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Friday - April 11, 2014
Home-in-a-box event signals birth of a ministry

Churches will take turns hosting homeless families until the parents get back on their feet.

BRANDON – From the road, it might have looked like a grassy field dotted with abandoned refrigerator boxes. But founders of a new ministry saw it as the promise of a dream home for families who scramble for shelter night after night.

Spencer Wilson planning to sleep in a box to help homeless
Spencer Wilson, 9,  prepares to sleep in a cardboard box to help families without homes in the Brandon area.
Lanie Pinson, Elizabeth Temple, Abby Wells of Limona UMC at Box Car City
From left, Lanie Pinson, 13, Elizabeth Temple, 11, and Abby Wells, 11, from Limona Village Chapel UMC say they're happy to spend a warm Saturday night sleeping in boxes to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

“This is a God-led ministry,” said Skip Wilson, a member of First UMC, Brandon, who has been pushing to start a faith-based Family Promise affiliate in the area for nearly four years. “We wouldn’t be where we are now without Him.”

Wilson, now Family Promise of Greater Brandon vice president, was among board members who turned out for Box Car City, a fundraiser and awareness event staged Saturday, April 5, at Nativity Catholic Church.

The Family Promise program, part of a national effort, provides temporary housing for homeless families in church buildings on a rotation basis and will begin accepting parents and children in May. The ultimate goal is to get families back on their feet and into apartments or houses. Organizers say the ministry is sorely needed in Hillsborough County, where the school district has reported more than 3,000 homeless children in recent years.

About 100 people of all ages from multiple Christian denominations paid money to spend the night Saturday in a car or cardboard box. Approximately 60 more showed up for fellowship and entertainment.

Besides raising money, the event was designed to help supporters get a firsthand look at what it’s like to sleep in a box or vehicle, said Deborah Humphrey, member of St. Andrew’s UMC, Brandon, and president of the Brandon affiliate.

Participants also followed a schedule like that of homeless people staying in shelters, with mandatory “lights out” at 10 p.m. and off the property by 6 a.m. They received a sandwich and snacks in a paper sack from I Am Hope Café, which feeds homeless and needy people in the area.

Youth groups from several churches turned out for the event, including Lanie Pinson, 13, and her friends Elizabeth Temple and Abby Wells, both 11. All attend Limona Village Chapel UMC, Brandon.

“All my friends thought I was crazy,” Lanie said. “They said, ‘So what are you doing for the weekend?’ I said, ‘Sleeping in a box.’” 

The changing face of homelessness

The growing problem of homelessness is nothing new, but the mental image of an unkempt man in faded clothing huddling under a bridge or holding up a sign may be passé.

“Our most common demographic is women with kids,” said Mark Landschoot, executive director at Family Promise of Jacksonville, a faith-based organization that taps local churches to provide temporary shelter to homeless families. Eighty percent of those helped are infants and children.

“It’s Mom and little kids. … The average age is 8.”

This past year, the program served three two-parent families with no roof over their heads, Landschoot said.

But usually he sees women who have lost jobs or been abruptly thrown into the labor pool without the skills they need to support themselves and their offspring.

“Most of our families are in situational homelessness,” said Landschoot, explaining that  adverse life circumstances -- not irresponsible behavior – led to their need for help.

As in other Family Promise affiliates, participating churches open their doors on a rotation basis to provide food and shelter for a week at a time. Family Promise helps  homeless parents look for work or beef up their skills while they save enough money for security and utility deposits needed to get into an apartment.

In six years since the Jacksonville program’s startup, nearly 90 percent of families served have gotten back on their feet, Landschoot said.

“This is not your traditional shelter from the standpoint of a hot (meal) and a cot,” Landschoot said. Among the perks of having churches step into the void is that families make lasting connections; Landschoot estimated that a third of the families join one of the host congregations.

Participating United Methodist congregations in the Jacksonville area are First UMC, CrossRoad, Ortega, St. Paul, Southside and Avondale.

Family Promise has more than 180 affiliates across the nation. In Florida, there are additional affiliates in Sarasota, Gainesville, Orlando and the counties of Flagler, Santa Rosa and Palm Beach. New affiliates are gearing up in Brandon, near Tampa, and Pinellas County.
 
For information, click here.

Few of the volunteer campers interviewed knew any homeless people personally, but several young people said they were outraged that job loss is escalating the problem.

“I think it’s messed up that some people are homeless because they don’t have enough money for rent,” Abby said.

Elizabeth said she knew a family who came close to becoming a statistic.

There was someone in our neighborhood that was almost kicked out of their house because they didn’t have enough money,” she said.

Another student, Mabel Kerker, 14, and her friend, Kyra Denington, both of St. Andrew’s UMC, decided to spend Kyra’s 14th birthday sleeping in a cardboard box. Their mothers elected to sleep on an air mattress in the back of an SUV.

Mabel said she knew a student at her school who kept mum about his homeless situation while it was going on but later talked about the difficulties of trying to study, get to class, take care of a younger sibling and deal with all the requests for extracurricular fees his family couldn’t afford.

“He talked about how it was really hard, and his mom was working four jobs,” Mabel recalled.

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, several participants said they knew they were in for an uncomfortable night. Mabel said she was excited to do it.

“It’s cool to be able to put yourself in other people’s place and see how other people live their lives for months on end,” the teenager said.

“It’s fun to get with people who want to do what you’re doing.”

As participants settled in for the evening, Kathy Brogli, the Brandon organization’s newly hired executive director, welcomed the crowd and acknowledged that they were getting only a taste of the conditions for families who sleep in makeshift shelters or their vehicles.

“They have to deal with going to bed and getting all hot and sweaty and going to work all hot and sweaty,” Brogli said. “They have to deal with not knowing their family is safe.”

Humphrey said money raised at the event will go toward computers needed to aid in job searches for homeless breadwinners and items like food or diapers for children served by the program.

Seven of the 13 churches signed up to participate are United Methodist, and across the state, Methodists provide much of the muscle behind the initiative, which is nine affiliates strong. 

Campout volunteers receive sack lunches from I Am Hope Cafe
Diana Pollard, right, of First Presbyterian Church, Brandon, and I Am Hope Café in Seffner serves Box Car City volunteers sack lunches similar to those homeless families will receive through Family Promise. Participating churches also will provide hot meals and sleeping quarters when the ministry starts next month.

In Brandon, First Presbyterian Church provides a building on its campus to serve as a daytime hub for homeless families. The church also will launch the rotation ministry, hosting up to 14 people in campus buildings overnight for the first week of May before turning hosting duties over to First UMC.

Many of the 11 host churches will turn classrooms into bedrooms, but others had plans to partition their sanctuaries.

Sue Benitez of Brandon Christian Church, who has been active in Family Promise for two years, said volunteers who stay overnight with the families will sleep in the church kitchen if necessary.

“We’re a small church, so we’re going to use every square inch,” she said. “It’s all in your mindset.”

Volunteers were invited to decorate their cardboard abodes for a friendly competition. Brogli said she shingled hers with papers bearing the single word “hope.”

“Because of Family Promise, they (homeless families) are going to have a safe place to sleep,” she told the crowd. “They’re going to have food to eat every single day … and they’re going to be surrounded by unconditional love.

“God is going to use you in mighty ways, just as He has already.”
 

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

Monday - April 7, 2014
Broken people walking toward wholeness

The Rev. Claire Wimbush articulates a theology of the body from the perspective of someone who cannot walk, stand, wash her own hair or tie her own shoes. But she can celebrate the Eucharist and preach a homily and serve as an Episcopal priest.

Indeed, she finds “a kind of beauty in my broken body offering the broken body of Christ to my congregation,” she said.

This video was produced in 2011 as part of the Clergy Health Initiative. Wimbush currently serves as a chaplain at Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community in Richmond, Va.

Click here for Rev. Wimbush's video and the transcript. Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com

 

Tuesday - April 1, 2014
Annual Conference 5K to aid Imagine No Malaria

... and offer health benefits to participants

LAKELAND -- Lace up your shoes and get ready to run - or walk - for faith and fitness at the inaugural Florida Annual Conference 5K.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Imagine No Malaria, a worldwide campaign to eradicate malaria. Funds will help pay for education, protective mosquito nets and other treatments for this parasitic disease. The Florida Conference recently agreed to a formal partnership with the United Methodist effort that has helped cut malaria deaths nearly in half in recent years. Details of the partnership will be announced at the 2014 Annual Conference.

About 200 people are expected to sign up for this first-ever conference 5K, which will start at 6:30 a.m. June 12 at Lake Hollingsworth. The event is open to the public.

"We really encourage the greater Lakeland community to join us," says Rev. Sarah Miller, pastor of Reeves UMC, Orlando.

The run-walk kicks off the second day of planned activities for the 172nd session of the Florida Annual Conference, scheduled for June 11-14 at The Lakeland Center, 701 Lime St.

Advance registration for the 5K is $25 through June 11, but a race T-shirt is guaranteed only if registration is completed by June 5. On the day of the run, registration is $35. The 3.1-mile course will begin at the corner of Ingraham Avenue and Lake Hollingsworth Drive.

Participants can pick up their pre-race packets from noon to 6 p.m. June 11 at The Lakeland Center or beginning at 5:30 a.m. on race day. To register, visit www.flumc.org/5K.

Miller says the race and the charity it benefits fit neatly into the theme of this year's conference: "The Mission of God."

Race participants are expected to represent about 10 percent of the anticipated 2,000 Methodists who attend the conference, she says.

5k run participants from Reeves UMC
Runners from Reeves UMC, Orlando, work out for a good cause at the church's first 5K Run last fall. Photo from Rev. Sarah Miller.

"This is an active way that members of the annual conference can unite faith with fitness as an expression of their activism," Miller says. "It really is a way we can take care of ourselves so we can commit to taking care of and serving others."

Social media got the 5K started.

Rev. Jad Denmark, minister of connection at St. Luke's UMC, Orlando, tweeted a query at last year's annual conference. He wondered why the Western North Carolina Conference sponsored a 5K while Florida's did not.

His tweet was seen by Florida Bishop Ken Carter, who was a pastor and district superintendent in Western North Carolina before being elected bishop and taking office in Florida in 2012.

The upshot? Miller and Denmark were tapped to form a committee and organize this year's inaugural race. Miller is something of an old hand at the task, after staging a 5K run in 2013 at her church.

For beginners who have never run the distance of a 5K, Miller recommends adopting a training program.

About 10 weeks remain until race day, and at least one online source, Cool Running, offers a "Couch to 5K" training program designed for eight weeks out. Its creator, Josh Clark, designed the program as a way to get fit in the most painless way possible. It follows a thrice-weekly schedule of brisk warm-up walks, followed by alternating periods of jogging and walking to build endurance.

A beginner's training schedule can be found at www.coolrunning.com. There also are training tips and schedules for more seasoned runners.

Miller recommends buddying up with a friend or forming a fitness group as a great way to have fun and improve overall health.

“I'm not a runner, but I am an active person," she says. "I definitely believe in an active lifestyle, and I'm committed to finding a way to bring our clergy into an active life."

Recent studies have identified clergy as among the most overworked people in the U.S. In 2002, about 76 percent were overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of the general population. In 2007, the Duke (University) Endowment provided a $12 million grant to North Carolina’s Duke Divinity School to establish the Clergy Health Initiative, aimed at assessing and changing poor health habits among United Methodist clergy in the North Carolina and Western North Carolina conferences. The initiative recommends that clergy members consider their physical condition in deciding whether to participate in new forms of exercise.

For information about the Florida Conference 5K, email Sarah.Miller@flumc.org.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.


 

Wednesday - March 12, 2014
Telling Our Stories theme for AC 2014: The Mission of God

Once again the Annual Conference agenda will feature storytellers who share stories about the meeting theme, “The Mission of God.”

“We want our members to share stories about what they are doing individually, in a small group or with a congregation to fulfill God’s dream for the world and how they are in mission with God,” said Gretchen Hastings, director of Connectional Relations for the conference.  “Stories can be about international or domestic missions, from rebuilding earthquake-ravaged neighborhoods in Haiti to building a playground here in Florida for children who really need a place to play.”

Storytellers selected to speak at Annual Conference will be asked to share their stories on the stage during the plenary sessions.  For those scheduled and unable to attend, the conference will attempt to produce a video of the storyteller.  All stories will be told on the conference storytelling site www.tellingourstories.com.

We ask local church pastors, staff and district staff to help find participants for “Telling Our Stories” by encouraging persons they know who are willing to be our storytellers, said Hastings. “We’ll work with our storytellers on guidelines, suggestions and editing, and we’ll provide program and stage guidance during the Conference.”

There is a link below for nominating a storyteller.

Storytelling Guidelines
 

  • Length: 300-400 words
  • Focused on how you or your church has experienced being in mission with God
  • Questions for a jump start, if needed:
    When have you been a part of the mission of God?
    Where have you seen the mission of God in our world?
    Tell about someone you know who is in mission with God.

To Tell Your Story 

Please click here to go to our story submission page to send us your contact information and your story.

To Nominate a Storyteller

Please click here to nominate a storyteller.

If you have any questions, please email storytellers@flumc.org and use the subject line Storytelling.

 

Annual Conference
Annual Conference 5K Run

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 (12 pm 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

Annual Conference Event Logos

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

 

Expo Application Forms

Once again we look forward to welcoming friends and colleagues to our annual time of conferencing for The United Methodist Church in Florida. The 2014 event will be held at the Lakeland Center, Lakeland, Florida, Wednesday, June 11 – Saturday, June 14. As mentioned by Bishop Carter at the close of the AC 2013, our meeting this year begins one day earlier.

This year’s Ministry Expo will offer your visitors an open, hospitable, inviting experience. We hope your presence will provide a fresh vision for ministry in our local churches and look forward to our commercial vendors highlighting innovative ministry aids available to Florida Conference churches.

This year each booth will be slightly larger at 10 X 10 feet and include a skirted six-foot table and two chairs. The cost of the booth remains the same at $500 per booth for commercial vendors and $250 per booth for non-profit organizations. Electricity is available for an additional $75 per booth.

The remaining area of the exhibit hall will be set as a gathering space for attendees to meet and interact with the many ministry departments of the conference, as well as the connectional agencies. Each ministry will be provided with a high top table and chairs.  If you are a ministry or connectional agency of the Florida Conference, please see the specific information (attached) about how to participate.

Refreshment sponsorships are available for those seeking additional opportunities to spotlight their ministry with conference participants. Limited refreshments will be available in both the exhibit area and The Gathering Area. There will be coffee in the Arena and water dispensers throughout the Arena.  Please contact Janet Earls if you are interested in sponsoring a refreshment break.

As in the past, booth assignments will be on a first come, first serve basis. To ensure a reservation, please include your 50% payment with the completed booth application online. The balance of all fees is due May 1 to be paid online through PayPal.  Applications and accompanying fees will be accepted through May 1.

Click Here for Commercial and Not for Profit expo application.

Click Here for Conference Ministry Departments and UMC Connectional Agencies expo application

Group Meals Alphabetical

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
Trinity UMC 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland, 33815
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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, Room TBD
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

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 go to: www.flumym.org

 

Group Meals by Day

Group Meals Alphabetical Listing

All events below require advance reservations and payment.

Wednesday, June 11

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

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

Duke Divinity Alumni
Guest Speakers: L. Gregory Jones and Susan Pendleton Jones
Contact:  Katie McNichol, mkmcnich1@gmail.com
The Lakeland Center, Room TBD
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch 12:00 PM
Cost of meal: $22.00
Reservations 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, Room TBD
Wednesday, June 11, Lunch at 12:00 PM
Cost of meal:  $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  June 2
To register click here:


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


Thursday, June 12

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

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

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

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:

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

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
 
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 go to: www.flumym.org

 

 Friday, June 13

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

Black Methodist for Church Renewal
Trinity UMC 715 Cornelia Ave., Lakeland, 33815
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

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:

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

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, Room TBD
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:15 PM
Cost of meal: $0.00
Reservations Deadline:  Friday, June 9
To register contact: kbouchard@travelwithus.com

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

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:

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, Room TBD
Friday, June 13, Lunch 12:00 PM

Cost of meal: $10.00
Reservations Deadline:  Monday, June 2
To register click here:

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


Saturday, June 14

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

Hotel Information

Click Here for Annual Conference hotel list.

Pre-Conference Brochure

Click here for Pre-Conference Brochure

Presenter Guidelines

“The Mission of God” is the theme for the 2014 Florida Annual Conference Event, June 11-14 at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, FL. Our media team will coordinate audiovisuals that will be shown during the event.

IMPORTANT DATES

May 6:  Notification Deadline for Use of PowerPoint or Video/DVD

Please notify the conference no later than May 6 about your intention to use PowerPoint or a video/DVD in support of your presentation and the estimated length of your audio visuals.  A draft agenda for the annual conference is here to guide you about the time you have been allotted; please do not exceed the time allocated to you.  Please complete the attached A/V request form and send it to Don Youngs at dyoungs@flumc.org by May 6.

May 20:  Deadline for Final Audio Visual Product

May 20 is the absolute deadline for completed, final audio visuals to be received at the conference.  Please use this sample of Jim Harnish’s 2013 address as a guide for including cues for slides or videos in your presentation text.  Without cues, the media team cannot determine where to use your materials.

Electronic files may be sent to Don Youngs (dyoungs@flumc.org) and other A/V may be mailed to Don at:

ATTN:  Don Youngs
The Florida United Methodist Center
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave.
Lakeland, FL  33815

It is very important that we have time to build your audio visuals into our technical cues to MABE Productions, who will be videotaping the event.  If you miss the deadline, your audio visuals may not be included in the event.
 
Presentation Tips
Some important tips below will help make your presentation better. The event’s theme is "The Mission of God." If at all possible, we encourage you to incorporate the theme into your presentations and accompanying audio visuals to help strengthen the theme and weave it into everything in the event.

VIDEO

 
If you are planning to use video, you may provide it on either DVD or memory stick.
 
COMPUTER-GENERATED PRESENTATION
 
If you are planning to use a computer-generated presentation, please prepare it using the most recent version of PowerPoint as possible, with a screen resolution of no higher than 600 by 800.

Keep the size of the room in mind when preparing your audiovisuals. Any text or graphics need to be large and clear enough for those in the back of the room to see; the area is very large and the lighting around the screens on which the audiovisuals will be shown may wash out the images.
 
Font:   Use a font that presents well.
      Good Examples: Arial, Impact, Tahoma
      DO NOT USE: Times New Roman
Size:   Ideally, the font should not be smaller than 32 points.
        If the font is to be sung or read in unison, it should be no smaller than 44 points.
Color:  Always make sure the font contrasts with the background color:
        Dark background, light font.
        Light background, dark font.
Content:Be careful not to put too much text on one slide or include graphics with a lot of detail. People will not be able to read the slide or understand it if it is detail-heavy. Keep it simple.  Proofread your text!  The conference will not proof or edit your text.
Checking your work:  A good way to determine if your presentation will be clear and readable is to play it on a monitor. Stand 10 feet away and see if you can easily read the text off the screen. This will simulate the size and distance that applies in a convention center.

Thank you, so much!  We are looking forward to working with you on your successful presentation.
 

Re-sale for Missions
News
Tuesday - April 15, 2014
Even Jesus had a tax man

Feeling anxious about your tax liability as April 15 nears? The Bible has many references to taxes that will sound strangely relevant at this time of year, beginning with the story of David and Goliath.

Many remember a teenage boy offended by insults thrown by a giant foe against his nation and God himself, who volunteers to go into battle with a slingshot. But did you know that a tax incentive was part of his prize?

Visiting the battlefield, David learns: “The king will give great wealth to the man who kills (Goliath) and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:25)

Throughout Scripture, tax discussions mark many passages, as ancient men and women worried about how they would pay.

In Matthew 17, Jesus noted that rulers often use taxes against people without power. Talking with Simon Peter about a temple tax, Jesus asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes — from their own children or from others?”

Peter answered, “From others.” (Matthew 17:26)

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

And yet, when demanding that Jesus be crucified, tax avoidance was levied as an accusation. “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king,” (Luke 23:2).

For the party in power, tax avoidance might have been the greatest offense.

Even so, the truth remains that a healthy respect for reasonable taxes is part of faith-based culture. Writing in Romans 13, the Apostle Paul urged respect for government because of the vital role leaders play in society, an admonition that goes beyond mere money: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Such a standard requires civil interaction and mutual respect, important reminders for today’s toxic political culture. And every IRS agent can take comfort in the fact that Jesus himself had a tax collector (Matthew) as a disciple.

Nonetheless, the growth in tax rates is cause for concern. While a 10 percent tithe to the church has been the standard for personal giving, today’s combined federal-state bite can reach about 50 percent. Remember, Pharaoh took only 20 percent of the grain in Egypt as a form of taxation during their good years. It’s worth debating whether the government should take such a large bite out of families’ resources.

Still, pay your taxes, treat authorities with honor and know that nothing new is under the sun — not even the IRS.

* Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown, a nonprofit business, personal finance policy and educational organization, and author of “The Worst Financial Mistakes in the Bible and How You Can Avoid Them.” Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be reproduced without written permission.

 

Monday - April 14, 2014
Bishop Knox remembered for forging relationships near and far

LAKELAND – Friends and associates of Bishop James Lloyd Knox, a servant of God homegrown in the Florida Conference, were remembering his unflappable dedication to mission as word of his death Sunday in Alabama spread to the Sunshine State. The retired bishop was 85.

“The guy just had a heart like you wouldn’t believe,” said Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, director of Missional Engagement for the Florida Conference. Campbell-Evans was one of several conference members who described Knox’s dedication to building relationships in Christ as the bishop’s greatest gift. 

Bishop James Lloyd Knox headshot
Local services for Bishop James Lloyd Knox will be held Saturday, April 26, at Hyde Park UMC, Tampa.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 16, at First UMC in Gadsden, Ala., where Knox made his home in recent years. A second service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Hyde Park UMC, Tampa, where Knox has a special connection and will be laid to rest beside his first wife, Edith, who died in 2008.

Knox was born in Tampa in 1929. He graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland in 1951 and went on to seminary at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He served a church in North Georgia as he was working toward his Master of Divinity degree.

After his ordination in the Florida Conference, Knox and his wife Edith served as missionaries in Cuba and Argentina between pastoral appointments to churches in the Sunshine State. Knox served as district superintendent in Miami and DeLand before being elected bishop in 1984. He was first assigned to the Birmingham area, then to Atlanta in 1992.

After his retirement in 1996, Knox served as interim bishop twice in Florida during the illness and subsequent death of Bishop Cornelius Henderson in a period from 1999 to 2001.

“Lloyd Knox was a visionary leader who embodied many of the changes that are shaping the church,” said Bishop Ken Carter, who began leading the Florida Conference in September 2012.

“He was a missional bishop and a servant leader. He took a personal interest in youth, young adults and younger clergy, and he connected leaders with God’s mission to the marginalized. Certainly the history of the Florida Conference cannot be told apart from his ministry.”

"I was grateful to come to know Bishop Knox over the past two years,” Carter added. “He was encouraging to me as I was getting started in his beloved state and home conference and was an example of how one takes up a leadership role for the sake of others."

Whether Knox was serving as a missionary, a church pastor, a district superintendent or in the episcopal office, his ministry was marked by the ability to chuckle at adversity and move forward, said longtime friend and clergy colleague, Rev. Gene Zimmerman.

“He was kind of driven by that pastoral spirit and affection for people,” said Zimmerman, retired pastor of First UMC, Orlando, who met Knox in 1951 when the two were enrolling at Candler.

“I’m amazed at the kind of spiritual equilibrium he had,” Zimmerman said. “He had to be at times in some very difficult conflicts as a bishop. Sometimes he’d tell me about one and then just laugh.

“The Bible says God is the same yesterday, today and forever. And so was Lloyd.”

Rev. Jim Harnish, pastor at Hyde Park UMC, said Knox’s ties there go back to the late bishop’s teenage years in the 1940s. Knox was not from a church-going family but showed up at Hyde Park to join the Boy Scouts that met at the church. He became active in the congregation.

“He experienced his call to ministry here,” Harnish said.

Later, when he began serving as an elder in the Florida Conference, the congregation sought his leadership during a challenging time for the church and its surrounding community. Knox was pastor there from 1973 to ’77. The church later named its remodeled fellowship hall for the man who found Christ within its walls.

The ashes of Knox’s first wife were interred in the Hyde Park memorial garden, and Knox left written instructions to be laid to rest beside her.

“They’ll be coming home to Hyde Park,” said Harnish, who became friends with Knox and expects to preside over the bishop’s memorial service in Tampa.

“He was one of the most genuine, real people, a man of deep faith and deep compassion.”

Campbell-Evans credits Knox with setting him on a path to mission work and church leadership. When Campbell-Evans was 17 and active in youth leadership at a church in Tampa, Knox invited him to go meet with migrant citrus pickers who lived in deplorable conditions, with no running water and sometimes only blankets hung for a door. People were cooking over fire inside tiny homes, Campbell-Evans recalled. 

"Meet people where they are.  ... Let them know that you care about them."

     -- Advice to a young Clarke Campbell-Evans from Bishop J. Lloyd Knox

Knox, then pastor at Hyde Park, spoke Spanish and took the time to listen to the people in the fields.

“Here was the pastor of a church who was saying the walls of the church are not important. We’re going to be the body of Christ,” Campbell-Evans said.

“It was the first time I’d met a pastor where the world was his parish. He just had a heart for people,” he added. “He had a profound effect on my life.”

Campbell-Evans said that field visit inspired him to follow in Knox’s footsteps as a missionary and later an urban minister and then district superintendent in Miami. Through the years, Campbell-Evans confided in Knox about the challenges he faced.

Knox’s advice always focused on personal relationships, Campbell-Evans said.

“Meet people where they are,” he quoted Knox as saying. “Try to realize you’ve got relationships with these people for years to come. … Let them know that you care about them.”

During his time in Florida, Knox served churches in West Palm Beach, Tampa and St. Petersburg. He also had served on UMC general boards or commissions of Church and Society, Religion and Race, Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and Global Ministries.

He was president of the General Board of Global Ministries’ World Division from 1988 to 1992. He also had served as a trustee of 12 colleges.

Dr. Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries general secretary, said the board considered the Knoxes part of its missionary family, and they remained interested in global mission work long after taking up ministry in the states.

“Bishop Knox was a strong advocate for the national ethnic plans that address the spiritual and community interests of racial minority and immigrant groups in the U.S.,” Kemper said.

Knox is survived by his wife Julia and two children, Richard Michael and Carol Anne. The family requests that memorial gifts be sent to Alfalit International, 3026 NW 79th St., Miami, FL 33122., or to the Crossman Memorial Scholarship Fund at Bethune-Cookman University, 640 Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114.

 

* Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection. Kathy L. Gilbert of the United Methodist News Service contributed to this report.

 

Monday - April 14, 2014
Is the Internet bad for religion?

A new paper draws an intriguing conclusion to a question scholars have wrestled with for several decades: Why are Americans dropping out of church?

One reason? They’re logging on to the Internet.

Allen Downey, a professor of computer science at Massachusetts’ Olin College of Engineering, found that between 1990 and 2010 the share of Americans claiming no religious affiliation grew from 8 percent to 18 percent while the number of Americans connected to the Internet rose from almost nothing to 80 percent.

Downey cautions — as do his critics — that correlation does not equal causation.

“We can’t know for sure that Internet use causes religious disaffiliation,” Downey said. “It is always possible that disaffiliation causes Internet use, or that a third factor causes both.”

But Downey,  whose paper, “Religious affiliation, education and Internet use,” was published late last month at — where else? — an online site dedicated to scientific papers, is pretty sure he’s onto something.

Examining data from the General Social Survey, an ongoing and multigenerational study of Americans, Downey draws a link between higher levels of education and income and lower levels of religious identification.

His study shows that as Americans reported more Internet use, their religious identification dropped. Those who reported only a few hours of weekly Internet use were 2 percent less likely to claim a religious affiliation than those who use no Internet. And those who use the Internet more than seven hours weekly are even less likely to adhere to a religion — by an additional 3 percentage points. “That effect turns out to be stronger than a four-year college education, which reduces religious affiliation by about 2 percentage points,” he said.

Other scholars say Downey’s finding may be too pat.

Stephen O’Leary, an associate professor at the University of Southern California who studies religion on the Internet,  thinks the situation is more complex and nuanced.

“Let’s call it the influence of the religious marketplace,” O’Leary said. Since the 1960s, with the influx of non-Christian immigrants to the U.S. and the increased mobility of society, Americans’ exposure to a wide range of spiritual, religious and nonreligious ideas has burgeoned.

“Internet use is part of that, but what it really does is magnify to a dramatic level the degree of choices one has,” O’Leary said.

Other forces unrelated to the Internet are at work, too. O’Leary said younger Americans are less likely to trust religious authority in the wake of the Catholic Church child sex abuse scandals.

“That has, more than almost any other thing, alienated a whole generation,” O’Leary said. “And it is not just Catholics. It goes to all religious authority by extension.”

Still, O’Leary cautions that the decline in religious affiliation — due to the Internet or otherwise — does not mean an equal rise in atheism.

“They haven’t given up their belief in the supernatural. They just don’t feel they need organizations or institutions to bring it to them,” he said. “And you don’t have to believe in any god to light a candle or hold hands and utter a mantra or chant.”

Downey’s findings dovetail with those of the Pew Research Center’s 2012 look at the “nones,” the terminology for Americans with no religious affiliation. That study found that almost 20 percent of all Americans — and a third of those under 30 — are nones.

By examining data from the CIRP Freshman Survey, conducted among first-year college students, Downey discovered that between 1985 and 2013 — approximately the same amount of time that the GSS measured Internet usage — the percentage of freshmen who identified as nonreligious tripled, from 8 percent to 25 percent. He predicts on his blog that number will reach almost 26 percent next year — more than the share of students who identify as Catholic.

“I think this is an underreported story,” Downey said.

Still, Downey is cautious about blaming the Internet, which he figures accounts for only about 20 percent of the overall decline in religious affiliation. An additional 25 percent, he says, can be attributed to fewer people being raised with a religious affiliation, and 5 percent might be due to increases in college education.

“That leaves 50 percent of the decrease unexplained by the factors I was able to include in the study, which raises interesting questions for future research,” he said.

* Kimberly Winston writes for Religion News Service. Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be reproduced without written permission.

 

Friday - April 11, 2014
Home-in-a-box event
signals birth of a ministry

BRANDON – From the road, it might have looked like a grassy field dotted with abandoned refrigerator boxes. But founders of a new ministry saw it as the promise of a dream home for families who scramble for shelter night after night.

Spencer Wilson planning to sleep in a box to help homeless
Spencer Wilson, 9,  prepares to sleep in a cardboard box to help families without homes in the Brandon area. Photos by Susan Green.
Lanie Pinson, Elizabeth Temple, Abby Wells of Limona UMC at Box Car City
From left, Lanie Pinson, 13, Elizabeth Temple, 11, and Abby Wells, 11, from Limona Village Chapel UMC say they're happy to spend a warm Saturday night sleeping in boxes to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

“This is a God-led ministry,” said Skip Wilson, a member of First UMC, Brandon, who has been pushing to start a faith-based Family Promise affiliate in the area for nearly four years. “We wouldn’t be where we are now without Him.”

Wilson, now Family Promise of Greater Brandon vice president, was among board members who turned out for Box Car City, a fundraiser and awareness event staged Saturday, April 5, at Nativity Catholic Church.

The Family Promise program, part of a national effort, provides temporary housing for homeless families in church buildings on a rotation basis and will begin accepting parents and children in May. The ultimate goal is to get families back on their feet and into apartments or houses. Organizers say the ministry is sorely needed in Hillsborough County, where the school district has reported more than 3,000 homeless children in recent years.

About 100 people of all ages from multiple Christian denominations paid money to spend the night Saturday in a car or cardboard box. Approximately 60 more showed up for fellowship and entertainment.

Besides raising money, the event was designed to help supporters get a firsthand look at what it’s like to sleep in a box or vehicle, said Deborah Humphrey, member of St. Andrew’s UMC, Brandon, and president of the Brandon affiliate.

Participants also followed a schedule like that of homeless people staying in shelters, with mandatory “lights out” at 10 p.m. and off the property by 6 a.m. They received a sandwich and snacks in a paper sack from I Am Hope Café, which feeds homeless and needy people in the area.

Youth groups from several churches turned out for the event, including Lanie Pinson, 13, and her friends Elizabeth Temple and Abby Wells, both 11. All attend Limona Village Chapel UMC, Brandon.

“All my friends thought I was crazy,” Lanie said. “They said, ‘So what are you doing for the weekend?’ I said, ‘Sleeping in a box.’” 

The changing face of homelessness

Homeless mom with child and babyThe growing problem of homelessness is nothing new, but the mental image of an unkempt man in faded clothing huddling under a bridge or holding up a sign may be passé.

“Our most common demographic is women with kids,” said Mark Landschoot, executive director at Family Promise of Jacksonville, a faith-based organization that taps local churches to provide temporary shelter to homeless families. Eighty percent of those helped are infants and children.

“It’s Mom and little kids. … The average age is 8.”

This past year, the program served three two-parent families with no roof over their heads, Landschoot said.
But usually he sees women who have lost jobs or been abruptly thrown into the labor pool without the skills they need to support themselves and their offspring.

“Most of our families are in situational homelessness,” said Landschoot, explaining that  adverse life circumstances -- not irresponsible behavior – led to their need for help.

As in other Family Promise affiliates, participating churches open their doors on a rotation basis to provide food and shelter for a week at a time. Family Promise helps  homeless parents look for work or beef up their skills while they save enough money for security and utility deposits needed to get into an apartment.

In six years since the Jacksonville program’s startup, nearly 90 percent of families served have gotten back on their feet, Landschoot said.

“This is not your traditional shelter from the standpoint of a hot (meal) and a cot,” Landschoot said. Among the perks of having churches step into the void is that families make lasting connections; Landschoot estimated that a third of the families join one of the host congregations.

Participating United Methodist congregations in the Jacksonville area are First UMC, CrossRoad, Ortega, St. Paul, Southside and Avondale.

Family Promise has more than 180 affiliates across the nation. In Florida, there are additional affiliates in Sarasota, Gainesville, Orlando and the counties of Flagler, Santa Rosa and Palm Beach. New affiliates are gearing up in Brandon, near Tampa, and Pinellas County.
 
For information, click here.

Few of the volunteer campers interviewed knew any homeless people personally, but several young people said they were outraged that job loss is escalating the problem.

“I think it’s messed up that some people are homeless because they don’t have enough money for rent,” Abby said.

Elizabeth said she knew a family who came close to becoming a statistic.

There was someone in our neighborhood that was almost kicked out of their house because they didn’t have enough money,” she said.

Another student, Mabel Kerker, 14, and her friend, Kyra Denington, both of St. Andrew’s UMC, decided to spend Kyra’s 14th birthday sleeping in a cardboard box. Their mothers elected to sleep on an air mattress in the back of an SUV.

Mabel said she knew a student at her school who kept mum about his homeless situation while it was going on but later talked about the difficulties of trying to study, get to class, take care of a younger sibling and deal with all the requests for extracurricular fees his family couldn’t afford.

“He talked about how it was really hard, and his mom was working four jobs,” Mabel recalled.

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, several participants said they knew they were in for an uncomfortable night. Mabel said she was excited to do it.

“It’s cool to be able to put yourself in other people’s place and see how other people live their lives for months on end,” the teenager said.

“It’s fun to get with people who want to do what you’re doing.”

As participants settled in for the evening, Kathy Brogli, the Brandon organization’s newly hired executive director, welcomed the crowd and acknowledged that they were getting only a taste of the conditions for families who sleep in makeshift shelters or their vehicles.

“They have to deal with going to bed and getting all hot and sweaty and going to work all hot and sweaty,” Brogli said. “They have to deal with not knowing their family is safe.”

Humphrey said money raised at the event will go toward computers needed to aid in job searches for homeless breadwinners and items like food or diapers for children served by the program.

Seven of the 13 churches signed up to participate are United Methodist, and across the state, Methodists provide much of the muscle behind the initiative, which is nine affiliates strong. 

Campout volunteers receive sack lunches from I Am Hope Cafe
Diana Pollard, right, of First Presbyterian Church, Brandon, and I Am Hope Café in Seffner serves Box Car City volunteers sack lunches similar to those homeless families will receive through Family Promise. Participating churches also will provide hot meals and sleeping quarters when the ministry starts next month.

In Brandon, First Presbyterian Church provides a building on its campus to serve as a daytime hub for homeless families. The church also will launch the rotation ministry, hosting up to 14 people in campus buildings overnight for the first week of May before turning hosting duties over to First UMC.

Many of the 11 host churches will turn classrooms into bedrooms, but others had plans to partition their sanctuaries.

Sue Benitez of Brandon Christian Church, who has been active in Family Promise for two years, said volunteers who stay overnight with the families will sleep in the church kitchen if necessary.

“We’re a small church, so we’re going to use every square inch,” she said. “It’s all in your mindset.”

Volunteers were invited to decorate their cardboard abodes for a friendly competition. Brogli said she shingled hers with papers bearing the single word “hope.”

“Because of Family Promise, they (homeless families) are going to have a safe place to sleep,” she told the crowd. “They’re going to have food to eat every single day … and they’re going to be surrounded by unconditional love.

“God is going to use you in mighty ways, just as He has already.”

Additional churches participating in the Brandon ministry, including those offering volunteers and other support, are BayLife Church; Westminster Presbyterian; Holy Innocents Episcopal; South Shore UMC, Riverview; First UMC, Seffner; Grace Community UMC, Lithia; and First UMC, Plant City.
 

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

Tuesday - April 8, 2014
Participants energized by annual advocacy trip
Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson leads prayer service at Trinity UMC
Florida AME Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson Jr. leads prayer service at Trinity UMC, Tallahassee, to kick off the 2014 Florida Advocacy Days event. Photo by Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr. 
Rev. Beth Bostrom meets with a legislative aide during advocacy event
Rev. Beth Bostrom, right, Wesley campus minister at the University of Miami, meets with a legislative aide to talk about reforms needed to help children in Florida. Photo by Pam Garrison.

TALLAHASSEE – More than 75 members strong, a contingent organized by the Florida Conference took its compassion for kids and others living in poverty to the state Capitol today to press lawmakers for reforms that would expand health care and combat a growing problem of human trafficking.

Joined by representatives of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Florida and its nonprofit advocacy partner, Florida Impact, the Florida Conference group visited with senators and representatives to give voice to those with little influence over government policies.

Rev. Juana Jordan, pastor of Harris Chapel UMC, Oakland Park, was a first-time participant in Florida Advocacy Days (FAD), a conference-sponsored, three-day event that dovetails with Children’s Week. After being briefed on key issues Monday, she made personal visits today to the offices of three lawmakers.

Despite encountering resistance to her presentation from some legislators, Jordan said in a phone interview that she plans to be part of the advocacy effort in the future.

“I believe it is imperative that I have a seat at the table,” she said, adding that she represents people in a congregation that would benefit from the initiatives supported through FAD.

“This is about making the kingdom of God real.”

Specifically, this year’s effort supported bills that would expand Medicaid eligibility, remove a five-year waiting period for immigrant children with lawful residency to qualify for Florida KidCare and beef up protection of children subjected to human trafficking.

Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference and Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson Jr. of the 11th District AME Church met with Senate president Don Gaetz. District superintendents, pastors and lay members were among others who met with legislators or their aides.

Jordan said she was excited to see the church speak out for people in need. She would like to see the conference increase preparation time for the event to include more tips for dealing with policymakers deluged by emails opposing aid to impoverished people.

“As a faith body, I would like to see us attack it spiritually on the front end with a lot more prayer,” she said. 

Bishops Ken Carter and Adam J. Richardson lead walk to the Capitol
Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Conference, left, and Florida AME Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson lead Florida Advocacy Days participants in the traditional walk to the Capitol. Photo by Rex Adams.

But even in cases where a lawmaker did not seem supportive, Jordan thought she sowed some seeds of good will by offering prayers to help in future decisions that affect children’s welfare.

“We did feel we connected with them,” Jordan said of the experience.

She said she plans to reach out to sister congregations in South Florida and encourage them to advocate on issues that affect people in the communities they serve.

Rev. Audrey Warren, pastor of Branches UMC, Florida City, said the advocacy issues on tap this year are of critical importance to people her congregation, which includes many immigrants. She said nearly three-quarters of her flock are younger than 18. Warren was also a first-time FAD participant.

She said the issues chosen for advocacy don't just affect young Floridians in general but young United Methodists.

"We're talking about our own children who take our communion and whom we baptize in our own United Methodist Church," Warren said.

As someone who works with youth, Warren said she was especially pleased to see members of the appointive cabinet participating in the event.

"I think all people who work with children felt affirmed and uplifted by their presence," the pastor said.

Pam Garrison, who helped coordinate FAD this year, said she was most impressed by the role children and young people played in the event.

She said she heard personal stories from children who had been in foster care and was encouraged to see young adults active in state government and as advocates for social justice causes.

She said one group of Florida Conference advocates was excited to sit in on a committee meeting in which the human trafficking bill moved forward in the House. The bill, which provides for more specific screening and assessment of sexually exploited children before placing them in foster and recovery programs, was scheduled to be heard today by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, according to media reports.
 

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

Monday - April 7, 2014
Orlando to be stop on Adam Hamilton book tour
Book jacket Adam Hamilton headshot

Update posted April 7, 2014: Seating in the First UMC sanctuary where Rev. Adam Hamilton will be speaking has been booked. Registration for a live stream video of the presentation in the church's contemporary worship center is available. Click here for information.

ORLANDO -- Rev. Adam Hamilton, best-selling author of 19 books, will be at First UMC, Orlando, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, for an evening of teaching and conversation around his new book, “Making Sense of the Bible.”

Orlando is one of only six locations to be included in Hamilton’s book tour after he put out a call for hosts on his Facebook page in January. Other sites will be Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; and Kansas City, where he is the senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, the largest United Methodist church in the U.S.

The Florida Conference, East Central District and First UMC, Orlando, are hosting his visit here, with the hope that United Methodists from all over the state will attend.

“Adam Hamilton is one of the most significant voices in American Christianity today, and the Bible is one of the most misunderstood books, within the church and certainly beyond it,” said Florida Bishop Ken Carter.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for United Methodists in Florida."

In email comments to Florida Conference Connection, Hamilton said hotly debated topics in the church recently stem from interpretations of the Bible.

“My new book was written to promote a conversation in the church about what we believe about the Bible, our assumptions or theology of scripture,” Hamilton said.

“These assumptions are the lens through which we read the scriptures. Two United Methodist Christians can have different views of what the Bible is, and based upon that, come out at different places on a host of issues.”

He added, “I think this is a critically important conversation at this time in history because the divisions we’re experiencing over the issue of homosexuality are largely a division over our theology of scripture.”

The Orlando venue will accommodate up to 1,100, and about 770 people had reserved free seats by late last week, said Janet Kelley, who is coordinating the event for the East Central District. Admission is free, but registration is required. Click here to sign up.

Attendees will hear Hamilton discuss the nature of scripture for 20 minutes, asking such questions as:

  • What is the Bible, and what is it not?
  • How, when and why was it written?
  • Who decided what books made it into the Bible?

There will also be questions related to biblical inspiration, inerrancy and the sense in which the Bible reflects the words of God and/or the words of people.

After that, there will be 40 minutes for considering questions such as these:

  • Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?
  • Must we choose between the Bible and science?
  • Does everything really happen for a reason?

Hamilton also anticipates questions about the Bible and homosexuality. He said that the new book looks at questions his church members have asked over the last 24 years when they’ve come across things in the Bible that confuse them.

The pastor confessed that he’s excited to be coming to Florida’s tourist hub, although he won’t be going to Walt Disney World on this trip. He said that he has a new granddaughter, just a week old.

“We’re already planning her first trip three years from now,” he said. “I love the Sunshine State and have spoken in several cities there, but I haven’t been to Orlando for a while. … I love the people in Florida and have a number of friends there.”

The evening will end with an opportunity for questions and answers and a book signing by the author. A display of Hamilton's books, including this new title, will be open before and after the presentation. Those who wish to buy the book in advance and be at the head of the book signing line can make their purchase by clicking here. For information, call 386-259-5756, ext. 5, or email flumc-ec@flumc.org.

-- Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

 

 

Thursday - April 3, 2014
A fresh look at church means redefining community

LAKELAND -- Times, they are a-changin’, and never more so than for religious institutions.

Technology, skepticism, the time constraints and pressures of juggling work and family and the challenges of addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse population all signal a need for church renewal, and not necessarily in the ways people have thought about church for centuries. 

Bishop Ken Carter headshot
Bishop Ken Carter

“The changing culture is real in our conference, and we are all participating in the shift,” Bishop Ken Carter told a working group assembled this week to talk about a project tentatively dubbed Fresh Expressions. The group comprised about 15 people – representing clergy, laity and campus ministers – who gathered at the Florida United Methodist Center to talk about a project inspired by church rebirth in Great Britain.

Carter is challenging Florida Methodists to experiment with ways to reach people of all ages, interests, ethnicities and worship-style preferences and rebuild the Christian church, whether that means using concrete or context.

“This is kind of my dream,” Carter told the group. “For me, this is about making disciples for the transformation of the world.”

The challenge is to come up with new ways to experience Christ in community with others, the group agreed.

“We are called to be in community, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a building,” said Janet Earls, Congregational Vitality specialist with the Florida Conference. “A sanctuary can be wherever we are in community.”

Representatives from ministries across the Florida Conference talked about ideas that already show promise, from meeting people at coffeehouses to holding services in private homes on days other than Sunday to offering coffee and prayer to day laborers waiting to find out if they have a job.

Carter said he experienced firsthand the flight from Sunday services when he was a church pastor in Charlotte a few years ago.

“As a pastor, I would have people come to me and say, ‘We love the church, but you probably won’t see us for the next few years,’” the bishop recalled, explaining that they would apologetically let him know that their children were involved in weekend travel for soccer or other competitions.

“We can throw rocks at those people … or we can try to adapt.”

Young people and busy older people might be more open to connecting virtually or organizing through an Internet opportunity similar to the “meet-up groups” that now recruit people interested in hiking or kayaking, working group members suggested. 

Fresh Expressions working group meeting
Bishop Ken Carter, right, talks with members of a new working group charged with thinking about nontraditional ways to build church communities. Photo by Don Youngs.

More worship leadership training for lay members also might be explored.

Carter said he is not advocating that the conference abandon the concept of clergy-led church buildings but develop new ideas that will exist alongside the time-honored ways of worship.

The mantra of “Open hearts, open minds, open doors” that has guided United Methodist churches for years is not enough, the bishop said.

“That was essentially a passive campaign: It assumed that people would come to our church and we would be hospitable,” he said, noting that United Methodist Communications has replaced that slogan with “Rethink Church.”

“Our current system is not sustainable.”

Carter said after the meeting that the group agreed to take time for prayer and discernment while also keeping eyes peeled for new opportunities. Participants were given assignments that included exploring the role of laity in Fresh Expressions, as well as whether small monetary grants could be made available for experiments in ministry.

The bishop said he has been pondering and researching fruitful church renewal strategies for some time and has been most impressed with the Fresh Expressions model pioneered by the Church of England and The Methodist Church in Britain. The effort, now about 10 years old, targets lapsed churchgoers and people who have never been to church.

“When we don’t create fresh expressions of the church, we are really constraining ourselves to where we have been,” Carter said.

Fresh Expressions

This initiative began in 2004, endorsed by both the Church of England and The Methodist Church in Britain.

A “fresh expression of church” is defined as “a new form of church for a fast-changing world that serves those outside the existing church, listens to people and enters their culture, makes discipleship a priority and intentionally forms Christian community.”

Examples include café churches, cell churches (house fellowship groups), midweek worship congregations, youth congregations and so-called “Messy Church” groups.

For more information, click here.

 

 

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

Thursday - April 3, 2014
Donations through online purchase move to UMCmarket.net

A program that encourages United Methodists to donate a portion of their shopping dollars through online purchases to designated ministries-- such as the Florida Methodist Children's Home -- has moved to www.UMCmarket.net, according to an article posted this week by The United Methodist Reporter.

Shoppers who try to access the UMCMarket.org site that was promoted last year will get a message indicating the site is down for maintenance. The UMC General Council on Finance and Administration announced that any churches that previously signed up for the program will be automatically enrolled at the new Web address.

Monday - March 31, 2014
Annual Conference 5K to aid Imagine No Malaria

LAKELAND -- Lace up your shoes and get ready to run - or walk - for faith and fitness at the inaugural Florida Annual Conference 5K.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Imagine No Malaria, a worldwide campaign to eradicate malaria. Funds will help pay for education, protective mosquito nets and other treatments for this parasitic disease. The Florida Conference recently agreed to a formal partnership with the United Methodist effort that has helped cut malaria deaths nearly in half in recent years. Details of the partnership will be announced at the 2014 Annual Conference.

About 200 people are expected to sign up for this first-ever conference 5K, which will start at 6:30 a.m. June 12 at Lake Hollingsworth. The event is open to the public.

"We really encourage the greater Lakeland community to join us," says Rev. Sarah Miller, pastor of Reeves UMC, Orlando.

The run-walk kicks off the second day of planned activities for the 172nd session of the Florida Annual Conference, scheduled for June 11-14 at The Lakeland Center, 701 Lime St.

Advance registration for the 5K is $25 through June 11, but a race T-shirt is guaranteed only if registration is completed by June 5. On the day of the run, registration is $35. The 3.1-mile course will begin at the corner of Ingraham Avenue and Lake Hollingsworth Drive.

Participants can pick up their pre-race packets from noon to 6 p.m. June 11 at The Lakeland Center or beginning at 5:30 a.m. on race day. To register, visit www.flumc.org/5K.

Miller says the race and the charity it benefits fit neatly into the theme of this year's conference: "The Mission of God."

Race participants are expected to represent about 10 percent of the anticipated 2,000 Methodists who attend the conference, she says.

5k run participants from Reeves UMC
Runners from Reeves UMC, Orlando, work out for a good cause at the church's first 5K Run last fall. Photo from Rev. Sarah Miller.

"This is an active way that members of the annual conference can unite faith with fitness as an expression of their activism," Miller says. "It really is a way we can take care of ourselves so we can commit to taking care of and serving others."

Social media got the 5K started.

Rev. Jad Denmark, minister of connection at St. Luke's UMC, Orlando, tweeted a query at last year's annual conference. He wondered why the Western North Carolina Conference sponsored a 5K while Florida's did not.

His tweet was seen by Florida Bishop Ken Carter, who was a pastor and district superintendent in Western North Carolina before being elected bishop and taking office in Florida in 2012.

The upshot? Miller and Denmark were tapped to form a committee and organize this year's inaugural race. Miller is something of an old hand at the task, after staging a 5K run in 2013 at her church.

For beginners who have never run the distance of a 5K, Miller recommends adopting a training program.

About 10 weeks remain until race day, and at least one online source, Cool Running, offers a "Couch to 5K" training program designed for eight weeks out. Its creator, Josh Clark, designed the program as a way to get fit in the most painless way possible. It follows a thrice-weekly schedule of brisk warm-up walks, followed by alternating periods of jogging and walking to build endurance.

A beginner's training schedule can be found at www.coolrunning.com. There also are training tips and schedules for more seasoned runners.

Miller recommends buddying up with a friend or forming a fitness group as a great way to have fun and improve overall health.

“I'm not a runner, but I am an active person," she says. "I definitely believe in an active lifestyle, and I'm committed to finding a way to bring our clergy into an active life."

Recent studies have identified clergy as among the most overworked people in the U.S. In 2002, about 76 percent were overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of the general population. In 2007, the Duke (University) Endowment provided a $12 million grant to North Carolina’s Duke Divinity School to establish the Clergy Health Initiative, aimed at assessing and changing poor health habits among United Methodist clergy in the North Carolina and Western North Carolina conferences. The initiative recommends that clergy members consider their physical condition in deciding whether to participate in new forms of exercise.

For information about the Florida Conference 5K, email Sarah.Miller@flumc.org.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.


 

Blogs
Thursday - April 17, 2014
Florida DS discusses Holy Communion in the Interpreter

Rev. Rini Hernandez headshotThe reflections of Rev. Rinaldo "Rini" Hernandez, South West District superintendent, on Holy Communion as a means of grace were included in an article titled "Communon, fasting strengthen our souls" in the United Methodist Interpreter magazine's March/April 2014 edition.

To view the article, click here.

 

Tuesday - April 15, 2014
Winter Park church wins award
for Brain Fitness Club

Rev. Gary Rideout reports that the Brain Fitness Club of First UMC, Winter Park, has won the Innovators Achievement Award from the International Council on Active Aging for excellence and creativity in the active-aging community.

The Brain Fitness Club, under the direction of Peggy Bargmann, RN, has been a ministry at the church for the past seven years. It is a program for those who are in the early stages of memory loss or dementia. The purpose of the group is to provide an environment for those with early memory loss to participate in a variety of brain healthy activities, such as socialization, physical exercise and mental stimulation.  Its focus is also to teach lifestyle adjustments and to help members recognize and adopt brain healthy behaviors  First UMC has two groups that meet twice weekly for four hours each. Additionally, the program collaborates with the University of Central Florida and Rollins College through internships and assistance with program material and facilitation.

The Brain Fitness Club has received a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation to develop materials that can be used to host such a group in other churches.  If you are interested in hosting such a program at your church, contact Rideout, First UMC's minister of congregational care, at garyr@fumcwp.org.

To learn more about the program, click here.
 

 

Thursday - April 3, 2014
Kendall UMC preschool keeps kids safe
Group from Kendall UMC accepting certificate
Representatives of Kendall UMC and its preschool accept a certificate from Pinecrest officials for adopting and completing safety protocols. In front, left to right, are Audrey Saunders, Leslie McKinley, Detective Alexandra Martinez, school director Joy Galliford and Bill Galliford; back row, Police Chief Samuel Ceballos Jr., Jim Mahone, church Pastor George Lutz and Tania Christensen. Photo from Dr. Joy Galliford.

MIAMI -- One hopes a ministry that emphasizes Christian education for Jesus' youngest disciples would never need to deal with a threat of violence, but the 2013 shooting deaths of teachers and young children in Newtown, Conn., have given educators and emergency responders a new perspective.

Kendall UMC's preschool is among South Florida private schools that are thinking ahead. On March 18, Kendall UMC's preschool received a certificate of achievement from the Village of Pinecrest for the school's successful completion of Phase 1 Lockdown Protocol and Phase 2 Evacuation Plan of the Independent School Safety Coalition's program.

The protocol is expected to become a model for school districts nationwide, according to a news release from the Village of Pinecrest. The certificate is displayed in the preschool office for all to celebrate this achievement.

The coalition is a South Florida effort that brought together area police departments and the Archdiocese of Miami to develop safety plans for private schools in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting violence last year. The protocol is modeled after the Miami-Dade County Public Schools' program.

"First responders within the participating jurisdictions now have one cohesive plan of action, regardless of whether the school is private or public," the Pinecrest news release stated.

Kudos to Kendall for taking this important step!

 



 

 

Monday - March 17, 2014
Hyde Park celebrates 115 years

Hyde Park celebrated its 115th anniversary on March 16 with special guest preacher retired Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey delivering the sermon.  His message focused on Hyde Park's long history, tradition and bright future. Click here for the Facebook photo album from the celebration, and click here for the worship service video and other information.

Click here for the Tampa Bay Times news coverage that posted Friday, March 14.

Wednesday - March 5, 2014
The Disintegration of the Church

In a work on spiritual formation entitled Invitation To A Journey, Robert Mulholland sketches the importance of a holistic spirituality, which he defines as “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”  This process includes the understanding of self in relation to God and our neighbor, and the examination of what he calls our creation gifts.  He then notes that a grasp of our preferences can lead to our seeing those as the norm for others.  If I am right-handed, I think you should be right-handed!  The neglect of the gifts of others displays our common tendency to ignore our shadow side: if we are extraverted and draw energy from being around people, we may not be inclined to set aside times for individual introspection. 

The neglect of the shadow leads to what he calls a one-sided spirituality.  Mulholland notes, “While it may be comfortable and may seem to be advancing us on our spiritual pilgrimage, (this) will ultimately begin to disintegrate under pressures for nurture from our shadow side.”

Psalm 51 is one of the traditional scripture lessons for Ash Wednesday, and can be read as David’s willingness to see his shadow side.  This is an intense self-examination:  to see the part of us that God sees, but we often ignore,  or we pretend that it does not exist.  To come to grips with this reality is the process of awakening, which can be both exhilarating and dreadful.  And yet this awakening, if we attend to it, leads to one of the classic movements in the spiritual life: purgation, from which we get our word purging.  Lent can be a time of purging.  I have a friend whose spiritual discipline in Lent is to remove one bag of stuff from her house, one bag a day for the forty days!

Purgation is attending to everything in our lives that is unlike the wholeness or the will of God for us.  The psalmist writes:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. 
(1-2)

This Psalm has always been impressive to me, and instructive, and inspiring, because in the tradition it captures the words of a leader, namely David, whose sin with Bathsheba had been discovered.  David is regarded as the greatest king in the history of Israel.  And yet we see, in these words, the disintegration of a person: 

I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out my iniquities.


There is something profoundly disintegrating about Ash Wednesday:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


The ritual, of having the ashes placed on our foreheads, is God’s way of teaching us humility, literally of being grounded, that our bodies came from the dust of the earth, and thus we have this common origin, according to Genesis 2, and we will return to the dust, and so we have this common destiny.  In the meantime, we are on this pilgrimage, and today that is marked by the necessity of purgation.

The New Testament captures this image as the essential movement of dying to self.  Jesus calls us to take up the cross (Luke 9) and explains that unless a grain of wheat is buried into the earth it cannot bear fruit (John 12).  Paul reflects on dying to self as a necessary preparation for the new creation (Romans 6).

And so I recently began to reflect on all of this and what it might mean for us in a number of ways.

•    What does it mean to die to self as an individual?

I need to acknowledge where my pride gets in the way, my lack of patience with someone else’s progress; it is wanting grace for myself and justice for others!  It is seeing myself at my best and others at their worst. It is my not willing to be accountable to others.  This is a significant temptation for a bishop!

•    How might a local church die to self? 

I am in awe of churches that are willing to let go of the past—traditions, heritage, sometimes buildings, their respectability, their impressions of themselves—in order to see the mission and the people that God is sending to them today.  And yes, sometimes local churches close—they can either live in the tomb of that death or plant new seeds for new people and new communities.

•    How might an annual conference die to self? 

It is the acknowledgement that we really do exist for the local church, and for the people, the leaders of those local churches, and not for ourselves.  We exist to serve them—it is not so much that they are in compliance with us.  And one of the ways a conference dies to self is to put aside the different preferences and silos and give itself to a greater purpose, a purpose more significant than our survival: the kingdom of God.

•    And how could a denomination die to self?  I have actually thought more about this question. 

This is a sobering thought, in 2014.  We have been, for a generation, an institution in decline.  We have been in a season of purgation.   Perhaps God is pruning us.  And perhaps we are in the process, like David, of disintegration.  We certainly know something about one-sided spirituality.  We are prone to stay in our preference groups, people who live in our regions, who support the causes we champion, who think theologically the way we do.  This is a comfortable place to be, but, as Robert Mulholland notes, pressures in time bring about a disintegration.

He notes that this disintegration can take two forms.  We can lose our faith and become stagnant.  Certainly many in United Methodism have lost faith in God, in the church.  Many of our churches are stagnant:  the statistic of the number of churches who do not welcome anyone into the community on profession of faith each year is unsettling.  And second, he says, we can remain in the church, but we are compartmentalized, with an “unholy mixture of faithful Christian discipleship and participation in the destructive brokenness of the world” (63).  We think we are doing the work of Jesus, but not always in the way of Jesus.  And so our political rhetoric mimics the world, and it becomes a noisy gong and clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13).

The neglect of our shadow side prevents us from living into the fullness of an holistic spirituality, which is the love of God and neighbor (or “sanctification” in the Wesleyan tradition), the desire for truth and the offering of grace, the gesture of radical hospitality and the necessity of personal and social holiness.  The embrace of the fullness of the gospel leads to the experience defined by Robert Quinn as “deep change”; the neglect of this gift—implying the desire to stay within our preferences—has an inevitable outcome, which he refers to as “slow death”.

Clearly, our denomination has been on a path of slow death for a generation.  The last General Conference, with the responses of the Judicial Council, was an exercise in resistance to change.  It was an unwillingness to see our shadow side.   The shadow side of a large denomination is often the local church; the shadow side of a complex polity around human sexuality is the experience of many of our gay and lesbian members; and the shadow side of a culture of individualism and a lack of accountability among the bishops is our need and promise to unify the church.  The result is disintegration, and of course this reflects the reality at every level of our Christian lives:  the individual, the local church, the conference, the society.  As Mulholland notes, “we participate in the brokenness of the world.”

Is the path to slow death inevitable?  The alternative is deep change.  Ash Wednesday is a day to remember our baptismal vows—remember, Paul’s words in Romans 6:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

This day marks the first step in a season of repentance.   We take comfort in the good news that faithful men and women have walked this path before us, year after year.  And we take even greater comfort in the profoundly good news that God created us, from the dust of the earth, to reflect the divine image, to be be whole and holy, to love God and each other. 

To die to self is to lay aside what Thomas Merton called the “false self”, the self that is self-justifying,  which is embodied in a church described in St. Francis’ recent words that is “self-referential”, and to place it all, our strengths and our weaknesses, our light and our darkness, all that has been redeemed and all that awaits purging, before the One who is our judge and our hope.   It is a frightening journey, not unlike the memorable phrase of Robert Quinn, of “building a bridge as we walk across it”.   And yet we trust in ourselves and in the great tradition, to learn the way.   The spiritual classics have always taught us that the journey leads from purgation through illumination to union.   This is the disintegration of the church, but it is the necessary spiritual work that might lead to the integrity of the church.

Hear the words, again, from Psalm 51 (10-12):

Create in my a clean heart, O God
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and sustain in me a willing spirit.


Prayer:

O God,
walk with us in the journey of these forty days:
from brokenness to wholeness
from preferences to purpose
from sin to forgiveness
from divisions to unity
from decline to flourishing
from death to life
from the ashes to a garden, an empty tomb, a risen Lord
and the new creation in Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Sources:  Robert Mulholland, Invitation To A Journey (Intervarsity Press); Robert Quinn, Deep Change.

Wednesday - February 19, 2014
Appointments in a Time of Mission: 2014

A revised statement of core values that reflects the desire of the Appointive Cabinet to strengthen God's mission in Florida through appointments of elders, deacons and local pastors to ministries across our annual conference.

As the appointive cabinet begins its work this winter, we welcome your prayers. We are seeking, in consultation with the clergy and laity leaders of our annual conference, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make assignments that will create the best matches, call forth our gifts, help the local church to resemble the Kingdom of God, and glorify God.
 
The following are a few core values related to the making of clergy appointments and itineracy in the Florida Annual Conference. These supplement the language found in the Book of Discipline (337-338).
 
1. It is all about the mission. The primary factor in making an appointment is the mission field. Mission-field appointment making is a first step in living into the newly defined role of the district superintendent as chief missional strategist.
 
These are the guiding questions in mission-field appointments:
 

  • Can this elder, deacon or local pastor lead the local church to make disciples of its existing members and form new disciples beyond the existing influence of the local church?
     
  •  Where there is decline, can the pastor lead a "turnaround"?
     
  • Where there has been conflict or scandal, can the pastor be an instrument of healing and reconciliation?
     
  • Where there is a plateau, can the pastor lead a church to strengthen its witness and expand its mission?
     
  • And where there is growth, can the pastor help a community to dream even greater dreams? 

We are sent into this mission by Jesus, who gives us the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and the Great Commandment (Mark 12).
 
2. Money is important, but it is not the driving factor: money follows mission. Existing salaries do not determine the next appointment. At a personal level, we seek to avoid reductions in salaries for clergy, but there is also a systemic reality of churches reducing compensation at times of transition. To the laity, we appeal to you not to devalue the pastoral office, unless it is a matter of required financial stewardship. To the clergy, we are reminded that our value is not measured in our financial compensation, but in our deeper identity as women and men created in image of God. 
 
3. Graduating seminarian appointments are made first. We want younger clergy to begin their ministries in settings that will give them the greatest opportunity for success.  We have now had two years of experience with this practice. 
 
4. Itineracy is less about moving from church to church, and more about proclaiming the gospel in as many places as we can beyond our sanctuaries. Itineracy is moving to the places where the people are.
 
5. The Call to Action focused on the flow of resources to the local church, for the sake of God’s mission. Faithful and fruitful pastoral leadership is crucial if we are to make disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, ministry that extends the mission of the local church in educational, camping, administrative and mission settings is honored and consistent with life and leadership in a tradition that has an extensive network of schools, children's homes, urban ministries, hospitals, counseling centers, justice ministries and camps.
 
6. Where the local church and the pastor are flourishing, longer appointments are appropriate and a sign of God's blessing. There are occasions when the annual conference has a compelling need to intervene when a pastoral transition has not been requested, but this is the exception. And yet it is also true that clergy membership resides not in a local church or an extension ministry, but in the annual conference (Book of Discipline, 336). In our ordination vows, clergy (including bishops and superintendents) make a promise to go where we are sent, believing this to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
7. We practice open itineracy, which means appointments are cross-cultural, and the gifts of women in ministry are honored.   In the years to come we will give increased support to leadership in cross-cultural ministry; one example is the Younger Clergy of Color initiative initiated at the last Annual Conference and supported through the offering, which was generously matched by our Foundation. 
 
8. We pay attention to fruitfulness in ways that include metrics (worship attendance, professions of faith) and narrative context: economic climate, congregational conflict, etc. The metrics are also broad enough to attend to the marks of personal and social holiness; thus we care about major missional initiatives and persons served in mission, as well as baptisms and small group participation.   An additional metric of great importance is the pastor's leadership in connecting the local church to the annual conference through apportionments that fund ministries that we do “better together”: children’s homes, campus ministries, camping ministries, health insurance and pensions for clergy, new church development, etc.
 
9. We believe in shared vision and shared leadership: effective clergy discern a vision for a local church through inward (prayer, fasting) and outward (listening, holy conversation) spiritual disciplines. In this way effective clergy collaborate with gifted laity in seeking God's will for a congregation and its missional future.
 
10. Bishops and district superintendents are flawed and imperfect men and women. We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 5). We supervise (support and hold accountable) clergy who have these same limitations, and these clergy are sent to local churches where the weeds and the wheat grow together (Matthew 13),  to employ another biblical image.   In addition, this document (and out ministry of oversight) is a work in progress, even as we are all a work in progress; we are clay in the Potter's hands (Jeremiah 18-19).    We welcome your feedback.
 
11. Some appointments will be received enthusiastically. Others will be difficult to embrace.  Churches or pastors requesting reconsideration of projected appointments should first consult with their district superintendents, and then write a letter to the bishop with a copy to their superintendent, outlining their rationale for the request.  The letter should contain compelling missional reasons for reconsideration.  The final decision will be made by the bishop in consultation with the Cabinet.

12. Every appointment is made in an environment of deep prayer, listening to God, paying attention to the gifts of clergy and the desires of the local church, but, again focusing first on the needs of the mission field---that is, the community that surrounds the local church. The resources that will sustain our congregations in years to come are not exclusively in our local churches--indeed, we have lost 20% of our membership and 10% of our congregations in the last ten years.  The gifts that will sustain our mission also reside in the hearts, minds and hands of people of "ages, nations and races" (from the liturgy of our Baptismal Service) who have not yet become followers of Jesus, and who live in the neighborhoods that surround our local churches.
 
We remain convinced that God has given us a profound mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world. And because God is faithful, we have a future with hope!

Note: This expresses the consensus of the appointive cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, meeting during the week of February 18-20, 2014, and is a revision of a statement drafted in February, 2013.  Please contact your district office for the scheduled consultations, timing of pastoral appointments and dates of public announcements. Appointments will be celebrated at the conclusion of the Florida Annual Conference meeting in Lakeland, Florida on June 14, 2014.

Wednesday - February 19, 2014
Stand Your Ground Has No Moral Ground

Some laws are grey; but this one seems to be increasingly black and white. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida, and now 24 other states including many in the South, was a major factor in jury deliberations for both the Trayvon Martin killing and now, the case of Michael Dunn who killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting an unarmed African-American teenager. The jury in the Dunn case failed to reach a consensus on the murder charge and the judge ruled a mistrial.

Both the Dunn and Zimmerman trials have highlighted a major theological problem with Stand Your Ground laws. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul describes the role of government as a positive one — meant to protect the poor and to promote the common good. The Stand Your Ground laws are based on fear — fear that is often rooted in racism. Rather than promoting a vision of the common good and what our life together should look like, it justifies taking life and codifies fear.

When Dunn pulled into a gas station convenience store next to a car with three black teenagers, the dispute was about “loud music.” Later statements from Dunn describe “thug music” and call the teenagers “gangsters” who seemed “menacing.” Dunn resented being called a “cracker” when he argued with them. The prosecution said Dunn shot Davis because he got angry when the teenagers wouldn’t turn down their music when he asked them to and then “mouthed off” to him. Dunn also claimed that Davis raised a shotgun, but no witnesses saw a gun and none were found.

Dunn was convicted on other charges of attempted murder when he got out of his car and crouched to fire more rounds into the car of unarmed teenagers as they sped away from him in fear. Dunn will serve at least 60 years in prison for those shots. While Dunn deserves the prison time for the lesser charges, justice has yet to be served in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, just as it failed Trayvon Martin.

The problem is the systemic injustice inherent in Stand Your Ground laws: just feeling like you are being threatened can justify your response in “self-defense.” Under Florida self-defense laws now, someone can use even lethal force if they “reasonably believe” it is necessary to defend their lives or avoid great harm. How does a jury decide what a “reasonable person” would do under all the circumstances? Even if Dunn really believed there was a gun in the black teenagers’ car and there wasn’t one, he could still be justified in shooting into the car according to Stand Your Ground. The New York Times quoted Mary Anne Franks, an associate law professor at the University of Miami saying, “This trial is indicative of how much of a problem Stand Your Ground laws really do create … By the time you have an incident like this and ask a jury to look at the facts, it’s difficult to re-create the situation and determine the reasonableness of a defendant’s fear.” And unfortunately, the law creates an opportunity for racial factors — whether they’re conscious or not — to trump facts when even one juror who is sympathetic to a defendant’s “reasonable” fear can prevent prosecution.

The facts of the case really don’t matter anymore, just the feelings and beliefs of the defendant. And when you add the race of the victims into the mix, the disparities in how the law is applied are clear. Basically, if a white man feels or believes he is threatened, regardless of the facts of the case, he can be justified in shooting and killing a black man. The reality of Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and 24 more states is that racial fear and hatred is now legally justified. Black men are always at risk — as every black parent in this country has told their young boys and as the statistics now bear out.

Since the law was passed in Florida, there has been an 8 percent increase in the homicide rate. Under Stand Your Ground laws in general, the chances that white-on-black killings will be found justified is more than 11 times than that of a black-on-white shooting using the same defense.

Two boys — among others — have been killed and their families ripped apart by gun violence. The law that is meant to protect fails them. Not only do Stand Your Ground laws institutionally legitimize racism by mostly white men carried out against mostly black men, instead of reconciliation and peace, gun violence and racial fears are allowed to win the day. Where just laws were meant to preserve the common good, unjust laws like Stand Your Ground excuse us from living out our best values. It is time to make that clear from our pulpits, starting in Florida.

Reference: Jim Wallis God's Politics

Friday - February 14, 2014
Bethune-Cookman student recognized in White House initiative

DAYTONA BEACH -- A student at Bethune-Cookman University, a school with Methodist roots and ties to the Florida Conference, is among 75 students selected to represent the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in its first class of HBCU All-Stars.

Shantel Braynen is among 75 student ambassadors selected from among 445 who submitted transcripts and essays in a competitive process. A spokesman for the program said students were chosen for their academic achievement as well as demonstrated commitment to community service. Their assignment now is to share practices intended to help all young people reach their educational and career goals. Students from seven other United Methodist-related institutions in other states also made the list of All-Stars, according to the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry.

According to the Bethune-Cookman website, Braynen is majoring in accounting in the university's School of Business.

Way to go, Shantel!

Tuesday - February 11, 2014
A beginner's guide to Facebook

In the past, Social Media 101 has shared some of Facebook’s subtle-but-important changes that church communicators should be aware of. One recent example is “Facebook’s latest News Feed changes.”

But perhaps that’s not relevant to you – at least it isn’t yet. Maybe it would be more helpful for you to learn the difference between the “Timeline” and “News Feed.”

It’s great that you’re interested in learning more about the world’s largest social network. Fortunately, there are plenty of great online resources for social media novices, Social Media 101 being one of them. Another great social media resource is Mashable.

Whether you are tracking the latest trends in social media or “Social Media for Dummies” sounds more your speed, Mashable is definitely worth checking out. Their “Facebook for Beginners” guide is a great place to start! Click here to read Mashable’s “Facebook for Beginners.”
 

Classifieds
Thursday - April 17, 2014
Children's Ministry Director

Suntree United Methodist Church (Melbourne, FL) seeks a leader as full-time Director, responsible for ministry to children in nursery, preschool, and elementary, direct supervisor of 5 full/part time staff and indirect supervisor of 30+ preschool and nursery staff.  Bachelor's degree required, minimum 5 years related experience.  Reply to angie.goral@gmail.com.

Thursday - April 17, 2014
Director of Student Ministry - FUMC Winter Park

STATUS: Full-time, Salaried

HOURS: 40 Hours per week

BENEFITS: Health Insurance, Pension, Continuing Education Funds

General Purpose of Position:
To build young disciples for Christ by developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to youth ministry (in the areas of worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach) while serving as a spiritual leader and role model.

Organizational Relationship and Supervision:
The Director of Student Ministries (DSM) reports to the Associate Pastor for spiritual and ministry guidance. The DSM will be responsible and subject to United Methodist polity and doctrine, informed by the United Methodist Guidelines for Youth Ministries, local church policy as determined by the Charge Conference, Senior Pastor, and Staff Parish Relations Committee.

The Primary Task:
There shall be a comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of the youth ministry at all levels in the connectional system of the United Methodist Church and in all ministry areas of the local church. This comprehensive approach is based on the understanding of the primary task of youth ministry to:
    -love youth where they are
    -encourage youth in developing their relationship to God
    -provide them with opportunities for nurture and growth
    -challenge them to respond to God’s call to serve in their communities and world

Responsibilities:
1.    Be an advocate for youth and educate the congregation about the hopes, concerns and needs of youth in the local church and community.
2.    Collaborate with all Student Ministry Staff including Assistant Director of Student Ministries and Worship Leader to give vision to programs and ensure that all aspects of Student Ministry (Sunday nights, Sunday school, Bible Studies, etc) are carried out according to the vision of this church.
3.    Help plan, develop, and implement all aspects of a balanced youth ministry in the areas of worship, discipleship, mission, and outreach.
4.    Empower youth in developing their leadership skills.
5.    Be aware of resources for developing the youth ministry programming and participate in continuing education events and training opportunities.
6.    Recruit and train volunteers who work with youth in all aspects of youth ministry and ensure adequate volunteer support and adult to youth ratios.
7.    Coordinate and teach Confirmation classes in partnership with the pastor(s) and provide leadership for confirmands, mentors, and parents beyond the classroom.
8.    Keep records of youth participation and manage the youth ministry budget.
9.    Communicate in a timely manner and as effectively as possible using all available resources (email, website, newsletter, social media, etc.). Ensure communication with church staff and leadership, parents, and the congregation as a whole.
10.    Make yourself available to youth in a variety of ways (i.e. lunch at school, attendance at extracurricular activities, visitation, times of crisis, etc.)
11.    Work in collaboration with the gifts and talents of other staff members and maintain a teamwork mentality.
12.    Ensure that the Child Protection Policy is observed in all youth ministry settings.

Qualifications and Aptitudes:
1.    Must embrace Christian discipline and United Methodist doctrine and theology.
2.    A bachelor’s degree in a related field is minimum requirement. Professional Certification in Youth Ministry in the United Methodist Church is desired.
3.    Must have vision and a demonstrated ability to plan, develop, coordinate, manage and implement a youth ministry within the parameters of the United Methodist Church.
4.    Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, conflict management skills, and computer skills.
5.    Must posses a proven ability to work effectively with youth, diverse individuals, and teams of volunteers.

Thursday - April 17, 2014
Nursery Worker Needed

Carlson Memorial United Methodist Church is looking for a Nursery worker needed for 7 hours a week. $15.00 an hour. Wednesday nights & Sunday mornings. Certified in childcare, first aid, CPR recommended. Bachelor's degree preferred.

Tuesday - April 15, 2014
Part-Time Bookkeeper/Financial Secretary

Broadway UMC in Orlando, FL, is seeking a part-time Financial Secretary/Bookkeeper.  Job Description is available upon request.  Resumes may be sent to Broadway UMC, 406 E. Amelia Street, Orlando, FL 32803.  Attn:  Mary McCown.
Please call (407.841.8902) or email (broadwaychurchorlando@gmail.com) for additional information and to request job description.

Monday - April 14, 2014
Contemporary Worship Leader

Wesley United Methodist Church of Marco Island, FL is seeking a full time year round Contemporary Worship Leader to direct and grow the Contemporary Service to help fulfill Wesley’s Mission to make more and stronger disciples for Jesus Christ.  This person will lead services, prayer and programs according to the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

Degree preferred in music with sound theology and practical ministry knowledge, but will consider experience and/or proven ability.  This person must have the ability to communicate the Gospel and inspire the congregation in the context of worship and music and engage people in discipleship.  Salary commensurate with experience.

Monday - April 14, 2014
Elementary and Music/Performing Arts Teacher Openings

First United Methodist School Has Elementary and Music/Performing Arts Teacher Openings

FUMS has faculty openings for two elementary teachers and a music or performing arts teacher for the upcoming 2014-15 school year. The elementary teacher candidates must have bachelor’s degrees in elementary education.  An added plus is proficiency in Spanish, certification in gifted or exceptional children’s education, or middle school certification/degree in English or math.

The music teacher candidate must have a bachelor’s degree in music education, performing arts, theater, or related field and be willing to direct extracurricular upper elementary chorus and instruments, as well as plan and lead music in three chapels each week. He or she must be willing to organize student performances at community events and at our sponsoring church’s worship services several times a year. An additional plus would be background in drama and worship arts, as well as proficiency in piano and/or other instruments.
 

Monday - April 14, 2014
Free Paraments

We have a complete set of Paraments to any church that needs them. They are in good condition. We purchased new ones and are no longer in need of these.

Monday - April 14, 2014
Looking for Lighting

We are looking for lights to add to our Sanctuary. We have started a Contemporary Service and would like to enhance our service be adding lights. If you have any old or unused lights you would like to get rid of please contact us.

Monday - April 14, 2014
Sunday School Literature Free

The First United Methodist Church of Frostproof has four sets of Adult Sunday School Literature that they would like to give to a church that could use it.  We have two sets of the Higley KJV International Sunday School Lesson from 2009-2010, 2010-2011.  The books each last a year and although the dates would not be right you could still use the lessons.  We also have two sets of the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary that are a years worth from 2011-2012, 2012-2013.  These books are all in good shape. There are 10-12 in each set.  If interested please email frostproof-umc@verizon.net

Conversations
Thursday - April 17, 2014
Suffering is part of thriving

To thrive is not to suffer. Such is the common wisdom. The Acts of the Apostles, however, teaches us that suffering is an integral part of the thriving Christian community. If we are to think scripturally about thriving communities, then we must expand our regular notions of “thriving.”

The Christian communities in Acts suffer almost from start to finish. Shortly after they begin to preach in Jerusalem, Peter and John are brought before the leading council (Sanhedrin) to account for the ruckus that accompanied the healing of a lame man. The apostles are released, but they are ordered “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18).

As anyone familiar with the apostle Peter would know, this is something he cannot do. And, of course, he does not intend to be quiet. So again he preaches and is quickly imprisoned. Though the advice of the Pharisee Gamaliel prevents their deaths, the apostles are nevertheless beaten and ordered once again to be silent.

As the story progresses, Stephen the deacon is stoned to death by his own people, and James the brother of John is put to death by King Herod Agrippa. During his journeys, Paul is -- among other things -- stoned and left for dead in Lystra, flogged and imprisoned in Philippi, put on trial for his life in Athens, and nearly killed in Jerusalem by mob violence and then a secret plot on his life.

Other Christians, too, find their lives in danger. In Thessalonica, for example, Jason’s house is attacked, and he “and some of the brothers” face a potential mob killing. And in Ephesus Alexander is shoved forward into a seething mob in the theater to answer for the problem the Christians are causing the city’s craftsmen.

In addition to explicit portrayals of fierce conflict in Acts, there are also statements that simply presuppose suffering as a regular part of the life of Christian communities.

After Paul and Barnabas preach in Derbe, for example, Luke tells us that they return to Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that it is through much suffering that we will enter the kingdom of God” (14:22). If we expect to see the kingdom of God, we should also expect to suffer. A more direct statement about the presence of suffering in Christian communities would be hard to find.

Where modern sensibilities might teach us to recoil from such numerous difficulties, Acts shows that the early Christians had a much different response.

After the Christians’ release by the Sanhedrin the second time, they “rejoiced because they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for [Jesus’] name” (5:41). A flogging by the Philippian magistrates leaves Paul and Silas in prison “praying and singing hymns to God” (16:23-25).

When the disciples in Caesarea do not want Paul to go to Jerusalem, where he will likely die, he responds that he is ready to “die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21:13). His willingness to go is simply an outworking of Jesus’ call on his life: Jesus told Ananias that Paul would be shown how much “he will suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16), and the Holy Spirit has confirmed Jesus’ words and revealed to Paul that “in every city, prison and afflictions” await him (20:23).

In short, the early Christians not only assume that suffering will be part of the pattern of their lives; they also rejoice in the occasion for such affliction -- that it gives them an opportunity to witness to the Lord Jesus.

Reading Acts shows us that when we take suffering seriously as part of a thriving community, we should simultaneously see that there is a sense in which thriving Christian communities consistently run the risk of being an offense to the world, a problematic thorn in its side.

Acts would instruct us, that is, to be suspicious of our tendencies to think that if we develop thriving communities we will be well-liked, or be rewarded for our work, or appear attractive and exciting. We cannot even suppose that because our community is thriving people will want to join it en masse or come to work with or for us. Learning from Acts requires us to learn that to thrive in a Christian sense is also to provoke, to remind the world of both its brokenness and its hope.

But all this suffering, someone might object, is the sort that has an explicit purpose, suffering that springs from the character of Christian witness. What about the sort of suffering that is not “for” anything at all, or at least anything that we can identify? Random illness, abusive violence, disasters of various kinds -- surely these are not constitutive of a thriving community.

And they are not. Luke, too, knows about indiscriminate and blameless suffering, and he rejects the all-too-common notion that all suffering is somehow traceable to our sin. Some people told Jesus “of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And [Jesus] answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?’” His answer was unequivocal: “No.” So, too, “those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?” No, Jesus said, they were not (Luke 13:1-5 RSV).

As Jesus’ teaching shows, suffering of this sort is not constitutive of a thriving community. But it is an indelible part of life this side of the end. The question put to thriving communities in light of the givenness of this kind of suffering is less a “why does this happen?” than a “how shall we respond?”

In his book that reflects on the theological questions embedded in the effects of the disastrous Asian tsunami of 2004, David Bentley Hart observes that proper Christian theology does not believe that all suffering serves some larger purpose of God -- that the world as we find it is the best of all possible worlds and that all things fit into some larger sublime plan.

To the contrary, says Hart, “God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; … he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and … rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes” (“The Doors of the Sea,” 104, with reference to Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”).

Hart’s argument in this book should be read by all Christians who think about suffering. It is a crucially important and theologically profound corrective to the shallow or sentimental prattle we usually encounter in the face of overwhelming sorrow.

Though it does not use Hart’s terms, the book of Acts illustrates a lived version of Hart’s response to the world that brings us suffering. Acts portrays Christian communities that thrive despite suffering -- not because of an affirmation of the meaningfulness of all difficulty but because of the hope they know from the pattern of Jesus’ life.

One may well be innocent and still wind up tortured and dead (Luke 23:4, 33; Acts 23:29; 25:18-19; 26:31-32; 20:25, 38). In the face of this truth, there remains the steadfast hope of resurrection. Jesus, that is to say, was both crucified and raised.

And that is, after all, why suffering is ultimately an indispensable part of Christian community: it was part of Jesus’ own existence. We follow in his pattern, Acts teaches, insofar as we exist in the reality of crucifixion and hold fast to the hope of resurrection.

The opinions in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of the Florida Conference.

Tuesday - April 8, 2014
"50 Ways" to engage with local schools
 
 
 
 
50 Ways to Engage Local Schools
Learn and listen
  1. Learn about schools in your area. Study basic demographics and statistics. Drive or walk around the neighborhood.
  2. Introduce yourself to the principal, head of school, or chief administrator. Because they have tremendous influence within a school, it is critical that they know who you are, what you are doing, and that you want to help. 
  3. Make an appointment for a group from your church to visit your local school to observe and learn what is happening.
  4. Hold conversations with teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, athletic directors, and the school nurse to get a sense of the most pressing needs within the school and among students and their families.
  5. Go in without an agenda or preset ideas about what is needed. Ask simply, “How can we help?” Be willing to listen.
Start smart
  1. Determine if programs to support schools already exist in your community, school district, or interfaith networks. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you can partner with another group or work through an existing channel.
  2. Put child safety first. Learn and comply with your school’s volunteer guidelines and security protocols as well as congregational or denominational policies regarding child safety.
  3. Prepare volunteers with adequate training. Help them understand why they are doing what they are doing and process what they experience. Cultivate an attitude of servanthood.
  4. Be sensitive regarding church/state boundaries. While you do not want to hide that you are from the church, it is never appropriate to pray or proselytize in a public school setting. Witness through actions not words.
  5. Start small. You might begin by focusing on just one classroom, grade, or subject area, rather than a whole school.
Build relationships and trust
  1. Show up at school activities and events — big games, performances, fundraisers, etc. Make a point of talking to students and teachers.
  2. Get plugged into the room parents’ network, if one exists, as school and classroom needs are often communicated through this channel.
  3. Attend PTA meetings to stay abreast of school issues and demonstrate to the principal and parents that you care.
  4. Drop by the principal’s office on the first day of the school year to wish them well and offer help.  Strive to maintain an on-going, face-to-face relationship with the principal, especially if he or she is new.
  5. Partner with other churches or non-profits, and invite others in your community to support what your church is doing. This increases the efficacy of your work and demonstrates that you are not in it for yourself.
  6. Under promise and over deliver. Neither school nor church is well-served if you launch an overly ambitious plan but cannot deliver. Consistency and follow through build credibility.
  7. Stay the course. Long-term commitment is essential to successful institutional partnerships and in one-on-one tutoring and mentoring relationships with individual students.
Cultivate congregational support and awareness
  1. Preach and teach about the value of education. Pray for the administrators, teachers, staff, students, and families in your local school and for educational policy makers. 
  2. Hold a Children’s Sabbath.
  3. Stay abreast of local education issues and needs. Hold information sessions. Invite the principal or a panel of other school leaders to speak at your church.
  4. Announce major school events — such as graduation, big games, or performances — and ask church members to show up and show their support.
  5. Be a cheerleader for schools and kids. Share success stories about teachers and students who are trying to do well.
Supply student needs
  1. Collect books to be used in classroom reading programs or to be given to children at the end of the school year. Ask teachers or the librarian for appropriate selections.
  2. Develop a program to outfit kids with needed school uniforms, shoes, or athletic gear. Some churches use an “angel tree” system. Others set up a giveaway or exchange.
  3. Fill backpacks with school supplies to be given away at the beginning of the school year.
  4. Collect coats, hats, and mittens. Donate socks and underwear for the school nurse or other staff person to give away when younger children need a change of clothing.
  5. Fill “snack packs” or backpacks with food to be taken home over the weekend by children who rely on school breakfasts and lunches for basic nutrition.
  6. Start a summer lunch program in your church or another suitable location.
  7. Conduct giveaways with dignity and discretion to avoid stigmatizing recipients. Seek the school’s guidance on where needs exist and the best way to distribute items.
Help students succeed
  1. Involve volunteers from your church in tutoring, mentoring, or after-school programs. If your school does not have programs to plug into, spend time investigating models and best practices. 
  2. Create and support a computer lab either in your church or your school.
  3. Organize and resource a summer academic enrichment program in your school or church to counter summer learning losses.
  4. Start a “graduation ministry” to assure that children are making academic progress, graduating from high school, and preparing for college.
  5. Offer college-bound students SAT prep-sessions, guidance on college selections, and help in completing financial aid forms and applications.
Offer spaces and places
  1. Organize a volunteer workday to spruce up school facilities, helping with cleaning, painting, landscaping, facilities repair, play ground upgrades, etc.
  2. Make church facilities available for team banquets, parties after school dramas, offsite meetings, or other school-related activities.
  3. Host a community celebration at the beginning of the school year. This might be an occasion for a school supply giveaway, an immunization clinic, or a school uniform exchange. 
Support and affirm the work of teachers
  1. Host an event to celebrate and recognize teachers in your congregation and community.
  2. Start a teachers’ group within your church for educators to resource, support, and affirm one another in their vocational calling.
  3. Encourage a culture of speaking positively about teachers to counteract the messages of disrespect and blame so rampant in some rhetoric about public education.
  4. Send notes and cards of appreciation to teachers in your schools. Provide modest gifts as a token of appreciation, such as coffee shop or bookseller gift cards, plants, note pads, etc.
  5. Ask church members or small groups to cater a special thank you lunch for teachers. Provide snacks for the teachers’ lounge occasionally throughout the year.
  6. Contribute basic supplies to help teachers stock their classrooms — items such as pencils, paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, classroom decorations, stickers, and books that teachers often purchase with their own money.
  7. Provide classroom volunteers. Many teachers value this help above all else.
Support parents and families
  1. Offer to support families and parents through parenting classes, crisis counseling, ESL or basic literacy classes, translation assistance, or by accompanying them to school meetings.
  2. Offer transportation or childcare so parents can attend back-to-school nights, PTA meetings, or teacher conferences. Offer your church as an off-site location for these meetings if it would make it easier for parents to attend.
  3. Work together with parents to foster their engagement in school issues and to empower them to advocate for their children and their school.
Think systemically
  1. Help church members engage in ways that open their eyes to the systemic injustices manifest in public schools. Encourage them to go deeper and ask “why.” Examine and address root causes of poverty and inequity. 
  2. Be an advocate for public education. Keep up with the work of local school boards as well as relevant state and federal policies. Support more adequate and equitable school funding.
  3. Expect transformation! By engaging local schools, churches can build bridges of hope within their community that can lead to stronger schools and stronger churches.

Courtesy of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership www.churchleadership.com.

Monday - April 7, 2014
Broken people walking toward wholeness

The Rev. Claire Wimbush articulates a theology of the body from the perspective of someone who cannot walk, stand, wash her own hair or tie her own shoes. But she can celebrate the Eucharist and preach a homily and serve as an Episcopal priest.

Indeed, she finds “a kind of beauty in my broken body offering the broken body of Christ to my congregation,” she said.

This video was produced in 2011 as part of the Clergy Health Initiative. Wimbush currently serves as a chaplain at Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community in Richmond, Va.

Click here for Rev. Wimbush's video and the transcript. Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com

 

Friday - April 4, 2014
Coming home

James Lewis is an endorsed Army Reserve Chaplain. He is endorsed by the United Methodist Endorsing agency. He serves First United Methodist Church, Cuyhoga Falls, Ohio. He is an elder in the Florida Annual Conference, as were his parents, and an affiliate member of the Eastern Ohio Annual Conference. Below is his essay on coming home from a deployment.

 

I’m finally home from my deployment, sleeping in my own bed, having home-cooked food again and everything else the home front brings! MOST of that is GREAT! However, along with the joys of coming home are always the challenges that all of us face. And statistics consistently show that coming home is often harder on families and relationships than being away.

The process itself of coming home is full of its own set of challenges. My messages have been rather erratic lately—that’s due to the common struggles of the erratic nature of transitions, the challenge of finding time to do what needs to be done, restarting relationships, and finding our place again in family systems, community and employment systems that have managed without us all this time (and for me, having access to my address list—things got rather chaotic when I had to leave really quick for emergency leave!) And these are the SIMPLE obstacles, IF everything is going well in those relationships and systems!

Now imagine how all of that is complicated when we each come home to find various additional challenges. Whether those additional challenges are the bearings going out in the wheel of one of the TWO family vehicles (with FOUR very active family members going FOUR different directions at once!), all the way to the world-up-side-down problems of unemployment or families falling apart (and there’s always a few from a unit our size.) The otherwise “little” challenges can quickly become overwhelming.

One of my friends recently ran across a couple Vietnam Veterans and started talking to them. In their conversation, she thanked them for their service and offered to pray for them. Though the experience of rejection was many years passed, this brief conversation opened flood-gates of tears from one of the now old Veterans. Some of you reading this will be newer Veterans like me, some will be older Veterans like that man my friend recently met and some of you will merely be caring people wondering if there’s anything you can do.

I just saw my kids’ school bus driver whom I’ve come to know as a good friend over the years, and whose daughter is recently going through deployments, reunions and such, and her greeting was, “Look what the cat drug in….” A pleasant greeting (she said it with a smile!) that acknowledged my absence and invited genuine conversation without being the empty, “Hi, how are ya, glad you’re back…,” nor the trite, even if true offer, “What can I do?” The bus driver’s greeting flowed from genuine relationship; my other friend’s impact came from the power of prayer and from her presence overflowing with the Fruit of the Spirit.

Whether you’re one of those Veterans with God-only-knows-what bottled up inside, or one of those who can’t contain the Fruit of the Spirit overflowing from inside, use that gift of discernment to find each other. Not every Veteran is struggling or suffering, though many are, regardless of how long ago it was they served. Not everyone who offers help is being any more than trite, though many are. If you’re one of those who can’t ask, though you need to, or one of those who don’t know how to live the love of Christ, though you know you need to, consistent prayer is the key to getting from here to there.

A key for raising kids to be overflowing with the Spirit rather than raising kids to be trite and superficial, is also that consistent pattern of prayer—both WITH them and FOR them—and regularly talking with them about things more important than how they’re doing in school or how their team is doing. Just as “deep calls to deep,” depth comes from depth, and as deep as the Valley of the Shadow of Death can be, those lost in it can only be reached by those whose souls are also deep.

Thursday - April 3, 2014
Online with Darkwood Brew

It’s a familiar scenario. A middle-aged pastor welcomes visitors and regulars to Sunday worship. Except in this case, nobody’s in a church.

The minister is in a sparsely attended coffeehouse/jazz club in Omaha, Neb., and most congregants are gathered around computer screens in their homes, scattered throughout the English-speaking world.

At 5 p.m. Central Time, coffee cup in hand, the Rev. Eric Elnes welcomes viewers to Darkwood Brew, an interactive Web television program that he describes as “a convergence point, online and offline, where people of faith and other spiritual seekers gather to find community and companionship as well as encouragement and inspiration for life’s journey through the dark wood.”

Elnes has a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Princeton and has served as senior minister of Countryside Community Church (UCC) in Omaha since 2008. Chris Alexander joined Countryside as associate minister in 2010, shortly before Darkwood’s first webcast on Jan. 2, 2011.

Each week, Elnes or Alexander guides viewers, aka “brewers,” through an unlikely landscape of Scripture, meditation, conversation with guests, chat rooms, killer jazz and communion.


Rev. Elnes, at the piano, in the studio with a volunteer.

The program’s name refers to both the coffeehouse setting and the Christian mystic belief that dark times can hold possibility.

Although Darkwood does not have a system for tracking viewership, a high-water mark came in February 2013 during a webcast in the “Evolving Universe/Evolving Faith” series, when its server crashed because it was overloaded with participants.

“There is room for Darkwood’s kind of expression,” said Jana Riess, an author who has twice been a guest on the show via Skype. “It’s especially helpful for people who might have issues with traditional church but keep trying and keep trying to figure out what all that means.”

Darkwood’s beginnings are both theological and practical. The theological “root system,” Elnes said, grows from the Phoenix Affirmations, a dozen principles articulating love of God, neighbor and self laid out in 2005 by representatives of what is often termed progressive Christianity.

Elnes’ book “The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity” was published in 2006, the year in which he participated in CrossWalk America, a 2,500-mile trek across the country to champion the affirmations, culminating in a symbolic Washington, D.C., rally.

The second “root system” Elnes identified is practical, responding to lay leaders’ concerns that while they were willing to lead adult education small groups, they lacked theological training and needed curriculum help, preferably in the form of DVDs.

Since its beginning, Darkwood Brew has packaged its multiweek series -- on topics ranging from the Beatitudes to business, from religious pluralism to environmentalism and, of course, convergence Christianity -- into DVDs called “guided episodes” with study guides for use by small groups.

Each episode features a guest -- some well-known, such as Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber -- who shares his or her take on the “pneuma divina” a practice modeled on lectio divina in which they discuss and meditate upon appointed Scripture.

Riess said that being a guest on Darkwood “isn’t just being interviewed; it’s being a fellow pilgrim on a journey.” Viewers are encouraged to participate via live chat rooms.

Episodes are professional-looking -- the grant-funded set cost $250,000 to build -- yet with a let’s-put-on-a-show vibe. Each episode relies on a team of 50 volunteers to do everything from operating the four cameras to overseeing the chat room.

If someone accidentally blocks a camera shot, there’s no cutting away. A recent breakdown in the Skype connection merely shifted the conversation from Elnes and the guest to Elnes, Alexander and comments from the chat room.

Darkwood’s annual $200,000 budget to produce 52 episodes -- peanuts by television standards -- includes three part-time positions, funded by grants and contributions.

Elnes said that because the same Scriptures and themes are used on Sunday mornings at Countryside as on Sunday evenings, his and Alexander’s Countryside and Darkwood ministries are symbiotic.

Even though many of the program’s viewers are disaffected with organized religion, the majority attend traditional services on Sunday mornings in a variety of Christian denominations, Elnes said.

This reflects the trends for online worship in general, said the Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw, the interim associate conference minister of the Minnesota Conference, United Church of Christ, who recently studied such services, including Darkwood Brew.

Viewers watch and take part in different ways and for different reasons.

Amanda Musterman of Lexington, Ky., a former youth minister who left the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination of her childhood to be confirmed as an Episcopalian, has recently begun watching Darkwood Brew. She sees it as a supplement to her Sunday morning worship.

“It can be as powerful a spiritual tool as the rosary or the labyrinth. But for me, Darkwood is not to be confused with or substituted for corporate worship,” she said.

Others experience Darkwood as corporate worship, in a modern iteration of house churches. The small groups of five to 25 members in places as diverse as California, North Dakota and Australia represent a variety of denominations, often within an individual group, Elnes said, and their members can usually be found in church on Sunday mornings.

The Sunday evening time slot also attracts those who lead morning worship.

“A surprising number of pastors tune in,” Elnes said. Clergy as well as laity find online worship services a “safe place,” Bradshaw said, and that is one of its primary draws.

The communion service that closes each Darkwood episode underscores the program’s sense of community.

“Probably the most helpful way in which we provoke this experience of being a participant and not a mere viewer is communion,” Elnes said. And, he said, it’s the portion of the program that people say they have appreciated the most.

Not everyone agrees; Musterman, the former youth minister, was surprised when "the host asked me to get my bread and wine ready for communion.

“The last time I checked, Christ gave us this amazing gift in an upper room surrounded by people he loved and intimately knew well,” she said. “Can this intimate meal be shared outside of community? Is it possible to be united in Christ’s body without a common body?”

But communion is not Darkwood’s only participatory element. Viewers also respond to the meditation portion of the program, which continues exploration of the pneuma divina. The once-occasional five-minute segment has expanded to 15 or 16 minutes and now relies on music instead of Elnes’ guided meditation.

“They have buckled on seat belts, taken a ride and are going where it’s going,” Bradshaw said. “A model like Darkwood Brew is going to be the way that churches engage online in the future. There is no question that churches are going to have to engage more with technology, and Darkwood Brew is leading the way.”

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

Monday - March 31, 2014
Why the church needs troublemakers

From Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, Jr., many who are considered saints or heroes of history today were, at one time, thought to be troublemakers.

They are the men and women who stirred up trouble in their day because they were not content with the status quo. They are those who had vision and were able to see beyond the way things are and dream about the way things could be and should be. They risked everything and worked and spoke out for change.

Now there’s that word: change.

Change may be the only constant, but it is a terrifying idea for many. Many of us resist change, and are just fine with the way things are. Something in us knows change is a form of loss, and loss is painful. And change brings something else that few people like, the unknown.

When things stay the same, life is comfortable, predictable and familiar. And when that is threatened we become uncomfortable, uncertain and confused. We often find ourselves reacting against change, and we think of those leading change as troublemakers.

So what can we do when change is needed? We can all admit our world is changing rapidly. And this is not the typical change that happens from generation to generation. This is seismic shift in the way our culture thinks about ... well, everything. From technology, to religion, to family dynamics, to education—change is everywhere. Some of this is good and some of this not so good. But we cannot stop it.

John Wesley

In the midst of this change is the Church. And the question for us is will we change or will we white knuckle the past and do all we can to stay the same way? Remember, those who refused to change and were only interested in maintaining the status quo are not the one remembered as saints.

Which means we need to consider not only how the Church will change, but how we can lead that change. Some refuse to think about change and dig their heels in. But this is not a good way to move forward. Others run into change with wild abandon and little forethought. This is also not a good way to move forward.

So what does it look like to be a troublemaker that moves beyond the immaturity of rebellion, embraces humility and leads to needed, lasting change?

There are a few hallmarks of saints who were once troublemakers that are worth paying attention to. If we can do these things, we just might find ourselves in some good trouble.

A Willingness to Sacrifice Everything

You can always find out how serious someone is about change by what he or she is willing to give to see change come about. There are many voices crying out for change that quickly fade in our world today. Many are those who simply want to be seen and heard, but deep inside don’t really care about seeing things change.

The same cannot be said for voices that endure. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Burma for 15 years. Still, her unflagging efforts for human rights, hope for democracy in Burma and peaceful resistance against an oppressive regime could not be stopped. She is still willing to speak out for what is right and needed change, and is willing to give up everything, to see it happen.

Talking About What We Are For

One can make a great living today talking about what he or she is against. From blogs, to articles, to presidential elections, to sermons on Sundays, we are bombarded with critics and cynicism. It’s easy to do, and we eat it up. Because when we state what we are against, we have the luxury of not listening or thinking about what we are for. But in the end, it stifles creativity. After a while, we turn down the volume on people like this.

Troublemakers are different—they talk about what they are for. It means having the audacity to dream about what could be and painting a compelling picture of a preferred future. This does not mean disrespecting where we are or where we have been. Rather we can honor the past and present as we look ahead and we speak of what can be and will be with great hope.

Bigger Than A Person

When Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, he spoke about something bigger than himself. His vision was about a country where “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” Dr. King did not preach only to make his life better. His dream was to see restoration come to our country and world.

This is what good troublemakers do. Their vision, dreams and hopes are not centered on themselves. Rather, their greatest desires are focused on change that will be good for everyone. Rarely do you hear them promoting themselves, but only talking about a cause, a vision, or, in the case of Dr. King, a dream.

Invite Others to Embody the Vision

Troublemakers always want others to cause trouble with them. They are not interested in it being about their idea or their vision. They care little about who gets the credit because their greatest passion is the change for the common good. This is why they are always found inviting others to join them.

A good troublemaker is one who equips, empowers and mobilizes others. They do this because they are fully aware there is no way needed change will come to bear on the strength of one person. They know that when others understand and live out the vision, it will only grow and become greater—and the change that is needed becomes inevitable.

There is a good chance those who dream and envision needed change in our world may be branded us as troublemakers, and that’s fine. But if we can hold to these principles in leading change maybe, one day, long after we are gone, we will be thought of as saints.

Courtesy of Relevant Magazine www.relevantmagazine.com.  The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Florida Conference.

Events
Thursday - April 24, 2014
Adam Hamilton at First UMC in Orlando

Adam Hamilton to speak at First UMC in Orlando 

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
 
Join pastor and best-selling author, Adam Hamilton, for an evening of teaching and conversation around his new book, Making Sense of the Bible.
 
During his presentation, Adam will focus on the nature of scripture exploring the human and divine - what it is and is not, how it was written and canonized, why we don't consider it inerrant, and what a "high view of scripture" might mean. He will then tackle the questions people often ask about the Bible:
 
* Do I have to choose between evolution and the Bible? 
* Were Adam and Eve and Noah real people? 
* How do we make sense of the violence of God in the Old Testament? 
* Suffering and God in the Bible 
* Does the Bible really teach that only Christians go to heaven? 
* Homosexuality and the Bible 
* Is Revelation really a roadmap of the end times?
 
The evening will end with an opportunity for Q&A and a book signing with the author. A book display with Adam Hamilton's books, including this new title, will be open before and after the presentation.
  
If you'd like your copy of Making Sense of the Bible now, click here for a special price and be ready for a great discussion  
(and be at the head of the line for the signing!). 
 
Click Here to register to attend the Live tream Viewing Contemporary Worship Center Seating.  The main Sanctuary seating is currently at capacity.
Thursday - April 24, 2014
East Central dCOM Meeting

 District Committee on Ministry Meeting

Candidates contact Elizabeth Flynn for appointment.

ecdregistrar@tomokaumc.org 

Thursday - April 24, 2014
SW District Congregational Vitality Committee Meeting

The South West District Congregational Vitality Committee will be meeting.

Friday - April 25, 2014
United Methodist Women's Assembly

The first Assembly of the National United Methodist Women, Inc. will be in Louisville, KY, where thousands of members and friends will gather from around the world.  The theme of the 2014 Assembly is MAKE IT HAPPEN. Participants will experience memorable worship, informative workshops and inspiring words by the several speakers.  Opportunities to see the many missions in which United Methodist Women are involved.  Participates have the opportunity to participate in a UBUNTU Day mission the day before the opening.
    For morning information contact the Aggie Reed, the Confererence President, or the Assembly website -
 www.assembly2014.org

 

Saturday - April 26, 2014
Mission Fair and Service Day - North Central District


The North Central District will celebrate their first Mission Fair and Service Day at New Covenant United Methodist Church in the Villages (3470 Woodridge Dr. The Villages, FL 32612), on Saturday, April 26, starting at 3:00pm.

We will gather to pack food for the Stop Hunger Now campaign, and join together for a special worship service at 5 p.m. celebrating our call to serve Jesus Christ and the ministries we are privileged to share.  We will also have a missions fair with booths for church, district, conference, and international ministries to highlight their ministries, provide info, and enlist new help.  

Location

3:00 pm Narthex Ministry Fair

3:15 pm Stop Hunger Now Meal Packaging Event in the Worship Center         

5:00 pm Missions and Outreach Worship Service in the Christian Life Center
                Guest Speaker: Rev. Connie DeLeo

Monday - April 28, 2014
Clergy Team Meeting - April 28th

We will have identical Clergy Team Meetings at two different times:

Monday, April 28th  from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Druid Hills UMC in Ocala.

 OR

Thursday, May 1st,  from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Druid Hills UMC in Ocala. 

Please attend the meeting that best fits your schedule. Registration online is required. A dinner will be provided.

If you cannot attend, you must contact the District Superintendent via email at ds-nc@flumc.org no later than April 25th.

We look forward to seeing you all at the Clergy Team Meetings.
 
Please click on the link below to make your April 28th meeting reservation.

 

Thursday - May 1, 2014
Clergy Team Meeting - May 1st

We will have identical Clergy Team Meetings at two different times:

Monday, April 28th  from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Druid Hills UMC in Ocala.

                                                OR

Thursday, May 1st,  from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Druid Hills UMC in Ocala. 

Please attend the meeting that best fits your schedule. Registration online is required. Lunch will be provided.

If you cannot attend, you must contact the District Superintendent via email at ds-nc@flumc.org no later than April 25th.

We look forward to seeing you all at the Clergy Team Meetings.

Please click on the link below to make your May 1st meeting reservation.

Thursday - May 1, 2014
East Central District Sunday Serve Local Church Coordinators Gathering

East Central District Sunday Serve Local Church Coordinators Initial Planning Meeting!

There will be two meetings to assist regions with planning their Sunday Serve 2014 events! Be sure to identify the Sunday Serve planner for your church by then so they don't miss any important information.

Please mark your calendar and plan to attend one of the two meetings.

May 1st at 6:30 pm at Reeves UMC in Orlando  Click here to register for Reeves.

May 6th at 6:30 pm at Tomoka UMC in Ormond Beach  Click here to register for Tomoka.

Please RSVP by April 30th to let us know if you'll be attending.

Friday - May 2, 2014
Early Response Team Training May 2 & 3, 2014

 Early Response Team Training

MAY 2 & 3, 2014 

Warren Willis Camp

4991 Picciola Rd. 

Fruitland Park, FL

 

Early Response Teams (ERT) are self-contained teams who enter a disaster zone at the invitation of local emergency management officials. ERT's offer a Christian presence and are trained to provide various types of physical, emotional and spiritual assistance to disaster survivors. ERT's are registered with the Disaster Recovery Ministry of The Florida Annual Conference, and Disaster Recovery coordinates team placement with emergency management to get help where it is needed most after a disaster. 

The two-day ERT training focuses on types, phases and levels of a disaster and explains what is meant by early response. Participants learn the importance of spiritual and emotional care, how to tarp, flood clean-up, chainsaw safety, team requirements and much more. 

Participants receive a disaster response manual, t-shirt and badges identifying them as early responders for The Florida Annual Conference and UMCOR. 

 

COST: $40 per person/ $60 per couple, which includes: housing, three meals, T-Shirt, background check, ERT badges, and manual. PARTICIPANTS MUST BE 18 OR OLDER!

Check-in begins at 4:30, dinner starts at 5:30 and training starts at 6:30.

NOTE: Basic Disaster Ministry Training is required before taking ERT Training. 

 

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