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Friday - December 19, 2014
Why are manger scenes so strange?

Figures in nativity scenes are pretty weird, aren't they? This is true of most manger scenes, whether we’re talking about the ceramic one under a tree or the statuesque one in a church or the plastic one on a lawn. First off, there’s Mary, always looking very fresh and calm and full of reflection — which is quite impressive considering that she just gave birth without any sedative. Then there’s Joseph, doing some kind of man-thing off to the side — holding a lantern or a large stick. He looks totally composed, too.

And there’s the baby Jesus with a full head of hair, wide-open eyes and arms outstretched like he’s ready to belt out a song.
 
Not to ruin anyone’s Christmas spirit here, but what the heck?
 
If our manger scenes were realistic, Mary would be recovering from a painful labor full of sweat and blood, with a look on her face that’s anything but serene. And Joseph — wouldn’t he be a nervous wreck, too? His hand too shaky to hold a lantern?
 
And about that newborn. Shouldn’t he be red-faced and screaming? Eyes clenched closed and wisps of hair stuck to the top of a head that‘s still odd-shaped from all the squeezing?
 
Instead, we’ve sanitized and romanticized it. We’ve removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. It’s no longer something real. We’ve left out all the messy parts. The oh-my-God-what-now parts. The I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts. The oh-no-I’ve-stepped-in-the-animal-droppings parts. 
 
The real parts.
 
Our manger scenes depict a far different story than ones written 2,000 years ago. Those old stories tell of a young couple that’s been disgraced by questions about the baby’s father. The grand moment comes in a place nobody would choose to bring a baby into the world. A bunch of shepherds are the first to hear the news. Dirty shepherds — among the lowest people in their society. Religious outcasts because they couldn’t observe the purity rituals while working in the fields.
 
And this baby grows into a man who hangs out with all the unsavory folks in his society. The ones that the religiously observant people call sinners. Poor people. Dirty people. Rough people. All sorts of social and economic outcasts. He even turns fishermen — some of the roughest and lowest people in his world — into his closest friends and followers.
 
And that’s what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown. 
 
It’s not about a calm-faced mother and a lantern-toting dad with a perfect baby stretching out its arms to the world. It’s about us as we really are. Bleeding and screaming. Covered in goo and disgrace. Aware of our many failings and falling-short moments. Coming apart. Barely holding it together. Unable to explain why we make such bad choices so many times.
 
So, here’s an idea. Let’s replace those plastic manger scene figurers with something more real.
 
With what?
 
With us. You. Me.
 
Because really, we’re the ones who should be there. We’re the ones who understand what all of this is like — blood, sweat, pain, confusion. Just another day in our lives, no? 
 
And not only that, we’re the ones who need to cozy up to the manger to be saved. Yes, saved. Saved from thinking we should be like those plastic figures. Saved from thinking that our messy lives are somehow not good enough. Saved from our moments of despair. Our self-loathing. Our inclination to give up. Saved from our pervasive and numbing indifference. Above all, saved from thinking that we don’t need to be saved.
 
We’re like the alcoholic at his first AA meeting. Once we state our name and what we are, the healing can begin. The redemption process can get rolling.
 
That’s what Christmas is about.
 
We acknowledge our brokenness, and God responds with a kiss on our sweaty faces and goo-covered foreheads. Reminds us that even though we make mistakes and bad choices, we ourselves are never a mistake or a bad choice. Instead, we are always a chosen miracle. And when we feel totally broken, that’s when we’re the most beloved. Always. Each of us. Just as we are.
 
Like the dirty shepherds who were invited to see for themselves, or the rough fishermen who were called to be followers and friends, or the young couple who found themselves parents of a child without respectable explanation for its parentage, we are all part of an ongoing and endless process of redemption. 
 
And limitless love.
 
So go ahead. Take your place in the manager scene. You belong there. In fact, offer to hold the baby for a while and maybe even take him for a walk. His parents will be grateful for the break. It’s been a long night. This redemption stuff is exhausting.
 
But you already knew that, didn’t you?
 
Courtesy www.sojo.net. Photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
Thursday - December 11, 2014
Bishop Carter's Christmas Message

 Bishop Ken Carter shares a Christmas reflection and wishes all of us in this season a joyous and meaningful experience of the comings of Jesus Christ. Click here to watch the video.

Friday - December 12, 2014
Faith, Hope and Racial Injustice: Response from the Florida Cabinet

Meeting in retreat this week, the Florida Conference Cabinet has released “A Statement of Faith and Hope in a Time of Racial Injustice.”

The statement is the fruit of prayer, searching the scriptures and listening to our communities. It is offered to the church for conversation and dialogue, and in the hope that it will be shared in worship across the annual conference in the season of Advent. Bishop Ken Carter offered the additional hope that these words "would be consecrated by God, and that our lives and congregations would be transformed into instruments of justice, reconciliation, mercy and healing." The statement speaks to recent events surrounding the deaths of unarmed young black males across our nation.

A Statement of Faith and Hope in a Time of Racial Injustice
From the Cabinet to the Churches and Extension Ministries of the Florida Conference,
United Methodist Church


• We affirm that every person is created in the image of God.
• We acknowledge our complicity in the sin of racism, which denies the inherently sacred nature of every person.
• We confess that we have often allowed our ideological differences to become more important than our unity in the One Body.
• We repent of our temptation to live in fear of one another and to seek security apart from God.
• We claim the essential need for all Christians of privilege to listen and seek deeper understanding when our brothers and sisters cry out for justice.

• We commit ourselves to speak on behalf of those who are denied justice.
• We support the difficult work of those in law enforcement and at the same time seek ways of moving toward better community engagement.
• We pledge to address the problem of mass incarceration of young black males in our society.

• We pray in our own time for the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Zechariah on the first Advent:

By the tender mercy of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

 



 

Monday - December 8, 2014
Passing along His healing touch

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." – John 13:35,
New International Version
 

Prayer circle of volunteers in waiting room as people wait outside the window

Volunteers at Angels Care Center join hands in the patient waiting room to pray for guidance and wisdom as patients line up outside, waiting for the facility to open. Photo by Susan Green.

ELOISE – The people who line up at Angels Care an hour before the doors open have plenty of aches and pains, lumps and bumps, coughs and congestion. They have worries that they may not get better, that their ailments may keep them from working, that their children may be facing serious illness.

What they don’t have is money. Or insurance.

Although the Affordable Care Act has provided millions with health care they never had before, many still don’t qualify for free care or can’t afford the cheapest insurance premiums provided under the law.

“They really can’t afford even the minimum payment,” said Janey Powell, who with her husband, Larry, persuaded fellow members of St. John’s UMC, Winter Haven, and other congregations to start a health care clinic in the semirural community of Eloise.

Since March 2011, when the clinic saw its first patient, about 6,000 people have received care there.

“These are people who just have no other alternative,” Janey said. “The need is unbelievable. There are people who have had their lives saved” through the clinic. 

Artist Jill Giffin shows art illustration she donated for Samaritan clinic
Artist Jill Giffin displays artwork she donated to Samaritan Health and Wellness Center at its opening Nov. 3 in Cape Coral. The scripture reads, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" from 1 John 2:4. Photo from Samaritan Health and Wellness Clinic.

To the south, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, a clinic that opened last month through the efforts of Cape Coral First UMC and neighboring churches is also finding true need. The first week brought 40 patients to Samaritan Health and Wellness Center, which opened Nov. 3 in a small shopping plaza on Cape Coral Parkway East.

The ministry begun there by Sue Hook, a family nurse practitioner, joins Angels Care Center and Shepherd’s Hope Health Center of Orlando as ministries with Methodist roots in Florida that provide health care free or at a reduced cost to those who otherwise could not afford it. (Click here for a Florida Conference Connection report on Shepherd's Hope.)

All were started through visions of doing Christ’s bidding to help the poor, and all depend heavily on volunteers and donations from a dozen or more congregations in their communities. Angels Care and Shepherd’s Hope have recruited doctors, nurses and nursing students who donate their time; Samaritan is hoping to build a similar network.

"God is the one doing this work," said Hook, who gave up her job at Lee Memorial Health System to become executive director at Samaritan. She describes the clinic as a place of healing for the body, mind and spirit.

"We offer prayer if patients want it," she said. "It's about the healing ministry of Christ and the church reclaiming that."

She was at home going over patient charts and listening to a Christian radio show about three years ago when she heard about a Christ-centered health clinic founded in Memphis by Scott Morris, a family physician and ordained United Methodist minister. 

Wash cloth and toiletry bag given to patients at Angels Care
Toiletry bags prepared by local churches are among items given to patients who receive free medical exams at Angels Care Center. Photos by Susan Green.
Nurse checks a patient's blood pressure
In a former church classroom-turned-exam room, nurse Mary Haas, a member of St. John's UMC, Winter Haven, takes a blood pressure reading for Nayeli Saucedo, who volunteers her time as a translator at the clinic.

Her passion to start a similar clinic in Cape Coral eventually led her to partner with local churches, including Cape Coral First UMC and the nondenominational Cape Christian. Samaritan is modeled after the clinic in Memphis and provides a range of services, including behavioral and mental health counseling, to the uninsured and under-insured for a low flat fee, typically $15 to $35 depending on the service provided.

"I think this is an amazing example of what church ought to be about," said Rev. Jay Therrell, pastor at Cape Coral First UMC. "We think the clinic is part of transforming the world in Jesus’ name."

Unlike Hook, Janey Powell had no medical training when she and her husband heard a call to health ministry.

Eloise UMC, a church about five miles from the St. John’s congregation the Powells have called home for many years, was getting ready to close, and St. John’s was fielding proposals for an outreach ministry there.

Janey and her husband immediately agreed that health care was the most pressing need in Eloise, which had become home to migrant farmworkers and other Spanish-speaking immigrants.

“We had no medical background,” Janey recalled. “We don’t speak Spanish. … We prayed about it. We thought of all the reasons we weren’t qualified.”

Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, the couple considered the strengths they could offer, especially connections. Larry had retired after a career in parks and recreation; Janey is a retired schoolteacher. Both had done mission work. They began working their contacts.

“Every time something came along that we weren’t sure what to do, God did provide,” Janey said. “We really feel like it was a vision God gave us.”

Today, a dozen churches support the ministry. The clinic draws on a pool of about 15 doctors and more than 20 nurses. It opens every Tuesday at 4 p.m. and volunteer doctors and nurses typically see 20 to 25 patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Two to three doctors or nurse practitioners volunteer each Tuesday, along with five to six nurses, Janey said.

On the second Wednesday every month, Angels Care offers a diabetics clinic, and on the fourth Thursday, a dermatology clinic.

Other volunteers welcome patients, record their information and serve as translators. Patients who qualify must meet income limits and have no form of insurance. All services are free.

Volunteers also hand out bags of toiletries and other items donated by churches. More than 10,000 gift bags have been given away since the clinic opened. Altogether, it takes about 250 volunteers to keep the clinic going.

“A wonderful byproduct of this is the purpose it’s given to our volunteers,” Janey said.

Among those in the Angels Care waiting room recently was a young man named Bernardo, who drove his mother there for care. It was their second visit.

He said he was impressed that volunteers would donate their skills afterhours, when most had already put in a full day earning a living.

“They’re tired, and they come here to help their community,” he said.

Without the clinic, he said, he had no idea where his mother would receive care.

“It would cost me a lot of money, which I don’t have,” Bernardo said.

Janey said it’s important to everyone involved that no one feel embarrassed or worried about trusting their health to Angels Care.

“Our motto is God’s people caring for God’s people,” Janey said. “We just want them to feel God’s love when they come in.”

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection. Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.

Annual Conference
Annual Conference Event Logos
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Download links for 2014 Annual Conference logo:
 

Large color 2014 Annual Conference logo
 

Large black & white 2014 Annual Conference logo
 

Small color 2014 Annual Conference logo

 

Hotel Information
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Click Here for Annual Conference hotel list.

Pre-Conference Brochure
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Click here for Pre-Conference Brochure

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
Wednesday - December 17, 2014
Tidings of comfort

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” – Matthew 2:10

Since the first sighting of the Christmas star, the birth of Jesus has inspired joy, and Christians today likewise commemorate that event by sharing glad tidings with family and friends.

But all is not calm and bright for everyone during the Christmas season.  

Many churches traditionally time
Blue Christmas or Longest Night services to coincide with the annual Winter Solstice, the day with the most hours of darkness. It also is the traditional feast day for Saint Thomas, often referred to as "doubting Thomas," who struggled with his faith in Jesus' resurrection.

Click
here for Longest Night service resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. 

For Rev. Tom Pope’s grandchildren, for example, it will be the first Christmas spent without their dad, who died last January.

“They loved him and they miss him,” said Pope, who earlier this year became pastor at St. Paul’s UMC, Melbourne.

That personal experience provided incentive for him to plan a Blue Christmas/Longest Night service this Sunday. It will be his first, as well as the first time St. Paul’s has held one.

“It’s been on my heart to have one for some time, but it never seemed to be the right time,” Pope said. “It just felt right for this year. It’s just something I feel compelled to do.”

The congregation’s plans include expanding the idea to include other kinds of loss besides death of a loved one, such as loss of a job, home, relationship or economic security.

“St. Paul’s has a lot of homeless people around, and a lot of people at the end of their rope,” Pope said. “Life is hard for these people anytime, but especially at Christmas.”

On the other side of the state, Rev. Sharon Davis, in a new appointment at Manatee UMC, Bradenton, is making plans to lead her first Longest Night service – the third for the congregation. 

Christmas tree decorated with handmade inspirational ornaments
Hand-crafted ornaments from Manatee UMC's women's group will offer comfort to those who attend the church's Blue Christmas service on Sunday, Dec. 21. Photo by Rev. Sharon Davis.

The service comes on the heels of a memorial service hosted with a local hospice care group in November and will precede by three days an outdoor Christmas Eve service that typically draws 300 or more people from throughout the community.

Like Pope, Davis plans to broaden the definition of loss and grieving to include “people who are struggling with the holidays for any number of reasons,” she said.

Both pastors say they will encourage others in the congregation who may not be experiencing loss or sadness to attend the service as a sign of their support.

“We come together as a community of faith and hope in that time of sadness for others,” Davis said. “”It (the service) is more focused on healing. … It allows people to come together and connect and heal and move on.”

Members of the Manatee UMC women’s group cut and decorated pieces of wood to make tree ornaments that carry words of encouragement. People at the Longest Night service will be encouraged to choose one to keep.

“They say things like ‘hope,’ ‘love’ and ‘amazing grace,’” Davis explained.

The service will include scripture and song and the opportunity to light candles, but those gathered will steer clear of traditional Chistmas carols “because those can upset people,” Davis said. People also will be invited to come to the altar rail and pray.

Davis is a trained mental health counselor who worked in hospice care before becoming ordained. Working as a pastor introduced her to “a multitude of new tools, ways to get people in touch with their feelings,” she said.

“I believe that anytime people come together in worship, it can be a time that God can touch their hearts in a way that provides healing and reconciliation,” Davis said.

Davis said the service at Manatee will be based on resources offered by the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship but tailored to her congregation.

Pope said he plans to modify an Episcopal Church service he found through research.

Both services will include lighting four candles, one at a time, and participants will be invited to remember their loss and acknowledge the pain. The final candle will signify faith and hope.

“It’s a sign of hope that the Christmas story brings us and remembering that God shared His life with us to relieve our pain,” Pope said.

At St. Paul’s, participants will then be invited to light their own candle and kneel at the altar to pray or meditate. They will be invited to leave the candle there to burn out, Pope said.

“Just as candles will eventually burn out, so does our grief, eventually, to be replaced by God’s love.”
 

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

 

Tuesday - December 16, 2014
What churches can do for college students over Christmas break

Stock photo of smiling male African American college student in libraryCollege students returning for winter break often long to reconnect with old friends, their former youth leaders, and others in the church who were an important part of their faith development. That is not always as easy as it sounds.

After years of being active in your church, they are no longer part of the youth ministry and not ready for adult ministries yet. So how can churches minister to their college students when they return for break?

Send exam survival kits

Before they return, consider sending each college student an Exam Survival Kit. The days before break are typically filled with writing final papers, finishing projects, and studying for exams. This can mean sleepless nights and stress-filled days. Fill boxes with both sugary and healthy snacks, maybe a gift card to a coffee shop, and other goodies to help a student through the home stretch. Personalize the kits as much as possible and include a note or card of encouragement, which also lets them know you are looking forward to seeing them during their break. Invite the whole congregation to participate by donating the items for the kits.

Click here to read more suggestions from United Methodist Communications.
 

Monday - December 15, 2014
No longer a church
but still God's house

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. Today we kick off a series of stories about church campuses retooled to continue ministry in the afterlife of a departed congregation. Look for more examples in the weeks to come.

                                                                
  ____________________________

Jim McClelland looks over refurbished gym he helped build in the 1950s
Jim McClelland looks over the former Wesley Memorial UMC gym he helped put together in his youth and admires how far Parker Street Ministries has come in helping young people. Photos by Susan Green.

LAKELAND – When Jim McClelland steps into the gym at Parker Street Ministries, the memories come back in torrents.

“I was here when this gym was built,” says McClelland, who in the 1950s was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Wesley Memorial UMC.

“I was part of the group that hung the first basketball goals in this gym.”

McClelland’s ties to the former Wesley Memorial, which closed in 2009, go back three generations. His mother grew up in the church, and his grandfather, pastor of the former Myrtle Street UMC, started the building fund that led to construction of Wesley Memorial’s sanctuary in 1918.

He remembers the Sunday night youth meetings, when he played the piano or organ for worship. He can point across the street to a house where his mother lived in her later years, allowing her to walk to church meetings when her children no longer lived close enough to drive her.

When Wesley Memorial closed, McClelland had long since moved away. In 1961, he took up studies at Georgia Technical Institute and went on to settle in Indiana, where he has been president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Goodwill Industries since 1974.

But he kept up with news of the church through family and friends. He remembers reports of the final months, when about 50 or so worshipers trickled in on Sundays.

Exterior view of Parker Street Ministries, formerly Wesley Memorial UMC
Parker Street Ministries staff maintains the look of a church as it operates in the former Wesley Memorial UMC. Executive director Tim Mitchell says he even installed a church bell to chime the hours.

“They were just trying to keep the doors open,” McClelland recalls. “We were all kind of hoping it would stay open.”

The congregation at Wesley ceased to be, but the building never really closed. A budding young ministry aimed at giving disadvantaged kids a leg up through education and neighborhood revitalization had already taken root in a small part of the church campus.

“We were involved with this church even when it was the church,” reflects Tim Mitchell, executive director of the Christian nonprofit Parker Street Ministries. From the time the ministry started after-school tutoring there in 2006, church members would peek their heads in from time to time and ask if anything was needed.

“It was a neat thing,” Mitchell says. When the sad day of the final Methodist worship service came, Parker Street staff mourned right along with congregants.

“Almost our whole staff went to the last church service. It was kind of symbolic – the torch was passed to us to keep on doing God’s work here.”

In a way, the loss of the congregation paved the way for tremendous growth in the neighborhood ministry.

At the time the congregation vacated the building, Parker Street was using four classrooms to provide after-school help to 38 kids in kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8), said Kim Schell, the ministry’s communications director.
 
"It's a big, loud representation
 of Christ's love."

- Tim Mitchell, Parker Street Ministries
Five years later, the ministry has spread out over 10 classrooms that accommodate 100 kids in K-8, plus 15 to 20 high school students.

Classrooms have been equipped with Internet access so that students who don’t have service at home can access online textbooks for study or take tests online as required, as well as use the ministry’s computers to research and write papers for school.

Most of the young people accepted into the program are working a grade or two below level in public schools, Schell said. They receive help in math and language arts and last year, she said, the program boasted a 98 percent passing rate.

The diversity of kids attending Parker Street, including a high minority representation, reflects the surrounding neighborhood, Schell added. Most families receiving services are headed by single mothers younger than 40 with “extremely low” incomes, she said.
 
School bus drops kids off for tutoring at Parker Street Ministries
A school bus stop at Parker Street Ministries makes it possible for working parents to send their children there for after-school tutoring. Below, children make their way to the ministry, where they can use computers and get help with homework.
Students head to Parker Street Ministries for after-school tutoring
Parker Street also advocates for better neighborhood conditions, taking on housing rehabilitation and beautification projects as well as working with landlords to boost standards for rental property. The staff also has advocated for safer bus stops.

Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers logged almost 9,400 hours at Parker Street, including trash cleanup, painting curbs to help emergency responders and repairing damaged or aging porches on homes.

“We want this neighborhood to take care of itself,” Schell said. “We are trying to build leadership skills in some of the older kids.”

To that end, Parker Street includes a leadership series in its eight-week summer camp for teens. Students are encouraged to participate in work projects.

The sanctuary has not gone empty, either. Parker Street renovated the space for use as a multipurpose room that hosts community gatherings.

During the school year, children attend chapel services once a week there, and daily devotions occur during summer camps. Recently, a local church began holding worship services there as well.

Mitchell listed other improvements the ministry has made, including renovating the kitchen, installing showers for student athletes and fencing in the courtyard so that kids can play there safely. Currently the ministry is seeking funds for a new roof for the gym and a gas-powered generator.

“We’re in the process of trying to be a storm shelter site,” Mitchell said.

“It’s been a tremendous gift to us to continue this ministry,” he said. “This church has kind of really turned into a community center. … The neighborhood would consider it theirs.

“It’s a big, loud representation of Christ’s love.”
 
Parker Street receives support from at least two United Methodist churches, as well as churches of other denominations, Schell said. Some former Wesley Memorial members come back for tours.

McClelland is among those who have moved away but stop by when they’re in town. Schell said Parker Street benefits from insight he shares from his long career with a nonprofit organization.

“I dropped by a couple of years ago,” McClelland said. “I was just curious. … What they’re doing here is really terrific. It’s a wonderful reuse of these buildings. The fact that they’re dealing with people and families in a holistic manner is really significant.”

“I think it’s such a great fit,” he added. “It ties into the whole mission of the church, anyway.”

For information about Parker Street Ministries, click here.

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

 

Friday - December 12, 2014
Faith, Hope and Racial Injustice: A Response from the Florida Conference Cabinet

Meeting in retreat this week, the Florida Conference Cabinet has released “A Statement of Faith and Hope in a Time of Racial Injustice.”

The statement is the fruit of prayer, searching the scriptures and listening to our communities. It is offered to the church for conversation and dialogue, and in the hope that it will be shared in worship across the annual conference in the season of Advent. Bishop Ken Carter offered the additional hope that these words "would be consecrated by God, and that our lives and congregations would be transformed into instruments of justice, reconciliation, mercy and healing." The statement speaks to recent events surrounding the deaths of unarmed young black males across our nation.

A Statement of Faith and Hope in a Time of Racial Injustice
From the Cabinet to the Churches and Extension Ministries of the Florida Conference,
United Methodist Church


• We affirm that every person is created in the image of God.
• We acknowledge our complicity in the sin of racism, which denies the inherently sacred nature of every person.
• We confess that we have often allowed our ideological differences to become more important than our unity in the One Body.
• We repent of our temptation to live in fear of one another and to seek security apart from God.
• We claim the essential need for all Christians of privilege to listen and seek deeper understanding when our brothers and sisters cry out for justice.

• We commit ourselves to speak on behalf of those who are denied justice.
• We support the difficult work of those in law enforcement and at the same time seek ways of moving toward better community engagement.
• We pledge to address the problem of mass incarceration of young black males in our society.

• We pray in our own time for the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Zechariah on the first Advent:

By the tender mercy of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

 

The Florida Conference Cabinet Members: Bishop Ken Carter, Rev. David Dodge (Assistant to the Bishop), Russ Graves (Conference Lay Leader), Rev. Gary Spencer (AC District), Rev. Annette Stiles Pendergrass (EC District), Rev. John Powers (GC District), Rev. Sue Haupert-Johnson (NC District),  Rev. Tim Smiley (NE District), Rev. Bob Gibbs (NW District), Rev. Walter Monroe (SC District), Rev. Craig Nelson (SE District), Rev. Rini Hernandez (SW District), Rev. Sharon Austin (Director of Connectional Ministries), Rev. Wayne Wiatt (Director of Clergy Excellence), Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans (Director of Missional Engagement), Mickey Wilson (Treasurer)

 

Photo courtesy Bigstock.

 



 

Thursday - December 11, 2014
United in worship: a step toward bridging the racial divide

CRAWFORDVILLE - Sunday began with a message of hate. But it was a message of love that triumphed at a worship service shared by two congregations, one from the predominantly white Wakulla UMC and the other from the predominantly black New Bridge Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

"This unity should and could be a model of healing for our small community but also for the state and the rest of the nation," says Rev. Derek Howard, pastor at New Bridge Hope. "We had tears in our eyes. It was a family atmosphere." 

"I have never seen anything as beautiful as this in my life."

-- Rev. Derek Howard, on combined worship in the wake of a hate message

Only hours before, Howard had pulled into his church parking lot to spend quiet time in his office preparing his Sunday sermon. Instead, he found "KKK" graffiti scrawled across the church marquee.

The Wakulla County Sheriff's Office reported similar vandalism at another black church, as well as a truck parked at Wildwood Golf Course. By Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made. The sheriff's office, state law enforcement and the FBI are investigating.

But if someone thought to divide the community through intimidation and fear with the racially-charged graffiti, Howard says the opposite happened.

When word reached Wakulla UMC about the vandalism, members quickly canceled the 11 a.m. service, piled into their cars and headed to New Bridge Hope about 5 miles away. The two churches are located in a largely rural community about 30 miles south of Tallahassee.

"I was dumbfounded that this happens in the 21st century," says Rev. Susie Horner, pastor at Wakulla UMC. "To be honest, I felt the Lord say what we needed to do was go over and support them, show we stand with them as brothers and sisters."

Horner's expectation was that the 40 or so members of her church would sit quietly as visiting worshipers at New Bridge Hope's Sunday service. Not quite. New Bridge Hope members opened their arms to Wakulla UMC.

The congregations prayed together. And their choirs joined in praise of the Lord.

"They had some good songs coming out," Howard says. "It was a joyous time." 

Susie Horner headshot"For every person who was there, it touched their hearts."

-- Rev. Susie Horner, Wakulla UMC

Days earlier, the NAACP had hosted a town hall meeting at New Bridge Hope to discuss an incident related to local Facebook comments about the refusal of a Ferguson, Mo., grand jury to indict a white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager.

"I don't want to speculate who did (the graffiti)," says Howard, but tensions stirred from the Ferguson incident and similar ones across the country probably "played a part in it."

Once he saw the graffiti and notified the sheriff's office, there was never a question of calling off Sunday services. But, Howard says, "God did lead me in a different direction when The United Methodist Church came."

The graffiti's message of hate, he says, became a lesson of how God's love brings people together. It was as if "Jesus has already preached today," Howard told the church congregations.

"I have never seen anything as beautiful as this in my life," he says.

The service ended with the "Threefold Amen” hymn and a joining of hands.

"For every person who was there, it touched their hearts," Horner says. "They all felt that they had witnessed something incredible in coming together, two churches. They want to see this happening in our community."

Afterward, Horner says some of New Bridge Hope's members came to Wakulla UMC for communion.

Going forward, both pastors hope to see the faith-based community step forward to help the community heal.

"Maybe we need to have an ecumenical ministers’ gathering and find out what's going on with other churches," Horner says, "and ask how can we change that kind of mindset in our community. One thing I keep hearing is that there's good that came out of something so ugly."

At 6:30 p.m. today (Dec. 11), a vigil -- open to the public -- will be held at New Bridge Hope. The NAACP and the Wakulla County Christian Coalition are sponsoring the vigil. It follows a town hall meeting Wednesday (Dec. 10) at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church called to discuss racial tensions in the community and nationally.

The Sunday service was truly a gift from God, Horner says.

"It has changed my perception," she says. "It has made us really humble and we see how the churches came together this way. It has made our congregation see how blessed we are and how little it takes to effect a change."

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

Monday - December 8, 2014
Passing along His healing touch

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." – John 13:35,
New International Version
 

Prayer circle of volunteers in waiting room as people wait outside the window

Volunteers at Angels Care Center join hands in the patient waiting room to pray for guidance and wisdom as patients line up outside, waiting for the facility to open. Photo by Susan Green.

ELOISE – The people who line up at Angels Care an hour before the doors open have plenty of aches and pains, lumps and bumps, coughs and congestion. They have worries that they may not get better, that their ailments may keep them from working, that their children may be facing serious illness.

What they don’t have is money. Or insurance.

Although the Affordable Care Act has provided millions with health care they never had before, many still don’t qualify for free care or can’t afford the cheapest insurance premiums provided under the law.

“They really can’t afford even the minimum payment,” said Janey Powell, who with her husband, Larry, persuaded fellow members of St. John’s UMC, Winter Haven, and other congregations to start a health care clinic in the semirural community of Eloise.

Since March 2011, when the clinic saw its first patient, about 6,000 people have received care there.

“These are people who just have no other alternative,” Janey said. “The need is unbelievable. There are people who have had their lives saved” through the clinic. 

Artist Jill Giffin shows art illustration she donated for Samaritan clinic
Artist Jill Giffin displays artwork she donated to Samaritan Health and Wellness Center at its opening Nov. 3 in Cape Coral. The scripture reads, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" from 1 John 2:4. Photo from Samaritan Health and Wellness Clinic.

To the south, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, a clinic that opened last month through the efforts of Cape Coral First UMC and neighboring churches is also finding true need. The first week brought 40 patients to Samaritan Health and Wellness Center, which opened Nov. 3 in a small shopping plaza on Cape Coral Parkway East.

The ministry begun there by Sue Hook, a family nurse practitioner, joins Angels Care Center and Shepherd’s Hope Health Center of Orlando as ministries with Methodist roots in Florida that provide health care free or at a reduced cost to those who otherwise could not afford it. (Click here for a Florida Conference Connection report on Shepherd's Hope.)

All were started through visions of doing Christ’s bidding to help the poor, and all depend heavily on volunteers and donations from a dozen or more congregations in their communities. Angels Care and Shepherd’s Hope have recruited doctors, nurses and nursing students who donate their time; Samaritan is hoping to build a similar network.

"God is the one doing this work," said Hook, who gave up her job at Lee Memorial Health System to become executive director at Samaritan. She describes the clinic as a place of healing for the body, mind and spirit.

"We offer prayer if patients want it," she said. "It's about the healing ministry of Christ and the church reclaiming that."

She was at home going over patient charts and listening to a Christian radio show about three years ago when she heard about a Christ-centered health clinic founded in Memphis by Scott Morris, a family physician and ordained United Methodist minister. 

Wash cloth and toiletry bag given to patients at Angels Care
Toiletry bags prepared by local churches are among items given to patients who receive free medical exams at Angels Care Center. Photos by Susan Green.
Nurse checks a patient's blood pressure
In a former church classroom-turned-exam room, nurse Mary Haas, a member of St. John's UMC, Winter Haven, takes a blood pressure reading for Nayeli Saucedo, who volunteers her time as a translator at the clinic.

Her passion to start a similar clinic in Cape Coral eventually led her to partner with local churches, including Cape Coral First UMC and the nondenominational Cape Christian. Samaritan is modeled after the clinic in Memphis and provides a range of services, including behavioral and mental health counseling, to the uninsured and under-insured for a low flat fee, typically $15 to $35 depending on the service provided.

"I think this is an amazing example of what church ought to be about," said Rev. Jay Therrell, pastor at Cape Coral First UMC. "We think the clinic is part of transforming the world in Jesus’ name."

Unlike Hook, Janey Powell had no medical training when she and her husband heard a call to health ministry.

Eloise UMC, a church about five miles from the St. John’s congregation the Powells have called home for many years, was getting ready to close, and St. John’s was fielding proposals for an outreach ministry there.

Janey and her husband immediately agreed that health care was the most pressing need in Eloise, which had become home to migrant farmworkers and other Spanish-speaking immigrants.

“We had no medical background,” Janey recalled. “We don’t speak Spanish. … We prayed about it. We thought of all the reasons we weren’t qualified.”

Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, the couple considered the strengths they could offer, especially connections. Larry had retired after a career in parks and recreation; Janey is a retired schoolteacher. Both had done mission work. They began working their contacts.

“Every time something came along that we weren’t sure what to do, God did provide,” Janey said. “We really feel like it was a vision God gave us.”

Today, a dozen churches support the ministry. The clinic draws on a pool of about 15 doctors and more than 20 nurses. It opens every Tuesday at 4 p.m. and volunteer doctors and nurses typically see 20 to 25 patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Two to three doctors or nurse practitioners volunteer each Tuesday, along with five to six nurses, Janey said.

On the second Wednesday every month, Angels Care offers a diabetics clinic, and on the fourth Thursday, a dermatology clinic.

Other volunteers welcome patients, record their information and serve as translators. Patients who qualify must meet income limits and have no form of insurance. All services are free.

Volunteers also hand out bags of toiletries and other items donated by churches. More than 10,000 gift bags have been given away since the clinic opened. Altogether, it takes about 250 volunteers to keep the clinic going.

“A wonderful byproduct of this is the purpose it’s given to our volunteers,” Janey said.

Among those in the Angels Care waiting room recently was a young man named Bernardo, who drove his mother there for care. It was their second visit.

He said he was impressed that volunteers would donate their skills afterhours, when most had already put in a full day earning a living.

“They’re tired, and they come here to help their community,” he said.

Without the clinic, he said, he had no idea where his mother would receive care.

“It would cost me a lot of money, which I don’t have,” Bernardo said.

Janey said it’s important to everyone involved that no one feel embarrassed or worried about trusting their health to Angels Care.

“Our motto is God’s people caring for God’s people,” Janey said. “We just want them to feel God’s love when they come in.”

-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection. Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.

Friday - December 5, 2014
Methodist Day in Peru will promote creation care
Aerial view of Lima, Peru, overlooking the sea
Lima, Peru, will be the site of a United Nations conference and Peoples' Summit calling for "climate justice." The Methodist Church of Peru will participate. Photo from Bigstock.com.

LIMA, Peru (UMNS) — In conjunction with the U.N. Lima Climate Change Conference and the People's Summit on Climate Change, the Methodist Church of Peru is promoting "Methodist Day" on Monday, Dec. 8. The program will include workshops, music, theatre presentations and a faith-based panel on "Caring for Creation."

The gatherings are part of efforts to replace the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 with stronger measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and take other steps to address the harmful effects of climate change on people around the world. The Methodist Church of Peru is among members of the World Council of Churches to participate in the People's Summit on Climate Change, an event organized by various civic, social, research and faith-based communities for Dec. 9-12.

Click here to read a World Council of Churches report on these efforts to bring about "climate justice."

 

Thursday - December 4, 2014
Florida Conference to freshen up
for 2015

LAKELAND – Plans are underway for the Florida Conference to work with Virginia-based Fresh Expressions US and North Carolina’s Duke Divinity School to develop training programs aimed at helping clergy and laity pursue new ways of making disciples.

Audrey Warren headshot
It’s really kind of getting us outside doors and finding ways to connect with people.”
 -- Audrey Warren on Fresh Expressions

The decision to tap expertise from those two programs followed a “Pioneer Vision Day” last month at the Life Enrichment Center near Leesburg. About 60 people from across the conference, mostly invited by the conference Fresh Expressions design team, turned out for the meeting.

Some attendees simply heard about the effort and decided to come learn more, said Rev. Audrey Warren, pastor of Branches UMC, Florida City, and co-leader of the design team with Rev. Vance Rains, pastor of Ortega UMC, Jacksonville.

“We were happy for more,” Warren said, estimating that about 80 percent of the turnout was 35 or younger. “It was a very young crowd.”

Warren said she and others leading the local Fresh Expressions effort plan to meet this month with Florida Bishop Ken Carter to talk about contracting with teams from both Duke and Fresh Expressions US for training programs next year. Carter formed a working group earlier this year charged with developing a Florida Conference strategy similar to the Fresh Expressions movement begun by Protestant churches in Great Britain.

The Florida Conference New Church Development office also is expected to be involved, Warren said.

Among goals will be recruiting more laity, seen as a key component in the effort. Warren estimated about 20 percent of the Pioneer Vision Day attendees were lay members of the church.

“It’s in some ways an extension of the work of the church in reaching new people,” she said. “It’s really kind of getting us outside doors and finding ways to connect with people.”

The Fresh Expressions movement is ecumenical and has included some other United Methodist conferences, such as Ohio and Peninsula-Delaware, Warren said. 

Vance Rains headshot

“I think this is what most of us feel called to when we’re called to ministry.”
-- Vance Rains on Fresh Expressions

She and Rains said the Florida Conference already has sprouted some examples of Fresh Expressions worshiping communities, often formed around outdoor activities and social gatherings away from church buildings.

“A lot of folks in my church are involved in a fitness group,” Rains said, adding that participants meet regularly in a park, and he has offered devotions. Though many are drawn to the experience because of the spiritual component, some simply want exercise and fellowship.

“It’s faith-based but not faith-required,” he explained. “Fresh Expressions is a very fluid idea – how do we gather people around a commonality and an affinity for the gospel? … How do we form a community that is church but doesn’t look like church?”

A formal training program could jumpstart the effort, Rains said.

“Training is a big part of it,” he said. “We’re kind of learning as we go. They (Fresh Expressions and Duke) have the expertise.”

At last month’s meeting, the conference Fresh Expressions group heard from representatives of Duke Divinity School’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, as well as representatives of Fresh Expressions US.

The Florida Conference could benefit from coaching from both programs, Warren said.

Building and maintaining momentum will be a crucial part of the conference strategy, Rains said. Experiments that fail as well as succeed are expected, and all will be valued as learning experiences.

“The ultimate goal is that this becomes the culture of the conference, that this becomes one of the normal things that we do,” Rains said. “There’s a lot of cynicism around ‘This is the latest thing the conference is doing.’ We’re really trying to keep this more loose and free and what the spirit moves, not a lot of reporting, not having the expectation of quantifiable results.

“I think this is what most of us feel called to when we’re called to ministry.”

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

Wednesday - December 3, 2014
Live Christmas events powered by love

At Christ UMC, Lehigh Acres, this year’s yuletide gift to the community will be “One Starry Night,” a live re-enactment of the Christmas story.

But, as with dozens of United Methodist congregations in the Florida Conference staging commemorations of Jesus’ birth, that one starry night will take many more days and lots of donated labor to pull off. 

Baby Jesus in a manger receives a visit from a bowing shepherd in costume
Baby Jesus, portrayed by Kahless Leotti, receives a visit from a shepherd at the inaugural "One Starry Night" live Christmas event staged last year by Christ UMC, Lehigh Acres. Photo from Christ UMC.

Last year, the first time Christ UMC offered a pageant, nothing too elaborate was staged. Classrooms stood in for the town of Bethlehem.

This year, however, the event is growing and moving outdoors, with a marketplace, a stable, a wise men’s tent and a shepherd’s field. The front steps of the church sanctuary will be the entrance to Herod's Palace. Stuffed and wooden animals are likely to be replaced with the real deal.

"We are really sprawling this year," says Charlene Golden, the church's office administrator. "They are trying to work with a local farmer to get some live animals."

Whether it’s Christ UMC’s nearly new effort, or the 10th year of “Back to Bethlehem” at Community of Hope, Loxahatchee, or the 28th staging of “The Living Christmas Story” at Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, volunteers make everything happen.

"It's part of our outreach mission to our community," says Billy Langley, creative arts director at Community of Hope. "Christ's love for us is free. So it's part of our evangelistic strategy and we hope to well-represent the heart of Christ.”

Making it happen
 

Does your church offer a live Christmas event to the community? Tell us about it in the comment section at the end of this story.

In October, Christ UMC put out a call for new recruits to round out its nearly 100-member volunteer staff. Needed were a craft leader and two helpers for the wise men's tent, two shepherds and a story reader for the shepherds’ field, King Herod, four centurions, four volunteers to help guests make money bags, guides to direct people to the entrance and four volunteers to help at the children's craft booth in the marketplace.

A prop team builds the stable, makes faux animals as needed, crafts items for the marketplace booths and constructs King Herod's throne.

Sherri Taylor of Killearn UMC applies makeup to Roman soldier Ken Tomblin
Sherri Taylor, a volunteer at Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, applies makeup to Ken Tomblin as he prepares to portray a Roman soldier in the church's annual "Living Christmas" drive-through event. Below, Bethlehem, the result of weeks of hard work, awaits drive-through guests at the church. Photos from Killearn UMC.
Bethlehem lit with torches and ready for drive-through visitors at Killearn UMC

Others sew costumes and rehearse character parts, with many of the acting roles filled by high school students from the congregation. Church members also contribute plastic coins to fill the money bags and give "shopping" money to visitors.

"If you're with the church, you are working," Golden says.

More than 200 people are expected to walk through the reconstructed Bethlehem at Christ UMC from 6 to 8 p.m., Dec. 12, and from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 13.

Closer to Florida’s northern border, at Killearn, a Saturday workday and "Blue Jean Sunday" kicked off eight days of labor to build the town of Bethlehem.

This drive-through event drew an estimated 7,000 people last year. Visitors follow the route in their car or climb aboard a hayride. Calls from people eager to know when Bethlehem will open often start in September. Preparations begin as early as spring and go into high gear in the weeks before the event.

"After 28 years, we are known as the church that builds that Christmas thing," says event co-director Susan Moreton, who also is prayer and member care director at Killearn. "We have families who are not churched who are thrilled to bring their children here."

As many as 250 volunteers, including 20 committee leaders, work on the production, which has five major scenes: the Annunciation, the shepherds on the hill, the inn where Mary and Joseph bed down in the stable, the nativity and Herod's palace.

Enhancing the atmosphere will be a marketplace, women at the well, a blacksmith and fishermen. Living animals include goats, cows, calves and horses, plus two donkeys owned by the church.

"We are a church of 3,000 members and two donkeys," Moreton jokes.

About 150 actors perform, with another 50 or so volunteers helping behind the scenes. The first year, Killearn borrowed costumes through a connection with Warner Brothers. Since then, the church has made its own.

"I have a wonderful team of ladies that puts these together," Moreton says

A kitchen committee makes sure volunteers are fed. And, once the events are over, volunteers break down the sets and stash them away for the next year.

"Everyone plays their part," Moreton says.

This year's event will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 12-14. 

Large group gathering for rehearsal at Community of Hope
Live Christmas re-enactments often take hours of rehearsal, like the 2013 gathering, above, at Community of Hope, Loxahatchee. Below, a Community of Hope volunteer cleans a roof and decorates it with palm fronds as the church prepares to stage "Back to Bethlehem." Photos from Facebook.com/back2bethlehem.
Volunteer cleaning roof of Bethlehem building at Community of Hope

In Loxahatchee, Community of Hope is celebrating the 10th anniversary of "Back to Bethlehem" by asking guests to donate nonperishable food that will be stored in the new Community of Hope Action Center.

"We'll take it to donate to hungry people," Langley says. "It's kind of an exciting year to us."

The church campus sprawls across about 25 acres and reserves more than 2 wooded acres as a permanent site for Bethlehem.

On a recent Saturday, about 40 people came to spruce up the landscape and clear pathways. Roofs on standing buildings were repaired and decorative palm fronds put in place. This year, a new house was built where Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, is observed through blessings and prayers in Hebrew.

More than 150 church volunteers perform in costume; another 200 work behind the scenes or greet visitors. Last year about 8,500 guests came. The goal is to draw 10,000 this year.

Drama workshops help prepare the actors.

"We study this together," Langley says. "We try not to go too far with accents but ask people to stay away from slang and modern terms. Some of it is scripted, but some is ad-libbed. That's what brings Bethlehem to life. There is so much interaction."

Guests can walk through the marketplace with shops typical of the time period, filled with candles, baskets and baked goods. There also is a healing place, a midwife's shop and a town square. Visitors will meet up with gossiping women at a well, a tax collector, a census taker, the town rabbi, an innkeeper, shepherds and Roman soldiers.

Behind the scenes, volunteers provide fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries for actors to eat during breaks, allowing them to stay in character.

Live animals will include horses, chickens, a goose, sheep and goats provided by a local petting farm.

About 100 volunteers will greet visitors with gifts of hot chocolate, candy canes and popcorn.

"It helps to create relationships in our church," Langley says.

Community of Hope will hold its event from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 12-14.

To see more Florida United Methodist church events this Christmas season, check out the Local Church Events page at www.flumc.org.
 
-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.

Blogs
Wednesday - December 17, 2014
Riverside Retreat achieves accreditation

Archery class at Riverside RetreatMartha Pierce, director of Riverside Retreat in LaBelle, reports big news for the Florida Conference's camp in South Florida: 

"We are so proud to announce that we have achieved accreditation by the American Camp Association," Pierce said in the retreat's winter newsleter.

"This is a statement that we are focused on the safety and well-being of each and every guest and camper who comes through our gates. The (accreditation) visit that occurs focuses on education and safety and is a thorough evaluation of practices and records. It took great effort by every staff member and workamper, and we are so proud of each and every one!"

Congratulations, Riverside!

Tuesday - December 16, 2014
Are you spending too much money on web design

Your church has enough real world expenses as it is. Lucky for us, having deep pockets is not the only way to come across a professional website. WordPress.org is free software that has a huge store of plugins and themes for you to choose from.

It’s a one-click install to start using one of their themes. All you have to pay for is a webhost. Plus, there’s tons of information available online for how to successfully manage, prepare and update a quality website using nothing but WordPress tools.

EMediaCoach has published a great introduction video for getting started on WordPress that can help your church save a fortune on developing your website.

 

Monday - December 15, 2014
Missionaries available for church visits in early 2015

In early 2015 two missionary couples with covenant relationships in the Florida Conference will be in the US for itineration. When these missionaries travel through our conference, they are available to visit not only their covenant churches but also other churches that are interested in hearing firsthand what God is doing around the world through missionary service.

 


 

 
The Rev. William Llanos Zúñiga and his wife, Rev. Rocio Barcenas, are missionaries with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries serving in a pastoral team in an area of northeastern Argentina along the Uruguay River. The work is in partnership with the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina and is coordinated with the Methodist Church of Uruguay because of the location. The ministry incorporates a group of congregations in the regions of Costa del Río del Uruguay and Concepción del Uruguay along the Argentinian side of the river that separates Argentina and Uruguay. This area has some 370,000 people. These ministries involve worship, Bible study, prayer groups, leadership development, and outreach to young people. For more information, click HERE.  William and Rocio will be available for church visits in the Florida Conference Feb 4-11.
 
 
The Rev. Delbert and Sandy Groves are United Methodist missionaries with the General Board of Global Ministries asigned to the New Life Center, based in Kitwe, Zambia. The center, established in 2001 through Delbert and Sandy's efforts, has grown into a resource for the young United Methodist Provisional Conference of Zambia. It has numerous outreach ministries, including New Life Press, health education, PET Zambia (handicap bikes for mobility), a learning and computer lab, English instruction, instruction in new church construction, and other training ministries. For more information, click HEREDelbert and Sandy are available for church visits in the Florida Conference through the end of March.
 
 
 
 Should your church desire to invite them to speak, please contact me at irodriguez@flumc.org. To learn more about missionary service, visit www.flumc-missions.org 
 
Thanks for your faithful support of missionaries around the world!
 
Icel Rodriguez
 

Please share this blog with your friends by using the email icon in the upper right corner of the page (the icon looks like an envelope). New readers can subscribe here. To unsubscribe, send your full name and e-mail address to dataupdates@flumc.org with the subject line “Unsubscribe-Global Missions Blog.”

Tuesday - December 9, 2014
Your members are looking at your website on their phones

Does your website display properly on mobile devices? Have you ever checked?

Maintaining a web presence is challenging. Now that everyone accesses the internet from all different kinds of device—e.g. phones, tablets, laptops, TVs—keeping your website looking good requires a design that doesn’t discriminating against how content is viewed.

While you may not have the know-how or drive to learn multi-device design all on your own, there are plenty of free options to choose from at WordPress that are designed for a wide range of devices. Installing a theme is a one-click install. Check them out for yourself!

Tuesday - December 2, 2014
You already have a Google Plus account

If your church has a YouTube channel then you already have a Google Plus account. The comment sections are hosted by Google Plus and commenting on videos are done through Google Plus accounts.

So now that you find yourself with an account, should you use it or set it adrift into cyberspace?

By not taking advantage of your account, you could be missing out on some great opportunities. Google Plus’s start has been slow but while other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are beginning to shrink, Google Plus has seen consistent growth. It has been adopted as more of an information rich media platform rather than for immediate gratification.

Recent statistics also suggest that marketing efforts get more engagement on Google Plus than they do on Twitter. You can read more about it in this article about Google Plus’s value written by Nate Elliot. 

 

Monday - December 1, 2014
GCFA decision does not affect support for ministry in East Angola

On Nov. 21 the General Council on Finance and Administration board decided that this finance agency will withhold funds from East Angola Area Bishop Jose Quipungo’s episcopal office until he provides “a satisfactory episcopal office” audit.  The General Conference, the denomination’s top policymaking body, requires bishops’ offices to submit to an audit each year based on approved International Standards on Auditing.  Click HERE to read the full news release.

I’d like you to know that in no way this decision affects our support of missionaries and projects in the East Angola Conference. The East Angola Episcopal office has no control over any of the funds sent by the Florida Conference. Our missionaries on site, Reverends Leonardo and Cleivy Garcia, are responsible for overseeing Florida Conference Advance funds for the on-going reconstruction of the Quessua mission station as well as the scholarship program to support education at all levels in East Angola. Only they disburse all moneys and give a detailed account once a year. The Boarding House feeding program and other General Advance projects are overseen by Global Ministries missionary Ken Koome, who manages all aspects of financial transactions. 

Leaders of the Florida Conference visit Angola, Feb 2014.

Several teams from the Florida Conference have traveled to East Angola this year and witnessed the outstanding ministry that these missionaries are carrying out in the name of the Lord.

On behalf of the East Angola/Florida Partnership Committee, many thanks to all the churches and individuals who continue to help our mission in East Angola.

If you have any questions please contact me at irodriguez@flumc.org 

Icel Rodriguez

Please share this blog with your friends by using the email icon in the upper right corner of the page (the icon looks like an envelope). New readers can subscribe here. To unsubscribe, send your full name and e-mail address to dataupdates@flumc.org with the subject line “Unsubscribe-Global Missions Blog.”

Monday - December 1, 2014
GCFA decision does not affect support for ministry in East Angola

On Nov. 21 the General Council on Finance and Administration board decided that this finance agency will withhold funds from East Angola Area Bishop Jose Quipungo’s episcopal office until he provides “a satisfactory episcopal office” audit.  The General Conference, the denomination’s top policymaking body, requires bishops’ offices to submit to an audit each year based on approved International Standards on Auditing.  Click HERE to read the full news release.

I’d like you to know that in no way this decision affects our support of missionaries and projects in the East Angola Conference. The East Angola Episcopal office has no control over any of the funds sent by the Florida Conference. Our missionaries on site, Reverends Leonardo and Cleivy Garcia, are responsible for overseeing Florida Conference Advance funds for the on-going reconstruction of the Quessua mission station as well as the scholarship program to support education at all levels in East Angola. Only they disburse all moneys and give a detailed account once a year. The Boarding House feeding program and other General Advance projects are overseen by Global Ministries missionary Ken Koome, who manages all aspects of financial transactions. 

Leaders of the Florida Conference visit Angola, Feb 2014.

Several teams from the Florida Conference have traveled to East Angola this year and witnessed the outstanding ministry that these missionaries are carrying out in the name of the Lord.

On behalf of the East Angola/Florida Partnership Committee, many thanks to all the churches and individuals who continue to help our mission in East Angola.

If you have any questions please contact me at irodriguez@flumc.org 

Icel Rodriguez

Please share this blog with your friends by using the email icon in the upper right corner of the page (the icon looks like an envelope). New readers can subscribe here. To unsubscribe, send your full name and e-mail address to dataupdates@flumc.org with the subject line “Unsubscribe-Global Missions Blog.”

Tuesday - November 25, 2014
Church ministries qualify for FREE advertising from Google

Social media isn’t limited to your standard platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The point of a social media campaign is to make connections online. Using Google Ads lets you skip the middle man and start connecting directly with people in Google’s search results.

Eligible church ministries receive $10,000 per month in free Google advertising. Right now the only requirement is that your ministry has an active charity status, meaning you have a current 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

To apply you’ll need a Gmail account and a copy of your Employer ID (EIN).

The application can take up to 14 days to process and Google reserves the right to approve or deny any application regardless of charity status. For $10,000 a month in free advertising, it’s definitely worth a shot!

Apply at Google for Nonprofits today!

Monday - November 24, 2014
The Calendars We Live By

We are upon the Thanksgiving Holiday, and I wish each of you a joyous and meaningful time with family.   In the liturgical calendar last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday, the culmination of the church year.  If you follow the United Methodist Hymnal, it moves from the promised coming of Jesus, his birth and baptism, at the beginning (the 200s) to a new heaven and a new earth (the 700s), where we will be in the Reign of God.

It is a time of year that includes a confluence of festivities -- some sacred, others civic. And it is true that most of us live by several calendars that overlap.

A prominent calendar in our culture is the rhythm of athletic seasons. Some of us live from the opening day of baseball to the first kickoff of football to the midnight madness of college basketball, then to the baseball World Series, and then the college bowl games, the NFL Super Bowl and March Madness, and then the opening pitch is thrown again, and the Master’s. 

Many organize their lives around their favorite teams. Psyches flourish or falter alongside the fortunes of their heroes. There are sacred spaces (Fenway Park and Cameron Indoor Stadium are but two examples), secret societies (betting services, fantasy football), and remembrances of shared history (for example, the remarkable Ken Burns PBS series on Baseball). It is not unimportant that parents pass the importance of the sports calendar along to their children.

A second calendar is our civic calendar. This includes New Year's Day, a time for making resolutions for reinvention. There is Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and the recently added Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

The civic holidays may elicit deep memories of loss and sacrifice in some families, while others consider them simply as a respite from work and school. Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and Labor Day its conclusion, and what happens in between (vacations, leisure, longer days, and a break from school) is more significant for most that what occurs on the particular holidays that frame the season. 

Thanksgiving is an especially ambiguous ritual, since it began as a harvest festival and most of us now live at some distance from the profession of agriculture. It has also become closely associated with the onset of Christmas commerce in general and "Black Friday" in particular.  And indeed Christmas music is now beginning to seep into our lives weeks before the Thanksgiving feast.

A third calendar, for a Christian, is the liturgical year. It is a way of marking time according to the life of Jesus, beginning with the anticipation of his coming (Advent), the celebration of his birth (Christmas), and manifestation of his presence in the world (Epiphany) and his baptism. The most frequently told stories about Jesus (his baptism, changing water into wine at a wedding, and his transfiguration) introduce us to his glory, but also prepare us for his suffering. 

In the season of Lent, the followers of Jesus enter into his suffering, and on Palm/Passion Sunday witness his entry into Jerusalem, the place of his final testing and, ultimately, his death on a cross for humanity (Good Friday). After three days God raises him from death on Easter. Over the next fifty days he teaches the disciples about God's purposes for the world, and on Ascension Day he returns to be with God, preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. 

The Sundays after Pentecost move into Ordinary Time, finding their climax on Christ the King Sunday, which signifies the fulfillment of God's purposes on earth and in heaven, as Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. Then we quickly move to the first Sunday of Advent.  And in a mystical sense these days have a way of bringing all of this together, as Paul writes in Colossians 1, in the three comings of Christ: his first coming, in history, his second coming, in our own personal experience, and the third coming, when, after going to prepare a place for us, he returns to take us into himself.

We live in each of these calendars and each shapes our lives.  One of the great invitations for us, as disciples, is to recover the thickness of the Christian story and the adventure of the life of Jesus.  And this helps us, as individuals and as families,  to narrate our passage through time, infusing it with greater meaning, and to discover a way of marking time that is worthy of our engagement.  

Classifieds
Wednesday - December 17, 2014
Youth and College Ministries Director

First United Methodist Church in Brevard, North Carolina is searching for a qualified individual to lead its vibrant and growing youth and college ministry.

This is a full-time, professional position within a growing church located in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina near Asheville.

A successful candidate will have a bachelor's degree, experience in church-based youth and college leadership, a background in Wesleyan theology and a personal life which is consistent with the Book of Discipline (United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶324, section 9o, page 226).

Due the need for flexible hours the successful candidate must agree to live in Transylvania County, North Carolina. The church provides a compensation package which includes a competitive salary, health insurance compensation, paid leave time and travel and education benefits.

To apply send a resume with both and personal and professional references and also include salary
expectations.


Submit to:
Mike Harle
Chair, Staff Parish Relations Committee
mharle@comporium.net
or
Mike Harle
Chair, Staff Parish Relations Relations Committee
FUMC, Brevard
325 N. Broad St.
Brevard, NC 28712
 

Monday - December 15, 2014
Camp Director, Riverside Retreat

The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is seeking a full-time, year-round Director to be responsible for the overall ministry at the site.  Primary responsibilities include overall financial management of Riverside Retreat, hiring and supervising staff, fundraising and program development.  This 170-bed ministry camp is located in LaBelle, FL (near Ft. Myers) on the beautiful Caloosahatchee River and includes a 150-seat worship and activity center, outdoor prayer chapel, 30-site RV Park campground, 150-seat dining hall and meeting rooms. We are seeking someone who has a passion for Christian hospitality and has strong communications skills.  Experience as a director in the camp and retreat ministry setting is preferred.

Please send cover letter and resume to Mike Standifer, Director, Florida United Methodist Camps and Retreat Ministries, 4990 Picciola Road, Fruitland Park, FL  34731 or via e-mail at mstandifer@flumc.org.  Additional information about the Florida camps and retreats ministry and this position can be found at flumcamps.org. (ACA Accredited, Member UMCRM).  Applications will be received through January 31, 2015, with an anticipated position start date of March 25, 2015.

 

Monday - December 15, 2014
Director of Worship and Creative Arts

Job Description: P/T Director Worship and Creative Arts
Expected Salary: $23,000-$28,000

Riviera UMC is looking for a Director of Worship and Creative Arts who will lead the congregation to discover more of God through music and arts during scheduled worship services. The DWCA serves in conjunction with the Pastor to lead the Worship Design Team to plan worship services.  We are looking for someone who can work well with different teams to make worship meaningful and comfortable for people who are at different levels in their relationship with God to discover more about Him together.  The DWCA is also a vital member of Riviera’s leadership and serves to help us fulfill our mission of transforming lives through Christ.


•    Provide musical leadership and accompaniment for worship services.
•    Responsible for leading the Worship Design team and working with a team and the Pastor to creatively plan and design weekend worship experiences.
•    Recruit, train and oversee volunteers for all worship arts elements, included but not limited to: vocalists, instrumentalists, sound/lighting team, tech team, drama ministry.
•    Participate in annual Children’s Vacation Bible School music program.
•    Provide music for special services (i.e. Christmas Eve, Good Friday, Easter, weddings* and funerals*).  * See payment guidelines for further information regarding additional compensation provided.
•    Responsible for the overall selection of music for the Worship Services and communicate the selection to the church secretary according to scheduled deadlines for publication.
•    Maintain audio/video equipment and ensure regular upgrades are made.
•    Lead regular weekly rehearsals in addition to "special" rehearsals during the year.
•    A minimum of 2-years experience working in the music ministry (inclusive of worship design and creative arts) required.
 

Monday - December 15, 2014
Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Christ United Methodist Church, an inclusive and progressive congregation, is looking for a Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  The church is within minutes of five top rated public high schools and has its own elementary school on campus.  The church hosts community wide events that attract thousands.  Because of its diverse population, Warner Robins is known as the “International City”.  The congregation reflects this diversity with most every state in the union and several foreign countries represented.  This family oriented Central Georgia community has something for everyone and is within a half days drive of the mountains, beach or several major cities. 

Send your resume to applicants@yminstitute.com to apply for this great opportunity.  Because of the holidays, interviews will begin following January 23rd.

Monday - December 15, 2014
Part Time Administrative Assistant Position Available

P/T Administrative Assistant Available

Grace Community United Methodist Church is happy to offer the following P/T employment opportunity:

Assist Lead Pastor in the overall administrative operation of the church office accurately and efficiently, while maintaining confidentiality.  Candidate should expect the following responsibilities:

*  20 hours per week
*  Committed to support and fulfill the mission, vision and values of the church
*  Proficient in Microsoft Office, Microsoft Publisher, and other general computer operations
*  Excellent interpersonal communication skills, including a calm and professional demeanor in all circumstances
*  Ability to self start, work independently, establish and execute daily priorities

High School diploma or equivalent required.  Position available immediately.  For further information and to submit a resume, please contact:

Pastor Matt Wallis / 813-661-8858 / matt@mygraceumc.com / www.mygraceumc.com 

Monday - December 15, 2014
Wanted Full-Time Children and Family Director

Job Description
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF OVIEDO


POSITION TITLE:        Director of Children’s and Family Ministries   

REPORTS TO:        Senior Pastor
 
SUPERVISES:    Children’s and Family Ministries Coordinator, Nursery Supervisor, Sunday School Coordinator, BOB 5th & 6th Grade Student Coordinator

PRIMARY FUNCTIONS:    Establish and develop a comprehensive Discipleship program that follows a Wesleyan theology including biblical education and worship opportunities.  Provide an atmosphere which allows persons to develop their faith in Jesus Christ and opportunities to become active, contributing members of the Church, society and the world.

QUALIFICATIONS:
•    A solid foundation of Christian faith with experience in the United Methodist Church
•    A degree in Christian Education or related field is preferable. 
•    The ability to recruit and equip all persons, recognizing that faith development is a life long process
•    Organizational, budgeting, administrative and team building skills
•    The ability to work effectively with church staff and congregation

PRINCIPAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
.
•    Establish goals and objectives of discipleship programs that are consistent with the mission of our Church
•    Develop and organize methods of active recruiting and training (including Safe Sanctuaries) of all leaders and personnel
•    Prepare annual program plan and budget to support the plan.  Accountable for program expenses
•    Promote and advertise upcoming programs
•    Sit on the Board of the Early Childhood Center.  Provide support and back up the ECC Director, as needed
•    Direct the Children’s Sunday School program and weekday program including Confirmation
•    Purchase curriculum, supplies and consumables throughout the year
•    Deliver the Children’s sermon when requested by the Pastor
•    Attend weekly staff meetings, Administrative Council, Building Committee, ECC Board Meeting, Space Utilization Committee, Long-Range Planning Committee and Children’s Council meeting.  Attend District and Conference meetings and trainings, as necessary
•    Work with the Children’s Council to coordinate special Children’s programs and family life events including VBS, Christmas programs, Easter programs, the Halloween Party, etc.
•    Coordinate with the Choral Music Director when children are involved in choirs or performances
•    Serve as the Church’s children’s representative to provide the necessary outlets in order for children to have the opportunity to build their faith
•    Perform other duties as assigned

HOURS:    40 hours per week

REVIEW:    Following employment, there will be a 90 day evaluation period and review. Each year there will be an evaluation by the employee’s supervisor and the Staff Parish Relations Committee.



 

Friday - December 12, 2014
Becoming a Contagious Christian-Bo Boshers

Includes 2 leader guides and 2 student guides.

Friday - December 12, 2014
Claim the Name Student Book

3 Claim the name student books.

Friday - December 12, 2014
Director of Congregational Care

ORANGE PARK
UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Job Description
Job Title: Director of Congregational Care

Status: Full Time – Job requires at least 40 hours per week of work. Willing to work outside regular
office hours, holidays, and weekends. Job requires visitation outside of regular office hours and may require attendance at evening meetings.  This is an office based position that requires daily consultation with the Sr. Pastor and weekly consultation with the staff.

SUMMARY
The Director of Congregational Care is to help develop, implement, and supervise the pastoral care ministries to the existing congregation.  The Sr. Pastor is the immediate supervisor of the Director of Congregational Care.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS
??Able to move freely in and out of office and various church settings.
??Able to speak in a public forum and to communicate clearly in one-on-one setting.

SKILLS REQUIRED
??Practices the Christian faith.
??Knowledge of English usage, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
??Ability to use a personal computer and various software packages including, Excel, Word and
PowerPoint.
??Ability to establish priorities, work independently, and proceed with objectives without supervision.
??Ability to handle and resolve recurring problems.
??Ability to keep strict confidentiality and to refrain from unnecessary discussions of church business.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS

Congregational Care
??Responsible for follow-up of visitors, recruitment of new members and assimilation of new congregants into the ministry of the church (e.g., small groups, Sunday School).
??Provides pastoral care to all Orange Park UMC congregants by conducting home visits, hospital visits, nursing home and retirement center visits, and bereavement visits.
??Leads in developing and implementing an appropriate congregational care program (e.g., Stephen’s
Ministries, Shepherding Ministry).
??Develops and implements a system of follow up for congregants who have missed worship services.

Programs
??Relates to areas of Evangelism, advertising, outreach, publicity, and public relations.
??Is the contact person for advertising efforts and oversees advertising budget.






General Pastoral Responsibilities
??Responsible for general church oversight when the Senior Pastor is not available (if ordained)
??Assists in worship and preaching at the request of the Senior Pastor (if ordained).
??Prepares and preaches sermons and officiates at weddings and funerals as needed (if ordained).
??Attends weekly staff meetings, staff retreats, and church-wide events.
??Writes monthly newsletter articles and submits them to the Administrative Assistant in a timely
manner.
??Performs basic secretarial and administrative duties to oversee his/her ministry.
??Performs other related duties as required

CORE COMPETENCIES

Mission Ownership: Demonstrates understanding and full support of the mission, vision, values, and
beliefs of Orange Park United Methodist Church. Can teach those values to others.

Spiritual Maturity: Has a vital Christian life that is lived out through the ministry of Orange Park
United Methodist Church. Models and develops humility, teachability, accountability, and servant
leadership in all church relationships.

Biblical Knowledge: Able to discuss and interpret biblical truth when applying Scripture to life
situations. Guides others in the exploration and discovery of biblical truth. Encourages and designs
avenues for others to engage in ongoing training/studying of Scripture.

Interpersonal Skills: Demonstrates the ability to lead others. Keeps strict confidentiality. Demonstrates the skills of active listening and openly accepts criticism. Productively engages and resolves interpersonal conflict. Engages people positively, with a demeanor of optimism and cheerfulness. Maintains a good working relationship with other church staff, congregants, and the general public. Problem solves, is a self-starter, and is able to multi-task. Handles and resolves recurring problems.

Team Building Skills: Guides congregants in the process of finding their gifts to share with the church by encouraging them to see their volunteering as a ministry, rather than as a way to get a job done. Recognizes dysfunctional team behavior and redirects it into functional behavior. Works with leaders to regularly assess the health of teams and groups. Creates and communicates vision, direction and goals for teams.

Management Skills: Demonstrates commitment and flexibility in scheduling regular sessions with those in his/her span of care. Understands his/her leadership style and temperament type and adapts leadership behaviors to meet the needs of the situation. Delegates, empowers, and holds leaders accountable. Demonstrates ability to schedule necessary meetings, oversees unpaid staff, and assembles resources (people, funding, material, support) to get things done.

Leadership Development: Is a good judge of talent and spiritual giftedness. Can accurately project how people are likely to perform in a variety of settings. Provides challenging and stretching tasks and assignments for developing leaders. Stretches people to try new skills and accept new levels of
responsibility.





SUBMISSION OF APPLICATION MATERIALS

The Director of Congregational Care position may be filled by laity or clergy.  The position is one that requires a self-starter who has a passion for people.  This is currently listed as a full-time position.  Salary and housing are negotiable.  Health and pension benefits are provided.  Please submit resume’ with employment and salary history via email to orangeparkumc@gmail.com  Upon review, additional application materials may be required.

Conversations
Friday - December 19, 2014
Why are manger scenes so strange?

Figures in nativity scenes are pretty weird, aren't they? This is true of most manger scenes, whether we’re talking about the ceramic one under a tree or the statuesque one in a church or the plastic one on a lawn. First off, there’s Mary, always looking very fresh and calm and full of reflection — which is quite impressive considering that she just gave birth without any sedative. Then there’s Joseph, doing some kind of man-thing off to the side — holding a lantern or a large stick. He looks totally composed, too.

And there’s the baby Jesus with a full head of hair, wide-open eyes and arms outstretched like he’s ready to belt out a song.
 
Not to ruin anyone’s Christmas spirit here, but what the heck?
 
If our manger scenes were realistic, Mary would be recovering from a painful labor full of sweat and blood, with a look on her face that’s anything but serene. And Joseph — wouldn’t he be a nervous wreck, too? His hand too shaky to hold a lantern?
 
And about that newborn. Shouldn’t he be red-faced and screaming? Eyes clenched closed and wisps of hair stuck to the top of a head that‘s still odd-shaped from all the squeezing?
 
Instead, we’ve sanitized and romanticized it. We’ve removed all the blood and sweat and tears and pain and goo. It’s no longer something real. We’ve left out all the messy parts. The oh-my-God-what-now parts. The I’m-screaming-as-loud-as-I-can-because-it-really-hurts parts. The oh-no-I’ve-stepped-in-the-animal-droppings parts. 
 
The real parts.
 
Our manger scenes depict a far different story than ones written 2,000 years ago. Those old stories tell of a young couple that’s been disgraced by questions about the baby’s father. The grand moment comes in a place nobody would choose to bring a baby into the world. A bunch of shepherds are the first to hear the news. Dirty shepherds — among the lowest people in their society. Religious outcasts because they couldn’t observe the purity rituals while working in the fields.
 
And this baby grows into a man who hangs out with all the unsavory folks in his society. The ones that the religiously observant people call sinners. Poor people. Dirty people. Rough people. All sorts of social and economic outcasts. He even turns fishermen — some of the roughest and lowest people in his world — into his closest friends and followers.
 
And that’s what Christmas is about, Charlie Brown. 
 
It’s not about a calm-faced mother and a lantern-toting dad with a perfect baby stretching out its arms to the world. It’s about us as we really are. Bleeding and screaming. Covered in goo and disgrace. Aware of our many failings and falling-short moments. Coming apart. Barely holding it together. Unable to explain why we make such bad choices so many times.
 
So, here’s an idea. Let’s replace those plastic manger scene figurers with something more real.
 
With what?
 
With us. You. Me.
 
Because really, we’re the ones who should be there. We’re the ones who understand what all of this is like — blood, sweat, pain, confusion. Just another day in our lives, no? 
 
And not only that, we’re the ones who need to cozy up to the manger to be saved. Yes, saved. Saved from thinking we should be like those plastic figures. Saved from thinking that our messy lives are somehow not good enough. Saved from our moments of despair. Our self-loathing. Our inclination to give up. Saved from our pervasive and numbing indifference. Above all, saved from thinking that we don’t need to be saved.
 
We’re like the alcoholic at his first AA meeting. Once we state our name and what we are, the healing can begin. The redemption process can get rolling.
 
That’s what Christmas is about.
 
We acknowledge our brokenness, and God responds with a kiss on our sweaty faces and goo-covered foreheads. Reminds us that even though we make mistakes and bad choices, we ourselves are never a mistake or a bad choice. Instead, we are always a chosen miracle. And when we feel totally broken, that’s when we’re the most beloved. Always. Each of us. Just as we are.
 
Like the dirty shepherds who were invited to see for themselves, or the rough fishermen who were called to be followers and friends, or the young couple who found themselves parents of a child without respectable explanation for its parentage, we are all part of an ongoing and endless process of redemption. 
 
And limitless love.
 
So go ahead. Take your place in the manager scene. You belong there. In fact, offer to hold the baby for a while and maybe even take him for a walk. His parents will be grateful for the break. It’s been a long night. This redemption stuff is exhausting.
 
But you already knew that, didn’t you?
 
Courtesy Sojourners Magazine www.sojo.net. Photo courtesy Bigstock. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Florida Conference.
Thursday - December 18, 2014
Top 10 "Leading Ideas" articles of 2014

What Leading Ideas subjects are trending this year? We have assembled this list to give you another opportunity to glean insight and inspiration from the authors and articles most popular with our 15,000-plus subscribers.

Joy Skjedstad Small congregations sometimes assume that any significant community ministry is beyond their reach. But author and consultant Joy Skjegstad outlines how small congregations can develop community ministries that make an impact by playing to their strengths. Read more.
Father Michael White After attending a lackluster Sunday morning Mass during a family beach vacation, Father Michael White recounts the ways the service communicated to visitors that they did not belong and failed to serve its primary objective of conveying the living Word of God. Read more.
Keith Anderson Focusing too much on the liturgical correctness of colors and songs used during Advent is irrelevant, says Pastor Keith Anderson, and it detracts from the importance of announcing Advent as a time of invitation to waiting, longing, love, and incarnation. Read more.
Joe Daniels One of the greatest challenges to the church today is its lack of connection to community, says Pastor Joe Daniels. Vital churches focus outward, engaging their communities — not only to serve — but to build relationships and make disciples. Read more.
Lovett H. Weems, Jr. Lewis Center Director Lovett H. Weems, Jr. explains why it is so very difficult, yet so necessary, for churches to move beyond programs and practices that no longer connect to current needs and objectives. Read more.
Brian Bauknight Noting that the first two minutes are critically important, Brian Bauknight asks why our worship services can’t start with a joyful, enthusiastic, and genuinely appreciative opening — the way “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon does. Read more.
F. Douglas Powe, Jr. Worship is no longer as strong a mechanism for engaging new people as it once was, according to authors Doug Powe and Jasmine Smothers. Ministries such as missions, small groups, and child-care programs are becoming vital places of welcome and connection. Read more.
Yvi Martin On Ash Wednesday, Pastor Yvi Martin offered imposition of ashes in a local coffee house. She describes how this was a meaningful way for her church members to begin Lent and a witness that reached many others. Read more.
Faith Communities Today logo Faith Communities Today issued a study of congregations that have succeeded in attracting significant numbers of young adults. Their research suggests some “dos” and “don’ts” for congregations seeking to engage young adults. Read more.
Thomas James and Lovett Weems What should pastors do about their social media relationships when moving from one church to the next? Pastor Thomas James and Lewis Center Director Lovett H. Weems, Jr., offer advice on managing social media relationships in appropriate and sensitive ways during pastoral transitions. Read more.

Courtesy of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership www.churchleadership.com. Opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

 Display photo courtesy Bigstock.

Monday - December 8, 2014
Advent quiz: test your knowledge of the season

Advent is a special time in the life of the church. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.  Click here to see how much you know about the traditions and symbols of the season.

Monday - December 8, 2014
Experiencing religion through story

Stories express religious experience in a way that is more immediate than ritual, liturgy or theology, Rabbi Sandy Sasso says.

That doesn’t mean stories -- even stories for children -- are superficial or simplistic. Indeed, she said, writing children’s books about faith requires deep study and reflection.

“I think children struggle with the large questions of life, and we don’t often give them credit for that,” she said. “We assume that they’re not capable of engaging in conversations that we assume are more philosophical and abstract. I don’t think that’s the case.”

Sasso is senior rabbi emerita of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, where she has served with her husband, Rabbi Dennis Sasso, since 1977.

She has written a number of books for children and adults, including “God’s Paintbrush,” “Midrash: Reading the Bible with Question Marks” and the forthcoming “Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree.”

Sasso’s career has been marked by a number of firsts. She was the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi in the Reconstructionist movement, the first rabbi to become a mother, and the first woman to serve a congregation as rabbi in partnership with her husband.

Sasso spoke to Faith & Leadership about her work as a rabbi, leader and writer. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: What is the value of storytelling in religious education, especially for children?

I think that the closest thing to the religious experience is the story. First there is an experience, a spiritual, religious experience, and then the next thing you do is tell a story about it in order to hold that experience in some type of container that can be passed on from generation to generation and can be shared in community.

Then that story becomes ritual and liturgy, in many cases. So that experience is ritualized. For example, in Judaism there was an experience of the exodus, and then a story was told about it, and then we have a Passover Seder that becomes part of a ritual tradition, and then ultimately we reflect upon it, and that’s theology.

So theology is the furthest from the experience. Not that it’s not important. Of course it’s important, but it’s furthest from the experience.

The story is what attempts to capture the feelings and the emotion and the power of that moment.

Q: Your work bespeaks a certain kind of respect for children. Would you talk about that?

I think children struggle with the large questions of life, and we don’t often give them credit for that. We assume that they’re not capable of engaging in conversations that we assume are more philosophical and abstract. I don’t think that’s the case.

What they don’t have is the language. It’s our obligation as educators, adults, clergy to give them the language. My feeling is that language is story, and so through story they are able to deal with these larger theological questions.

In many ways, adults also can better understand and grapple with those questions through story. I cannot write for children unless I really understand the concept. It’s much more difficult in many ways, because I think we hide behind philosophical language.

I don’t write to give answers. I really don’t feel that I should be preaching. I feel I should be telling a story. I’m a storyteller.

Each child will develop his or her relation to the story based on where they are at that point in their lives and their experiences. So many times when we tell stories, we want to tell people what the story means. What the story means to us -- not what the story means to someone else. When I ask people where they are in the story, the responses are incredible, and I learn something about the story that I didn’t know before.

When I talk about religion and stories, often kids say, “Is that story true? Did that really happen?” I make a distinction between true stories and truth stories.

And I say that some of the stories may not be true in the sense that we can actually document that these events happened or these people lived, but they are truth stories that teach us something about human nature and the world.

You know, children are really able to deal with that. I’ve seen that when I talk to kids. They say, “Oh, I get it.” But when they grow up, they grow out of it.

I want to give a kind of story that can grow with children. I think that has something to do with children sometimes leaving a tradition. Because we haven’t really addressed them seriously and taken a deeper look at belief and connection and community and meaning.

Q: Your forthcoming book is a children’s book about Anne Frank. That really is giving children a lot of respect to be able to handle a difficult topic. Did you struggle with that at all?

The Holocaust is a particularly difficult topic for young children, but I told this story from the point of view of the tree that was behind the secret annex. It’s the tree that Anne and Margot Frank wrote about in their diaries.

When the tree was at a point where it couldn’t live anymore and was going to be cut down, saplings from the tree were saved and then planted all over the world -- 11 in the United States.

The first one happened to be planted at the children’s museum in Indianapolis, which is where I learned about this story.

So I tell the story from the point of view of the tree, and I think it makes it much more accessible to young children. And it ends with hope, because the tree is planted in 11 places around the United States, and every time someone sees it, the story is remembered. It makes a very difficult event accessible for younger children.

My other belief is that children struggle with difficulty, and we need to honor that. Look at all the fairy tales. Some of them are quite frightening, you know. The big, bad wolf, a lot of Grimm tales -- I mean, they’re grim.

Children love them, and why do they love them? Because it addresses some of their natural fears and ultimately says you can overcome them. Because the endings of the stories are always hopeful. And I think if we ignore that, then we’re ignoring a very important part of a child’s life.

Q: I want to shift topics and talk to you about your own life as a religious leader. You have a long list of firsts. What advice would you give to other religious leaders, whether male or female, based on your experience?

First of all, I would say you have to really love what you do. You have to have a passion not only for teaching but for being with people in community, because it’s a hard career choice. There are lots of demands and lots of expectations, and they are not uniform.

Very few people have to be able to work with people of all ages -- some who are more academic and some who are not, some who are looking more for entertainment, some who are looking more for scholarship -- and also to be a good speaker and a great pastor.

It’s something more than a profession; it’s a lifestyle. It’s who you are as a human being.

Remember that the personal is important as well as the public presence. I think particularly with clergy, that’s significant. There is a public presence, and there’s also an opportunity to connect with more people because of your role.

I have made connections in this community that I would never have made if I were, let’s say, a lawyer or a doctor. You represent your tradition, and you have a responsibility of doing that in an honest and genuine way, and that helps create greater understanding and tolerance in a world where there’s not a whole lot of it.

Q: Do you consider yourself a leader?

Yes. One of the roles is to build community, to bring diverse people with different interests and different inclinations together to form a community for a common search for meaning and for creating a life that makes a difference in the world around us.

If I were to talk about my own theology, I think of it as a theology of encounter. I feel that I experience the divine and the sacred in the connections with other people.

It could be a connection with a text, but it isn’t a connection with a sacred text alone. It’s a text in conversation with another person.

One of the things that I’ve done after retirement is create a religion, spirituality and arts program at Butler University. I bring together 12 artists from all artistic disciplines to study one biblical text through the eyes of art, music, literature and religion. The result has been incredible. I mean, just beyond my imagination.

We studied Genesis 22 for the first year, and it’s been extraordinary. I’ve studied that text in seminary and as a rabbi for years and years, and the artists just opened up a new way of looking at it. And I think looking at it also with somebody who has studied it for a long time allowed for some new inspiration for art.

There are photographers and visual artists and sculptors and writers and drama people and architects, and they come together from all different kinds of religions -- and people who don’t consider themselves identified with a particular religion -- but they’re all spiritual seekers, and they create something from this conversation.

I feel like I’m building a community that did not exist, because these people don’t know each other, and they don’t usually work across artistic lines and religious lines at the same time. As one of the artists said to me, “I can talk about my art with other artists. I talk about my spiritual life in my religious community. But I’ve never been able to bridge the two.”

So this opportunity of building this new kind of community allowed that to happen. It was so successful, the artists didn’t want to stop, and many of them are meeting on their own now and have continued to form a community that continues this conversation.

Q: That’s fascinating.

Yes, it’s been so exciting. It’s something I wanted to do but had no idea whether it would work or not.

In leadership, there’s always a little bit of risk taking. If you just stay on the path that’s already been paved for you, not very much creative happens, but if you’re willing to go off the path a bit and take some risks, then there are myriad opportunities.

Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

Monday - December 8, 2014
Jim Harnish: Good News or Christmas drivel?

Christmas Drivel

On the way to and from South Carolina for Thanksgiving, we alternated between two radio stations that were playing non-stop Christmas music. It was an interesting ride.
 
The music was almost entirely secular, pop songs. Seven hours each way is a long time in the company of Burl Ives singing “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” Gene Autry crooning “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” or someone I had never heard before singing, “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas.”
 
There’s nothing wrong with all that. It’s great fun, although I have some serious questions about “Christmas is No Time to Diet.” If you don’t feel a warm glow when Nat King Cole sings “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” or a lump in your throat when you hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” there is something seriously wrong with you.
 
But most of it is Christmas drivel. It’s candy canes without a drop of protein in it.
 
Something Better 
 
I have absolutely no interest in the imagined “War on Christmas” which is being trumped up again this year by the folks at Fox News. I guess it doesn’t matter whether it’s true just so it pumps up the ratings. In fact, there’s almost something refreshing about the secular Christmas of alcohol-soaked parties, slick marketing, and sales reports having it’s own language and music.
 
The near absence of traditional Christmas carols on the airwaves didn’t make me angry or defensive. It made me sad.
 
It reminded me that both in terms of the music and the message, the church has something better to offer to a world that is suffering from racial bigotry, economic injustice, intractable poverty and relentless violence. In the real world of our everyday lives, “Winter Wonderland” can't hold a candle to “Joy to the World” declaring:
 
  No more let sins and sorrows grow,
  Nor thorns infest the ground.
  He comes to make
  His blessings flow
  Far as the curse is found.
 
The good news the carols proclaim is, in fact, the word for which the world is most deeply longing.
 
Good News from the Carols
 
The good news is distinctly counter-cultural. It announces a God who comes, not among the rich and powerful, but among the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Like Herod, we would look for the next king in Buckingham Palace, not among the refugees who are streaming from Syria into Jordan. We’d look for him in the White House, not in the homeless shelter. But there he is, “Away in a manger” with “no crib for a bed.”
 
The good news is also politically subversive. It undermines the "might makes right" arrogance of people and nations that assume they can control the world by their force and power. After all, Herod would not have slaughtered the children of Bethlehem in order to stop “Frosty the Snowman.”
 
It’s also good news of relentless hope. It declares that there is an alternative to the ways of living to which we have sadly become so accustomed and it invites us to live now in ways that are consistent with the way this world will be when:
 
  He rules the world with truth and grace,
  And makes the nations prove
  The glories of His righteousness,
  And wonders of His love.
 
So, go ahead. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Ring those “Jingle Bells” as your “Rock Around the Christmas Tree.” But when you come down from your sugar high and feel an insatiable hunger for something more, spend your time with the carols that announce good news that this old world and all of our weary souls are desperate to hear.
 
  Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
  Hail the Son of Righteousness!
  Light and life to all He brings
  Ris'n with healing in His wings
  Mild He lays His glory by
  Born that we no more may die
  Born to raise us from the earth
  Born to give us second birth
  Hark! The herald angels sing
  "Glory to the newborn King!"
 
Now, there’s a Christmas song worth singing!
 
Jim
 
Wednesday - December 3, 2014
Lovett Weems on the emergence of "Dones"
Rev. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

A friend alerted me to a blog by Thom Schultz, founder of Group Publishing, on “The Rise of the Dones.” At first I thought there must be a misprint. Surely the title meant to refer to the rise of the “Nones,” the increasingly large number of people, especially among those under 30, who choose as their religious affiliation “None.” 

But “Dones” was correct, so I set out to learn more about this new group. Dones are those who typically were at one time the most active and loyal of church members. Now they have left. They did not go to other churches. They stopped going to church completely. Sometimes these persons are referred to as the “dechurched.”
 
Schultz points out the danger for churches. “The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.”
 
Drawing on research by sociologist Josh Packard, Schultz points to people fatigued with being talked at through countless sermons and Bible studies when they really want to be more engaged and to participate instead of a Sunday routine of “plop, pray, and pay.”  
 
Schultz asks if they will return. “Not likely, according to the research. They’re done. Packard says it would be more fruitful if churches would focus on not losing these people in the first place. Preventing an exodus is far easier than attempting to convince refugees to return.”
 
Often I will ask a pastor to think of a few people in the congregation who, if they left in the next year, would cause the church to be most vulnerable. Once they come up with their list, my follow-up question is, “What personal engagement have you had with them in the last two weeks?” Usually the answer is “none,” precisely because these are the people who are most loyal and dependable. They do not “require” or insist upon attention. But not giving attention to them is dangerous.
 
Pastors, staff, and congregational leaders need to spend time with the most active people to stay in touch with their thinking and feelings. Such ongoing connection can pick up clues about concerns or opportunities that would be missed otherwise. Decisions to leave are not made suddenly. They have been brewing for some time. Once people leave, often the clues that something was not right become all too obvious in retrospect.
 
Finding ways to talk with long-time, active members about their spiritual journeys and the connection of those journeys with your congregation can go a long way toward understanding the heart of the congregation and issues that can guide congregational leadership. Schultz suggests these questions.
  • Why are you a part of this church?
  • What keeps you here?
  • Have you ever contemplated stepping away from church? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe your relationship with God right now?
  • How has your relationship with God changed over the past few years?
  • What effect, if any, has our church had on your relationship with God?
  • What would need to change here to help you grow more toward Jesus’ call to love God and love others?
Remember that leaders listen. Leaders usually have to listen to those expressing upset and displeasure. Good leaders make sure they are finding time to listen to the most faithful well before any of them become “Dones.”
 
Courtesy of the Lewis Center for Leadership www.churchleadership.com. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Florida Conference.

 

Events
Wednesday - December 24, 2014
UM Center Closed - Christmas

Conference office closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Monday - January 5, 2015
NE District Clergy Gathering and Epiphany Worship

                        Clergy Gathering and Epiphany Worship with Bishop Ken Carter

Monday, January 5, 2015 at 9:15AM
Murray Hill UMC
4101 College Street
Jacksonville, FL  32205
 
All Clergy are invited to join Rev. Smiley on Monday, January 5, 2015 for an Epiphany worship service and conversation with Bishop Ken Carter.
 
Please register your attendance.
Tuesday - January 6, 2015
East Central District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations) Annual Training Event - Sanlando UMC, Longwood

The Annual East Central District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations Committee) Training Event will provide you with the effective tools needed in your many responsibilities. Rev. Annette Stile Pendergrass and Janet Kelley will facilitate the training.

SPRC Chairpersons and Committee Members, Pastors, and Lay Leaders are strongly encouraged to attend this important training event.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015  6:30pm - 8:30pm
Sanlando UMC
(Fellowship Hall)
1890 W SR 434
Longwood, FL 32750

Please register your plan to participate to help us plan appropriate set-up, handouts, and refreshments.


Thursday - January 8, 2015
East Central District Leadership Team (DLT)

The EC District Leadership Team will meet from 10:30am-12:30pm on Thursday, January 8th at the EC District Office FUMCH.

Thursday - January 8, 2015
East Central District Nominations Committee

East Central District Nominations Committee will meet January 8th from 11:30am-1:30pm following the DLT meeting.  Nominations meeting will include lunch.

Thursday - January 8, 2015
SE District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM)

The South East District Committee on Ordained Ministry (dCOM) will be meeting.

Thursday - January 8, 2015
Staff Parish Relations Committe Training

The Annual North Central District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations Committee) training will provide your team with the effective tools needed in your many responsibilities. Pastors, SPRC Chairperson and Committee Members are strongly encouraged to attend.
 
Plan to attend one of the two SPRC training events
planned for January 2015.

Thursday, January 8 at 6:30 p.m.
Community, Fruitland Park
309 College Ave.
Fruitland Park, FL 34731

Or

Tuesday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Celebration, Gainesville
9501 SW Archer Rd.
Gainesville, FL 32608

 

Friday - January 9, 2015
Candidacy Retreat January 2015
Monday - January 12, 2015
East Central District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations) Annual Training Event - Covenant UMC, Port Orange

The Annual East Central District SPRC (Staff Parish Relations Committee) Training Event will provide you with the effective tools needed in your many responsibilities. Rev. Annette Stile Pendergrass and Janet Kelley will facilitate the training.

SPRC Chairpersons and Committee Members, Pastors, and Lay Leaders are strongly encouraged to attend this important training event.

Monday, January 12, 2015  6:30pm - 8:30pm
Covenant UMC, Port Orange
3701 S Clyde Morris Blvd
Port Orange, FL 32129

Please register your plan to participate to help us plan appropriate set-up, handouts, and refreshments.

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