years as it once was. But Dawkins sees opportunities in the merger of Wesley and Fellowship UMC.

A group of Fellowship teenagers who had a small puppet ministry at their church are bringing new energy to the program, Dawkins says. The renewed WUMPS Puppets had its first performance recently at Wesley UMC, entertaining children with the story of Jesus' birth for a "parents' day out" festival. 

Group shot of Community UMC

The Hands of the Lord puppet team has been performing Bible-based skits for 18 years. Photo from Community UMC, Fort Pierce.

"We're trying to get a young group of people coming to church, which they are," Dawkins says.

For the congregation at Venice-Nokomis UMC, there was an "ah-ha" moment at a district-sponsored event to explore creative worship ministries nearly two decades ago. Church members watched a puppet ministry perform.

"We just sat there with our mouths open," says Robin Deegan, director of children and youth ministries. "We went home and said we need to do this."

Volunteers held fundraisers to buy puppets, a stage, costumes, sounds and light. A church classroom became the stage for E.P.I.C. (Evangelizing Puppeteers in Christ) Puppet Team. Deegan says church members were asked for donations and in return "adopted" the puppets. Over the years, the church puppeteers have won gold, silver and bronze medals at regional festivals.

The team began with students in sixth through 12th grades and later added adults.

Three Sundays a month, a puppet ministry performs at Venice-Nokomis' Children's Church services, which include an altar table, candles, songs, an offering and recited Bible verses.

"It is not just puppets entertaining children," Deegan says. "It's a worship service."

From Advent through to Christmas, the ministry sang songs and skits that told the progressive story of the birth of Christ.

"They hear the message," Deegan says. "The kids get a lot." 

A variety of puppets on black-shrouded stage
A recently revived puppet ministry from the merged congregations of Wesley and Fellowship United Methodist churches performs the story of Jesus' birth at a parents' day out festival. Photo from Jack Dawkins.

A lot of the props are handmade. The team sketches words onto thick poster boards, such as "praise" or "Hallelujah." Or members use the boards to create funny little cars, mountains and waves, all enhanced with fluorescent colors and glitter.

The ensemble performs religious songs and sometimes popular songs that have been tailored to a spiritual theme. And some teens borrow the puppets to perform at their schools. Deegan says a couple of students did so well they were asked to perform at school district events.

Their skills become part of their resumes for college.

"It's a wonderful thing for the teenagers," she says. "We quit calling them puppets. We call it creative arts."

It can also be hard work. "It's not what you think," Deegan says. "We tell our kids all the time they need to work out."

Deegan keeps an eye out for the young puppeteer whose arm wilts under the weight of a rod that controls the puppet's movements. It takes a few skills and lots of practice.

"The whole secret is moving the mouth with the songs," says Dawkins, at Wesley UMC. "If it's not with the music, it's not nearly as effective. It's like anything else: It's mainly practice."

In its early days. Wesley UMC bought dozens of puppets and up to 60 puppet costumes, plus lighting, sound equipment and a portable stage. Sometimes there were two shows a week at church, day care centers, nursing homes, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and hospitals.

They used to raise money with a dinner theater performance with the puppets.

"We had a gym full of people," Dawkins recalls.

The ministry did some skits but mostly sang songs.

"The people just absolutely loved the puppets when we did them," Dawkins says. "We tried to keep songs upbeat, but that depended on who our audience was. Almost always they had some sort of religious theme, if not all of them."

In recent years, the puppets have entertained on Sunday afternoons for an hour during the church's "country-western" ministry. Live musicians perform and the church has a fellowship meeting.

"We wear our cowboy hats," Dawkins says. "We sing a couple songs. We do a skit."

Community UMC has scaled back from its early days when Young recalls cross-country trips with more than 20 children to churches in Canada, Vermont and Ohio. "We'd stop at churches, do a show and drive to the next church," she says.

About 15 church members, ages 8 to mid-70s, do about two performances a month now at church or other local venues. A few times a year they sell Cuban sandwiches after church services to raise funds. For the children, it is a way to participate in church activities.

"Most of the children don't have a way to get to church unless we pick them up. We feed them lunch," Young says. Two Sunday afternoons a month, there are puppetry practices and lessons on Bible verses.

Deegan, at Venice-Nokomis, loves the way puppets connect with an audience but also the lessons in faith for puppeteers.

"(God's love) is what it's all about," Deegan says. "We always pray before doing anything. That glory goes to God. You're not the preacher, the usher. What you are doing is your service to God and the church."

-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa. 

Monday - January 19, 2015
Bishop announces leadership changes

LAKELAND – On behalf of the Florida Conference appointive cabinet, Bishop Ken Carter has announced three new leadership appointments that will take effect July 1.

Bob Bushong headshot
Bob Bushong

Dr. Bob Bushong, a longtime pastor in the Orlando area who currently leads First UMC, Winter Park, will become superintendent of the East Central District. He will take over from Rev. Annette Stiles Pendergrass, who is in her second year as East Central District superintendent and previously served five years leading the North Central District.

Moving to the South East District superintendent’s desk will be Rev. Dr. Cynthia Weems, currently pastor of First UMC, Miami. Rev. Dr. Craig Nelson has been superintendent there since 2009.

In addition, Rev. Magrey deVega, ordained in the Florida Conference but currently serving a church in Iowa, has been appointed senior pastor at Hyde Park UMC, Tampa. Rev. Roger Scholtz from South Africa has been serving as interim pastor at Hyde Park since the retirement of longtime pastor Jim Harnish last summer.

Bushong has served churches in the Orlando area and participated in East Central District activities for about 30 years. He plans to bring that experience to bear while remaining open to fresh perspectives.

“I know a lot of churches and clergy and a good number of laity as well,” he said. “I look forward to doing a lot of listening to pastors and laity and getting a sense of how I can best be supportive and partner in their ministry.”

Before becoming senior pastor of First UMC, Winter Park, in 2000, Bushong was founding pastor of Peace UMC, Orlando. Before that, he served 10 years as an associate pastor, first at Christ UMC, Fort Lauderdale, and then at First UMC, Orlando.

He chairs the Florida Conference Committee on Episcopacy and serves on the Strategic Leadership Team. He also has been chairperson of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Orlando district’s Committee on Ordained Ministry.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stetson University, a master’s degree in social work from Florida State University and his Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

He is married to Jeanne Ott Bushong, an Orange County school teacher. The couple has two grown children, Robbie and Kimberly, and three grandchildren: Kaylah, Marley and Jordan.

The bishop praised Bushong’s leadership in an email to Florida Conference Connection.

“Bob Bushong is a respected spiritual leader in our annual conference and has had a very significant ministry as both the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Winter Park and the founding pastor of Peace United Methodist Church in Orlando,” Carter said.

Cynthia Weems
Cynthia Weems

“He has chaired the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Children’s Home Search Committee, and is a trusted mentor to many younger clergy. Bob will bring amazing experience and wisdom to the congregations, clergy and laity of the East Central District.”

Weems has been serving churches in Florida since 2007. She has been senior pastor at First UMC, Miami, since 2009. A native of Mississippi and self-described “preacher’s kid,” she went on to graduate from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and earn a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. She received her Doctor of Ministry degree from Saint Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in the Midwest.

She spent two years as a volunteer missionary in Cochabamba, Bolivia, before accepting clergy appointments in congregations in Connecticut and Kansas. She was a 2004 clergy delegate to General Conference from the Kansas East Annual Conference.

In the Florida Conference, Weems has served on the Board of Ordained Ministry since 2010 and has been theology chairperson since 2012. She is the chairperson of the Committee on Resolutions for the conference and has served as the South East District Residents in Ministry leader for six years.

“I am honored and excited to serve in this new capacity,” Weems said by email of her new appointment. “I love the South East District and its amazing opportunities for ministry, as well as the awesome group of faithful and innovative pastors who serve there. I can’t wait to see how God will continue to guide our work together.”

Weems has a daughter, Mariana, and two stepchildren, Aline and Felipe, with her husband, Amauri Silva.

“Cynthia Weems has been a very effective leader as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Miami,” Carter said. “In that setting, she has led the congregation into a deeper engagement with the diverse multicultural community that surrounds them.

“Cynthia is also a respected spiritual guide and leader with the clergy of our annual conference. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and has served previously in urban, suburban and missionary contexts. The South East District and the Cabinet will be blessed by her gifts and experience.”

DeVega’s appointment will be a homecoming of sorts. He grew up in the Tampa Bay area and received his bachelor’s degree from Eckerd College before going on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio. He became a probationary deacon in the Florida Conference in 1997 and was ordained an elder in full connection in 2001.

After serving two years as pastor of Bethel UMC, Tallahassee, he was appointed associate pastor at Hyde Park, where he went on to serve eight years overseeing various ministries. He has been pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Cherokee, Iowa, since July 2007, and recently was recognized as the community’s Citizen of the Year for his efforts to help residents recuperate from a devastating flood in 2013.

DeVega is leadership editor for “Covenant Bible Study” by Abingdon Press and has written a book, “Awaiting the Already: An Advent Journey through the Gospels,” to be published this fall. 

Magrey deVega headshot
Magrey deVega

“I am excited to return to serve a congregation that played such a vital role in clarifying and nurturing my pastoral identity,” deVega said in a written statement. “Under the leadership of my friend and former senior pastor, Jim Harnish, Hyde Park UMC has learned to articulate a clear and compelling witness to our mainline, centerfield Wesleyan faith.

“Hyde Park has an amazing story of congregational transformation and vitality, and I am excited to be part of whatever their future holds.”

The pastor has two daughters, Grace and Madelyn.

“I am delighted that Magrey deVega will be returning to the Florida Conference,” Carter said. “He is one of the most creative preachers, teachers and communicators in our denomination. He has had a very fruitful ministry in the Iowa Conference, and will bring this experience and a knowledge of the Hyde Park Church to the position of senior pastor at Hyde Park.

“My prayer is that he will build upon the foundation of Jim Harnish and Roger Scholtz in creatively proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the years to come."

New appointments for Pendergrass and Nelson will be announced in May, along with pastors for the churches led by Weems and Bushong, according to the bishop’s office.

“I want to publicly express my gratitude to Annette Stiles Pendergrass and Craig Nelson, who are returning to local church ministry after seven and six years, respectively, in the superintendency,” Carter said.

“Annette has served both the North Central and East Central districts. She has invested greatly in establishing clergy peer groups that connect leaders for support and accountability. Craig has been instrumental in leading the South East District to establish a Hispanic Academy and, as a member of the National Hispanic Plan, has initiated the birth of a Portuguese language congregation.

“Craig and Annette have served faithfully in the complex and crucial role of district superintendent,” the bishop added, “and I know they will give excellent leadership as pastors in the local church.”

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.

Friday - January 16, 2015
Florida Methodists join others to mark King legacy
Students Danielle and Carolina in the Branches program are part of a 2014 beautification effort in Florida City in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Looking on is AmeriCorps worker Avid Huggins. Photo from Branches.

On the third Monday in January of each year for nearly three decades, communities across the country have celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights icon and an ordained minister dedicated to social justice, nonviolence and a faith-driven life.

Parades, community festivals and community service days are among the events planned statewide to observe the federal holiday on Jan. 19 in honor of King's birthday. (Click here to read about the 2015 MLK Day of Service at Rogers Community UMC, Bradenton.)

Orlando got an early start on Jan. 11 with a candlelight vigil and march from City Hall to First UMC, Orlando, for an interfaith service.

Hundreds of people gathered for the short walk to the downtown church. The interfaith service sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and the Mayor's Martin Luther King Jr. Commission has been a tradition for nearly 20 years.

First UMC hosted the first Interfaith Multicultural Celebration and has done so many times since. The service brings together people of all faiths including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

"There is something very significant in having all these traditional religions meeting in a Methodist church. In part, it's geography. We're nearby to City Hall," said Pastor Tom McCloskey. "But part of it is the Wesleyan tradition of open heart, open mind, open doors. It's part of our strength and I cherish that."

Several more events in Orlando are planned throughout January, including a re-enactment of Brown vs. Board of Education, a concert sponsored by the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation, a luncheon, a parade and a community clean-up day. 

Orlando participants in a city march approach First UMC Orlando
Participants in Orlando's commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s contributions to civil rights justice make their way through downtown to First UMC.
March participants head into First UMC Orlando
 A march through downtown Orlando in memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King ends with participants streaming into First UMC for an interfaith service. Photos courtesy of City of Orlando.

Brandy Hand, a member of First UMC, is co-chairwoman of the mayor's commission. The theme of the interfaith service - "Give Us the Ballot" - was inspired by King's speech in 1957 commemorating the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Church volunteers at First UMC served on the welcoming committee and provided technical support for the live performances and guest speakers.

"I am so very proud to help the mayor's commission and so proud of my church that feels so strongly about this," Hand said.

Among this year's performers were the Nap Ford Community School Drummers and Khamryn Hammonds, a youth ambassador and 2014 winner of the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools Top Talent competition. An estimated crowd of more than 500 attended.

"To see the faith leaders of all faiths come together with their congregations to celebrate the life of a man who was not only a great American but an ordained Christian minister is powerful and impressive," Hand said.

The annual gathering underscored the need for faith and unity and served as a call to action, Hand added.

"And if we can all remember that we have much more in common than differences, we'll go a long way to making our state, community, nation and the world a better and peaceful place to live."

Statewide, more celebrations are underway or upcoming at Methodist churches and ministries. Some, such as the education and anti-poverty ministry at Branches in South Miami, will begin with community service days in January and conclude Feb. 28 with the second annual MLK Remix.

MLK Remix includes a parade and outdoor community festival that is part of a month-long celebration of Black History Month.

Pastor Tom McCloskey addresses interfaith service
Pastor Tom McCloskey of First UMC, Orlando, speaks to visitors during an interfaith service reflecting on the work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Branches was founded in the early 1970s as the urban and social justice agency of what became the South East District of The United Methodist Church. It has evolved into an outreach agency supported by the Florida Conference and several Methodist churches in the area, including Branches UMC, Florida City.

It supports student achievements, family services and financial stability programs aimed at lifting people out of poverty.

On Monday, the nationally designated holiday, Branches Florida City will sponsor the fifth annual "Florida City, Love Yourself," a day of community service.

About 150 volunteers, Branches staff  and AmeriCorps members will fan out into the neighborhood to pick up litter. Volunteers also will head to Homestead Middle School to repaint classrooms and reorganize the library and computer lab. More volunteers will help with home repairs at the residences of three families served by Branches.

"It's a very grassroots event, a special day," said Isabelle Pike, development director for Branches. "We come out to beautify the neighborhood." 

Branches South Miami will hold its third annual "SoMi Lights MLK Day of Service," with help from about 75 volunteers, including members of Mount Olive Baptist Church. Projects include painting, landscaping and clean-up near the Branches location.

Girls in Branches T-shirts twirl batons in front of MLK Remix stage
The MLK Remix draws community participation in South Miami. Photo from Branches.

"They've been wonderfully embracing of us," said Pike of the Mount Olive congregation.

Both Florida City and South Miami are racially and ethnically diverse. Many Latinos from Central America have settled in Florida City, while South Miami has a majority black population. But residents in both neighborhoods struggle with poverty, high crime rates and violence, Pike said.

King's holiday is an opportunity to bring communities together in positive activities to improve their neighborhoods.

"There is so much turmoil and violence," Pike said. "Branches believes education is really the pathway out of poverty, but that begins with the community and the support for youth, and for tolerance." 


-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa. 

Wednesday - January 14, 2015
Foundation hires new president

LAKELAND — He’s been a junior officer on a nuclear submarine, a financial analyst with IBM and a local church pastor. Now Rev. Mark Becker will take the helm of the Florida United Methodist Foundation as its president, effective March 1.

Becker will continue until then as senior pastor at Saint Paul’s UMC, Tallahassee, while Scott Davidson remains as the foundation’s interim president.

Becker said his varied professional experience is “all part of the whole” in what he brings to the position.

“I bring leadership experience from my time in the Navy. I bring management and financial experience from my time at IBM,” he said. “I have a lot of operational experience with budgeting and financial planning.”

Coupled with that, he said, are the relationships he has built during his 14 years as a Florida Conference pastor and insights gained through his work as a former chairman and member of the foundation board.

Rev. Mark Becker

“All that said, the foundation has a wonderful staff of very, very competent people,” Becker said. “So any shortcomings I have, I know they are more than up to the task to do what we need to do collectively.”

Rev. Dr. Dennis Vlassis, chairman of the foundation board, said Becker will provide strong leadership for an already strong team.

“As a board member of the foundation, Mark has displayed not only a clear calling to the ministry of the conference, but also a sharp business intellect that has allowed him to grasp the diverse financial aspects of the foundation,” Vlassis said.

“He was instrumental in helping us develop our long-term strategic plan and does not hesitate to ask hard questions that challenge us to strive to be better servants of the Kingdom of God. I am looking forward to his leadership of the foundation.”

Becker said his journey to ministry “was a long process.”

He began his professional career in 1977 as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and a junior officer leading several divisions in the submarine force. He went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and worked at IBM for 11 years in financial planning, new product pricing and worldwide revenue forecasting, both in management and staff positions.

Becker said he first began to sense a call to ministry while serving as an active lay speaker in his local church.

“I thought I could serve well in that capacity,” he said. “I was working in a good job. … But through time and prodding and through the comments of people I know and trust, it became clear to me that where God was calling me was into ordained ministry.”

Becker accepted that call and graduated with a Master of Divinity from Duke University in Durham, N.C. He was commissioned a probationary elder in the Florida Conference in 2001 and ordained an elder in full connection in 2004. Since then, he has served at Archer UMC; Trinity UMC, Gainesville; and Orange Park UMC. In his current appointment at Saint Paul’s, Becker has been overseeing long-range planning for the 1,900-membership church, while managing a staff of 12 and a budget of $1 million.

He said he’s honored to serve as president of such a “vitally important” mission.

“I have been sitting on the (foundation) board of directors for six years so I have seen it at work, and I’m just very proud of what it does and want to see it continue and grow,” Becker said.

To that end, Becker said he’ll work to improve the foundation’s visibility, first by doing “a lot of visiting.” He also hopes to increase the number of churches the foundation serves.

“Church size does not matter,” he said. “Smaller, rural churches can benefit just as much as the large, urban churches with significant endowments. I think it’s important for all of us that the message and the foundation’s services be made available for all of the Methodist churches and institutions in Florida.”

Another focus — highlighted in the foundation’s strategic plan — is increasing name recognition and awareness of the agency’s mission, something the organization already began with its new logo and rebranding last year.

“We have to be creative and willing to work with our customers, but I think the biggest challenge is how we tell our story so people know who we are and understand what we provide,” he said.

Another emphasis Becker listed is strengthening the foundation’s structure. 

“We have just completed a special study on the foundation’s organization and how we can become better about meeting our customers’ needs, as well as furthering our goals,” he said. “Along with the communications, I think the internal staffing and structuring is going to be very important.”

Becker said he also would like to improve an already strong relationship and partnership with the annual conference.

“I look forward to working with Bishop (Ken) Carter and the cabinet and the foundation’s board of directors on ways we can improve that and expand it,” he said.

Becker and his wife, Marie, a senior medical writer for a company headquartered in Atlanta, have two daughters: Meredith Edmonson, who lives in Cupertino, Calif., with her husband, D.J., and Marian, a junior at the University of South Florida in Tampa.


-- Tita Parham is a freelance writer and editor based in Apopka.

Tuesday - January 13, 2015
They just need a little DLC

JACKSONVILLE -- Looking back, Amy Buggle wonders that she had the gumption to take on a day care ministry for special needs children and their families. The sum of her experience was four years in public schools as a special needs teacher.

"There were people with a lot more training than I had," she says. "But when God wants something done, He pretty much gets it done."

Laughing child on slide with young woman assisting her
With help from a volunteer, a youngster enjoys the playground at the Developmental Learning Center. Photos from DLC Nurse & Learn. 

The DLC (Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn program that Buggle founded in a Sunday school room at Murray Hill UMC recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Since 1989, more than 2,000 children have attended the Jacksonville-based center's inclusive day care and after-school programs.

It is going strong with a combined enrollment of about 130 children at Murray Hill UMC and a second location at Lakeshore Presbyterian Church. There’s also a waiting list.

The center provides speech, occupational therapy and nursing care for special needs children from birth to age 22 who have disabilities, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, microcephaly and seizure disorders. Several years ago, DLC merged with Murray Hill's preschool and became fully inclusive for children of all abilities.

Scholarships are available, and some families qualify for reduced fees based on income and ability to pay. The North East District promotes the ministry by encouraging local churches to donate and setting aside time for presentations at district events.

Buggle sees divine guidance in all that has happened. "It's so wonderful that God decided to put this in a church," she says.

As a public school teacher, Buggle knew the difficult choices facing parents of children with special needs and their lack of options. Even finding places for haircuts could be a problem. She began thinking about a day care center after serving on a committee to develop a resource pamphlet for parents. 

Preschool boy using a walker and smiling at camera
Young Andrew is among hundreds of children with disabilities who have found their way to DLC, a preschool and after-school program started at Murray Hill UMC.

"It dawned on me some of our families were unable to work," she says. "It got my wheels spinning and thinking about how unfair it was. We're telling (parents) you can't work. You're going to stay home and take care of the children."

Charlene Ennis faced that dilemma at the birth of her now 10-year-old son, Nathaniel, who goes by Nate. He is tube-fed and has physical as well as learning challenges. She enrolled him at DLC when he was a year old.

"It has truly been an amazing experience," says his mother. "It allows me to be able to work full time so I can provide for therapy and what I need to do for him."

Nate is enrolled in fourth grade at Mount Herman Exceptional Student Center. He attends DLC before and after school.

"He is slowly starting to walk," Ennis says. "He actually says 'hey' now. He's pulling up on furniture and walking. He loves music."

Ennis' only other option for Nate when he was a toddler was a center she visited in south Jacksonville.  "I left in tears. It was a dark trailer," Ennis says. "The kids were just lying there."

Her first visit to DLC was a total contrast.

"As soon as I walked in the door, it was lively and energetic," she says. "Right from the start they helped me get to the acceptance of my son the way he was."

Buggle would like to see more centers like DLC open, especially on the city's south side. But she says, "Not a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon to run a program like this."

Buggle's journey to fulfill her dream took diligence. She was turned down by other churches. And then, at a friend's suggestion, she joined Murray Hill UMC in 1989.

That same year, Rev. William “Bill” Fisackerly III was the newly arrived pastor at the church when staff member Russ Peters introduced him to Buggle. Peters, who had brothers with disabilities, was sympathetic to Buggle's plan.

Fisackerly also had a connection to special education. His mother, Hester Fisackerly, in the 1920s started the first special education classes in Duval County's public schools. Her program became a model for the rest of the state as districts adopted special education programs. Even school officials from California visited to learn from Hester Fisackerly.

"I told my people we should give her a chance," says Fisackerly, who at age 84 is retired and living in Lakeland. 

DLC graduate "Brandon," flanked by the center's founder, Amy Buggle, left, and teacher Erley Wood, enjoys a summer camp outing.

The church opened space in its Sunday school rooms, rent-free. "It was frankly unused space," Fisackerly says.

The day care center didn't get off to an auspicious start. Buggle had three students.

"My thinking was completely wrong that families would rush to our doors and pay a child care fee," Buggle says. "They were all broke. Many had good careers but lost them due to financial difficulties."

She realized the center needed a scholarship program and outside funding sources. Over the years, about $3 million in scholarships has been handed out. Grants, donations and various fund-raising events, including an annual golf tournament, help bring in revenue. The Jaguar Foundation, Jacksonville Children's Commission and United Way are contributors.

Finances continue to be a struggle year to year for an annual budget of $750,000 to $800,000. The ties to the North East District as the program expanded and "mainstreaming" the center's teaching curriculum have helped.

"It opened up a lot of funding for us," Buggle says. "It completely changed the atmosphere."

The interactions of special needs students and non-disabled students are part of the learning experience, Buggle says. "We wanted to show all children are equal in the eyes of God. There is a lot more activity in the classroom. It teaches them so much about acceptance and self-esteem."

Buggle credits her staff of about 30 and the volunteers from the church and community with the center's success and for their personal sacrifices.

"My staff makes very little compared to what they would make in the secular world," she says. "The families are the big deal. They are the ones so helpless and lost."

For more information about DLC, click here.

* Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.
 

Monday - January 12, 2015
Tough love leads to Project Love,
a community ministry

Editor's note: When a discontinued congregation vacates its campus because of declining membership, it may seem like a death knell. But some hear a clarion call to keep God's work in the house. This is the last in a series of stories about church campuses retooled to continue ministry in the afterlife of a departed congregation. 

ELOISE – By 2011, four years after Eloise UMC was discontinued, the church was housing a congregation of immigrants, so to speak -- but not from the surrounding community where farmworkers from Mexico and Central America were taking root.

Exterior of former Eloise UMC (now St. John's UMC mission)
A community ministry center in Eloise near Winter Haven retains the look of a church as volunteers report there for God's work. Photos by Susan Green.
Sanctuary with sewing supplies, clothes on tables
Volunteers have plenty of space to sort clothes, keep fabric and supplies for sewing classes and run a food pantry, among other ministries, at Project Love.
Nearby St. John’s UMC, Winter Haven, was charged with developing a mission on the Eloise campus, according to Florida Conference records. But a few former Eloise UMC members were driving from Bartow and Fort Meade to worship there, said
Rev. Dan Parrish, who became St. John’s pastor in 2011. 

“There was a little remnant that the former pastor allowed to stay there and hold services on Sunday,” Parrish recalled.

After Parrish was appointed to St. John’s, he met with the Eloise group to discuss their role in the future of the church campus.

“I said, ‘Who is it that you’re called to minister to? What about those right around the church?’”

As St. John’s moved to provide Vacation Bible School, a health care clinic and other ministries to the local community, only one family from the former Eloise UMC initially took part. And that participation was short-lived.

“We never saw them again,” Parrish said. “They did not have any desire to reach out beyond their own little group. … If you’re not here to minister to the community in which you exist, you need to think about what you’re doing.”

Today, the 50-year-old church building looks pretty much the same from the road.

“Everything is the same from the outside,” said Janey Powell, who with her husband, Larry, and other volunteers from St. John’s and elsewhere, oversees a health care clinic called Angels Care in the Eloise church’s former fellowship hall.

Inside the buildings, though, everything has changed. Butterfly artwork, courtesy of a local artist who teaches classes at the site, offers a symbol of transformation. The campus is now a community hub of services to address the spiritual and physical needs of the low-income residents who live nearby. 

Detergent and toiletries that will stuff a giveaway bag for seniors
Detergent and toiletries for Project Love giveaway bags are among items that can help seniors save money for pressing needs.
A green tomato with other crops in the background
A plot of vegetables behind the former Eloise UMC offers community residents a chance to learn gardening skills through Project Love.

The church sanctuary is now Project Love, named for a nationally recognized ministry started in the Eloise area long ago by St. John’s members under the leadership of Ann Thayer, who died in 2011.

With the help of St. John’s members, community volunteers and United Methodist NOMADS workers, the church kitchen was remodeled and the former church sanctuary has been turned into a multipurpose space.

Open three days a week, it accommodates sewing, art and nutrition classes, Bible study, a food pantry, a clothes closet and a place for volunteers to pack gift bags of toiletries and comfort items for seniors in need. A small plot of vegetables staked out on campus provides an outdoor classroom for budding gardeners.

Powell said she marvels at how quickly the ministries at Eloise came together. She rattles off donations that include medical equipment for Angels Care and industrial-sized coolers for Project Love.

The resurrected Project Love opened in August 2013 and offered assistance to more than 650 people in its first six months of operation. About 6,000 have sought help at Angels Care since it opened in March 2011.

“Obviously, this building has become just the center here for the community,” Powell said. “This is now a migrant and working poor community. They’re really good people, but they’re really struggling just for the basics in life.”

About a dozen churches of various denominations have pulled together to supply funding and volunteers for the ministries.

“It’s not about denominations,” Powell said. “We’re just all God’s children working together.”

Parrish said he has been touched that some of those who receive services at the center return to volunteer.

“The joy has been to watch these folks come and give back,” he said. “It’s a real message of God’s love.”

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection. 

Blogs
Tuesday - March 31, 2015
3 ways Instagram can strengthen bonds in your church community

Instagram is a different social animal than Facebook. Its simplicity and focused purpose as a bare-bones social image sharing app make it a very powerful tool for telling visual stories quickly and getting them seen BIG TIME.

Your church community is already socially driven. Consider doing one of these 3 simple steps to give your congregants a new method for making meaningful connections.

1. Put your church on the map
Instagram uses a photomap that remembers nearby locations based on latitude and longitude. Technical jargon aside, if you simply want to be added to the photomap, start tagging your location and it will begin to pop up on people’s photomaps when they’re nearby.

Read this walkthrough to see how easy it is to do.

2. Hashtag your #ChurchName
Or just create a unique hashtag to represent you on Instagram. Get the word out and people will start to use it whenever possible. Instagram users are obsessed with hashtagging.

This is an especially good option if you don’t want to use Instagram but still want Instagram users to know about you.

3. Start an account for sharing church-based activities
Creating a focused campaign based on what’s important to your church. You might do a short survey of your members to find out how many people are already on Instagram and what kind of photos they’d like to see the church sharing. That will at least give you a starting point.

If your church community is already interacting, then you already have the content. It’s waiting to be shared.

Don’t forget to get photo permissions before posting images of people, especially children!

Tuesday - March 17, 2015
Treat you followers like family

Your followers take time out of their lives to stay in contact with you. Show them they’re appreciated.

We already talked about making a human connection with your followers here, but there’s more to be said about what that means when managing a church page.

Whenever possible, take the time to address the needs and requests of your audience. A social media page for a church should feel like an extension of your church community. Speak to those who reach out to you with the mentality that these individuals have walked into God’s house looking for other people to connect with.

Even something as simple as a thank you post every month could help show your social media family that you really do care and it will encourage them to engage in healthy conversation on your pages.

Just like in a real conversation with other people, how you choose to connect with your audience depends on who they are and what they are interested in. What are some other ways that you could reach out to your audience in an authentic way?

Tuesday - March 3, 2015
Running the right way with feedback

Lightning never strikes twice, or so the saying goes.

The same could be said about specific feedback on social media. If it’s just a fluke, you won’t be seeing the same criticisms repeated from your followers. If the negative comments persist, they might be calling your attention to a kind of lightning rod in your social media strategy.

Repeat negative comments often point out a change that needs to be made in the way you do things online.

Before deleting negative comments or writing them off as someone trolling you online, make a record of them so that you can compare trends in this kind of feedback.

Over time you will have documented support for building a healthier and more welcoming experience for your audience. That is, after all, what we really want to create for our home audience.

Tuesday - February 17, 2015
Use old content to keep your content fresh

Always revisit your most successful posts in building a strong social media strategy.

When content does well on your pages that means you’ve delivered the kind of content that your followers want to see. Keeping your successes in mind will help you determine what your audience wants, needs and expects from you.

Do your followers enjoy inspirational quotes? Do they like open-ended questions? Do they engage with other users in the comments? Do they tag their friends? Are they most interested in updates on upcoming events?

Tuesday - February 3, 2015
Keep the bad words off your social page

When managing church pages, there are good reasons to have a strict level of moderation on what people can discuss publicly on your page.

Having unwieldy and inappropriate debates on your page about relationships or people within the church reflects poorly on your church community and your ability to contain internal issues from leaking into your social media presence.

Fortunately, Facebook has a built-in profanity filter that can save you time and keep your followers safe from negative posters.

It’s easy to access. From your Facebook page check under the settings tab near the top of your page. A two column list will appear that should default to the “General” settings page. From the main column, select “Edit” next to “Page Moderation.” In the text field that appears, you can insert any words you don’t want to see pop up in your pages comments.

Other than profanity, what are some trigger words that you might want to flag? For example, do you want to avoid political debates on your page? If so, try including a list of words to block like “democrat, republican, liberal, teabagger, communist, fascists, etc.”

In this vein of thought, can you predict any other words that could spark unwanted controversy on your Facebook page? Take note whenever an inappropriate comment slips through the filter and try to determine if there were any specific words used that could have prevented the comment from being approved in the first place.
 

Tuesday - January 27, 2015
God is calling us! Are we listening?

Team members at the Luanda airport

I am always amazed as I see God at work through His people.  In October, FUMC of Homestead heard the call to serve our mission in Quessua, Angola just below the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They and others in the UM Conference of Florida responded financially and with loving prayers and encouragement.  Sewing machines, beautiful fabrics, precious Huggable Teddy bears, new shoes, adorable children's dresses, reading glasses, shirts for the boys, sheets for the beds the boys had welded, crayons, art materials, rag dolls for little girls, cars for the boys and personal items for the missionaries were generously provided and transported in donated luggage.  A delicious fish dinner was lovingly prepared by a men's group, UMW had a fabulous yard sale, UMM had a golf tournament and funds were donated to the Angola mission.  Children colored pictures and wrote letters.  My heart was overflowing as I saw people joyfully serving God.  

The night before our small team was leaving, we received word that a storm had caused severe damage to Quessua and the orphanage we were to put the finishing touches on (Click HERE to see images). Through the planning and preparations for our mission, I heard God speaking to me saying, "Trust me".   The members of the small team also heard and they trusted.  

Still, I asked myself, "Will we really make a difference or just make ourselves feel good about what we are doing?"  Six people and a lot of really good stuff arrived in a country that had been ravaged by horrors of many years of war.  "And... I asked, as others had asked of me, "Can we really make a difference?"  

To God be the glory!

Angolans who love Quessua, told others that we had come all the way from America to help, even after the terrible storm.  They told people in the government and they responded.  A government team came to meet with us and evaluate the damage.  They shared meals with us and decided that if we came all the way from America, they should do more! They agreed to replace the roof on the orphanage and the school and to meet many other needs as well, like providing wells for clean water.   They partnered with us...a small Christian mission team.  They kindly embraced us and joined the work God had called us to do.  

It was not about us making a difference or in the success of the work we did.  It was really about us trusting God. "We saw God at work in the lives of people in Angola and in the lives of people on our team".  

I am deeply grateful that, when we hear Gods call to go and serve, our conference provides us with opportunities to answer His call as he did with Wayne Slockbower,  Edwin Castillo, Debbie McLean, Barbara Schaad Rogers, her husband John Rogers and myself.  Note: Barbara is the daughter of Quessua UM missionaries who were serving when the war broke out.  She added life to the stories we had heard.  

God is calling us!  Are we listening?  He can use us to do great things.  We just need to trust Him and be obedient.  If God is speaking to you about serving in missions, please contact Icel Rodriguez at irodriguez@flumc.org or 850-727-4279.

 Members of First UMC, Homestead, gather to prepare gifts for the children of Quessua.

Sandi Goodman, Chair
East Angola/Florida Partnership

 

Tuesday - January 20, 2015
Don't measure success in "Likes" and "Favorites"

Are those one-click user features as valuable as they appear?

When a user clicks “Like” on your Facebook page, it can be gratifying. Knowing that your efforts are appreciated on any level is a great feeling. This acknowledgement that your content has been seen does help make your content more visible to more people.

When it comes down to it, is it your goal to be seen and acknowledged or to build engagement among your audience? As a tool of the church, social media is a powerful method for building a stronger community by connecting with real people online.

Do you agree that your social media strategy would be more successful for your page if you focus on engagement over your number of “Likes”? If so, make engagement a priority in how you analyze your social media statistics.

Monday - January 12, 2015
Life transforming experiences


From left to right: Scott Folsom (Chaperon), Rev. Acanda (Cuba), Grant Reecher (back row), Carly Ellsworth (Chaperon), Kayla Wagler, Sarah Wagler, Amanda Wagler, Sierra Mearns, Conor Peters, Trace Walker

By Grant Reecher: 

In July, myself and a group of six other teenagers plus two adults ventured to Cuba for a mission trip. We began our journey in Havana where once we survived the painful endeavors of passport control, we made quick stop at the national Methodist church before our four-hour drive to Camp Canaan. Once we arrived at the camp we had a short amount of time to unpack and get dressed before we went to an amazing dinner and a life changing church service. This service was our first service in Cuba and is one of the most memorable for me personally. I had never encountered such love and passion before and to see it was extremely enjoyable for me. Read more.

By Sarah Wagler:

In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba for one week with a mission team composed of both old friends and new faces. Even though I have struggled a considerable amount with the emotional aftermath of this trip, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There are too many short anecdotes of our time spent on the island to recount everything in a meaningful summary, so I choose to focus on that which was the purpose of the trip to begin with: relationships. Read more.

By Amanda Wagler:

When I discovered I was going to Cuba, I was very excited, but I had many apprehensions. Among many were the less than comfortable living conditions, airport troubles, and in general, being away from home for so long. It wasn’t until the day of departure when I realized those things couldn’t hinder me from seeing the love of God. I choked up when I took my first step in the country. I couldn’t believe I was actually there! Read more.

By Conor Peters:

My trip to Cuba was certainly an experience of a lifetime that will be with me forever. This trip was such a unique experience, and such an eye opening one. Staying at Camp Canaan was so much fun, along with staying with Pastor Isel in his home, and being able to visit all of our sister churches. It was so easy to see God's love and work wherever we went. This trip allowed me to see Methodism in a raw form of a different culture. It made me rethink many things and opened my eyes to what it really means to be a Christian. Read more.

By Kayla Wagler:

Before going on this trip, hearing the word “Cuba” stirred within me visions of pain, oppression, and helplessness in the face of a poverty that plagues an entire nation of a beautiful people that do not, under any circumstance, deserve to be the treated the way that they are. But, as I soon discovered, not all of this is completely valid. True, the people certainly are beautiful, and I would never believe that they deserve any maltreatment or anything but the best, but they did not seem to me oppressed or pained at all. Cuba is home to the most unique, talented, perseverant, and overall happiest people I have ever met, and perhaps on the face of this planet. Read more.

 

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Thursday - January 8, 2015
Rev. Dan Campbell is Lightning Community Hero
Dan Campbell headshot
Dan Campbell

Metropolitan Ministries' Pasco County site will receive a much-needed boost with a $50,000 donation from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in honor of Rev. Dan Campbell being named the 17th Lightning Community Hero of the year. The announcement was made in December.

Campbell was pastor of Community UMC, Holiday, before it closed and reopened as Joining Hands Community Mission, a Metropolitan Ministries outreach site. He currently serves as development director for Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco.

The awards selection committee was impressed by Campbell's efforts to help people in poverty, especially targeting the hungry and homeless. Click here to read the announcement.

Classifieds
Thursday - January 29, 2015
Director of Children's Ministries

Church Street United Methodist Church (Knoxville, TN) is seeking a full-time Director of Children’s Ministries. The successful candidate will possess a bachelor's degree, at least 3-5 years' experience (or significant experience in children's ministry leadership), along with a strong personal faith consistent with the United Methodist tradition. An educational background in childhood development and/or Christian education is preferred. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, planning, implementation, and oversight of a thriving children's ministry. The anticipated start date for this position is May 1, 2015. To apply, submit a cover letter with current resume and contact information for three references. Application materials may be sent to Ian Hennessey at communications@churchstreetumc.org.

Thursday - January 29, 2015
Full-Time Director of Children's, Youth, and Family Ministry

Skycrest United Methodist Church is seeking to hire a full time (40 hours per week) Director of Children's, Youth, and Family Ministries.  Start date is flexible between March 15 and  June 1, 2015.  Salary will be commensurate with experience and education.  To apply, please submit cover letter and resume to Pastor Emily at emily@skycrest.net.  Feel free to call the church office with questions:  727.446.2218

Thursday - January 29, 2015
Seeking Family Ministry Director (Part-time Staff position)

Salem United Methodist Church, northwest of Tallahassee in Havana, Florida is looking for a committed Christian with passion for coordinating effective ministry with children, youth, and families. We are currently interviewing candidates. If you are interested in a position description, please contact the office via phone or email. If you know someone who might be a good fit for this ministry, please let them know. 850-539-6634 or salemchurch@bellsouth.net or salemumchavana.org.

Wednesday - January 28, 2015
Contemporary Worship/Music Leader

The Contemporary Worship/Music Leader will give leadership to FUMC in the contemporary worship service by leading the congregation, combining God’s Word with music proclaiming the gospel in music ministry. Must have a love for Christ and people and have a familiarity with the United Methodist Church. Gifted in communication, instrumental (be able to lead on either keyboard or guitar) and vocal music; possess qualities of a leader.

This position is a part-time position with a flexible schedule. As needed coordination of rehearsals with the contemporary worship teams (vocalists, instrumentalists, projection/visual aids and sound board), monthly Worship Team meetings, as well as Sunday mornings and/or evenings. Salary for this part-time position starts at $13,000 annually with two paid weeks of vacation plus holidays.

Tuesday - January 27, 2015
Children's Ministry Director-Wellspring UMC Tampa

WELLSPRING UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

POSITION DESCRIPTION

POSITION TITLE:    Children’s Ministries Director

INCUMBENT:              

REPORTS TO:    Senior Pastor

STATUS:            Full Time


Summary

The Children’s Ministries Director is responsible for the development and implementation of the vision, strategy and tactical elements for all programs, activities and educational aspects related to Children’s Ministry at Wellspring United Methodist Church. Specifically, the Children’s Ministries Director is responsible for Sunday School (Nursery -5th grade), Enrichment Program, Vacation Bible School and Childcare. Development and implementation of programs and event that promote spiritual growth and fellowship for children ages birth through 5th grade and their families.  Ensures a smooth operating, safe environment.  Recruit and train volunteers.

Focus

Major areas of focus in the job are

·    Recruiting and leadership of a volunteer staff for children’s ministries
·    Enrichment Program
·    Nursery
·    Children’s Sunday School
·    Children’s Council
·    Vacation Bible School

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

Areas of responsibility shall include, but not be limited to:

·    Oversee and coordinate all aspects of the children’s ministry including, but not limited to, the Enrichment Program, Sunday School Small Groups, Nurseries, Midweek Programs, Rock Solid, VBS and other special events.
·    Develop and implement a plan to recruit, train, and support a volunteer staff who will provide leadership of all children’s ministries.
·    Supervise the Enrichment and nursery staff..
·    Coordinate children’s ministries with overall church strategies and plans.
·    Be responsible for distribution of curriculum and other resources, teacher recruitment and training, updating teacher information booklets, coordination and dissemination of information to teachers regarding different ministries.
·    Assist in planning and implementation of special occasion programs such as holiday-related activities (i.e. Easter Egg Hunt, Advent Festival, etc.) and activities in conjunction with other church sponsored events.
·    Planning and implementation of Vacation Bible School.
·    Maintenance of ministry database for all of Children’s Ministry and children related ministries.
·    Recruit, screen and train volunteer staff.
·    Prepare and implement a reasonable and workable budget for children’s ministry.
·    Attend bi-weekly staff meetings, other meetings as requested and annual staff planning day.
·    Oversee/work with Children’s Council.
·    Work closely with the Director of Youth Ministries to provide a smooth transition for children as they move from 5th grade to youth programs.

·    Nurture relationships with the families of the children who participate in children’s programs.

Supervisory Responsibilities

Supervisory responsibilities to Enrichment Program employees, Nursery workers and staff/volunteers working with various programs within the ministry.


Qualifications

·    High school diploma and college degree preferred. 
·    Should have experience with teaching or leading children’s programs. 
·    Must be able to work a flexible schedule and possess the ability to plan and implement multiple programs. 
·    Will be expected to participate annually in continuing education in Children’s Ministries. 
·    Must have working knowledge of Microsoft Office products. 
·    Must be able to work in a team environment as well as work independently. 
·    Pass a background and drug test.

Other Qualifications

Must be a Christian and adhere to the spiritual disciplines and support the philosophy of Wellspring United Methodist Church.

Critical Success Factors

·    Continue to recruit new leadership, and train new and existing ministry leaders.
·    Promote opportunities for family fellowship and interaction.


·    Provide support systems for parents, grandparents, and guardians through small group studies, providing resources for parents, and opportunities for growth in training seminars.
·    Provide as many opportunities as possible for all children to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This will be accomplished through curriculum, and worship experiences.
 

Monday - January 26, 2015
Electric Piano/Keyboard & Congas Needed for New Worship Svc

We are putting together a new praise and worship team to launch a new service in the fall. We are in need of some instruments in good shape including a portable electric piano/keyboard and a set of conga drums. They would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for considering this request.

Friday - January 23, 2015
Sr. Administrative Assistant

The Florida Conference is a regional unit of The United Methodist Church and comprises more than 700 local churches and affiliated extension ministries. This progressive religious organization is seeking a full-time Administrative Assistant to support the Episcopal Office of the Resident Bishop.  The successful candidate must be able to handle diverse tasks in a professional and timely manner. Responsibilities include handling phone and email correspondence for traveling staff members, basic financial aptitude for monitoring and tracking department expenses, electronic recordkeeping and meeting and event planning.
The ideal candidate will be detail oriented, possess strong interpersonal skills must be able to write basic business correspondence. Candidates must be proficient in Microsoft Office products such as Word, Outlook and Excel and have at least 7-10 years of progressively responsible administrative experience. Appreciation of the nature and mission of the church is important and knowledge of The United Methodist Church will be an advantage.  EOE.  Salary range commensurate with experience and excellent benefits.  E-mail letter of interest with salary history to employment@flumc.org no later than February 12, 2015.

Friday - January 23, 2015
Youth Minister Position at Ocala First UMC.

Full-time position available starting in June.  Salary based upon education and experience.  Includes good benefits.

Looking for someone who is passionate about Christ and youth, six graders - high school.  This is an opportunity to work on a great staff, strong church, and good resources.

Let's talk.

Thursday - January 22, 2015
Bookkeeper

St. Luke’s is seeking a bookkeeper to work in our Finance area.  The desired candidate will have experience in processing accounts payable and payroll.  The position will also require weekly posting of all contribution and event payments and preparing monthly reports for final review.  Ideal candidate will understand cash accounting, follow all GAAP requirements and submit to a background check.  This is a part-time position working 25 to 30 hours a week with benefits.  To submit your application visit www.st.lukes.org.  Deadline to submit applications and resumes is February 2, 2015 to Kelly Smith at ksmith@st.lukes.org or via mail to:
St. Luke's UMC
Attn:  Kelly Smith
4851 S. Apopka Vineland Road
Orlando, FL  32819

Conversations
Friday - January 30, 2015
Black History Month: Ideas for worship

February is Black History Month

African Americans have played important roles in the development of the United States; the recognition of their roles in growth and development from a historical perspective is an important step in celebrating the contributions of individuals and the collective changes the African American community has brought about.

 

Celebrate Black History Month: Ideas for Worship

Celebrate Black History Month in your worship services by exploring the rich diversity of hymnody and song that has been born out of the African American experience.The collection, Beams of Heaven, containing 46 hymns of Charles Tindley, is a treasure for you to share with your congregation as a part of Black History Month. 

You may want to share with your congregation the life story of Charles Tindley in your newsletter or worship bulletins. James Abbington, D.M.A., has written an excellent introduction to the collection Beams of Heaven that can be used as a reference to create the article for your publications.

 

Churches who want to offer solos or duets as part of their celebration ofBlack History Month may want to consider some of the spirituals found in StealAway to Jesus. Companion CDs are available for both collections.

Beams of Heaven

These suggestions from the Global Praise resource, Beams of Heaven, incorporate the Revised Common Lectionary for Year A weeks.

 

 

Year A: Transfiguration Sunday 
Matthew 17:1-9
Consider using Charles Tindley's hymn "Christ Is the Way" (Beamsof Heaven, #16) as a theme song this Lent. The text of stanza 1 willcertainly enhance worship on Transfiguration Sunday. Consider singing therefrain as a response to the reading of the Gospel lesson each week in Lent.

 

Year A: First Sunday in Lent 
Matthew 4:1-11
Continue teaching your congregation the hymn "Christ Is the Way" (Beamsof Heaven, #16) as they sing stanza 2. This stanza closely matches thegospel lesson today. Another hymn from this collection, "Ye PilgrimsThrough This Vale of Tears" (#1), reminds us "our way is dark andhard, temptations all around us." Consider using this hymn as a responseto the word proclaimed or as a hymn of dedication.

 

Year A: Second Sunday in Lent 
John 3:1-17 
"If Your Life In Days Gone By," #30 from Beamsof Heaven, has a wonderful phrase that appears at the end of eachstanza and the refrain. On the Sunday we hear the well known scripture John3:16-17, we can sing that with faith that "he will fix it for you."Use the refrain as a response to your time of prayer.

 

Year A: Third Sunday in Lent 
John 4:5-42
Tindley's texts are filled with powerful images of the many ways a life can bechanged when it is filled with faith. He personalizes the images in ways thatare still applicable today. Consider singing, #2 "Go, Ye Humble PilgrimStranger" which begins imploring us to remember that God is with us nomatter what our current lot in life and moves to our responsibility to tellstrangers and others we meet about Jesus.

 

Year A: Fourth Sunday in Lent 
John 9:1-41
Number 22, "Come, Whosoever Feels the Need," contains the image offaith making us whole again. This day we hear the story of the healing of theblind man. This would also be a wonderful addition to a healing service.

 

Year A: Fifth Sunday in Lent
John 11:1-45
"No funeral train we there shall meet, for death is there cast out"is the refrain of stanza 3 of #23, "I'm On My Way." While thescripture begins with the telling of Lazarus' sickness and death, the lessonconcludes with the resurrection of Lazarus. The repetitions in the text, aswell as the very singable melody line, make this an easy-to-learn hymn asresponse to the scripture.

 

Another option is #7 "You Ask Me Where I Get the Joys." Forchurches that sing "Hallelujah" during Lent, this song is a joyfulexpression of faith that Christ has saved the singer and the night has passedaway.

 

Year A: Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11 (Palms Liturgy) & Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Passion)
Stanzas 3, 4, and 5 of Tindley's hymn "Christ Is the Way" help totell the story of Passion/Palm Sunday (Beamsof Heaven, #16.) If you began the season of Lent with stanzas 1 and 2of this hymn, you may want to consider singing the entire hymn on this day.

 

Steal Away to Jesus

There are several solos in the collection Steal Away to Jesus that would be appropriate for the Lenten season and your celebration of Black History Month. The companion CD also includes instrumental tracks for those who desire pre-recorded accompaniment for practice and/or leSteal Away to Jesusadership in worship.

Consider these solos or duets from Steal Away to Jesus for your services during Black History Month and Lent:

"Way to Canaan" (solo for medium voice) 
While the score is set for voice and piano, churches with praise teams my want to listen to the recording to hear one possible way to accompany this spiritual with a band/praise team. 

"What Wondrous Love Is This" (solo for medium voice) 
Employing interesting harmonies, the beauty of this song shines through in this arrangement. An arrangement for SSATBB a cappella choir with baritone or .mezzo-soprano solo is also available from GBGMusik resources through Cokesbury (#CS1004.)

"Lord, I Want to be a Christian"
 (solo for medium voice) 
A beautiful solo on Ash Wednesday or any Sunday in Lent, use this as a response or call to prayer. If liturgical dancers are a part of your church ministry, ask the dance team to interpret the song.

"Saw Ye My Savior" (duet for sop./bar. or bass) 
This arrangement can be sung with the piano accompaniment printed or consider arranging the accompaniment for a small acoustic ensemble of guitar, keyboard, and hand drum as performed on the CD. The use of the instruments creates a more contemporary sound often used in emerging or contemporary services. Use during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. Consider singing stanzas 1-4 interspersed with the crucifixion scripture on Good Friday and stanza 5 as the opening to your Easter worship. Churches with projection capabilities may want to explore the visual images available that will help tell the story of the crucifixion on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter.

"I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow"
 (solo for high voice) 
Matching a text of Charles Tindley to a traditional spiritual tune, the beauty of the text shines through this solo. Soloists will want to spend time prior to singing this in worship. This will allow them to comfortably meet the challenge of singing the legato phrases with musicality. 

 

Courtesy Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

Thursday - January 29, 2015
"Difference Maker" by NEED TO BREATHE

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine, click here for the music video for NEEDTOBREATHE's "Difference Maker," which is available on their album "Rivers In The Wasteland."

Lyrics:
 
Verse 1:
Isn't it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that's he's never known
Isn't it amazing how God can take a broken man
Let him find a fortune let him ruin it with his own two hands
 
Pre Chorus:
And he walks on up the hill
on the rock on which he stands
he looks back at the crowd
And he looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
Verse 2:
Isn't it amazing how a man can find himself alone
Call into the darkness for an answer that's he's never known
 
Pre Chorus:
And he walks on up the hill
on the rock on which he stands
he looks back at the ground
And he looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
Bridge:
I am on the fence about nearly everything I've seen
And I have felt the fire be put out by too much gasoline
We're all strangers passing through, place and time, afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we're peeking through
 
It's a helpless conversation with a man who says he cares a lot
It's a hopeless confrontation about who might throw a punch or not
And we are all transgressors, we're all sinners, we're all astronauts
So if you're beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you're not.
 
Chorus:
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
I am the difference maker
I am the only one that speaks to him
I am the friendliest of friends of God.
 
 
See more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rtv/music-videos/difference-maker#8xZtZ6WvjC5sVy7Z.99. Photo courtesy Bigstock.com.
Tuesday - January 27, 2015
Joe Engle: We need to let them out

With more than 2 million inmates -- including 3,000 awaiting execution -- our nation’s correctional system is in effect a giant caging and killing machine, says the Rev. Joe Ingle, a United Church of Christ minister and longtime prison minister.

“We need to let them out,” Ingle said. “We should be about freeing the captives and coming up with a new paradigm that has restorative justice in it, not retributive justice, which is what we’re doing now.”
 
Ingle, a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, has worked in prison ministry and with people in the criminal justice system for more than 25 years. He is the author of “The Inferno: A Southern Morality Tale,” an account of his friendship with Philip Workman, a Tennessee inmate who was executed after 25 years on death row.
 
Ingle was at Duke Divinity School recently and spoke with Faith & Leadership. The following is an edited transcript.
 
Q: Tell us about your work and how you got into prison ministry and advocacy against the death penalty.
 
It’s something I backed into. I was living and working in East Harlem in New York City while I was a student at Union Seminary. My senior year, Attica happened, which was a rebellion at a prison in upstate New York.
 
And here I am living in this ghetto, where I made a lot of friends who were dealing with the criminal justice system left and right, and I hadn’t even been in a jail or a prison. And as I watched Attica unfold on TV and talked to my neighbors, I thought, “I want to spend my senior year of seminary visiting prisoners.”
 
So I spent 20 hours a week visiting prisoners at the Bronx House of Detention, a giant jail across the river from East Harlem, up in the Bronx, and frankly, it changed my life. I went in there not knowing what to expect. I went up, I was oriented, I had my little chaplain badge, and I went up to the sixth floor, and a guard let me in.
 
We walked across the top of the cellblock to this little interview room, and the guard said that clergy and lawyers visit in this room. I’m a naive seminary student -- right? -- so I said, “Why don’t you let me in there with these guys?”
 
The guard looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and opened up the door to the cellblock. I stepped across that threshold, and the guard slammed the door. I had thought each individual cell was locked and that I would just go down the line and visit the prisoners in their cells.
 
But once I crossed that threshold, I realized that every one of those individual cell doors was open, so I was in there with these guys with nothing between us.
 
The first thought I had was, “Oh my God, I’m locked in here with these animals.”
 
And that is what we’re all taught in this country. We’re socialized to regard people in prison as less than human. But no sooner did I have that thought than the guy in the first bunk who was sitting there looked up and said, “Man, what are you doing in here?”
 
I laughed, and I said, “Well, I’m here to visit you guys for the year.” And he introduced himself and took me down and introduced me to everybody else on that cellblock. So I spent that year visiting them.
 
I didn’t do anything for these guys, and I think that’s the reality about Jesus telling us to go visit the prisoners. Jesus’ point is this: Go visit the prisoners, yes, but it’s not like you’re doing something for the prisoners.
 
What you find out when you visit prisoners is they’re doing something for you. The ministry that goes on is not me ministering to the prisoners. It’s the other way around, and I think Jesus really knew that, and that’s why he wanted us to get in the prisons.
 
When you do that, you realize you’re in solidarity with people in prison, that they’re your brothers and sisters -- they’re not less than human, and they’re not animals. And then when you pick up the Bible and start reading it in a prison, you have a whole different perspective than what you were taught in Sunday school, like I was, growing up in the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina. You’re seeing Scripture from a whole different perspective.
 
It shows you that God is a God of liberation in the sense that Isaiah 61 and Luke 4:18 talk about -- “free the captives.” That’s what we should be doing. It’s not prison reform. We should literally be freeing the captives. We have over 2 million of them in this country.
 
Q: More than any other country in the world.
 
By far. It’s not even close, and we have 3,000 set for execution. So what are we doing? When you look at the gospel, which is about love, grace and reconciliation, and you have this machinery which is really a giant killing and caging machinery, as a Christian, you are called to stand up to that and to address it.
 
We need to let them out. Now, some of them are so damaged because of what happened to them before they got to prison or after they’re in prison, you can’t let them out, for their own good or for our good. But most are truly victims of what is really a racist system. So we should be about freeing the captives and coming up with a new paradigm that has restorative justice in it, not retributive justice, which is what we’re doing now.
 
Q: Why the racial and religious divide over the death penalty? Pew Research says 67 percent of white evangelicals and 64 percent of white mainliners support the death penalty, slightly more than white adults in general, while black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics are virtually the opposite, with majorities opposing it.
 
When you look in the pews, you get a representative sample of society. The problem I have with all this is, where’s the leadership of the church? I mean, thank God for the pope saying what he did recently [about abolishing the death penalty], but when’s the last time you went into a Catholic or Protestant church and heard a sermon about the death penalty or had a Sunday school class about the death penalty?
 
It doesn’t happen very often. There’s a real moral failure by our leaders in the church on this issue. You can’t expect the people in the pews to respond to an issue if you’re not educating them and helping them understand what the position of the church is and why it’s there, and I think, frankly, we have a huge teaching failure on the part of the leadership, of our clergy, on this issue.
 
Q: What should they be doing? What should pastors and their congregations be doing?
 
They should be preaching. They should be teaching. They should be taking people into their local prison or jail.
 
That’s what Jesus says to do: visit those in prison. So let’s get them in there. Let’s visit those in prison. See what happens. I found it to be not only enlightening but liberating.
 
Q: Where do you think the church is now on these issues broadly? Do you see any hopeful signs?
 
I see hopeful signs across the country. I think this is percolating as an issue like it hasn’t done in 40 years.
 
There’re some reasons for that. We haven’t really had a serious crime problem in 30 years, so we have these excessive punishments now for people when we don’t even have a crime problem.
 
So people are beginning to look around and think, “We’re spending millions of dollars on this, and to what gain?” It seems like a waste of human life and a waste of the taxpayer dollars, and that conversation is percolating all over the country.
 
I took a trip and visited criminal justice systems in Europe, and the Swedes are in the process of phasing out [some of] their prison system right now. I went to the maximum security prison in Sweden -- Kumla.
 
It’s just tundra. It’s desolate, and I go in there, and every man in that prison is in an education program or a vocational program. That person is being equipped to come back into society, because the Swedes know that they’re coming back, and when they come back, you want them to be equipped to succeed.
 
We have none of that going on in this country. We’re into punishing them, so when they come out, they’re even worse than they went in, usually, unless they’ve somehow transcended while this has happened to them. So it’s a whole different way of looking at corrections. Needless to say, that’s why our incarceration rate is out the roof, and the Swedes are doing away with [a number of] their prisons.
 
These issues are resonating throughout the country, and I think it is because there’s no crime problem, and people are beginning to realize we have a basically wasteful, inefficient, unjust system, and we need to address it. And as Bonhoeffer says, if we wait for the Christians to address it, it might not ever get done. So we’re looking for people, whatever walk of life, to help us address this problem.
 
Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. Photos courtesy Bigstock.com. The opinions are those of the author and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
Friday - January 23, 2015
The modern church looks nothing like the early church

I often hear Christians say that we should be more like the early church. And I must admit, I’ve been one of those Christians. But if we linger on how this would look, I wonder how many of us would rather stay put in our 21st century churches. After all, first century Christians clung to a set of values that differs quite radically from most Christians today.

How We View Other Christians
One uncomfortable value trumpeted by the early Christians was their view of the church as a family. The first Christians saw themselves as brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers to everyone who was part of the Christian community.
 
This is, of course, well known to anyone who reads the New Testament. But we shouldn’t read the church-as-family metaphor through the lens of our modern-day Western family values, where our high-maintenance grandparents are shuffled off to retirement homes and annoying siblings are treated as outcasts.
 
In the first century, the family unit extended far beyond the nuclear family and was held together by an unconditional bond of commitment and service. You didn’t have to like your relatives, but you were expected to love them.
 
It’s within this context that Jesus and Paul blew open the doors of the home and welcomed in all believers as brothers and sisters. They created a new focus on the family that extended far beyond one’s nuclear relatives and included people of every race and social strata who gave their allegiance to the risen Christ.
 
How We Spend Our Money
Many churches today spend most of their revenue on salaries, building mortgages and other material supplements to ministry. Look at any church budget and you’ll probably find 1 or 2 percent of church funds allocated to benevolence—helping poor people in need. Maybe another 5 percent, or 10 percent at best, is given to needs outside the church that on some level help the poor.
 
But such distribution of funds runs counter opposite to how the early church spent its money. The New Testament talks a lot about giving money, but rarely—if ever—talks about giving toward salaries, and it never mentions giving money toward a building. (For what it’s worth, it also never mentions giving 10 percent, which is still a staple value in modern churches.)
 
When the New Testament talks about giving, it refers to redistributing money to the poor—usually, poor believers outside church walls (Romans 15:22-29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9). When Paul declares “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) for instance, it was in the context of Gentile churches giving money to poor Jewish believers living in Jerusalem. In fact, Paul spilled more ink talking about giving to poor people than he did on the doctrine of justification by faith.
 
Jesus Himself said that giving to the poor is one of the main criteria of genuine faith (Luke 12:33, 14:33, Matt 19:16-30) and the primary means by which He’ll sort out the wicked from righteous on Judgment day (Matt 25:31-46). If we take Jesus’s words seriously—and our church budgets suggest that we don’t—our suburban churches might look a little different.
 
How We Think About Power
Another modern value that was unknown to the early church is militarism. Militarism refers to the “belief or desire that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.” There’s no doubt about it—militarism profoundly shapes American values.
 
But it also shapes American Christian values. Military historian Andrew Bacevich has unearthed the roots of American militarism and has discovered that the man behind the curtain has been none other than the evangelical church. After much research, Bacevich concludes: “Were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable.”
 
But the early church was unmistakably not militaristic. Early Christians were never fascinated with the power of the Roman military; rather, they clung to the rhythm of the cross, where evil is conquered not by swords and spears but by suffering and love. In fact, the most quoted verse among early Christians was Jesus’s command that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44); it was the John 3:16 of the first few centuries.
 
Today, it’s buried under a pile of caveats and footnotes—we can’t really love all our enemies. When it comes to people perceived as threats, most people today—ironically, even Christians—prefer justice to grace.
 
Maybe Christians should serve in the military or use violence as a last resort to defend the innocent. These are tough questions to answer. But when the Church has become the turbo engine behind the military machine—to aggressively defend or promote national interests—we flee from our early church roots, whose allegiance to God’s Kingdom demoted their allegiance to Rome’s kingdom.
 
How We Study the Bible
The early church also valued the corporate study of the Bible. You may think the modern church has this one down. Most Christians own several Bibles, and church programs often contain a wide array of Bible studies and spiritual classes.
 
Be that as it may, Christians today exhibit an unprecedented biblical illiteracy despite owning dozens of Bibles. According to one statistic, 60 percent of confessing born-again Christians can’t name five of the 10 commandments, 81 percent don’t believe (or aren’t aware of) the basic tenets of the Christian faith, and 12 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
 
Early Christians eagerly soaked up the word of God like a sponge. The New Testament letters, for instance, not only contain direct quotations from the Old Testament but also many subtle allusions (brief phrases) that were expected to be understood by the reader. For instance, the book of Revelation alone does not contain a single direct quotation from the Old Testament, and yet has more than 500 allusions to words or phrases from the Old Testament. These allusions could only be picked up on by readers who were intimately familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.
 
The early church took seriously Jesus’s statement that people can’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the Lord’s mouth (Matthew 4:4). And when Jesus told His disciples to teach others “all that I command you,” they did it (Matthew 28:20).
 
This is why Christian leaders in the first centuries of the faith mandated a rigorous, communal study of the Bible for everyone who became a believer. Every new convert to Christianity spent their first three years of the faith studying through the entire Bible so that it seeped down into their bones.
 
This wasn’t an option. To become a Christian meant becoming reconfigured through the Word of God. And here’s the thing: Prior to the printing press (A.D. 1450), most people couldn’t read. The whole idea of doing private devotions was unthinkable until 500 years ago. And yet—despite being illiterate—Early Christians became fluent in Scripture by listening to the communal reading and teaching of God’s word.
 
The first Christians actually lived as if the same God who breathed stars into existence also breathed out His Word for us to cherish, memorize, and read ten thousand times over. They would have been mystified by our modern ability to own, read and yet neglect the priceless written word.
 
I fear that our desire to get back to the early church would require a rather extensive overhaul of the shape of contemporary gatherings.
 
Courtesy Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. Feature photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
 
 
Thursday - January 22, 2015
"Break Every Chain": a music video by The Digital Age

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine, the inspiring lyric video, "Break Every Chain," is available. It was filmed in one night at an abandoned warehouse in downtown Waco, Texas, using a long exposure video hack for Canon DSLR via Magic Lantern.

Click here to watch and listen to the video.
 
Feature photo courtesy of Bigstock.
 
 
Thursday - January 15, 2015
Music video: "Only You"

Directors Aaron and Alex Craig (Sufjan Stevens, Moby) deliver an angelic vision for Young Oceans's ONLY YOU, the latest video in support of the Brooklyn meditatives' new album I MUST FIND YOU. Densely layered atmospherics of the Brian Eno variety run parallel to layered imagery and deconstruction, lending equal appeal to both the devoted believer and discerning artrock fan.

Click here for the lyrics and the music video.
 
Courtesy of Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com. Feature photo courtesy Bigstock.
Events
Monday - February 2, 2015
GC District Local Church Leadership Training - Spring Hill

 Gulf Central District Local Church Leadership Training Event

Monday, February 2, 2015
Training Leaders
For Making Disciples of Jesus Christ
For The Transformation of the World

 
First UMC Spring Hill 6:30 PM
An opportunity for all Local Church Laity ... especially newly elected leaders and committee members for 2015. 
Training sessions targeting specific
Church Leadership Roles.
This FREE leadership training event is designed to inspire and equip laity, lay staff, and clergy.  Complete course outline, class details, and registration for the two sessions will be available soon.
All are welcome to come and learn together at this Annual Gulf Central District Event. Expand your understanding of local church ministry. Learn and share new ways to be God's light in your community! 

 No More Throw Away Kids Cindy Lane
Behind locked doors, high walls and razor wire are the hearts of desolate and hopeless children, whose very existence goes virtually unknown. Learn how your church can be part of this crucial ministry to incarcerated children and how to be involved when they are released – children as young as 8 and 9 years old, desperate for love, guidance and the hope of Christ Jesus.
Leader: Cindy Lane, Founder and Director of Jesus for Juveniles (JFJ) Ministries, a community ministry of Van Dyke UMC in Lutz, and a member of the Jail and Prison Ministry Task Force of the conference. Web site:  www.jfjministries.org 


Ministry Protection / Trustees Brian Donivan
Trustees:   As servant leaders and the “Keepers of God’s House” trustees are charged with a wide variety of responsibilities in managing church property.  Join us for an interactive discussion about the top issues and responsibilities faced as you fulfill your call of leadership and provide support to the vision and mission of your church.

Child/Youth Protection:    Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to our precious children.  The Social Principles of the United Methodist church state that “…children must be protected from economic, physical and sexual exploitation and abuse.”  This class will review the Conference’s comprehensive strategy for providing a safe, nurturing environment for our children and youth.

How to Deal with Difficult Church People Harold Lewis
What a blessing it would be if church members got along great while in ministry together. No squabbles. No conflicts. No pettiness. Just peace and harmony.  This class is designed to help Christian believers better understand and engage difficult people in the church. Persons attending this class will learn the following:
1] How to recognize the types of difficult church people,
2] Understanding the basics of Emotional Intelligence,
3] Feelings and Messengers,
4] What to do and say to difficult church people,
5] Giving and receiving feedback,
6] Giving and receiving strokes, 
7] understanding Biblical principles for engaging difficult church people.

Florida United Methodist Children’s Home Stephen Hartsfield
We will explore the important role the Local Church Representative as an advocate for the Florida United Methodist Children's Home in their local church.  Topics will include a job description, printed materials and other tools available for your use, update about the current state and needs of the Children's Home and a time for questions and answers.  Come and learn how to be an effective Local Church Representative for the Children's Home.

Missions Pam Qualls
Mission and Ministry in the United Methodist Church - Come learn about the mission and ministry opportunities in the United Methodist Church and how your church can be involved.


Imagine No Malaria  Kylie Foley
"Florida UM Churches have boldly decided to protect 250,000 lives from malaria this year. Learn how your church can use your creative energy to invite your community to transform the world through the healing power of Christ with Imagine No Malaria"

Lay Leader Boot Camp Suzy Baad
The Lay Leaders of our local churches have a vital role in bringing together the laity and pastor in vision, coordination of ministry, cooperation and leadership.  This session will cover topics related to the role and responsibilities of this position as defined by the Discipline. We will also use this time together to share ideas for addressing common concerns and issues faced by Lay Leaders in our local churches. Both new and seasoned Lay Leaders are encouraged to attend this important training.

UMM A panel of District UMM representatives "Firing up a church's men's ministry - what's working among us":
 
(1) How men can be fired up to serve the local church
(2) How men can be fired up to serve outside the local church
(3) How to recruit un-churched men
Question and answers

Church Finance – First Spring Hill – Mickey Wilson; Allendale - Craig Smelser
General Information Session
An open discussion on Church Finances and how to maintain the church financial records. Avoiding IRS issues

Keeping the Faith: Creating a church for all ages Melissa Cooper
We all know that many teenagers – even some of the most active – disappear from churches as soon as they go to college. There are lots of discussions out there about how to get them back into our churches, but we must also consider how to create churches they don’t want to abandon. This workshop will examine how intergenerational ministry is a major part of the answer to helping young adults “keep the faith.” We’ll look at how we got here and then you’ll have the opportunity to outline some practical steps to apply in your church context and help move your church from multi-generational to inter-generational.
 
Rev. Melissa Cooper is the Program Coordinator for the Life Enrichment Center and the director of LECFamily, the intergenerational ministry of the LEC. She has a passion for the present and future of the church and loves helping to equip and empower churches to expand and strengthen their ministries.

An interactive time to discuss the importance of Recovery Ministries in the local church, and asharing of the variety of ways this can be accomplished.

 Recovery Ministries in the Church Rev. Robert Pearcy

 In addition to bringing 20 plus years of personal recover, Bob has served as the Director of Pastoral Counseling at Tallahassee Alcohol Center (and ABLC within our conference), authored and conducted conference wide workshops entitled "Becoming Recovery Literate" and has begun and led a variety of recovery groups within the local church.

Youth Ministry Relationships First Spring Hill - Kevin Grills, Allendale Kirsten Jones

Relationships mattter. Come learn how to effectively relate and communicate with youth, parent, volunteers and church staff.

Kevin Grills - Director of Youth Ministries at Hope UMC Trinity, FL
Kirsten Jones - Director of Youth Ministries at Pasadena Community UMC

Saturday - February 7, 2015
Atlantic Central District Training Event - South

Key Note Speaker - Gary Spencer, District Superintendent
"Ministering Together in Our Communities"
Registration begins: 8:30    Opening Worship: 9:00 a.m.
Session 1: 10:15-11:30     Session 2: 11:30-12:45    Session 3: 1:30-2:45
 

Be Blessed to be a Blessing      Session 1,2,3      Patti Aupperlee
Discover how you can serve Christ while serving others with a fresh expression.

What to Do About Boomers        Session 1,2,3      David Broadbent
Job 1 is making disciples.  Baby Boomers are largely un/under churched and represent a group missing in action in the church, who should be tapped as disciples as they age in life.  There is a reason Boomers are MIA and it is because they are different.  Their differences require new approaches to Older Adult Ministry.  This course will help you understand these differences and the transition points of Aging Boomers as opportunities for Disciple making.  This course will help motivate church leaders to create targeted programs which will appeal to and administer with Boomers.  Finally his course will help participants understand better what to do to get  started, pitfalls to avoid, and resources required along the way.

Youth Ministry Relationships   Session 1         Kasey Castle
Relationships matter.  Come learn how to effectively relate and communicate with you, parents, volunteers and church staff.

Youth Ministry Structure          Session 2         Kasey Castle
The structures that support your youth ministry are important and lead to the effectiveness and sustainability of the minstry.  This class will help you obtain practical skills, which can be taken home and used immediately in your local church ministry.

Trustees                Session 1,2                   Brian Donovan
As servant leaders and the "Keepers of God's House" trustees are charged with a wide variety of responsibilities in managing church property.  Join us for an interactive discussion about the top issues and responsibilities faced as you fulfill your call of leadership and provide support to the vision and mission of your church.

Child/Youth Protection      Session 3      Brian Donovan
Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to our precious children. The Socal Principles of the United Methodist Church state that "...children must be protected from economic, physical and sexual exploitation, and abuse."  This class will review the Conference's comprehensive strategy for providing a safe, nurturing environment for our children and youth.

Disaster Ministry: The Role of the Church  Session 1,2,3  Pam Garrison
Effective disaster response is really about knowing your community, accessing resources, developing relationships and gettting connected in the local communiity - before disaster occurs. Do you know what to do when disaster strikes your community?  How will you prepare your home, your family, yourself?  Do you know how to help in the community without causing additional harm? What will you and your church do to be the light of Christ to disaster survivors?

CANCELLED What Is Lay Servant Ministries    Session 1,2,3      Dottie Graves/Debe Gantt
 

Wesley Fellowship Small Groups     Session 1,2,3        Russ Graves
Learn how to make disciple believers through Wesley Fellowship Small Groups.  Find out about the five essential ingredients that make this such a successful "recipe" for small groups in the local church.  See why Bishop Carter and Conference Lay Leader Russ Graves so strongly support this approach to loving, Spirit-led discipleship.  This lay movement could help change all of us and all of our churches.

Communication: Put WOW in Your Stuff     Session 1,2,3   Gretchen Hastings
Content without storytelling is like flat Coca-Cola.  The only way to get to WOW with your communication is to identify your church's brand or identity, then learn how to tell stories about it.  In this session, we'll learn about: how storytelling is the powerful connection to your congregation and community, the elements of great storytelling and three simple, effective types of stories - personal stories, stories about other people, and stories about church success.
 

Life and Theology of John Wesley     Session 1,2          John Hill
During this session you will discover the origins of the United Methodist Church as we look at the life of our founder, John Wesley.

History of American Methodism         Session 3              John Hill
During this session you will discover how Methodism went from a movement within the Church of England to a Denomination.

No More Throw Away Kids                  Session 1,2,3       Cindy Lane
Behind locked doors, high walls and razor wire are the hearts of desolate and hopeless children, whose very existence goes virtually unknown.  Learn how your church can be part of this crucial ministry to incarcerated children and how to be involved when they are released - children as young as 8 or 9 years old, desperate for love, guidance and the hope of Christ Jesus.

"Sal y Luz"                             Session 1,2,3                  Jacquie Leveron
Juntos exployaremos cuales son los ministerios efectivos para conectamos con nuestra comunidad y traer cambios positivos a nuestra ciudad.

Personificando La Transformacion Session 1,2,3 Madeline De Jesus
De acuerdo a Romanos 12, com la trayectoria de nuestra transformacion edifice la vida de la iglesia.

Growing Generations of Believers Through      Session 1,2,3    Rachel Sumner
Intergenerational Relationships
As the church struggles to reach Next Generations, we are often at a loss.  How do we engage young adults? How do we make church meaningful and relevant? While it is important for young adults to interact with other young adults, age specific programming isn't goin to attract and keep them.  In fact, reaching next generations isn't about a program at all.  It is about building relationships, investing in each others' lives in all sorts of meaningful ways.  In this session, we will discuss and explore together how to do just that.  Perhaps a good first step would be to bring someone with you and start the conversation now.

Church Finance      Session 1,2,3                        Mickey Wilson
This class is for new treasurers, financial secretaries, first-time members of local church finance committees and clergy.  We will cover W2, 941, 1099, audits and other accounting and finance issues relevant to thos first-timers or for those wanting a refresher course.

The Prayer of Examen                  Session 1,2,3                 Gene Yotka
(Seeing God in the Moments of Our Life) 
This class is designed to introduce participants to the Ignatian Prayer of Examen with a Wesleyan Touch.  This prayer consists of five components.  1. Prayer of gratitude; 2. Prayer for guidance; 3. Prayer of review; 4. Prayer for forgiveness; 5. Prayer for a holier journey.  Course objective: to give participants the tools to begin a daily practice of the Prayer of Examen, toward a deeper sense of God's presence in every moment of their lives. Recommended reading: Participants are urged to contact Pastor Gene prior to the class to receive, via email a copy of "A Brief Guide through Ignatian Discerment with a Wesleyan Touch", by Gene Yotka.  Printed copies will be available on the day of the class at a cost of $5.  (321)759-5760; eugenetyotka@gmail.com 

Local Church Representative Training              Session 1,2,3    Stephen Hartsfield
Florida United Methodist Children's Home
We will explore the important role the Local Church Representative as an advocate for the FUM Children's Home in their local church.  Topics will include a job description, printed materials and other tools available for your use, update about the current state and needs of the Children's Home and a time for questions and answers.  Come and learn how to be an effective Local Church Representative for the Children's Home.

 

 

Saturday - February 7, 2015
East Central District 2015 Local Church Leadership Training

Called to Serve
East Central District Local Church Training Event
Saturday, February 7, 2015


Training Laity and Clergy
For Making Disciples of Jesus Christ
For The Transformation of the World
First UMC Oviedo


A day of learning for all Local Church Laity.  Select from over 25 different session topics.

Mission Focus:  Imagine No Malaria

Some sessions are designed especially for newly elected leaders and committee members for 2015; however, many of the sessions have  broad appeal and impact.

Session I Training Sessions, Descriptions, and Leaders available on-line soon.
Session II Training Sessions, Decriptions, and Leaders available on -line soon.

Schedule for the Day:
8:00 AM Hospitality Gathering, Registration, & Ministry Expo in the Gymnasium
8:40 AM Gather in Sanctuary

8:45 AM  Worship Music
8:50 AM Welcome from Rev. Annette Stiles Pendergrass
8:55 AM Welcome from Alice Williams - EC District Lay Leader
9:00 AM Key Note: Rev. Rini Hernandez, DS in South West District
9:25 AM Dismiss to class sessions - Janet Kelley
9:30-11:00 AM Session I (90 minutes)
11:00-11:25 AM Break - Snacks available - Gymnasium (25 minutes)
11:30-1:00 PM Session II (90 minutes)
1:00 PM Dismiss from Session II

This FREE leadership training event is designed to inspire and equip laity, lay staff, and clergy. Complete course outline, brief class details, and session leaders coming in January 2015.

All are welcome to come and learn together at this Annual East Central District Event. Expand your understanding of local church ministry. Learn and share new ways to be God's light in your community!

Saturday - February 7, 2015
North West District Training Event - 2015

FREE - Church Leadership Training Event -North West District
Serving on a church committee? Not sure what to do? Join us for a FREE church leadership training event:

Saturday, February 7th
First Monticello UMC

325 Walnut Street
Monticello FL 32344
8:30 AM to 2:00 PM

Complimentary Lunch Served
There will be 2 Session and each course listed below will be repeated each time.

Classes Offered:
  (Click here for Course Descriptions
)

 What is Church Administration? - with Jennifer Chester

 Staff Parish Relations Committee Training - with Bob Gibbs

 Church Finances 101 - with Palma Dziedzic

 Children's Home Local Church Representative Training - with Ruth Moore

 Keeping the Faith: Creating a Church for all Ages - with Tracie Ashley

 Effective Children's Messages During Worship - with Melanie Barton

 Youth Ministry Training (Relationships) - with Michael Winstead

 Local Church Trustees Committee Training - with Carey Hardee

NEW - Missions: HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE with Greg Harford 

 

Saturday - February 7, 2015
SCD CONNEXIONS lab + networks on 2/7

IT IS NOW TIME TO REGISTER FOR THE FIRST SERIES OF OUR

CONNEXIONS LABS & NETWORKS

REGISTER NOW - CLICK HERE


Are you a leader, staff, volunteer, administrator and/or pastor who is involved or has a passion to work with Children, Youth and Adults? Are you involved with your church program planning for these areas? Do you work with or volunteer with Children's ministry, Youth ministry, Small Groups and/or Adult Sunday School?

If you answered "YES" to one of these questions then you should definitely attend this ConneXions event.

Our first Lab will be Program Planning for Children, Youth and Adults. This is specialized training for church leaders in the South Central District. You will have "hands-on" experience and leave with all you need to "make it happen" in your home church along with a network of persons for future contact.

REGISTRATION IS NOW AVAILABLE - CLICK HERE

DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS 1/30

As you know, the yearly Leadership Training has been the same format for many years. The South Central District Congregational Vitality Team discovered that you are looking for a different style of training with more hands on experiences. This new format takes the place of our annual leadership training.

Monday - February 9, 2015
Winter RIM Theology Retreat

A theology retreat for the Residents in MInistry.

Monday - February 9, 2015
Youth Worker Training and Gathering

Within our district, we have a great resource of dedicated people who serve in youth ministry.  Whether you are THE volunteer, part of a volunteer team, a part-time youth worker, or you are the full-time youth worker at your church, we are putting together an inspirational gathering event this February just for you.  Our goal is to have some great round-table discussions and workshops revolving around building relationships with youth and basic youth ministry best practices. These conversations are fruitful when we gather veterans, first-time youth workers, and everyone in between. This diversity helps everyone learn and grow.  

We will have time for worship, teaching, and intentional relationship building.  We truly believe that a community of youth workers in our district can accomplish way more than any individual church youth ministry could ever do.  This means, we need you to be there. 

When:  Monday Night, February 9, 2015
Where:  First Ocala, United Methodist Church - Family Life Center
1126 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470
Time:  6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Cost: Free

 

 

Tuesday - February 10, 2015
GC District Local Church Leadership Training - Allendale

Gulf Central District Local Church Leadership Training Event

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 
Training Leaders
For Making Disciples of Jesus Christ
For The Transformation of the World

 
Allendale UMC St. Petersburg
An opportunity for all Local Church Laity ... especially newly elected leaders and committee members for 2015. 
Training sessions targeting specific
Church Leadership Roles.

This FREE leadership training event is designed to inspire and equip laity, lay staff, and clergy.  Complete course outline, class details, and registration for the two sessions will be available soon

All are welcome to come and learn together at this Annual Gulf Central District Event. Expand your understanding of local church ministry. Learn and share new ways to be God's light in your community!

No More Throw Away Kids Cindy Lane
Behind locked doors, high walls and razor wire are the hearts of desolate and hopeless children, whose very existence goes virtually unknown. Learn how your church can be part of this crucial ministry to incarcerated children and how to be involved when they are released – children as young as 8 and 9 years old, desperate for love, guidance and the hope of Christ Jesus.
Leader: Cindy Lane, Founder and Director of Jesus for Juveniles (JFJ) Ministries, a community ministry of Van Dyke UMC in Lutz, and a member of the Jail and Prison Ministry Task Force of the conference. Web site: www.jfjministries.org

 
Ministry Protection / Trustees Brian Donivan
Trustees: As servant leaders and the “Keepers of God’s House” trustees are charged with a wide variety of responsibilities in managing church property. Join us for an interactive discussion about the top issues and responsibilities faced as you fulfill your call of leadership and provide support to the vision and mission of your church.

Child/Youth Protection: Our Christian faith calls us to offer both hospitality and protection to our precious children. The Social Principles of the United Methodist church state that “…children must be protected from economic, physical and sexual exploitation and abuse.” This class will review the Conference’s comprehensive strategy for providing a safe, nurturing environment for our children and youth.

How to Deal with Difficult Church People Harold Lewis
What a blessing it would be if church members got along great while in ministry together. No squabbles. No conflicts. No pettiness. Just peace and harmony. This class is designed to help Christian believers better understand and engage difficult people in the church. Persons attending this class will learn the following:
1] How to recognize the types of difficult church people,
2] Understanding the basics of Emotional Intelligence,
3] Feelings and Messengers,
4] What to do and say to difficult church people,
5] Giving and receiving feedback,
6] Giving and receiving strokes,
7] understanding Biblical principles for engaging difficult church people.

Florida United Methodist Children’s Home Stephen Hartsfield
We will explore the important role the Local Church Representative as an advocate for the Florida United Methodist Children's Home in their local church. Topics will include a job description, printed materials and other tools available for your use, update about the current state and needs of the Children's Home and a time for questions and answers. Come and learn how to be an effective Local Church Representative for the Children's Home.

Missions Pam Qualls
Mission and Ministry in the United Methodist Church - Come learn about the mission and ministry opportunities in the United Methodist Church and how your church can be involved.


Imagine No Malaria Kylie Foley
"Florida UM Churches have boldly decided to protect 250,000 lives from malaria this year. Learn how your church can use your creative energy to invite your community to transform the world through the healing power of Christ with Imagine No Malaria"

Lay Leader Boot Camp Suzy Baad
The Lay Leaders of our local churches have a vital role in bringing together the laity and pastor in vision, coordination of ministry, cooperation and leadership. This session will cover topics related to the role and responsibilities of this position as defined by the Discipline. We will also use this time together to share ideas for addressing common concerns and issues faced by Lay Leaders in our local churches. Both new and seasoned Lay Leaders are encouraged to attend this important training.

UMM A panel of District UMM representatives "Firing up a church's men's ministry - what's working among us":

(1) How men can be fired up to serve the local church
(2) How men can be fired up to serve outside the local church
(3) How to recruit un-churched men
Question and answers

Church Finance – First Spring Hill – Mickey Wilson; Allendale - Craig Smelser
General Information Session
An open discussion on Church Finances and how to maintain the church financial records. Avoiding IRS issues

Keeping the Faith: Creating a church for all ages Melissa Cooper
We all know that many teenagers – even some of the most active – disappear from churches as soon as they go to college. There are lots of discussions out there about how to get them back into our churches, but we must also consider how to create churches they don’t want to abandon. This workshop will examine how intergenerational ministry is a major part of the answer to helping young adults “keep the faith.” We’ll look at how we got here and then you’ll have the opportunity to outline some practical steps to apply in your church context and help move your church from multi-generational to inter-generational.

Rev. Melissa Cooper is the Program Coordinator for the Life Enrichment Center and the director of LECFamily, the intergenerational ministry of the LEC. She has a passion for the present and future of the church and loves helping to equip and empower churches to expand and strengthen their ministries.

Recovery Ministries in the Church Rev. Robert Pearcy
An interactive time to discuss the importance of Recovery Ministries in the local church, and a sharing of the variety of ways this can be accomplished.

In addition to bringing 20 plus years of personal recover, Bob has served as the Director of Pastoral Counseling at Tallahassee Alcohol Center (and ABLC within our conference), authored and conducted conference wide workshops entitled "Becoming Recovery Literate" and has begun and led a variety of recovery groups within the local church.

Youth Ministry Relationships First Spring Hill - Kevin Grills, Allendale Kirsten Jones

Relationships mattter.  Come learn how to effectively relate and communicate with youth, parent, volunteers and church staff.

Kevin Grills - Director of Youth Ministries at Hope UMC Trinity, FL
Kirsten Jones - Director of Youth Ministries at Pasadena Community UMC

Tuesday - February 10, 2015
SW District Clergy Team and Spouse Retreat

Clergy Spouse & Clergy Team Retreat
Grace UMC, 13 SE 21st Place, Cape Coral, FL 33990
February 10, 2015 - 
9:30am until 3:30pm

THIS MEETING SCHEDULED FROM 9:30 am TO 3:30 pm

Gathering at 9:00am with refreshments.


All full-time clergy are expected to attend. All part-time clergy are encouraged to attend.
All requests for absence from this clergy meeting must be done in writing to
the District Superintendent by February 3rd.

Districts
Atlantic Central
9015 Americana Road Ste. 4
Vero Beach, FL 32966-6668
phone: (772) 299-0255
flumc-ac@flumc.org
East Central
PO Box 4232
Enterprise, FL 32725
phone: (386) 259-5756
flumc-ec@flumc.org
Gulf Central
1498 Rosery Rd East
Largo, FL 33770-1656
phone: (727) 585-1207
flumc-gc@flumc.org
North Central
1135 E Fort King St
Ocala, FL 34471
phone: (352) 789-6981
flumc-nc@flumc.org
North East
1415 LaSalle Street
Jacksonville, FL 32207-3113
phone: (904) 396-3026
flumc-ne@flumc.org
North West
P.O. Box 13766
Tallahassee, FL 32317-3766
phone: (850) 386-2154
flumc-nw@flumc.org
South Central
202 W Reynolds St.
Plant City, FL 33563
phone: (813) 719-7270
flumc-sc@flumc.org
South East
536 Coral Way
Coral Gables, Fl 33134
phone: (305) 445-9136
flumc-se@flumc.org
South West
2049-B N. Honore Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34235
phone: (941) 371-6511
flumc-sw@flumc.org