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United Methodists Living T heir Faith J U LY/A U G U S T

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Living well together



Turn your reluctance into boldness by walking in the footsteps of MOSES

Retrace the life of Moses from his modest birth and rescue as a baby to the courts of Pharaoh, from herding flocks in Midian to leading his people out of Egypt. Join Adam Hamilton as he travels from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, the Nile, the Red Sea and the wilderness exploring the sites of Moses’ life. Using historical information, archaeological data, and biblical text, Hamilton guides us in the footsteps of this reluctant prophet who grew in his relationship with God and by the end of life had successfully fulfilled the role he was given. Resources Include: • Book • DVD • Leader Guide • Youth Study • Children’s Study Guide

Learn more at

available May 2017 Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, named by The Church Report as the most influential mainline church in America. Hamilton is the best-selling author of Half Truths, John, The Call, Revival, The Way, 24 Hours That Changed the World, The Journey, When Christians Get It Wrong and Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. | 800.672.1789

Contents JULY



Living together well 13


Living together well is hard, but possible

Oh, the places you ought to go: Purposeful travel



Experiencing diversity: Church invites others to see that ‘God is in the graffiti’

Experiencing diversity: ‘Dreamer’ pastor concerned about his future



‘Diversity’ carries different meanings

Experiencing diversity: ‘Friendship Bench of Faith’


Diverse congregations help these churches thrive

Downward mobility reflects radical faith



Experiencing diversity: Pastor feeds stomachs, spirits of Korean students


Experiencing diversity: District to district partnership encourages diversity through work


Experiencing diversity: Couple bringing balance to young Native people’s lives


Diversity and social media: Q & A

Helping Dallas heal following 2016 shootings


Experiencing diversity: How can I keep from singing?

36 38

Experiencing diversity: Syrian refugee receives visit ‘from Jesus himself’




Experiencing diversity: Faith walks, talks reducing youth violence


United Methodist Interpreter








39 Invite for Advent with different ‘looks’ Distinctly different illustrations with a common theme will give local churches promotional items fitting their culture.

40 Topics, approaches vary in new Advent studies


42 Family camping builds relationships With a mix of all-family and age-specific activities, these camps let families grow in faith as they have fun together.

44 Churches, schools partner to help students The first thing for a church to do when wanting to help a local school: Ask school officials, “What do you need?”

46 Called General Conference set for 2019 Delegates to a called General Conference will consider recommendations from the Council of Bishops based on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.

United Methodists Living T heir Faith 2 0 1 7

Interpreter (ISSN 0020-9678 Periodical #9154) is published six times a year by United Methodist Communications, 810 12th Ave. S., P.O. Box 320, Nashville, TN 37202-0320; 615-742-5107; www.interpretermagazine. org. Periodicals postage paid at Nashville, Tenn., and additional offices.

7 Reflections

Postmaster: Send address changes to Interpreter, P.O. Box 320, Nashville, TN 37202-0320.

8 It Worked for Us

Subscription Questions: For individual subscriptions, duplicate/ missing issues, enrollment forms and subscription corrections, call 888-346-3862 or e-mail

Read about a salsa-dancing pastor, a ministry that feeds pets of homeless people, “love lunches” delivered during school breaks and “strings in the spring.”

10 IdeaMart Highlights include a new emphasis on disciple-making, plans for a special offering to support ministry with immigrants, a guide for conversations about sexuality and

12 ‘We asked ... ;’ ‘You said ... .’ How did you first develop a relationship with someone of a different ethnic or racial group or from a different country?

48 I am United Methodist Serving as a deacon is how the Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide of Norway lives his faith.

49 Technology Share your life and share what is universal when using social media.

50 To Be United Methodist How does our church get its pastor?

COVER PHOTO CREDITS: (From lower left) UMCommunications Germany/Volker Kiemle; courtesy Kyu Woo Nam, UMNS/Kathleen Barry, courtesy Chip Freed, Phileas Jusu, Greater New Jersey Conference/James Lee


Living well together


Dan Krause celebrates the diversity of spiritual gifts that God gives us. Readers share thoughts.

Abingdon Press and The Upper Room offer nine new studies and devotional books for Advent 2017. Designed for all-church and individual use, this preview will help you plan.


6 Publisher’s Page

United Methodist Communications, Inc. July/August 2017 Vol. 61, No. 4



United Methodist Interpreter

Change of Address: Send the mailing label with your new address and name of your church to Interpreter Subscriptions, P.O. Box 320, Nashville, TN 37202-0320; call 888346-3862, or e-mail Allow six weeks for changes. Indicate if you hold any offices. Advertising: Contact Fox Associates, Inc., Fox-Chicago, 116 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, IL 60654; 312-644-3888, 800-4400231, 800-440-0232; (Fax) 312-644-8718 The publication of advertising in Interpreter does not constitute endorsement by Interpreter, United Methodist Communications or The United Methodist Church. Advertisers and their agencies assume liability for all content of advertisements printed or representations made therein. Reprints: Local churches, districts, annual conferences and other United Methodist-related entities may reprint, photocopy or create Web links to any materials from Interpreter, except items bearing a copyright notice. Please include “Reprinted from Interpreter Magazine, a publication of United Methodist Communications” and add the issue date on your copies. For more information, call 615-742-5107. Publisher | Dan Krause Editor | Kathy Noble Design | GUILDHOUSE Group Editorial Assistant | Polly House Contributing Editor | Julie Dwyer Multimedia Editor | Joey Butler Photographer | Mike DuBose Photo Researcher | Kathleen Barry Advertising Manager | Jane Massey Production Manager | Carlton Loney Subscription Fulfillment | 888-346-3862

Bible Study for Busy People Created for busy people with busy lives. Get ready to engage in Scripture and the world like never before! To learn more about the newest in the DISCIPLE Family of studies, contact Cokesbury. “DISCIPLE Fast Track—a new way to offer DISCIPLE Bible Study to people with busy lives. As you may know, DISCIPLE Bible Study has been a powerful experience for over three million people around the world. Now, DISCIPLE Fast Track is a new model that still covers the entire Bible—Genesis to Revelation—but in a shorter time frame.” —Bishop Richard Byrd Wilke, author of DISCIPLE Bible Study, and Susan Fuquay, creator of DISCIPLE Fast Track | 800.672.1789


The Publisher's Page

Different Gifts




elcome to the July/August 2017 issue of Interpreter. As you read through the pages, you’ll discover a number of articles about diversity. Diversity is an interesting topic to consider since one person’s idea of what is diverse may differ from someone else’s perspective. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Zambia on the continent of Africa, for example, may well define diversity differently from our brothers and sisters in the Scandinavian nation of Finland. One area in which our human diversity is most apparent is in our spiritual gifts. While life in and of itself is a gift, God also created each of us with our own gift or set of gifts. The Apostle Paul, in the epistles to Rome, Ephesus and Corinth (Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and 13) lifted up more than a dozen God-given talents that range from the gifts of

The Rev. Nyenda Okoko prays with villagers in Evungu, Democratic Republic of Congo, while holding his motorcycle helmet. Okoko, Tunda district superintendent, led a delegation on motorbikes to visit a Pygmy community in Kanana.

The Rev. Earl Bible is pastor of Whitmer United Methodist Church in Seneca Rocks, W.Va.

compassion and discernment to healing and prophecy. Paul tells the first-century Christians that these gifts are given specifically by the Holy Spirit to build up the body of Christ and his church. The same is true today. The United Methodist Church is most vibrant when everyone brings their unique spiritual gifts into community with one another. The following stories illustrate how United Methodists around the world are using their diverse spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom of God. Equipped with the gift of evangelism, the Rev. Nyenda Okoko travels throughout the Tundu District of the East Congo Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo to pray and minister to communities. Okoko is a 21st-century circuit rider who travels by motorcycle. The gift from Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda allows the pastor to reach his flock in a region where impassable roads are common. Daily, Okoko shares his faith with the people who live deep in the forests and savannas of one of the poorest countries in the world. “I have a call from God,” Okoko said, “and that call cannot leave me free “ to do anything else. When it comes to the gift of being faithful, the Rev. Earl Bible stands out for many who know of his ministry as a licensed local pastor in West Virginia, U.S.A. For the past 33 years, Bible has served JULY • AUGUST 2017

four mountain churches in the Alleghany Charge of the West Virginia Conference. He alternates preaching at two churches on one Sunday morning and two on the next. The four congregations, which total approximately 100 members, come together on fifth Sundays. Bible also leads a Bible study at one of the churches each Sunday night and at another on Thursday evenings. For eight summers before he retired from the nearby Hanover Shoe Company, Bible spent his vacation traveling to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., to take the courses required of local pastors. He and his wife, Doris, continue to farm, raising vegetables and livestock, including cows and sheep. At 80, Bible has no plans to slow down. “I’ll go, probably, as long as the Lord allows,” he said. Leaders at Christ United Methodist Ministry Center in San Diego, California, U.S.A., exhibit the gift of exhortation, offering encouragement, wise counsel, support and empowerment to others. A decade ago, when the congregation was in decline, the Rev. Bill Jenkins suggested turning the church facility into a place where non-profit and charitable organizations could operate, as well as offering worship room to congregations without permanent homes. Christ Ministry Center is now home to 10 diverse congregations, including Eritrean, Haitian, United Methodist Interpreter

Hispanic and Seventh Day Adventist faith communities, four of which are United Methodist. A dozen nonprofits are based at the center, including Dress for Success, Gambling Recovery Ministries and Cross Border Ministry, an organization offering services to Haitian refugees in Tijuana, Mexico. Today, more than 1,000 lives are touched each week in some way through the work going on at the center, whose doors open at 8 a.m. daily and frequently stay open until 10 p.m. There is no shortage of stories throughout our denomination that showcase United Methodists using their diverse Spirit-given gifts. To learn about your gifts, I invite you to take a spiritual gifts assessment on our denominational website at As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:11: “It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.” When we all come together with our diverse gifts given by the Holy Spirit, it is then that we can most fully work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Dan Krause is general secretary of United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A., and publisher of Interpreter.

A Forum for Readers

Reflections Thoughts misrepresented

The error occurred during the editing process and not through any fault of the I was discouraged to read “One faith, author. It was entirely unintentional and different understandings” (May-June). not meant to misrepresent Rev. Watson’s My words were not used in a way that perspective. We accept full responsibility. accurately reflect the interview I gave, A revised version of the article is online what I believe is true of our history or at www.interpreterwhat I believe is at stake for The United one-faith-differMethodist Church ent-understandings. today. Two quotes Fair and accurate in the article, in reporting is critically particular, suggest important to us, and that I support the we will redouble big-tent vision for our efforts to make United Methodism sure that our articles that started with accurately convey the Albert Outler at the UNITED METHODIST... intended meaning. beginnings of The UMC and is being aggressively advocated Talking spiritual today by many warfare United Methodist I just read with bishops and other great dismay and sadkey denominational ness the Rev. Donna leaders. In my DeCamp’s critique description, I was saying that the of “Bible Boot Camp in Winter” (March/ tendency to keep moving the tent poles April). She wrote: “If we follow our Lord was a liability of United Methodism, Jesus who preached peace and love, neither a source of strength nor faithful why does a church teach little children to our Wesleyan heritage. I believe that military concepts ... .” I appreciate Interfor Wesley unity was the product of a preter adding the Scripture for the week’s firm commitment to a particular set activities. My dismay and sadness is the of beliefs and practice (doctrines and result of a systemic problem within The discipline). Wesley would not, and we UMC that many fail to see that we are should not, put institutional unity above engaged in spiritual warfare. I remind the a particular understanding of “holiness readers our warfare is not against human of heart and life.” beings, but the source of evil that seeks to (The Rev.) Kevin Watson, Candler School of destroy human hearts, dreams and lives. Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia I commend Clark UMC for their boldness. Jesus said (Matt. 10:16 NIV), “I am Ed. Note: Interpreter deeply regrets sending you out like sheep among wolves. that the article was edited in such a way Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as as to misrepresent Rev. Watson’s thinkinnocent as doves.” ing. We acknowledge that he has a valid (The Rev.) Randy Burbank, First concern, and we sincerely apologize for UMC, Sheffield, Alabama the error. United Methodists Living Their Faith M A Y / J U N E



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Likes .pdf option I commend the Interpreter staff for reformatting the pdf version. It is very readable on my cell phone. You have eliminated the confusion of different length columns and unnecessary decoration that previously interfered with reading. Thanks for being responsive to criticism. Barbara Isely, First UMC, Corvallis, Oregon

Appreciates issue The May/June issue is the best that I have ever read. It covers so many subjects and explains in words that we can understand what it means to be a United Methodist. The article on our connection clarifies what we, as a connectional church, are all about. I have heard people say that United Methodists don’t believe anything. The article “One faith, different understandings” speaks well to that. The timeline beginning in 1725-50 tells us of our unique history, period by period. I could go on but you get the idea. A truly informative issue. Martha Berry, First UMC, Campbellsville, Kentucky Corrections: The Rev. Alejo Hernandez’s ordination year was incorrect in “Change is constant” in the May-June issue. He was ordained deacon in 1871 and elder in 1873. The Rev. Marilyn Ware was incorrectly identified as a deaconess in “Rule of Discipleship leads to disciplined life.” She is a retired deacon. The articles are correct at

Interpreter welcomes Letters to the Editor that address articles in the magazine or other topics of interest to United Methodists. In most instances, letters should be no more than 150 words and must include the writer’s name, local church, city and state and may be edited for length and clarity. Send to or Interpreter, P.O. Box 320, Nashville, TN 37202-0320.

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Success Stories From Local Churches


It Worked for Us Feeding pets of the homeless


dog food and a container filled with bowls, blankets, wipes, ointments and other items for dogs and started distributing them. The Lakewood Pet Ministry quickly expanded and provided 500 pounds of food to homeless dogs in June and July of 2016 alone. “Currently, we feed about 400-800 pounds of dog food a month,” she said. She and other volunteers also make sure the dogs have basic vaccinations, flea and tick protection in the summer and deworming. “During the summer months, we help the dogs fight dehydration and electrolyte imbalance by providing the flavored water with

electrolyte powder mixed in,” said Cox-Martinez. The dogs are also spayed or neutered and some have had minor surgeries. Now a 501c3 organization, the volunteers work out of the parking lot and clinic of His Throne Ministry, a church that ministers to and feeds the homeless. Lakewood Church members donate food, treats, toys, blankets, collars, leashes, crates, small beds, cash and more. Others manage the Facebook and church website pages and continually take pictures of the dogs to post. Lakewood also continues to feed homeless people’s

The Pet Ministry operates in a small “reception area” inside His Throne Ministries in Little Rock, Arkansas.

bodies and souls with food and by spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ. “As you can tell, we also love these beautiful, wonderful pets,” says Cox-Martinez. The description of the pet ministry on the Lakewood website reads: “Alone on the street, there might be only two living beings who give that homeless person unconditional love, and who will never abandon them: their dog and Jesus Christ.”

Lakewood United Methodist Church | 1922 Topf Rd. North, North Little Rock, AR 72116 | (501) 753-6186 | | | Rev. Luke Conway, senior pastor | Average Worship Attendance: 453 | Arkansas Conference

Learning salsa dancing at church


f you live near Davis United Methodist Church in Davis, California, and want to learn how to dance salsa style, talk with the pastor and he will teach you. You may even see him break into a salsa during a Sunday sermon. The Rev. Brandon Austin is a 15-year salsero (male salsa dancer). He loves the dance that originated in Cuba. His mastery of the dance and willingness to teach it in his last four churches is a relationship-building gift he brings. In February, more than 75



honda Cox-Martinez feeds and nurtures homeless dogs. She calls them beautiful and wonderful. In 2016, while helping her church feed homeless people, Cox-Martinez noticed that many of the guests had dogs – and were feeding the pets their own food. She asked her pastor, the Rev. Luke Conway at Lakewood United Methodist Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas, what would prevent the church from having a pet ministry. His response: “Nothing.” Cox-Martinez loaded her Nissan Rogue with bags of

The Rev. Brandon Austin gives instructions duirng a salsa dance class at Davis United Methodist Church in California. Alma Hernandez is his partner for this dance.

people of all ages showed up for the first class Austin taught at Davis. “We get about half of the dancers from the church and the other half from the community,” Austin says. “It is great for community building

and enriches relationships.” If a student doesn’t come with a partner, he or she is paired with another class member. Students learn the fundamentals of salsa dancing, including the basic steps, etiquette, attire and learn to dance the merengue, bachata and cha-cha-cha. Once the dancers complete seven 90-minute sessions and graduate, they are “club ready” – they can go to clubs as a group and dance there. Austin discovered his love for dance as a ninth-grader when he bought the “Saturday

Night Fever” album. He has not stopped dancing since. “I enjoy people, and dancing nourishes and feeds my soul,” he says. Austin says he experiences the same feeling while dancing that he does when he walks a labyrinth. He knows that different people find joy in different things, like painting, writing, sports and dancing. He encourages people to find and make use of their passions like he did. In addition to his churches, Austin has taught salsa dancing at church camps, fitness clubs and in people’s homes.

Davis United Methodist Church | 1620 Anderson Rd., Davis, CA 95616 | 530- 756-2170 | | | Rev. Brandon Austin | Average Worship Attendance: 150 | California-Nevada Conference


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Success Stories From Local Churches

‘Love Lunches’ on the go


eekdays during school and Christmas breaks, Gerry Cass loads her car and delivers “love lunches” to children living in neighboring homes. For the past three years, Cass and other volunteers from Southeast Pierre Mission United Methodist Church in South Dakota have provided food when school is closed to the children who do not receive the breakfast, lunch and snacks that the school provides. The sack lunch program stemmed from the Busy Bee program held on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:30

p.m. at Southeast Pierre Community Center with which the church shares a building. In December 2016, Cass braved a lengthy ice storm to deliver 415 lunches to children during the Christmas breaks. It was in the summer a year before that Cass first became aware that children were going hungry and decided to get involved. “I love kids,” she says. “Their circumstances are different. We have many single parents who are working multiple jobs, and the kids are left alone.” Many of them don’t have enough food to eat, she says, and they are happy and

grateful to get the food. It puts a smile on their faces. In Summer 2016, the church provided 4,483 “love lunches,” an average of 76 each day. That’s about 9,000 slices of bread. “It’s definitely God, there is no way we can do this on our own,” said Cass. Volunteers go through 10-12 loaves of bread each morning as they make peanut butter/jelly and ham sandwiches and then fill the remainder of the bags with fruit, juice, milk, crackers and cookies. On Fridays, extra food is given for the weekend. Donations come from the church and other sources. A

it worked for us


“It Worked for Us” is written by Christine Kumar, a freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference. These are her last stories as she is beginning an assignment as pastor to two congregations in July and will start seminary studies in the fall. We’ll miss her work, but “It Worked for Us” will continue. Send story ideas to Find more “It Worked for Us” at Interpreter OnLine,

Volunteers prepare peanut butter/ jelly and ham sandwiches for the “love lunches.” They are providing at least 100 lunches each weekday until school resumes in August.

man that Cass met in the park during an outing with kids gave $1,000 towards the program. His friend gave $1,500. “God provides,” she says. Most of the many volunteers helping with “Love Lunches” come from Southeast Pierre and First United Methodist churches. “We cannot do this without them,” Cass says, adding even the children who benefit sometimes help pack and deliver lunches.

Southeast Pierre Mission United Methodist Church | 2315 East Park, Pierre, SD 57501 | 605-595-0470 | | Average worship attendance: 40 | Dakotas Conference


ore than 200 congregants played and sang “Amazing Grace” and other popular Christian music during worship on Feb. 26 at Rock Spring United Methodist Church in Georgia. The “Strings in the Spring” concert was part of the 9 a.m. contemporary worship service at Rock Spring. The Rev. John Brantley, pastor, played his guitar. Also among the 52 musicians were students who take music lessons at the church on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The name “Strings

in the Spring” emerged because the multi-purpose room is built over a spring, said Brantley. As they began discussing creative ideas for worship, Brantley and praise team leader Chris Fowler thought that having a “100-Guitar Sunday” would be a great idea and would engage people who played the instruments. Although they fell somewhat short of their goal, the 52 string instruments (guitars, banjos, mandolins, basses and ukuleles) provided beautiful music. “Some guitars were


Strings in the air

More than 50 musicians were part of the “Strings in the Spring” worship service at Rock Spring United Methodist Church.

tuned to certain chords so that anyone could play,” said Brantley. “All they had to do is pick up the guitar and play.” The musicians received the music in advance to download. They practiced on their own and came prepared to play collectively. Seated in a semi-circle with other worshippers,

they provided “a joyful noise with the congregation,” said Brantley. Brantley loves to play the guitar. “The key is to plant the seeds of creative ministry, pray for God to open hearts and opportunities, and be willing to repeat the process each week,” he said.

Rock Spring United Methodist Church | 3477 Peavine Rd., Rock Spring, GA 30739 | (706) 764-1404 | | | Rev. John Brantley | Average Worship Attendance: 189 | North Georgia Conference

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Inspiration & Resources

Ideamart #SeeAllThePeople to inspire disciplemaking movement



hat if United Methodist congregations stopped looking for quick fixes to revitalize their churches and started seeing the people right outside our doors that Christ called us to reach? What if churches recommitted themselves to focus on being in relationship with those around them and created an intentional system to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Discipleship Ministries is asking those questions of United Methodists. The agency believes The United Methodist Church has looked

too long for a quick fix to help guide discipleship efforts; that it is now called to embrace fully the spirit of the Wesleyan tradition by being in relationship with the communities that surround its church buildings. #SeeAllThePeople is a grass roots initiative designed to inspire a disciple-making movement across the denomination. Discipleship Ministries (www.umcdiscipleship. org) is shifting priorities to create resources, events and a discipleship system that emphasizes congregations being in relationship with those outside their walls. “We cannot disciple people that we are not in relationship

with,” said the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, general secretary at Discipleship Ministries. “Discipleship begins with relationship. When churches create an intentional discipleship system, they move from tinkering and fixing to relationship and discipleship. We do this not to just fill our pews, but to boldly show Christ’s love to those around us.” To launch the conversation about #SeeAllThePeople, a discussion starter video and guide are on the initiative website, Dotson urges church leaders and members to start a conversation by using the hashtag #SeeAllThePeople and using the resources on the website with others in the congregation. Other resources available at include: »» Developing an Intentional Discipleship System: A Guide for Congregations. The free booklet offers clear answers to questions such as “What is a disciple?” “How are they formed?” and, most importantly, “Why are we called to make them?” It also





provides help for congregations wanting to develop a discipleship system or improve their existing discipleship efforts. (Receive a free copy by signing up for #SeeAllThePeople email updates.) A social hub with numerous social media opportunities to follow and participate in the movement using the hashtag #SeeAllThePeople and images to share with friends A video in which Dotson explains the importance of creating an intentional discipleship system The Wesleyan Roots of #SeeAllThePeople, a downloadable pdf prepared by the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources at Discipleship Ministries, and a video describing the historical significance of the Wesleyan movement A sign-up for future #SeeAllThePeople updates by email.

Adapted from information provided by Discipleship Ministries

New guide addresses sexuality conversation


he General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools have released a new study guide to help United Methodists have constructive conversations about a difficult topic: human sexuality. The guide, The Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness, is available from Cokesbury, www., and Amazon, Downloadable translations in French, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese are available on the Higher Education and Ministry website (www. Cokesbury describes the guide as being “suitable for a four-week study,” adding “this resource addresses how the church can be a witness and provide for a diversified human community.” It adds the guide’s publication “comes out of the


conviction that the church is thirsty for theological conversation. Methodism is no stranger to controversy. John Wesley addressed the contentious issues of his day and strove to hold the Methodist societies together across many lines of difference. This guide plumbs the depths of the Wesleyan heritage to enhance our faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ at a time when devout followers are deeply divided.” The concept for the study

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guide originated from presentations at an Academic Theological Colloquy held at Candler School of Theology in March. An article about the event with comments from speakers/presenters is available on the GBHEM website, ( A book of the papers presented is to be published in Spring 2018. Adapted from information from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Communications Office

Immigrant work to benefit from special offering Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, stressed this is not a denominational “Special Sunday” – times designated by General Conference for special offerings the denomination collects annually. For now, the request is only for a onetime collection — not unlike what the church is sometimes asked to do in response to devastating natural disasters. The $100,000 in contingency funds will go toward organizing advocacy work on behalf of immigrants in annual conferences and jurisdictions in the United States, said the Rev. Lyssette N. Perez. She is a Connectional Table member, pastor in New Jersey and the president of MARCHA, the denomination’s Hispanic/ Latino caucus.

Originally asking for $200,000 in contingency funds for the advocacy work, the Council of Bishops’ Immigration Thomas Kemper, the top executive of The United MethTask Force odist Church’s mission agency, talks about the global noted that the refugee crisis during a meeting of the Connectional Table in Oslo, Norway. immigration and migration work of The United Methodist By then, the budget team expects, the advocates will Church has been left in the be able to report results and care of its boards, agencies buy-in from leaders across the and racial-ethnic plans and denomination. caucuses but without any designated funding for it. Compiled from information The Connectional from Heather Hahn, news Table’s budget advisory writer with United Methodist team recommended instead News Service, and the Rev. granting half the request Maidstone Mulenga, director with the expectation that of communications for the immigrant advocates will Council of Bishops request more funds in a year. UMNS/HEATHER HAHN


he Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church is designating $100,000 of the denomination’s World Service contingency funds — with the possibility of an additional $100,000 next year — to help United Methodists stand with immigrants. During its meeting in Oslo, Norway in May, the group joined the Council of Bishops in backing “A Global Migration Sunday Offering” to raise still more funds, which will directly aid migrants and refugees. This one special day was set for Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent 2017. Funds received in the offering will go to the denomination’s Global Migration Advance (#3022144), a fund set up in 2014 for donors to designate gifts specifically to support migrants around the globe.

Church and Society launches new website


new agency website will better support the work of the General Board of Church and Society and better support the passion of United Methodists working for justice and peace. The new site is www. “We had a number of reasons for wanting to redesign our site,” said the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, Church and Society general secretary.

“We are facing a great challenge of addressing a world that is all too full of injustice,” she continued. “We needed a website that would allow visitors to learn about the positions of The United Methodist Church on issues of faith, justice and peace. We also wanted to ensure that there were clear opportunities for engagement and advocacy.” The new site will include information about educational opportunities such as the Church and

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Society seminar program and internships, information about the Social Principles and training opportunities, and information about opportunities for taking action and then ensuring officials hear from United Methodists. Henry-Crowe added, “We also determined that www. more clearly articulates the work of Church and Society than our old URL. Plus, we think ‘umcjustice’ is a lot easier to pronounce and remember.”


The agency also switched its Twitter handle to @umcjustice. Log on to www.umcjustice. org, navigate your way around, then email the agency at and let them know your thoughts. “We want this new website to make your journey of living faith, seeking justice and pursuing peace more convenient,” Henry-Crowe said. General Board of Church and Society



Readers respond

Several weeks prior to finishing each issue of Interpreter, we email a question to readers asking them to respond with a short answer of 50-75 words. A select few are included here. Find many more responses at Interpreter OnLine,

“How did you first develop a relationship (social/friend, work or school, church, family or other) with someone of a different ethnic or racial group or from a different country?”

‘W E A S K E D . . . Y OU S A ID ...’

I live in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. I’ve found the easiest way to make friends with people like my neighbors from Sudan or Iran was to walk across the street and say hello. We talk about our kids, our gardens and how the teenagers drive too fast. There is a slight language barrier, but smiles and taking time to talk works it out. Tricia Barnes-Garback, Faith UMC, Lancaster, New York 12

I learned correct pronunciation of the name, and I learned to say “Hi,” “Goodbye” and “Thank you” in the native language. I also smiled. Jeff McPheron, Trenton UMC, Mount Pleasant, Iowa In 1961 upon graduation from high school, I joined the Navy. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and was not exposed to minorities. I was also fortunate my parents did not pass any prejudices to me. My first ship assignment I made good friends with several blacks and Mexican individuals. The experience has served me well over the past 56 years. Dean Moore, First UMC, Homosassa, Florida I am African American. My first recollection of a relationship with a person of a different race was as a child. My mother was West Texas Conference President of the Women’s Society for Christian Service (WSCS, predecessor of United Methodist Women). She had several white WSCS friends from the white conference who became her friends. They were welcomed in my home and

mother and I were welcomed in theirs. Myrtis McAlister Parker, St. Andrew’s UMC, Fort Worth, Texas I grew up in the South on a farm. My first memories are of Short James and Mary. Short James worked for my father, and I followed him around like a puppy. Mary worked for my father and mother and helped baby sit. I remember their love and things they taught me. The stories I could tell of my dad and his dealing with racism – he was decades ahead of our nation. My father told me from my earliest memory the reason I did not ride the same school bus as my friend Henry was “Hate, son! Hate!” The Rev. Lester Pettus, First UMC, Wynne, Arkansas My first introduction to discrimination came in the late 1950s when I was 16 and a junior in high school. A group of friends and I all went to a department store to get part-time jobs and were horrified when we discovered that one of our friends couldn’t work on the sales floor, but could only be an elevator operator and would make 10 cents an hour less than the rest of us. We were Caucasian and she wasn’t. Mary Jane Sufficool, Thalia UMC, Virginia Beach, Virginia I was an 8th grader when our schools in Denton, Texas, integrated. I met two of my neighbors who rode the bus with me. One of those teenage boys shared my advanced English class. We often worked on assignments together during that bus ride home, rode our bikes in


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the neighborhood and had many phone conversations. My new friends helped me to understand that when you get to know people what might be perceived as social barriers disappear. The Rev. Linda Wimberley, Vega/ Adrian UMCs, Waco, Texas I was born on a tobacco farm in Piedmont, North Carolina, amidst five black tenant families. As far as I can remember into my early childhood, I played with, ate with and took afternoon naps with several different families of black people. At my advancing age, I realize, more and more, just what a great influence, in very many regards, they have in my life. The Rev. Billy Yeargin, Yelverton UMC, Faro, and Lebanon UMC, Stantonsburg, North Carolina Neighborhood friends when I was three. Brian and Derek were my best buds until we moved at 5 years old. Being an ethnic minority, it’s not hard to meet Caucasian people The Rev. Craig Yoshihara, Palm UMC, Dinuba, California I went to private schools and there were less than 1 percent of the students that were of a different ethnicity than me. It wasn’t until I was in the work world for a number of years before I had the opportunity to have a social relationship with people from another ethnicity. I enjoy having a diversity of friends and wish I had that experience sooner. Rosalie Young, Rayne Memorial UMC, New Orleans, Louisiana

Living well together

is hard, but possible BY P OL LY HOU S E 13


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The resolution “Global Racism and Xenophobia — Impact on Women, Children, and Youth” affirms the principles of equality and nondiscrimination, saying: “We, the General Conference, affirm that all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity. ‘So now, you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household.’ (Ephesians 2:19).” Interpreter asked five people who work daily toward racial and ethnic understanding how people can live together well, whether because of or despite the various divides.




Erin Hawkins is general secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race. GCORR seeks to eliminate racism while enabling the church to become contextually relevant and equitable in ever changing global communities and focuses on engaging more people, more young people and more diverse people. Hawkins believes three things will assist individuals and churches in moving toward living well together: listening, learning and leading. Listening: “In a day and age where world leaders, Internet trolls and regular ‘church folk’ hurl opinions, accusations and judgements at each other with increasingly fewer supporting facts and increasingly more vitriol, listening feels like a lost art in need of revival. Actively listening and seeking to understand another’s values, choices and life experiences – even when they are different or when we disagree with them – is the first step in demonstrating a respect for diversity,” Hawkins said. When she sees churches listening to the needs of their community or leaders listening to others “as a way to build trusting relationships,” they almost always find that even “with the significant differences they encounter, there are significant similarities on which to build.” Learning: “Listening leads to learning about others and ourselves. Learning leads to growth, especially when we put into action the things that we have learned. A willingness to learn is a sign of humility. No one person, group or church has all of the answers, and sometimes we don’t even have the right ones. We discover truth in community, in the dynamic exchange that is authentic relationships.” The biggest barrier Hawkins sees to living well together “is a lack of authentic relationship across lines of difference. We are increasingly seeking the comfort of our ideological and cultural communities:

Bishop Linda Lee

ones that confirm and reinforce our ideas, beliefs and biases rather than challenge and reshape them.” Finding ways to live together well is difficult “if we rarely meet or have meaningful, heartfelt interaction that teaches and inspires us to think and live differently?” she said. Leading: “It is not enough to engage in the tasks of listening and learning in culturally diverse settings personally if what you’ve learned and how you have been shaped by the experience is not shared with others whether that be your family, Bible study group, book club or Saturday morning soft ball team,” Hawkins continued. “The church and world need leaders who are bridge builders, peacemakers and advocates that stand for love and justice in congregations and communities.”


For retired Bishop Linda Lee, reading and learning are central to living well in a diverse society. She suggests people read a history of a culture written by a member of that culture. “Some people never read books written by people who have lived the culture and not just studied it.” Lee served as editor of A New Dawn in Beloved Community (Abingdon Press, 2013). Through personal essays, writers tell stories from their own cultures and experiences. “It was my idea to see if we could do a book that would be useful to the church to learn more across (divides of ) race and culture,” Lee said. “We wanted the book to almost be like talking to someone. Each person told a personal story of his or her own culture. Sometimes people of color don’t know about their own culture, much less that of other cultures, even within their own race.” She said she believes the most important work is to understand how embedded the idea of white supremacy is in Western


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The Rev. Tink Tinkerr

culture and to take steps to unlearn it, adding, this is true not only for whites, but also for people of color. Lee reiterated the importance of people knowing their own cultural history, the accomplishments and contributions. “We tend to internalize racism,” Lee said. “We might learn to think we are inferior and not capable. We must know the truth: We are all made in the image of God. No one is more or less valuable because of how we look on the outside. We are all capable of so much.”


The Rev. Tink Tinker, a member of the Osage Nation and the Clifford Baldridge Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at lliff School of Theology, said if United Methodists want to live well with their Native American brothers and sisters, it will begin with ongoing repentance for horrific past wrongs. “It is going to take more than an apology,” said Tinker. “An apology isn’t going to cut it. How would that work? Y’all would come to our people and say, ‘Hey, we really are sorry that our great grandparents killed your great grandparents and stole their land. Can we keep your land now that we have apologized?’” Repentance, he said, must be ongoing and requires action. “Repent and keep on repenting,” he said. “No one can repent once and be done with it. Repentance must be an on-going process. The actual Greek text in Mark says, ‘Be repenting!’ It’s a way of living out our lives. It means turning around and going to where you came, going back to the Creator instead of making yourself the power of creation. Just go back and understand that you are no more than anyone else in the world.” Tinker said, “Go back and own the violence committed against the Indian




Erin Hawkins

people. If you want to make right what was made horribly wrong, give the land back. Give the resources back. “The United Methodist Church owns a tremendous amount of Indian land. The property of every church and every school and seminary land sits on land that was stolen from Indian people. Find a way to give some of it back!” He added, “If all you do is feel really, really bad about the history of violence against the Indian people, it won’t help the Indian people today. Six of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. are Indian reservations. There is a reason for that. (After their land was stolen) the Indian people were left with land that is not economically viable. “It‘s not as easy as kiss and make up.”


The Rev. Sam Royappa, director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Conference, was born in India and began his ministry career there in 1979. He has been in the United States as a pastor in local churches and with the Wisconsin Conference since 2000. In each setting, Royappa has worked with diverse populations – age, gender, ethnicity, lay and clergy, rural and urban. He sees these differences as great strengths for The United Methodist Church. “I believe God has gifted the world with families, communities, cultures and races as a blessing and also to be a blessing. God is glorified and magnified when diverse people come together, work together, worship together and serve together,” he said. Royappa cited a portion of the denomination’s baptismal covenant as proof The United Methodist Church requires much of itself in the area of embracing diversity. “The fourth question is: ‘Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put


The Rev. Samuel Royappa


Living Well Together

The Rev. Elaine Robinson

your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?’ It’s time to put this covenant into reality and practice.” Referencing John 3:16, he said, “The most powerful word is ‘world.’ Developing multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-racial ministries across the denomination is the key for planting the seed called ‘living together well.’” Suggesting some specific actions, he named, “invoking the power of prayer, having a constant vision for a global church, empowering passionate leaders, having an attitude of service and embracing value-based contextualized ministries.” He also suggested valuable building blocks for living well together including “grace, forgiveness, healing, gifts of all people, love and hope.”


The Rev. Elaine Robinson is professor of Methodist Studies and Christian Theology at Saint Paul School of Theology in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She offered a few practical ideas and practices she has learned to help work toward living well together within The United Methodist Church. “Take intercultural formation seriously as individuals and congregations,” she said. “We tend to believe we are loving toward all, but a tool like the Intercultural Development Inventory ( will help us see our blind spots. Recognizing cultural differences means we will all have to let go of or add to some of the ways we ‘do church’ so as to provide room for others to glorify, worship and serve God.” “Don’t focus on ‘including’ others,” Robinson continued. “To include means, by definition, to bring others into our way of doing things. When we try to include,

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our unnamed norms often get in the way. Instead, we should focus on hospitality and mutuality. A kind host always makes the other person feel comfortable. “If we hope to become more racially and ethnically diverse, then the church’s leadership must be diverse and encouraged to express cultural styles and differences,” she said. “The leadership should look like the beautiful diverse world God has created.” Robinson also advised learning “to live outside the walls of the church, finding where Christ is already at work in the diverse communities that surround our buildings. The building is a hub where we refuel and resupply to go out into the world! We need to be connected in our communities, at work where people are in need. Meeting people where they are is what Jesus did. He’s outside the walls already, as he always goes before us and calls us to follow. “Finally, we need a healthy dose of humility to remember that we remain people in need of God’s grace and always prone to hold human standards as God’s will. If we are insisting too vehemently on our own way, it might just be we are blinded by our human constructs and need to open ourselves to allow God to do a new thing (Isaiah 43:19). God is always doing new things, leading us forward by grace, when we let Christ lead us. “If we are on the journey of sanctification, being formed and filled for Christlike living in this world and the world to come, then embracing and expressing our radically related existence is central to growing in love,” she said. Polly House is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. She is also serving as editorial assistant for Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.




Church invites others to see that

‘God is in the graffiti’

Artist Jamal Smith works on a sketch for a painting that he will enlarge as part of “God is in the graffiti.” Smith did his art work live during the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. The painting of the eyes is titled “Borders in the Flesh” and is by Danielle Triniad.




“How come God is in the graffiti? Isn’t graffiti something bad?” the man asked, directing his question to the Rev. VJ CruzBaez, pastor at La Plaza United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. The man was part of the audience at a gathering organized by Cruz-Baez. Community leaders, local residents and artists on this particular afternoon were discussing the intersection of religion, poverty, race and gender equality. As the conversation unfolded, the painters interpreted what they were hearing, adding paint to the canvas, using familiar styles often

associated with graffiti and tagging. “God is in the graffiti” is an initiative created by Cruz-Baez that invites young street artists to create works that address issues affecting both local communities and the world. The project received funding through a grant from the General Commission on Religion and Race. In response to the man who doubted God’s presence in graffiti, Cruz-Baez said, “The Spirit is going to places where we think there is no God, because we think the place is too dark. Even those places where we think God can’t be, God is there.”




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The Rev. Joel Hortiales, associate director of Hispanic/Latino Ministries for the California-Pacific Conference, said finding value in what might be considered disrespectful or wayward extends beyond the art. “With ‘God is in the graffiti,’ something that is seen as bad is transformed or used by God to bring good,” Hortiales said. “Not just the graffiti, which is connoted with bad ideas and tagging and doing bad, but also the kids who do that. The kids have value for us, the church, for the world. Those people are transformed and used by God.” Since “God is in the graffiti” first received funding in 2014, Cruz-Baez has seen the initiative’s impact on the youth and young adult artists who have participated in the program.

Living Well Together “These young artists, some of them leave tagging and doing graffiti in illegal ways and now they are using ‘God is in the graffiti’ to build their lives. They are using (their artwork) to build their voice,” said Cruz-Baez. Although “God is in the graffiti” began as an outreach at La Plaza Church, the program has extended beyond the local church and community. In 2016, the artists were invited to attend General Conference in Portland, Oregon, to paint canvases in response to discussions that were occurring during the quadrennial legislative assembly. In 2016, Cruz-Baez and the artists also participated in the United Methodist Women’s Leadership Development Days in St. Louis, Missouri; Tempe, Arizona;

The Rev. VJ Cruz of La Plaza United Methodist Church in Los Angeles leads the “God is in the Graffiti“ program.

and Charlotte, North Carolina, where they created art in response to conversations about social and environmental justice topics. “Young people and young adults have a voice, and they want to be part of the conversation if we invite them to use ways they are familiar with,” said Cruz-Baez. “In doing so, we become ‘we’ and work together for the community.”

In addition to inviting young artists to express their spirituality in a unique way, Cruz-Baez said the paintings also may help those who view the art experience God’s love. “The project is a way to invite other people who don’t respond to the traditional ways we present the message of God and present Jesus’ love and grace and power and mercy,” she said. “Through the project, we invite these people to see that there is a different way to see the gospel. I know we have an impact of love on people,” Cruz-Baez said. The initial grant has ended, but CruzBaez and Hortiales hope the initiative can continue. Bringing in more painters, hiring an artistic director, expanding the ministry to other churches and organizing a silent auction are among future goals, they said. The ministry is an important outreach not only to young street artists, but also to the community, said Cruz-Baez. “We need to go out and encounter the people where they are,” she said. “’God is in the graffiti’ is an example of how to bring the church outside the walls,” said Hortiales. “The ones who really walk with us are more open to seeing different possibilities to share the message of the Christ. They are transformed.”

Willimon invites us to an on-the-ground faith in the God who comes to us again and again through so-called outsiders – strangers, immigrants, and those without status.


Crystal Caviness is a public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.



Some of the art has been curated into a traveling exhibit that has been displayed in a number of Los Angeles area United Methodist churches and also displayed at arts festivals.

Find out more at /LiveTheBible @CommonEngBible

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together because they share the image of God.” Church leaders and United Methodist women have been part of efforts to bring reconciliation and peace among the warring tribes. “Children come to church for spiritual growth,” Musau says, “and sometimes their voices are silenced. ... Children need to be given space for speaking out for their unmet needs so that they feel incorporated in the body of Christ.” “The socioeconomic situation brings disparity in the community and villages,” she continues. “Those who live a standard life think they are worth living, commanding and superior. Rethinking about empowering people for self-development will bring hope in the context where the government is still weak to respond to the needs of people.”

‘Diversity’ carries different meanings BY K AT H Y NOB L E



“Mostly ‘diverse’ would be understood as multigenerational or different theological opinions and more and more in nativeborn/immigrant,” says the Rev. Klaus Rüof, director of communications for the Germany Area. “Most of our churches want to be multigenerational. (When) having different theological opinions, it is harder to have diverse churches. The number of native-born/immigrant churches is growing, but it is not an easy way.” “A growing number of refugees (are being) baptized in our congregations,” says Volker Kiemle, editor for the Germany Area. “This will change the ethnic diversity, and it will change the nature of our

STATES CAN BRING TO MIND MANY DIFFERENCES AMONG PEOPLE – PHYSICAL, ATTITUDINAL, BEHAVIORAL, GEOGRAPHICAL AND MORE. In focusing on “Living Together Well” in this issue of Interpreter, we chose to focus primarily on the ways congregations in their churches and communities are addressing racial/ethnic differences that can be divisive. We also wanted to learn some of what “diversity” means to United Methodists in other parts of the world.


The United Methodist Church in the Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area is “incredibly diverse,” says Bishop Patrick Streiff, “and (United) Methodists experience it as soon as they meet with others” from 12 countries in Europe and two in northern Africa. Within local churches, he says, diversity of ages, educational levels and socioeconomic backgrounds is common and “other diversity is well recognized, e.g. the presence of foreigners, refugees and persons from different mother tongues. “Local churches mostly welcome ‘strangers’ and are open to such diversity.

But, living and worshipping together over a longer period reveals also where the challenges of such diversity are” in congregations of 30 to 80 worshippers. “People know each other and have strong ties,” Streiff says “The theological and spiritual diversity is more limited within a single local church of such a size, but may be obvious in comparing two local churches, which gather close to each other.”


Socioeconomic, generational and ethnic diversity characterize communities in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and challenge the church, says the Rev. Betty K. Musau, secretary of the Central Congo Conference. In some parts of the DRC and some conferences, she continues, “We have brothers and sisters who do not put up with each other because of diverse ethnic groups. The church wants indigenous people (Pygmies) and Bantu to live




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Musicians play during opening worship of a session of the Germany North Annual Conference at The United Methodist Church of the Cross in Berlin.

Living Well Together


In Liberia, says Julu Swen, educational levels are “what any speaker will be referring to when he/she indicates that there are ‘diverse’ people in the audience, especially at conferences, workshops and other church gatherings.” “Native-born/immigrant does not get the kind of attention that the use of these words receive in other parts of the world,” says the Liberian communicator. “Similarly, sexual orientation is the least considered issue when you are discussing ‘diverse’ people in Liberia.” English-speaking immigrants from the United States established the Methodist Church in Liberia. Other congregations formed as “people started to migrate to Monrovia (and) were seeking to attend the churches of their tribes,” Swen explains. That has diminished with increased use of English throughout the country. At least four United Methodist congregations in Monrovia, the capital city, were originally built around languages – English, Bassa and Kru. Immmigrants from Ghana, where English is the official language but 250 other languages and dialects are used, established the fourth. “Now, all have changed,” Swen says, “because of intermarriages, movement of people across the city of Monrovia and

the need to associate and affiliate as one wishes.”


“A ‘diverse’ congregation here in Norway would focus on racial and immigrant inclusiveness,” says Johanna Lundereng, director of ministries for the Norway Conference. She tells of attending a service that included the confirmation of a young man with parents from Congo. “It was a very diverse group,” Lundereng says. The young people spoke fluent Norwegian and had their iPhones at the table, while their parents wore the traditional colorful dresses and headwear from their country and spoke slightly broken Norwegian.” The congregation included the family’s friends from the host church and another United Methodist congregation and Zambians and Ghanaians from a Seventh Day Adventist Church. “About half of the guests were Norwegians, many of them wearing the traditional national outfits (called) bunad,” she says, “so the room was a wonderful combination of many cultures, clothes, music and food. And, they had written songs in Norwegian for the confirmand while a young man from Congo was taking care of the music from a mixing board. “Many of our congregations have members from other parts of the world,” Lundereng adds. A woman from the Philippines serves an international congregation and a new pastor from Ghana who has done all his theological studies in Norway will be ordained at annual conference.”


April Mercado, a United Methodist communications specialist in the Philippines, attends Taytay United Methodist Church. Marked by socioeconomic diversity, it is “known in the Philippines Central Conference as a mission church,” she says. As a child, her parents took her on mission trips to “share the love of Christ. I grew up playing with kids who live below the poverty line (and) still stay in touch with them. Most of them are professionals and their once mission church is now a thriving local

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congregation.” Taytay Church now has five mission congregations meeting throughout the city. Those congregants worship with parishioners in the main church at 5:30 a.m. every Sunday.


“In Sierra Leone, a diverse congregation has less of a racial dimension,” says Phileas Jusu. “Most of the time nearly everybody worshipping together is black. We talk more of diversity when we consider the many ethnic groups that come together in worship.” The West Africa country of seven million has at least 16 ethnic groups.


church in Germany. In his first message to an annual conference, Bishop Harald Rückert encouraged the UMC people to ‘embrace diversity.’” “There are also people with different sexual orientations,” says Kiemle. Two years ago, he continues, now retired Bishop Rosemarie Wenner organized two public discussions in Frankfurt and Berlin, “where people could talk frankly in a trusting atmosphere” about their experiences and attitudes. Most of the United Methodists in Germany are middle-class/academic, Kiemle says, and “many congregations offer help and support for people who struggle with social, financial or other problems. Although this has not yet changed the diversity in most of our congregations, it has changed the way United Methodists see their environment.”

Congregants at Charles Davies Memorial United Methodist Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone, celebrated diverse cultures and traditions and shared foods from different backgrounds during the Stewards’ Union Annual Africana Service in late May.

Bishop John K. Yambasu encourages “indigenization of worship,” continues Jusu, director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, “which requires local congregations to sing and worship in their national languages. In the cities, where several tribes congregate to worship, we sing in as many local languages as we can, and everybody sees the value in praising God in a language different from theirs. “We celebrate our diversity, and diversity has continued to be our source of strength over a long period of political and social division in the country.” The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter Online.



churches thrive

RACIAL, ETHNIC AND OTHER SOCIETAL TENSIONS ABOUND, GOD CONTINUES TO WORK THROUGH UNITED METHODIST CHURCHES. These four United Methodist churches offer inspirational stories of congregations that do more than survive. They thrive as multi-racial, multicultural and/or multi-economic communities of faith.


In 2004, members of Garfield Memorial UMC in Pepper Pike, Ohio, made a conscious decision to move from an inward to an outward focus and apply selfless evangelism. Since then, Garfield Memorial has tripled in size and witnessed the transformation of the makeup of the congregation. Today, there are 1,100 active members worshipping on two campuses with an average attendance of 650 and 150 youngsters involved in their children’s ministry. No one ethnic group comprises more than 52 percent of the congregation. “We focused on reaching non-church people who live in diverse contexts,” said the Rev. Chip Freed, lead pastor. “Garfield Memorial Garfield United Methodist youth gather for a race.


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Diverse congregations help these


Living Well Together Although members worshiped together, the sense of unity took time and intentional planning to develop. The Rev. Andrew Lee, pastor at Parker Church, said “Some of the church’s lay leaders and I wanted to use the congregation’s varying cultures to unite the church. To do this, we used languages of the congregation as part of the worship — we sing the ‘Doxology’ in Samoan and the ‘Gloria Patri’ in Hawaiian. Scripture readings are sometimes read in languages other than English whenever appropriate. By acknowledging and respecting the various languages of our members, we were able to tear down invisible walls within the congregation and become a multicultural faith community.” Members also come together to minister to those outside the walls by hosting homeless families in the community and inviting residents from the state’s hospital for the mentally ill to the church’s Thanksgiving dinner. Lee said, “I have discovered that when the congregation is able to embrace the differences within the PARKER UNITED METHODIST CHURCH four walls of the church, they’re able to Located in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Parker UMC’s 150-member congregation consists embrace the differences outside of the church. Parker UMC members have not of worshippers who are Japanese, only discovered this truth but also practice Samoan, Filipino, Tongan, Chinese, it daily in their Caucasian, Korean lives.” and others. Years ago, To further the church had unify the separate worship church, Lee services for Samoan respects and and Japanese-speakhonors the ing people. When the differences in pastors of both of values among those congregations cultures. “Some left, the Englishof the cultural speakers embraced groups everyone. Women from Parker Unitmentioned being treated differently in ed Methodist Church make mocha, sweetened rice the past simply because people related to balls, for delivery at New them based on stereotypes,” Lee said. “I Year’s to members not invite people from various cultural able to come to church. Making the sweetened rice groups to serve in leadership positions within the church. Because of this, we balls are (clockwise from bottom left) are Marina have a great team of people from varying Choi, Ellie Toguchi-Tani, cultures, gender and age groups.” Lillian Ching, Pat Ota, EsLee also acknowledges the cultural ther Iwamoto, Kay Shores, differences in the congregation through Ianthe Oshima, Dalisay his sermons. “I find examples and stories Reyes, Young-Ja Lee and Sierra Choi. that are relevant to the varying age PARKER UMC/ANDREW LEE

is a featured and teaching church in the multi-ethnic church movement led by Mosaix Global Network ( “The church is one of the few segregated institutions left in America,” Freed said. “Many people find non-diverse environments a little weird. A study from Duke University contends that millennials look at segregated churches the way that church people look at cults.” Diversity is one of Garfield Church’s five core values. To maintain this diverse environment, Freed said, “We stress two points for people who want to be part of our church. First, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and second, you will like 70 percent of what happens here. In other words, if you are a ‘preference-based’ church person, we are not your church. We continually represent diversity in all levels of our staff and worship experiences.”

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groups and cultures,” Lee said. Preparing for his annual sermon series “Hymn Stories,” he asks, “the congregation to share their favorite hymns with me, and I prepare my messages based on the hymns. Although we are all different, we have the same desire to sing to God. Often, one person’s favorite hymn turns out to be the favorite hymn of others in the congregation; this is a great epiphany for many as they realize how similar they are despite the differences.”


South Main Chapel & Mercy Center in Anderson, South Carolina, started in 2014 with the intentional mission of bringing diverse people together in one community of faith. Ironically, it began in a building vacated after another United Methodist Church — one that was not multicultural — was discontinued in 2012. The church’s outreach programs minister to people in an area where poverty and homelessness are prominent. “Included in our outreach are services for persons with mental illness and addiction issues,” said the Rev. Kurt Stutler, pastor/ director of South Main Chapel & Mercy Center. “We partner with community agencies and organizations to provide those services. Two state-funded agencies – South Carolina Department of Mental Health and South Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation – have counselors who visit our facility and to whom we routinely refer clients.” The church provides office space for the Alston Wilkes Society, a non-profit organization that serves people coming out of incarceration. Meals and case management services are provided throughout the week to people living in poverty who inevitably face a multitude of struggles. What makes the church different from a traditional social service organization is that the help provided comes within the context of a church family. “Many of the persons who receive assistance,” said Stutler, “participate in the worship life of the congregation. They also give back by helping us with cleaning and other chores around the facility.”


Church members who benefit from the ministry also help prepare food at South Main Chapel & Mercy Center.


Currently about 85 attend Sunday morning worship. The congregation is diverse in terms of race, economic status, educational level and sexual orientation. “Our mantra is ‘We are all God’s children,’” said Stutler. “It is not unusual for persons who live in a half-million dollar home to be sitting next to someone who is sleeping in a tent, or someone with a graduate degree to worship alongside someone who dropped out of high school.” Sticking to its inclusive roots, church staff and members continually emphasize the importance of diversity and respect for one another as children of God in their messaging. “We close every worship service by singing ‘Loving God, Loving Each Other,’” Stutler said.


Since relocating in 2014, the Koreanspeaking congregation of Calvary United Youngsters from a Micronesian community in the neighborhood have become part of the children’s ministry at Calvary United Methodist Mission.

Methodist Mission in Honolulu, Hawaii, has ministered to Micronesian children living in the area. “Families from neighboring low-income housing developments wanted to send their children to our Sunday school,” said Pastor Kyu Woo Nam. “They considered our Sunday school as a safe place to send their kids. Today, we serve the children through programs such as VBS and pizza and movie nights. We also make and distribute gift boxes with school supplies and basic necessities. With help from United Methodist churches in Oahu, we provided gifts for 50 children last Christmas.” Diverse both culturally and economically, church members are sensitive to cultural issues and stereotypes. “Many people in our congregation know and work with ethnically diverse people,” said Nam, “and they try to overcome stereotypical perceptions of Micronesians.” Many of the children who attend come from very poor Micronesian families. Nam said, “We stay connected with their parents so we can learn more about their culture and remove as many barriers as we can. People in Hawaii are used to living in a multicultural environment and know not to cross the line. But there are certain negative perceptions on some ethnic groups. We try to understand and share the history of these groups and honor their cultural distinctiveness as often as possible.” Cindy Solomon is a marketing consultant and content writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.

After more than 100 years of ministry, Woodlawn United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, closed its doors in 2016. The neighborhood had changed from a predominantly African-American community to an increasingly gentrified white community. “Property in Portland is becoming unaffordable,” said the Rev. Erin Martin, “Many blacks in the Woodlawn neighborhood were displaced due to increasing rent.” She is superintendent of the Columbia District in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. The district includes Portland. While gentrification and church closings are making the news in Portland and other cities across the United States, this story is working toward a happier ending. In fact, it has a brand new beginning. After the Woodlawn Church closed, district staff held onto the dream of a new faith community at Woodlawn. “We spoke with neighbors and community partners about this,” Martin said. “We had a deep desire to see the church addressing the displacement of the African-American community and creating a ‘third space’ for the black community.” The new faith community — the church’s name is still to be determined — will have intentional and courageous conversations about race. “It will be multicultural and multiracial,” Martin said. “It will be truthful about the past, hopeful for the future and be a place of healing, restoration, life and alternative to the ‘either/or’ narrative of black history or white gentrification. It will seek to resemble the kingdom of God on earth where shalom for people of all nations and races can come together to seek the peace of the city.” Recent Duke Divinity School graduate, the Rev. Jon Umbdenstock (who is white) will be the church’s founding pastor. A gifted musician, Umbdenstock is working with area musicians, community developers and a black church planter to prepare for the church’s launch in 2018. “The dream is that there will be some continuity with the past with some creativity for the future,” said Martin. “It’s a chance to start over and live into the beauty and courage of an intentionally cross-racial church. “We will begin with music,” she said. Umbdenstock, in collaboration and partnership with a local nonprofit African-American group, will design ways in which music and conversation can come together to create a space where new life can emerge.”




While Portland is in the heart of the None Zone — the vast majority of people in the city do not want to be part of an organized religious community — the church has many assets. “We are in an amazing neighborhood and the building is still in relatively good condition,” Martin said. “We have credibility with neighbors and a genuine interest in drawing community partners to have a voice in the emerging project. Our hope and dream for this new church start is to promote healing, racial reconciliation and new life for all people through worship and music.”

Cindy Solomon



WHEN THE REV. YOHANG CHUN WAS APPOINTED TO FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH in Oswego in upstate New York in 2011, he began a Friday-night meal and Bible study at the church parsonage. The guests were international students from State University of New York Oswego. The program has continued each year with new students who learn of the small group primarily through word of mouth. Living a mere three blocks away from the college campus, he saw the location providing the perfect opportunity to begin a ministry for college students. Chun is Korean, as are many of the international students at SUNY Oswego. He started the program because “My wife cooks delicious Korean food. Many of the students missed home and their ethnic cuisine. My policy is to fill their stomach and their spirit.” Each Friday, Chun leads the students through a Bible study followed by a meal. While most of the students who come are from South Korea, students are from other ethnic backgrounds, such as Indian and Chinese. Some are Christian;



The Rev. Yohang Chun (fifth adult from left) hosts college students in his home on Friday nights

some have never been to church. Dong Gun Lee and his wife, HyunJoo Ahn, began attending the Friday night gatherings in the fall of 2016 when one of Dong Gun’s friends invited him. He and his wife are Catholic. Dong Gun and HyunJoo’s five-month old son, Daniel, attends the gatherings with them. HyunJoo, who studies communications and hopes one day to become a psychologist, said, “It is so nice to get together with people who understand me and who share the same beliefs as me.” Chun brings the international students together on other occasions as well. They have a large Thanksgiving celebration and a Korean New Year celebration. They also

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volunteer at the Salvation Army twice a year serving meals. Chun said, “It makes me happy to see how the students enjoy serving the community.” Seeing how the program was successful with international students, Chun initiated a gathering for American college students during the past academic year. He has asked Ray and Barbara Morrison to join and lead the American students at the parsonage on Friday nights. The Morrisons met Chun when they began attending First Church in 2016. Barbara, a registered nurse, and Ray, business librarian at the university, also welcome students into their own home. “We want them to know they are welcome to come anytime, not just on Fridays,” Barbara said. “If they need a place to


study or just hang out and relax and watch television, our doors are open.” Ray explained why he and Barbara are excited to lead a Christian small group for college students. “I went to a state university and remember what it’s like to be a Christian when it seems that nobody else is. I am excited to offer a place where Christians feel comfortable getting together and getting to know one another.” While church and campus ministry with college students is changing and evolving, one thing has not changed: college can be one of the most critical times in a young person’s life. For many students, it is a time of spiritual discernment. College ministries, such as those led by Chun and the Morrisons, can strengthen college students’ faith, helping to assure that the mission of The United Methodist Church, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, is achieved. Shannon Hodson is a writer and editor for the Upper New York Conference. This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of the Upper New York Advocate.


following 2016 shootings BY P OL LY HOU S E





Helping Dallas heal

The Rev. Richie Butler

The Rev. Richie Butler, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas, remembers the horror of the evening. “We immediately had a prayer service in Thanksgiving Square and reached out to people who would never have connected,” he said. “Tragedy often helps us realize what unites us is greater that what divides us.” Following that event, Butler, an African-American, decided he had to do more. His first call was to a fellow Dallas pastor, a white man. Butler asked him and his church to join Butler’s church for a night of prayer. Butler said his calling a white pastor was important “I knew we had to do something positive to show our churches and the city we are all in this together.” With the positive outcome of the prayer event, Butler saw the need to reach beyond the churches. He established a new organization YOU (Year of Unity) to help Dallas heal. In a fortuitous string of events, Butler ran into Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings in an American Airlines Admirals Club. “I just told him I had an idea and needed his support,” Butler said. “He was all for it. He told me if I would be in charge, he was on board.” Among others serving with Rawlings on the YOU board, the most well-known is former President George W. Bush, honorary co-chair. Butler became acquainted with Bush while serving with Laura Bush on a board at Southern Methodist University. “It was just a matter of asking him if he would serve,” Butler said. “He loves Dallas and was glad to help.” Other business, church and community leaders from the city signed on and work began. “We asked these other leaders to reach out and turn the moment into a movement,” Butler continued. “It took a few months of organizing and vision casting to really develop and focus the organization. I thought it was crucial that we emphasize

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Living Well Together

The Rev. Richie Butler (at podium) presents the Year of Unity on Jan. 24 in Dallas. With him are Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa (left), Mayor Mike Rawlings (second from left) and other members of the Project Unity Board.

“This could not have happened without them,” he said. “They are 100 percent behind the vision. They have been some of the strongest supporters and most faithful volunteers at the events. When I came to the church as pastor, I made it clear that I believe God has sent us to shepherd the city. I think our downtown location is crucial. We understand our role as a leader in community events. We host events and partner in many of them.” Butler has seen a lot of conflict within the diversity of Dallas, but said he is incredibly hopeful about the message of YOU. “We want to transfer from the Year of Unity to the City of Unity,” he said. “I believe we can take this model and help other communities do their own year of unity. I believe this could be part of the work of The UMC because we are in every community in the country. There are Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban, black and white and brown. I believe the church is the vehicle that can unite us. Jesus can cross all those lines.” Butler said, “YOU is not necessarily for my generation or my parents’ generation. It is a blueprint for my children’s generation. “I’m in my 40s and probably more progressive than most, but we all have our prejudices and hang-ups,” he said. “I don’t see the same prejudice and suspicion in young people today. My daughter’s ‘Sweet 16’ party looked like the United Nations. We had every color and nationality there. She is a very proud African-American young lady, but she has a wide circle of friends and relationships with people from other races and ethnicities. That’s a great sign of hope.” Polly House is editorial assistant for Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine. She is based in Nashville, Tennessee.


healing will begin when we work together. I constantly say, ‘What unites us is greater than what divides us.’ The enemy wants us to hold on to the divisions.” The tagline ‘Together We ...’ came from that thinking. YOU has Together We Dine where people share a meal and conversation in various churches and other venues. Butler said Together We Dine has been especially effective. People who had never been together have met and shared a meal. “Some very real dialogue has come from this,” he said. Together We Worship gives congregations the opportunity to have a pastor exchange, where clergy from various denominations stepped into pulpits other than their own. About 30 churches participated. Butler said that was not only eye opening, but fun for the pastors and the congregations. Together We Do Sports offered members of the Dallas Police Department and youth in the city the opportunity to get together for sport activities such as baseball and basketball. “We see this as a way of interacting with each other in a safe environment and letting relationships begin to take place,” Butler said. Together We Learn is a time of education and dialogue between police and youth. Butler said this involves a classroom component and a simulation component where the youth actually participate in a simulation of being pulled over by the police and learn what to expect and how to react. “This promotes a lot of understanding,” he said. Together We Do Arts is coming. Butler said it would bring the Dallas art community to work with city residents on a large mural in the downtown area. A citywide Together We Heal event was scheduled for June 15 at the American Airlines Center. Butler said it would be a non-confrontational event drawing all the city’s people together. YOU is planning a citywide Together We Sing event for 2018. Butler is quick to praise the St. Paul church members for their tremendous support.

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While the Year of Unity is a citywide endeavor in Dallas, other United Methodists and congregations are bringing diverse groups together to listen and learn from one another. In January, Edmonds (Washington) United Methodist Church hosted “Voices We Need to Hear.” The event brought together representatives from the Muslim, LGBTQ, immigrant and people of color communities to share their experiences of living in the United States and the local community as well as how the political environment might affect them. Reveille United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia, joined two congregations of other denominations in February for three Dialogues on Race. They included presentations on why people need to hear their true history to understand the past and discover God’s equality and truth and one on race, including what it means to be in a black skin in a white world that portrays even God as white. During the final dialogue, participants outlined a series of resolutions creating a pledge based on the question: How can we be agents of reconciliation and healing? Believing civilized dialogue is an important step to help solve race-related issues in the United States, Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in March organized a debate. Teams from Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University and two innercity Nashville high schools argued issues that touch their lives and changing neighborhoods. Events in each district this winter were part of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s response to the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Call to Action to overcome racism and address the concerns of black churches. In one district, participants committed to taking action both personally and with their congregations. Another included a lecture on the roots of racism, candid testimonies of white members’ awakenings to racial realities and small-group vital conversations. One district is hosting bi-monthly learning sessions led by an interracial team of pastors.




Faith and other communities from throughout Rochester, New York, came together for the second annual City Sing in December 2016.

carols to songs of peace from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and humanist traditions, there was no doubt about the presence of the Holy Spirit. United Methodists have long known the power of a song. As voices lift and join together, the Spirit becomes apparent in a new way. Sometimes those “sighs too deep for words” find expression in voices raised in harmony. Even when individual voices fail to land on the right pitch, the

Asbury First United Methodist Church hosted the second annual City Sing and candlelight vigil.



IN LATE 2015, Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester, New York, had a conversation about caroling as a congregation. Church members thought it would be fun to get together and walk through the neighborhoods surrounding our church to spread a little Christmas cheer. Talking more, Asbury First members decided it would be more fun with a bigger group and thought of inviting other churches to join the caroling. As the conversation turned to considering the brokenness and violence in the community, the planners decided it might be even better to invite everyone in Rochester to participate. The result was the first annual “City Sing for Peace and Unity,” an ecumenical and interfaith event in which more than 50 people from all over the city gathered to sing throughout a local neighborhood. While the choice of music shifted from Christmas




gathered community makes the tune apparent. The key to harmony, however, is to have different people singing different parts of the same tune. In the case of City Sing, the tune was peace on earth — something every tradition can get behind. The second annual City Sing event in December 2016 drew a different group of people who walked through a different neighborhood, but the Spirit was the same. The songs came from far-ranging traditions with far-ranging meanings to the various generations gathered. The evening ended with a candlelight vigil in which we all sang “We Shall Overcome” – and those singing believed it. Here was a church leading a group of people from different faiths in the same song of hope. In the end, it didn’t matter if you could sing or not because the gathering itself was a kind of song. Asbury First and other churches have thought about

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how to make churches more diverse — or at least more reflective of their communities. Asbury First has worked hard on that. From making it clear that the congregation is open to all people regardless of any distinguishing characteristic — age, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation — to ensuring that the committees and leadership reflect those commitments, it has acted. In the end, however, the lesson of City Sing is that if churches want to be more reflective of their communities, they have to be in the community. Congregations have to invest in community partnerships with people who, though they may not look like most of the members or believe like them or think like them, have the same commitment to those timeless issues of the human spirit that drive all. The good news is that if we can somehow get those different voices singing the same tune together, the harmony becomes apparent — and so does the Spirit. As the old hymn puts it, “Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” The Rev. Stephen Cady is senior pastor of Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester, New York. This article was originally published in Upper New York Advocate, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2017.



companies were closed by the Assad regime after they were deemed “threats.” Among them was a charitable organization supporting women widowed in the government’s brutal crackdown on widespread dissent. After security forces forcefully entered his workplaces and home, Alargha flew to New York on a business visa with $400 and a laptop. “I remember waking up in-flight thinking, ‘What am I doing on this plane? Where am I going to go?’” he exclaimed. Hours prior, he was a prosperous entrepreneur with a beautiful house and hundreds of employees. Meanwhile, his wife, Rana, and three children spent a year and a half on the run, stealthily hiding from the regime’s authorities. When missiles rained, Rana would shelter her children by saying they were fireworks and

special effects for the filming of a movie. In 2015, several attorneys helped Alargha receive political asylum in the United States. The next day he began the process to retrieve his family. Morrow Church was ready to help. The church worked with First Friends of New York and New Jersey, a refugee support agency, to facilitate the family’s settlement and adjustment process. The people of Morrow Church helped the Alarghas find an apartment in Montclair, New Jersey, where they could embrace the future. “I kneeled on the ground and took my wife’s hand and held my kids’ legs when they arrived at JFK airport,” he said. “Sometimes I wake up at night and ask myself, ‘Are they really here or is this some kind of imagination?’”

Rana and Abdul Alargha visit with dinner guests attending the Syrian dinner. Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church members purchase tickets to attend the events as part of their ministry with refugees from Syria.


GUESTS PACKED THE INTIMATE DINING ROOM inside the Farfans’ home in Maplewood, New Jersey. Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church members were hosting their first Syrian Supper Club with their friend Abdul Alargha. He sat at the head of the table beaming, welcoming each guest, shaking hands and introducing himself. With a quiet sigh, the once successful Damascus businessman turned refugee and now asylum recipient leaned back in his chair, gently clasping his wife’s shoulder. No longer destitute on the streets of Manhattan, Alargha was secure and settled in the welcoming embrace of New Jersey United Methodists who defied societal predispositions, fearful skepticism and political authorities to radically live the love of Jesus. “We used to call this kind of relation in Arabic is like brother but not from my mother,” said a smiling Alargha, describing his close friendships with the church members. The Supper Club brings Syrians and their friends in the community together twice a month for a delicious meal cooked by Syrian women who earn money from tickets sold. After the meal, Alargha shared his story of escape from Syria and separation from his family. In 2012, his

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Alargha says the United Methodists are his main supporters and have been “like a solid wall” against his back. “Everything we have is because of their support, and we’re so grateful.” After Morrow Church came to his assistance, Alargha returned the embrace by addressing the congregation during a worship service about his experiences as a refugee and joined youth from the church on a weekend trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with the state’s legislators about immigration policies. Employment remains the prime challenge for Syrian refugees including Alargha, who has taken on part-time work while he searches for a more stable job. For Alargha, it’s enough for him that there are people who want to help. “Even if they don’t help, just because they have this will, this is more than enough,” he said. “As Jesus said, ‘Break bread.’ I believe these United Methodists I have met represent Jesus himself. We found open arms here. I can tell you, frankly and honestly, what I have received from this church for me is like I have received it from Jesus himself.” Josh Kinney is editorial manager for The Relay, the monthly newspaper of the Greater New Jersey Conference.



travelogue illustrations and recognize their complexity.”

Oh, the places you ought to go


IS FROM AMERICAN AUTHOR MARK TWAIN WHO WROTE, “TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY, AND NARROW-MINDEDNESS, AND MANY OF OUR PEOPLE NEED IT SORELY ON THESE ACCOUNTS. BROAD, WHOLESOME, CHARITABLE VIEWS OF MEN AND THINGS CANNOT BE ACQUIRED BY VEGETATING IN ONE LITTLE CORNER OF THE EARTH ALL ONE’S LIFETIME.” (INNOCENTS ABROAD, 1869) For stretching one’s horizons and perhaps enabling one truly to appreciate the blessings of home, travel is hard to beat. But, how can you “travel with a purpose?” How is it possible to experience the wonderful diversity of God’s creation, in places and people, through travel? The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a photojournalist missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries. His assignments have taken him to the far corners of the world. Recently he journeyed to South Sudan, where he photographed refugees as they

lived, simply making it through one more day. For Jeffrey, travel can be purposeful by getting away from monuments and buildings and focusing on people. “If you’re a photographer, for example, think of the images you’ve already seen of the place you’re going to visit,” he said. “Then commit yourself not to capture the same images. Instead, put your focus on the people who live and work there. Challenge the dominant narratives that define people into two-dimensional


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To experience more diversity while travelling, Jeffrey offers four words: “Get lost on purpose.” Go away by yourself, and rely on local folks to tell you where you are. “Put yourself in a situation where you have to accept hospitality from strangers. Seek surprise,” he said. Not everyone is comfortable or able to “get lost on purpose,” but they still can experience travel with a purpose, said Mark Boston, director of specialty tours at Educational Opportunities. EO serves about 15,000 people annually with the Holy Land their number one travel destination. “We want people to grow spirituality on one of our tours,” said Boston. “We take our trips a step beyond a normal vacation and allow you the opportunities to have those touchstones in faith.” For Boston, the trips deepen his understanding of his faith. He recently went on an EO trip following in the footsteps of Paul. “When you travel on a bus for two hours and then you realize, ‘Paul walked that,’ it gives you a tremendous appreciation for his determination to spread the word as far as he could,” Boston said. Millennials approach travel with new and different needs, Boston said. They want to do more than go to the Holy Land, see the sites and read Scripture. They want to interact with the people. A trip planned for 2018 will include several times of intentional discussion and learning about some of the issues facing the area. Scheduled is a stop in Jericho for “dinner and a lecture on the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and the impact of international diplomacy.”


“Even in other countries and places that we go,” he continued, “I’m finding that when we interact with the local people, the better understanding we have. (This is reflected) in our prayers and in our giving and in our desire to send out people to help


Living Well Together

The Rev. Paul Jeffrey has traveled the world in his role as a missionary photojournalist. Here he visits with General Board of Global Ministries editor Christie House during the 2012 General Conference.

other people. We will look at this so much differently than before.” Safety is critically important when travelling, Boston said. EO, which mostly provides group travel experiences via buses or boats, stresses safety as its number one priority. EO guides and drivers, Boston said, not only know their history and their routes, they know each other. The idea is to envelope travelers in a team of professionals who know how to keep the group safe while also providing spiritual experiences that can change lives. “I don’t go anywhere by myself where I don’t feel that people are watching over me,” Boston said. “When our people who travel with EO say they want to go out in the evening, my caveat is ‘go out with people.’ If you go out as a group, you’re much less likely to have anybody address you or accost you.” Boston said potential criminals are looking for people who look lost. Wherever he goes – even if he gets lost “on purpose” – he tries to walk/act/look like he knows what he’s doing and where he’s going.


Years ago, someone gave the Rev. Charles Harrell, a retired member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, a copy of the book 1,000 Places to See before You Die. After reading it cover-to-cover, he

built his own list and has been working on it ever since. “A lot about finding diversity in your life ... is about seeking out what you know is different,” he said, “and listening to what other people are seeing, doing and experiencing that is not your norm.” He echoes Jeffrey’s tip: Be willing to leave behind a bit of comfort, get up early and stay up late. “Risk getting lost and getting indigestion,” he said. Travel creates opportunity to experience something different. Harrell told of experiencing two of the best ice creams in his life in (what was then) Yugoslavia. Both were banana-flavored (his favorite), but they were different in their excellence. “They both caught the deep, essential nature of banana flavor, but it was like they captured different characters of ‘banananess,’ or ‘banan-itude,’” he said. “The human family is like that: we do many of the same things, but if we really look and experience, we find an incredible variety of ways of being that can enhance our appreciation of the whole and each part.” Harrell said travel should be more than just entertainment. “As a Christian and particularly as clergy, I believe that my travel, even for leisure, should contribute in some way to the mission of life and what I’m called to. That means being thoughtful, even about rest.” That means asking questions about

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who benefits because of your travel, Harrell said, and who it hurts or harms. Harrell’s tips for purposeful travel: »» Pray – Start each day with a time of centering prayer. »» Get off the beaten path – “They say that being out on a limb is good, because the fruit is there,” Harrell said. Look for the out-of-the-way places that the tourist herds don’t visit; some of your most memorable experiences are likely to happen there. »» Keep a journal – It forces you to “really think about what you’ve seen.” »» Be a good visitor – Remember, you’re a guest; try to be a low-maintenance, high-appreciation guest. »» Be attentive to nuance – What looks like the same situation may in fact not be at all. »» Try to give back – Ask: How can I bless this place? These people? How can I express my gratitude to God for being here? »» Let yourself be changed, even transformed – Give yourself to the experience, Harrell said. “Let each horizon you gaze upon beckon you onward to another, new one.” If travel is all about the experience, then it is almost certain that something out of the ordinary is going to happen. “I’ve had survivors of a massacre ask me to pray over the bones of the dead,” said Jeffrey, “while I was painfully aware that it was my government that sponsored the killing.” He’s been anointed by a displaced Iraqi child, spent 10 minutes in a small room with Pat Robertson, had Yasar Arafat insist that, in addition to taking photos of him with others, they pose for a selfie, and handed his baby to Daniel Ortega for a photo op. “He held her at arm’s length because she had a stinky diaper on,” Jeffrey laughed. The Rev. Erik Alsgaard is editor of Connection, the newspaper of the BaltimoreWashington Conference.




college at the University of Northern Iowa and seminary at the Saint Paul School of Theology in Overland Park, Kansas. He became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when then-President Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012. DACA allowed certain undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to receive a renewable twoyear period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. During the campaign, President Donald Trump promised to terminate amnesty programs issued by Obama. The fate of DACA is now unknown. If Gallardo is deported, he may be forced to leave the U.S. and go back to Mexico

for as long as 10 years. He has petitioned for a waiver from that ban. Gallardo is also working to make his church a sanctuary church that would shelter anyone threatened with deportation. “With DACA, I was able to answer my call to ministry,” he said. “I know a lot of DACA recipients that have been able to develop themselves, and they are really afraid now.” Nearly 120,000 young people with DACA status, also known as Dreamers because they had lobbied for the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act before DACA, are awaiting a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about the status of their applications for initial or continued inclusion in the DACA program, according to

The Rev. Orlando and Emily Gallardo were married on July 16, 2016. He is a recipient of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and is concerned he may be deported if changes are made to that program.



THE REV. ORLANDO GALLARDO was 15 when his mother decided it was worth the risk to send her youngest child across the border of Mexico to give him a chance at a better future. “My mother always worried about me; she pushed me to get an education,” he said. Gallardo has an older brother who is a United States citizen living in Iowa. He agreed to take parental rights and responsibilities for his youngest brother and filed the papers to get legal status for Gallardo. “Just coming to the U.S. as an ordinary person is very difficult. I got denied,” Gallardo said. “My mother and brother made a decision I should just come to the U.S. without documents, that it was my best shot.” Getting to the U.S. was a harrowing journey. At one point he waited in the freezing river naked, and at another was afraid of being abandoned in a hotel with strangers and no food. Gallardo, now 33, is associate pastor of Trinity Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Kansas City, Kansas. He believes his mother’s prayers got him to this point in his life. He counts it as divine intervention that he completed high school in Waterloo, Iowa,


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data released in September 2016. As of March, the Homeland Security Department was continuing to accept and process requests, although some immigrant advocacy groups were discouraging people from applying at that time. “There is justifiable fear among those who have DACA about their future,” said Rob Rutland-Brown, executive director of National Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), a United Methodist immigration ministry that offers free legal assistance to immigrants. “Will they lose their work authorization? Will the government use their personal information against them? What happens when their DACA expires?” JFON is not helping people apply to DACA at this point because of the cost and risk of applying. Rutland-Brown said the organization’s sites across the country are “receiving an unprecedented amount of calls not just from those with DACA, but from immigrants in general about what their options will be in the Trump Administration.” Kathy L. Gilbert is a multi-media reporter with United Methodist News Service. This article has been updated from the original story published on Jan. 25.



IN JANUARY, a young Muslim girl sat at a table and told stories about being bullied in her middle school. Men and women of different faiths listened intently and shared how they, too, had experienced violence in their everyday lives. “Sharing Our Faiths: Our Experience of Violence” was a discussion night hosted by the Southeast Milwaukee Interfaith Covenant Association in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twelve Christian churches – including Bay View United Methodist Church – and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee host events such as “Sharing Our Faith” in hopes of unifying an interfaith community in love and support for one another. Over 60 men and women of varying ages and religions came together at the January event to discuss faith and violence. A panel made up of a Milwaukee Police Department officer, another adult and a teen spoke briefly to open the discussion. Seated at round tables, other participants then shared their own stories. The Rev. Andy Oren, one of the pastors at Bay View Church, recalls that a Catholic teacher told how the school at which she taught had recently made a “friendship bench” to help children avoid bullying. It was a safe place where kids gathered on the playground

Mary Kitzman (center) visits with two of her friends from the Islamic Society during the interfaith picnic last fall.

when they had no friend to play with. Others would come to the bench and invite those children to play. The interfaith discussion night, Oren said, has since been dubbed a “friendship bench of faith,” a place where participants find new strength and unlikely friendships. The Southeast Covenant Association formed in November 2000 when representatives of the 13 congregations committed themselves “within the unifying love of God ... to the exercise of understanding, cooperation and growth in unity through faith.” The Rev. Lowell Bartel, then a pastor at Bay View, initiated conversations in 1999 with Ziad Hamdan, imam at the Islamic Center, that led to the Association. The beginning of the organization was also the

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beginning of a change of heart in Milwaukee. The association began hosting interfaith events to encourage open conversations about faith. On Sept. 8, 2001, the group held its first annual interfaith picnic. Oren remembers that day vividly. “The picnic was held the Saturday before 9/11,” Oren recalls, “About 200 people showed up to eat together and discuss their faiths.” Christians and Muslims sat side-by-side on quilts and lawn chairs in a local park. It was a friendly environment that welcomed tough questions about what others believed. Oren recalls how important that time was when one week later, the love and support of the Southeast Covenant Association was being tested. After the attacks on New York and Washington, the congregations of the association rallied behind the


Muslim community, offering kindness in a time that kindness toward Muslims was scarce. The interfaith picnic was held every year until 2006. It resumed in 2016 as efforts to bring the community together needed a morale boost. Although the picnic had not taken place for 10 years, the relationships remained intact thanks to the covenant. Oren says that those who participate in the interfaith events talk about the ways they have opened their minds and hearts to people of other faiths. “When you really know someone who practices a different faith than you, suddenly things change. You drop the stereotypes of that faith and begin to see that person as your friend,” says Oren. The Southeast Covenant Association has changed lives by bringing Muslims and Christians together, proving that peace and love can overcome differences. Taylor Bush recently completed a six-week internship at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. This fall she will begin her sophomore year at the University of Georgia in Athens. She is majoring in entertainment and media.


Downward mobility reflects

radical faith BY E M I LY S N E L L


SARAH ARTHUR AND ERIN WASINGER SET OUT TO DO. Arthur and Wasinger, who attend and teach at Sycamore Creek Church, a multi-campus United Methodist church plant, in Lansing, Michigan, coauthored the book A Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos Press), which details their journey in practices of new monasticism. These practices, also referred to as the “marks” of new monasticism, include emphases on location, hospitality, justice, reconciliation and community, and how they affect humanity’s relationships with God, others and creation. In engaging diverse communities and living into the practices of new monasticism, Arthur said it’s important to understand your role and God’s role. “I had to change my sense of what my presence means with those who have a vastly different background than I do,” she said, noting that she isn’t bringing God with her to these

diverse interactions. “God’s been there all along. Jesus is there already, and you have the opportunity to bear witness. That’s your job. You’re getting to watch.” Desiring to pursue a lifestyle that embodies the gospel, Arthur and her husband, the Rev. Tom Arthur, who serves as lead pastor at Sycamore Creek, set out with their friends – Wasinger and her husband, Dave. In accountable friendship and with the support of their church community, their families ventured into a year-long covenant together. As outlined in their book, this covenant pushed them to: »» develop spiritual friendship that would further their commitment »» welcome Christ in the stranger »» reject the American dream »» reclaim shared spiritual practices »» resist consumerism »» set apart Sabbath »» strengthen their vows »» be planted in a local congregation »» grow in faith as a family in the current season


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»» recognize humanity’s relationship with God’s creation »» view self-care appropriately and »» live justly. In living the gospel through practices of new monasticism, embracing difference is key. For Wasinger, being in community with people of diverse backgrounds helps her grow. “When you’re in small group with someone who struggles with homelessness, it opens your eyes,” she said. “But it also causes me to reflect on how I can be more loving and more like Jesus to them. It makes me much more aware of people as human beings with their own stories.” When her family moved to Lansing, Wasinger said they were seeking a church “that was really intentional about forming relationships. Sycamore Creek is one of those places,” she said. “There are so many people from so many different walks of life.” On any given Sunday, Wasinger said attendees might sit with people who ride the bus from the homeless shelter or someone who has lived in the suburbs their whole life. “I like that diversity,” she said. “I feel like that’s important.” For the Arthurs, living in the suburbs was a major change from their previous inner-city neighborhood. Prior to moving back to the Midwest, the Arthurs lived for three years with friends at Isaiah House of Hospitality in Durham, North Carolina, sharing a home with homeless guests, cultivating the land and being an extension of the local church in their neighborhood. When they moved to the Lansing suburbs for Tom’s pastoral appointment, Arthur said it took discernment and creativity to determine how to embody Christ in similar ways in this new context. Though sometimes living in suburbia gives Arthur the sense that “you can’t be downwardly mobile, even if you feel called to be,” she sees opportunities for being creative in following Jesus and extending hospitality to those who are different. “Instead of suburbia being the place


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Sarah Arthur (left) and Erin Wasinger answer questions about their book during a library talk.

where I create my own castles, it becomes a prosperous monastery where guests are invited in,” she said. “You can find healing and rest and welcome and the sense that you are not a burden. You get to participate in a household where your gifts and strengths can be used.” In Lansing, the Arthurs leverage their large home – and their cars, too – as resources for those in need, housing the homeless and offering transportation to those without a vehicle. “What do you do with space,” she said, “when you have this sense that your home is God’s home? It’s not really yours.” Arthur said she learns much about faith from people whose life experiences are different from her own. “I have met more homeless people who trust God with every minute of their day than I have sometimes in churches,” she said. “There’s this incredible humility and awareness that they don’t take a breath apart from the sustaining presence of God.” After The Year of Small Things was

published, Sycamore Creek engaged in small group discussions and a sermon series to get the larger church community thinking more deeply about these ideas. Wasinger and Arthur were careful to encourage discernment, rather than suggest a particular method of living into this calling. “How does that get interpreted into your unique context and your strengths and how you feel called?” Arthur said, referencing Hebrews 13 as a basic guiding framework. No individual person can fully embrace all the marks of new monasticism on their own, Arthur said, but a supportive community helps everyone flourish as each person utilizes their gifts for the good of others. “How can you support them in the good practices they have?” Arthur said. “The whole congregation is winning when we are supporting each other in practicing downward mobility and radical faith.” The Wasingers and Arthurs support one another by offering honest

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accountability and recognizing their different resources. The Wasingers don’t have as much space in their house, for example, so they love people in their neighborhood, participate in church community with those who are homeless and help refugee families. “We were a mentor family for a refugee family,” Wasinger said. “For the first four months they were here, we were their close friends who helped them navigate things.” Currently, the Wasingers – who both studied journalism – serve refugees by helping them tell their stories. In addition to cultural and economic diversity, Wasinger said she believes learning from other generations is also important. “I think intergenerational diversity is as important as a lot of other forms of diversity,” she said. “People my age don’t tend to interact with people who are older. The older people have definitely been the most influential in developing my faith.” Arthur agreed, remembering some women she knew in North Carolina. “There were little old ladies living in my inner-city neighborhood who had been praying for that city since before I was born,” she said. “I had more to learn from them about who Jesus is than I had to share with anybody.” One key to healthy diverse community, Arthur said, involves being intentional in shaping a perspective on ministry. “We’re not in ministry to the struggling,” Arthur said. “We are called into friendship with those who are struggling. That is a whole different thing. If we’re really investing in long-term friendship with those on the margins, it changes our whole posture of doing life with them.” Emily Snell is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes frequently for Interpreter and other online and print publications.




Sandra Matoushaya gathers with Zimbabwean children with albinism. One of the Western Pennsylvania districts supports a project to assist the chilldren.

collaboration has blossomed over the years. Other districts are seeing similar success as relationships evolve. Matoushaya cites the Johnstown District’s partnership with the Harare East District in Zimbabwe, which focuses on orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those with albinism. The Harare district is helping to raise awareness and break the stigma associated with the genetic disorder. Oftentimes, albino children are hidden away or sacrificed in misguided rituals. “They’ve been helping to educate people within these areas and trying to bring them out and be able to help give them a future and a life ... different opportunities that they can either start their own business or they can find jobs or get training and go to school,” she said. The Butler District also is working with orphans. “Most of them are HIV/AIDS orphans. ... With this program,


we’re helping to buy school uniforms and books and send them to school,” Matoushaya said. Butler also sponsors a goat ministry in which the church purchases female goats to give to orphans. The children learn responsibility and earn money by raising and selling the goats. Each child also presents the goat’s first female kid back to the church for another orphan. Some United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania get to see these success stories firsthand through three biennial programs in Zimbabwe: a lay academy, a longer immersion program and Zim Camp, which allows youth to travel around the country. “It’s good for our youth to be able to interact with the people that are there,” Matoushaya said. “Sometimes they get to help out with building some of the projects that we have.” She stresses the partnership goes both ways. The Zimbabwe churches must contribute to fundraising for the projects, and the programs have to be a good fit for the community.

“We have to see what it is that they need and what we need and find a way in which we can work together halfway,” Matoushaya said, “I’ve always had people say, ‘Oh, we have to help the people in Zimbabwe. They’re very, very poor. We need to go and minister to them.’ I’m like, ‘Actually, no, you don’t have to minister. They might actually end up ministering to you.’” She adds that Zimbabweans have much they can teach U.S. visitors about increasing church membership and stewardship, as well as being grateful for what they have. For annual conferences considering similar district-to-district partnerships, she said having the support of episcopal leadership is key, as is collaboration in mission. “I know for sure that one of the things that we want to do is to make sure we find ways in which both conferences will benefit in work to further the kingdom.” Julie Dwyer is general church content editor with United Methodist Communications.

A goat is passed on to an orphan in the Mutare District of Zimbabwe. The Butler District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference sponsors a goat ministry there in which the church purchases female goats to give to orphaned children who learn responsibility and earn money as they raise the kids.



FOR MEMBERS OF THE WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA CONFERENCE, living a diverse life means building relationships with United Methodists halfway around the world. These bonds grow through a district-to-district partnership with the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area formed in 2010 by Zimbabwe Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa and then Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton. A covenant unites the two areas. “When we signed the partnership, we called it the chabadza covenant, because we’re walking alongside each other,” says Sandra Matoushaya. The Shona word means working together. Matoushaya, a Zimbabwe native, coordinates the partnership. Each of the 10 districts in Western Pennsylvania pairs with a district in Zimbabwe and chooses projects to support financially. The program builds on the conference’s history of support for Zimbabwe through Africa University and The Nyadire Connection, a non-profit founded in Pittsburgh in 2006 that supports the Nyadire United Methodist Mission in rural Zimbabwe. The Mission features a hospital, schools, orphanage, teachers’ college, nursing school and farm. The Pittsburgh District claims The Nyadire Connection as its partnership project. Matoushaya said the





Jason and Lynnetta Eyachabbe

that they may not feel comfortable sharing anywhere else,” said Lynnetta. “Often, our Native kids are having to grow up way too fast,” said Jason. “Many of the young people are being raised by their grandparents. Across our Native communities, we face issues of addiction, domestic violence and extreme suicide rates.” Between 2004 and 2008, Native American youth age 10-24 committed suicide at a 78 percent higher rate than their non-Native American peers, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. In 2016, a series of suicides in the small southwest Oklahoma town of Anadarko deeply impacted youth in OIMC’s Central region. “None of them were our kids, but our kids knew them or their families. We were able to provide a place for them to come and talk,” said Lynnetta. The Eyachabbes enlist

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pastors to attend youth events, assist with counseling and help identify young people interested in ordained ministry. “Jason and Lynnetta do a great job of mentoring and providing guidance and support for youth,” said the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC conference superintendent. “We need more young persons like them to help lead and guide our youth.” Monthly gatherings start with games to help the youth meet each other. After a devotion, the youth often compete to navigate the Bible and look up scriptures. In the winter they collect donations for a local charity. Conference-wide events include a day at Oklahoma City University, a summer camp and winter/ spring retreats. “We have been excited to see our numbers increase for the summer camp,” said Lynnetta. “We want them to act like kids, so we have a lot of


goofy fun stuff that they end up loving.” For young people in OIMC, the adage “It Takes a Village” could not be more relevant, said Jason. He and Lynnetta hope their leadership and contributions will make a difference. “If we come together as a community, as a people in Christ, we can accomplish more for our youth and young adults and help them be a part of something greater than themselves.” The Eyachabbes encourage the broader United Methodist Church to hold Native pastors and adult leaders in prayer as they continue to work with the young people. They also encourage United Methodists to support efforts dealing with mental health issues within and beyond Native communities.


BALANCING FAITH AND CULTURE is at the heart of youth ministry for Jason and Lynnetta Eyachabbe. The married couple, life-long United Methodists, grew up attending youth events in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC). Today they work to provide a safe community for Native youth in the regional conference that spans Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. “We want to celebrate what God gave us as Native people,” said Jason, OIMC youth leader from the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. “We try to incorporate traditional games, stickball, social dances and arts such as basket weaving to help kids connect with each other and their traditions.” “I am fortunate that my parents allowed me to participate in both church and traditional ways,” said Lynnetta, OIMC Central Region coordinator for the Muscogee (Creek) and Yuchi tribes. “Whether we are at church or participating in traditional ceremonies, we don’t feel like we’re worshiping anything other than Jesus.” The goal of the couple, married 18 years, is to help Native young people have a strong sense of identity and camaraderie. Nearly a dozen tribes are represented among the 30 or more youth who participate in conference events. Regionally, the youth meet the second Saturday of each month. “We want our youth to be themselves, to share things



Lynnetta Eyachabbe assists teen girls as they pack meals during a project to fight hunger.

Ginny Underwood is a freelance writer and owner of Underwood Communications, Yukon, Oklahoma.


Q/A Diversity and Social Media:



The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner

The Rev. HANNAH ADAIR BONNER is curator of The Shout and author of the curriculum The Shout: Finding the Prophetic Voice in Unexpected Places (Abingdon Press). Through her work with The Shout, she labors to amplify “the cry” through a spoken-word poetry focused arts and justice community that is putting words into action.

How can United Methodists use social media to educate others about racial injustices throughout the world?


SOPHIA AGTARAP: There are a number of United Methodist organizations, non-profits and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who keep their audiences, congregations and constituents abreast of what’s happening in their organization and the work they are doing. I encourage organizations to use social spaces to update people of current events, opportunities and (provide) real-time updates. Sometimes we see our social media pages as spaces solely to promote our work, but so much of the social and racial justice work that we find ourselves a part of is intersectional. Part of the beauty of social media is that hierarchies are flattened and we are able to lift one another up and put a spotlight on what’s happening beyond the four walls of our church and the boundaries of our geographic spaces. There is no harm done in sharing what our neighbors in similar organizations are doing – it does not diminish the work or ministry we are doing or promoting.

HANNAH BONNER: The key with this is first to ask yourself if you are on the receiving end of that information already. Are you “tuned in” so to speak? If you are not, you may want to follow some people on social media that are. If you don’t know where to start, you can follow me @ HannahABonner – most of my activity on Twitter is amplifying people in all parts of the world who I am following by retweeting them. If you follow me or others who do that, you will start to see these missives and can amplify them yourself or share the information with your congregation. Once you are “tuned in,” the next important step is to figure out how to share these things with others. Just as you can get the information by following someone on Twitter, someone who is not on Twitter may (hear) you bring it up in a pastoral prayer, announcement or small group.


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How can United Methodists develop a community of those who are passionate about social and racial justice? AGTARAP: Social media is very visual. One way United Methodists can use social media to develop a community of those passionate about social justice is to tell stories. Give people a glimpse into the vision, mission and heart of whatever group or community you are trying to gather. A short 30-second video, a compelling photo or a story can make this work and ministry real. We sometimes miss the emotional connection that in-person relationships and gatherings can convey, so the question is how do we communicate the heart of what we’re about when a screen is the medium? I always remind people that social media is social. Continue to find ways to connect online and off. Just because (a connection) starts online, it doesn’t mean it has to end there. BONNER: Joining groups that talk about the issues, following people on Twitter and commenting on their posts so that you create the opportunity to engage is a start. Then use the strength that you gain from seeing others working around the world to motivate yourself to work in your own community. If you started as the only person with your level of energy, commit to changing that. Make your discipleship a lifestyle and not just a hobby.

Sophia Agtarap


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SOPHIA AGTARAP’s background in education and digital media helps her be a shepherd of sorts to digital immigrants. She enjoys working with diverse groups to help them better understand today’s communication tools and uses for ministry and outreach. She is the new director of communication for Vanderbilt Divinity School at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

How can United Methodist churches help diverse communities to feel welcomed by the UM faith?

How can local churches reach diverse communities not currently connected to their church through social media?

AGTARAP: Again, I like to remind people that social media is a medium. It is a tool, not the end-goal. What we communicate on social – that we are welcoming and accepting and loving – we must also communicate offline in our actions and in our words. Social media will not save us if what we do online is not congruent with what we do offline. The photos we use in our posts, the words we write and the messages we share on video are all indicators of who we are. Find people to communicate those things who fully understand who you are as a community and who are sensitive and aware of the struggles that marginalized communities are facing. BONNER: As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” We have to take a sincere interest in what people are experiencing and take action, not just tell them it will be OK. We cannot afford to do as Jeremiah warned us, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” We have to be willing to say the words, like #BlackLivesMatter, because they do. We need to accompany our words with actions, like visiting someone in a local immigration detention center and getting to know their story.

AGTARAP: I encourage local churches to stay local in the ways they connect with what’s happening in their communities. Become a part of the fabric of your community. Follow and join local blogs, forums and Facebook groups. Let people know that you are there, you are present and you are active in the online and offline communities. Visit or for resources. BONNER: The first question we should ask is, “What will they gain from connecting with our church?” Is this about our desire to appear diverse, or our desire to support others? Will they be safe? Will they be treated as a token so that the church can pat itself on the back? Or will they be uplifted as children of God, their voices and experiences heard and believed and their needs supported? We have to work on all these fronts: who we are, who we want to be and who we need to be. When we get out of the church and into the streets, we will find all the clues we need to know. We will find out how to fix the language on our website. We will find the right hashtags to use. Yet, we have to get out of our pews and into the streets. Social media is a tool; it is not a replacement. Methodism was built in the streets, the factories, the fields, the schools – we must go there, too.

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Share some examples of churches or individuals you know whose celebration of diversity and/or education about racial injustices are commendable. (All congregations Agtarap and Bonner named are United Methodist.) AGTARAP: Christena Cleveland (, www. is one of my first go-tos for things related to social/racial justice. Urban Village ( in Chicago is also a great resource. Glide Memorial ( ) from San Francisco is also an amazing example of celebrating diversity. BONNER: New Day (www.; Arise (; Servant Church (; Valley & Mountain Fellowship (

Shannon Hodson is editor of the Upper New York Advocate, a publication of the Upper New York Conference. This article originally appeared in Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2017.


Editor’s Note: Read a longer version of this story at Interpreter OnLine,




MEMBERS OF BARNES UNITED METHODIST CHURCH in Indianapolis, some ex-offenders themselves, are walking among gang members and drug dealers in an effort to help reduce youth violence in the neighborhoods surrounding their church. In 1998, United Northwest, home to Barnes, was one of the neighborhoods leading the city in homicides, said the Rev. Charles Harrison, the church’s senior pastor. He said the violence was affecting the church. “It was creating fear. People were afraid to come into the neighborhood because of the high level of violence, gangs and drug dealers, so we were trying to respond to that,” he said. At around the same time, Harrison and a couple of other local pastors attended an event together where they heard about the Boston Miracle, in which a group of faith leaders collaborated with the city of Boston to reduce youth violence there. That initiative included a two-year period in the late 1990s with no recorded juvenile or youth homicides, Harrison said. “We were just so impressed with that, we felt like we could do something similar in Indianapolis.” Thus, Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition was born in 1999. Harrison, who serves as president of the nonprofit, said 600-member Barnes Church



The Rev. Charles Harrison (third from left) takes part in weekly faith walks to help reduce youth violence in three Indianapolis neighborhoods.

was instrumental in launching the program. The passion and level of expertise in the Barnes congregation to address violence and its root causes shocked Harrison. “They really came up with the strategy that helped Ten Point go into these neighborhoods and have this kind of impact,” he said. The impact is significant. In 2016 alone, the group helped reduce homicides by 85 percent in the three high-crime neighborhoods it targets. All three neighborhoods went an entire year without a homicide among youth ages 14 to 24, Harrison said. Ten Point takes its ministry directly to the streets, reaching out to at-risk youth during weekly faith walks. Teams of five to seven people — church volunteers, faith leaders and “original gangsters” with street credibility, as Harrison refers to them — gather in the three neighborhoods five nights a


week. As many as 25-30 people patrol each night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. “Their role is to look for those individuals who are drug trafficking, who may be involved in robberies or gang activity. And what they’re doing is their sharing their story with the young people of the mistakes that they made in their life that led many of them to prison. ... They talk about the role that God has played in their life in helping them to turn their life around and get on the right path,” Harrison said. “We believe in more God, less violence. We see ourselves as the light of Christ in the midst of these communities that are experiencing a lot of violence, poverty, lack of quality education opportunities, broken families. Our very presence there says to people that we care. What we’re trying to do is redirect the lives of young people and put them on a pathway of success,” he said.

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Ten Point also partners with the business community to help at-risk youth and returning citizens find employment through training, job fairs and referrals. In 2016, about 70 percent of 1,000 referrals to Indianapolis businesses stayed on the job. Another important role of the coalition is acting as a buffer between the police department and the community to build trust and ease tensions. In April, Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for its work in reducing crime and violence. Harrison said the honor validated the group’s work among elected officials throughout Indiana and on a national level. He is currently working with Indiana’s attorney general to expand the program to other cities in the state and is in talks with other cities about the initiative. Harrison invites other United Methodist churches looking to start a similar program in their communities to give him a call. “Every church has a uniqueness to their congregation that could allow them to have the same kind of impact that Barnes has had in our community.” Julie Dwyer is general church content editor with United Methodist Communications.




“Unwrap the true meaning with us this Christmas” is the phrase that will be integrated into the various designs on door hangers, invitational postcards, bulletin covers and slides to use in worship. By offering a variety of designs, says Angle-Young, “We are trying to speak to the feedback we’ve heard from local churches to try to fit their culture.” The variety of resources “makes it almost a done-for-you campaign,” she adds. Integrated with the invitational efforts will be a sermon series with full liturgical support – including recordings of voiced Scripture. The worship staff of Discipleship Ministries

is developing the series for “Advent, Christmas and into the Sundays in January to give (churches) something to promote that will bring visitors back,” Angle-Young says. Beginning in September, churches can begin ordering customized invitational resources, such as the door hangers and postcards, from A new “selfie stand” will encourage congregants to extend invitations through their own social media outlets. The free resources – sermon series, bulletin covers, worship slides and more – will be available for download from the United Methodist Communications website at advent-resources. Also new there will be a social media calendar. INVITE WITH COCOA

As it makes its “Countdown to Christmas Tour” to outdoor events in 21 cities in the United States, the “truck will help churches in the areas where it stops to engage seekers, the unchurched or potential visitors,” Angle-Young says. Staffing it in each community will be “church ambassadors, volunteers from local churches who will pass out hot chocolate,” adds Rodia. Although they will not have the visual support of the

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Television advertising, the invitational and worship resources and “an experiential campaign (featuring) a branded truck” are among the ways “we are going to provide support with welcoming,” says the Rev. Teresa Angle-Young, manager of seeker advertising and communications at UMCom. The efforts will begin in the fall and continue through Advent. The Advent/Christmas campaign has “depth,” says Jennifer Rodia, chief communications officer, “and it is all designed to work in concert with the agency’s efforts to engage unchurched people with a local church.”

These are five of the designs that will be used on the invitational and worship resources United Methodist Communications is producing for Advent 2017. Several others will be included in the resources that will be available beginning in September.

truck, other congregations will be able to engage in similar outreach at events in their communities using kits available from Included will be 500 branded sleeves and cups, a container for the hot chocolate and four “staff” t-shirts. A media kit will help churches promote their events and the sweet treats.


With or without the truck, Rodia says, the hot chocolate outreach “will connect (visitors) with churches and raise awareness of churches and ministries.” The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.





For 2017, Abingdon Press and The Upper Room are introducing nine new studies. Included are studies emphasizing Joseph and creation care, devotions specifically for families and a coloring book. While several of the studies are for churchwide or small group use, all can be used for individual devotions. Although some of the books will release in late summer or early fall, most are now available for pre-order.


Advent: A Calendar of Devotions 2017 (Abingdon Press) contains brief readings for each day in Advent. This year’s collection of Scripture passages, short devotions and closing prayers honor the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as they reflect the writings of the Protestant reformers. Sold in packages of 10, the booklets are easy to include in Advent mailings, especially to parishioners unable to attend services

and visitors or to share as a part of homebound or prison ministry. The Rev. Donald K. McKim developed the collection, which will be available in August.

during Advent, each chapter offers discussion questions and a focus for the week that will encourage readers to engage in a specific act of creation care. Also included are calls to worship, prayers of confession and hymn suggestions for use in small groups or in corporate worship. FAITHFUL



All Earth Is Waiting: Good News for God’s Creation at Advent (Abingdon Press) explores the Advent themes of hope, preparation, joy and peace with the heavens and earth in mind. The Rev. Katie Z. Dawson, lead pastor at Immanuel United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, wrote the reflections calling readers to consider how all creation longs for the coming of Christ. Taking seriously the notion that the good news of Christ is good news for all the world, Dawson highlights the responsibility to care for Earth in preparation for Christ’s return. Creation care is among the topics on which she blogs at A thematic Bible study for use by individuals and small groups

A revised edition of the book by popular storyteller and teacher the Rev. James Moore, Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break (Abingdon Press) includes stories, Scriptures and reflections to explore the spirit of Christmas and God’s unbreakable gifts of hope, love, joy and peace. New to this edition is a fifth chapter for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. Also new are daily devotions by the Rev. Jacob Armstrong, founding pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Useful for individual or family devotions, the book can also be the basis for a five-session study on using one’s God-given gifts. A Leader Guide and DVD are available as are resources for youth and children.


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Absent from much of the biblical narrative, Joseph never spoke a word, but his courageous actions were crucial to the birth of Christ and God’s salvation plan for humanity. In Faithful (Abingdon Press), the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, traces Joseph’s story from his beginnings as a humble carpenter to his all-important role as the earthly father of Jesus Christ. In this telling of the nativity story from Joseph’s perspective, readers will learn how Joseph encountered circumstances beyond his control and emerged, with God’s help, to be abundantly blessed. Joseph offers an example of humbly obeying God and faithfully moving forward in the strength that God provides. Faithful can be read as a stand-alone book or can be combined with the DVD featuring Hamilton in 10-12-minute sessions, Leader Guide and youth and children’s resources to create a churchwide study.


Many people end their celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25, but In Days to Come (The Upper Room), the Rev. George Donigian reminds readers that the celebration is just beginning. Now pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church in Anderson, South Carolina, Donigian offers meditations that begin with Advent and continue through Jan. 6, Epiphany. A merger of several traditions – Advent calendars, ancient Advent prayers known as the “O Antiphons,” the traditional celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25 and the Armenian Orthodox celebration of Christmas on Jan. 6 – is the basis for four meditations per week. While each reading stands alone, the meditations are rooted in a weekly theme. Donigian’s writing style is conversational and wide-ranging to include topics such as “An Editor,” “A Counting Song,” “Prudence” and “Chrismons.” MANDALAS, CANDLES AND PRAYERS

Based on the four candles of the Advent wreath, Mandalas, Candles and Prayer: A Simply Centered Advent (The Upper Room) weaves together the popular practice of coloring with four simple

methods of contemplative prayer. Each chapter includes a short vignette, an explanation of the weekly theme and prayer method, a simple candle-lighting liturgy, seven mandalas for each week and a closing prayer of illumination. Through reading, praying, lighting candles and coloring the mandalas, the Rev. Sharon Seyfarth Garner, a United Methodist pastor, spiritual director and retreat leader in Cleveland, Ohio, helps readers remain centered on God during a busy time.


Designed for individuals – including those with little or no understanding of Advent – Pauses for Advent: Words of Wonder offers short meditations to guide readers to a deeper understanding of the season. The Rev. Trevor Hudson, author, teacher, spiritual director and Methodist minister in South Africa, focuses on one biblical word of wonder each day of Advent. Hudson also briefly explores the lives and thoughts of four significant characters

in the Christmas narrative, encouraging readers to immerse themselves in the dramatic story. His simple approach provides a doable daily practice and gently leads readers to discover how they can open their hearts and lives more generously to God.



The Lord Is Our Light (Abingdon Press) is the Advent 2017 study based on Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary. The Rev. Elaine Crawford, senior pastor of Newman Chapel United Methodist Church in Newman, Georgia, calls readers to explore their hope for new beginnings and praise God while awaiting again the birth of Christ in our lives. She also invites imagining the future culmination of hope in Christ’s death, resurrection and second coming. The five-session study includes commentary and reflection on key Bible readings from the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Epistles to help participants understand, appreciate and engage in meaningful and joyous celebrations of Advent and Christmas and to live each day in God’s light through Jesus Christ. The study book includes a guide for leading small groups.

In Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose (Abingdon Press), author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra urges giving your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means truly to celebrate their Savior. A 31-day devotional, Total Christmas Makeover provides a practical approach for families to turn their attention toward God’s grace as they prepare for Christmas. Spoelstra teaches parents to be intentional during the Advent season about focusing on Jesus’ birth and not the things of this world. It provides practical hands-on ideas, including ritual and service ideas, ways to spend time strengthening relationships and suggested rest activities to reflect on God. The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine, publications of United Methodist Communications.

ADVENT STUDIES United Methodist Interpreter



Family Camping



outdoor ministry researcher with Sacred Playgrounds, notes that youth who attend a faith-based camp are three times more likely to continue a communal faith practice throughout their lives than those who never participate. IT’S A FAMILY THING

Each August, families from First United Methodist Church in Chelsea, Michigan, attend a family camp at an area campground. “Camp runs from Thursday through Sunday,” said Courtney Aldrich, director of Children and Family Ministries at First Church, “and families arrive and depart as their schedules permit. “The campgrounds we use have many onsite family-friendly activities,” said Aldrich. “One camp offers a dedicated time just for our families to try a high ropes course. Off-site, but nearby, are opportunities for fellowship at a beach at Lake Michigan or at Michigan’s Adventure, an amusement and water park.” Campers also enjoy group bonfires in the evenings and




According to Kevin Witt, director of Camp and Retreat Ministries for Discipleship Ministries, camp and retreat experiences enable families to leave behind normal routines, responsibilities and environments for an intentional, temporary journey to a new place together. “Fresh environments heighten the senses,” Witt said, “allowing opportunities to grow together as a family to happen more readily. There is more time for building relationships and growing closer to God and each other because other distractions are minimalized.” Research reveals that Christian camp experiences can be one major avenue for parents to teach and model to their children the importance of a connection with God. “Search Institute’s study on effective Christian education identified parents and family faith experiences as the number one factor in a lasting faith among children and youth,” said Witt. In addition, new research by Jake Sorenson, an

Dennis, Jane and Michele relax and enjoy conversation during Chelsea First United Methodist Church’s Family Camp on a Lake Michigan beach.

potluck meals on Saturday night and Sunday morning. “The kids love riding their bikes around the camp and traveling from campsite to campsite to visit other church families,” she said. Out of these experiences, the family camp becomes a tight little community. “Whether it’s looking out for each other’s children, sharing

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food, learning new things about one another in conversation around a campfire or commiserating over sandy sleeping bags or flooded tents, these shared moments carry over into our church family relationships back at home.” While how and when they happen may differ, finding Christ and drawing closer to God’s creation inevitably



Children from First United Methodist Church in Chelsea, Michigan, enjoy both the water and the sand.

make a positive impact on each camper. Sharing what family camping trips have meant to her and her family, Chelsea First member Kelly Stoker said, “We had to be pushed into going to family camp the first year. I had camped often as a child and still camped frequently with both Girl and Boy Scouts. But I would not call myself a camper. “The first year it rained — for three straight days and nights. The first night we

woke floating on our blow-up mattress. My son slept through it; we left him floating in the water. The three awake people stayed up and prayed for the tree above not to fall during the storm. “The next morning multiple families headed home. We stayed. By the last morning, there were far fewer families at the campground. We pooled our breakfast fixings and took a picture of ‘the survivors.’ We were hooked. We’ve continued to arrange our schedule every summer since so that we can once again spend four days in the woods — sleeping on the ground and usually in the rain — with our friends and church family.” ‘FAMILY’ SPANS MANY GENERATIONS

Ranging in age from newborn to 101 years old, campers at the California-Nevada Conference-sponsored Family Camp enjoy a carefree week together each June at the Silver Spur Conference Center in Tuolumne, California. “Family Camp offers sports teams that include all ages so young children and teens can play softball, for example, with their parents and grandparents,” said the Rev. Marylee Sheffer,

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Family Camp co-director. “We gather as a community at the beginning and end of each day for prayer and singing. “The interesting thing about Family Camp is that everyone who comes is broken — whether it be by illness, poverty or other hardships in life,” she said. “Some of us hide it well, but we are all woven of the same fragile, imperfect cloth. We intentionally care for all people and place a high value on each person as a child of God,” said Sheffer. “Something wonderful happens when families are away from the stress of work and school demands and in a safe and loving place in nature where Christ is lifted up.” Each year brings new campers, but there are also families who’ve been part of the Family Camp for more than 50 years — a testimony to the power of camping as a family. “Weddings and births are celebrated by this extended family,” said Sheffer, “and deaths are observed and grieved together. Some people have found their spouses at Family Camp and two of our saints’ ashes are buried there. Families regularly discover forgiveness and a new love for each other.”



Between working, caring for the family and trying to have a life, single parents have their hands full. Today many camps offer programs and activities for single parents and their children to get away and spend time together — and apart — at camp. Each July, Camp Pecometh in Centreville, Maryland, offers a threeday retreat providing single parents with spiritual support, encouragement and the opportunity to relax while the kids are busy with camp activities. The retreat also includes family and big-group activities. Oklahoma Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries offers a three-day Single Parents Family Gathering where single-parent households of any size or style — including, but not limited to, non-custodial parents, grandparents and military households — come together for fun and fellowship. Their goal is to help single parents face life’s challenges while creating wonderful memories as campers swim, hike and fellowship together. Cindy Solomon is a marketing consultant and content writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.


Churches, schools partner to




Anderson said. “They cooked with everything they harvested.” The high school’s class of 12 special C A R D S , WA S H E R / D R Y E R , C E N T E R A M O N G T H E A N S W E R S needs students also learn from exposure WHEN THE REV. JENNY ANDERSON ARRIVED AT HOPEWELL to the garden and the church. “These students came to UNITED METHODIST CHURCH IN TYRONE, GEORGIA, IN the church for an hour each 2016, SHE INHERITED A RELATIONSHIP WITH THREE week and did community serPUBLIC SCHOOLS. THE ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH vice,” she said. “They worked SCHOOLS ARE ALL WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF THE in the garden, did some cleanCHURCH. ing up around the church and “Hopewell’s relationship GARDEN FEEDS, TEACHES made cards and cookies for the with the schools had been Hopewell has a community elementary school students. going on for several years,” garden, consisting of 30 raised They really enjoyed it.” Anderson said. beds for vegetables and flowReaching out to the schools Good communication ers. The church and schools has shown the town of Tyrone supports the good relationship cooperate to use them both for that Hopewell is committed to between the church and the the community – and for the being a good partner. schools, she said. “The schools good of the students. “We want them to see not are good about letting us know “The middle school stuonly that we love people,” what they need.” dents built the raised beds for Anderson said, “but that we “One of the administrators us,” Anderson said. “Besides will work alongside them to told us the teachers and staff the vegetables, we planted make our schools better.” could really use some encourflowers that would attract agement,” Anderson continued. bees to help with pollination. “So, one of our members who The teachers use the garden ‘ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED’ makes beautiful handmade to teach about plant science Two elementary schools cards makes the cards and and the whole cycle of food in Wichita, Kansas – Park and passes them out to our memproduction.” Washington – benefit from a bers who then write notes of The community garden partnership with First United encouragement to the teachers serves as a source of fresh Methodist Church. and staff. They do this every vegetables for the students in Libby Eaton, First’s direcmonth. The administrator said the high school culinary arts tor of adult discipleship and these notes mean so much.” program to use in cooking. school partnerships, is the “They harvested potatoes, liaison between the church onions and kale, lots of kale,” and the school administration


United Methodist Interpreter

and staff. A retired elementary teacher herself, Eaton understands the issues facing the public schools. “These schools need help,” Eaton said. “And our people want to help children.” She calls it a universal United Methodist thing. “The first thing to do is to ask them what they need,” she said. “It’s that simple. Just ask. Then, let God take charge.” When Eaton began her ministry position at First, she contacted the social worker at Park and asked what the school needed. The social worker told Eaton her dream was to have a washer and dryer at the school. With about 95 percent of the students living in poverty, clean clothes were an issue, and the social worker would often take students’ clothes home at night and wash them. Eaton said she would see what she could do. She let people in the church know about the need. “The next day a member called me,” she said, “and told me a realtor friend of his had a house she’d just sold that had a washer and dryer in it. The new owners had their own, so she (the realtor) needed to get rid of the set in the house. She asked if he knew anyone who could

use it. Only God could make that happen! Not only did the school get the washer and dryer, the realtor donated a year’s worth of laundry detergent!” Eaton said she believes any church can help their local schools. “Even in a little town, maybe one church couldn’t do much on their own, but you get a few churches to work together, the results can be good,” she said. “It’s not about who gets credit; it’s about helping the kids.” Support for the ministry comes from generous donors and a portion of the tips from Mead’s Corner, the church’s non-profit coffee house. “It’s not a line item in the church budget,” Eaton said. Eaton has information to share about what she has learned to help support schools and children. She welcomes anyone to email her at libbye@ to get a copy.


St. Luke United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is in the heart of the city, across the street from Burke High School, one of the three largest high schools in the city. Church people noticed students hanging around and wandering the neighborhood after the close of the school days. Instead of being suspicious, they were curious about why that was happening. They discovered those students were not eligible for bus transportation and were waiting for working parents to pick them up. Seeing the need, church members decided they could meet it. St. Luke opened the Teen Center in 2007, brought Abbey Jackson on staff to direct it and partnered with Burke and Nebraska


Children from Burke Elementary School work in the Hopewell United Methodist Church vegetable garden. Teachers use the garden to help children learn about the food they eat.



Sawny Klaassen, a member of First United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kansas, and a certified master gardener, helps children from Washington Elementary School learn about planting.

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“A public school, a private university and a church have collaborated to make an impact on these kids’ lives,” she said. “It’s the best of a lot of worlds. We are in the school. We have access to the kids. The parents know we are advocates for their kids.” The Teen Center recently hired a second full-time staff person to work with Jackson. Also serving the students are a half-time staffer, eight Burke teachers paid by the school and a large number of volunteers. The new hire is an alumnae of the program. “She was one of the first students who walked through our door in 2007,” Jackson said. Jackson, whose background is in journalism and public relations, said she was working in her field in 2007 when God called her to work more with people than with paper. She saw the posting for the Teen Center director position and applied. “The first two years were Nelly Mwenda (left) receives conreally tough,” she said. “But gratulations from Teen Center director Abbey Jackson and staff member the clergy staff at the church was wonderful, so kind and so Kevin Bailey after being named the 2017 recipient of the Phyllis Jeter Me- patient. They really believed in morial Scholarship. The scholarship the program. is provided by a former Teen Center “When we opened the board member and St. Luke United doors, we didn’t know who Methodist Church member. would come in, but these kids are great.” “goal-oriented, intentional and student-focused. We Polly House is a freelance work to address the whole writer now serving as editorial student, breed leadership and assistant for Interpreter and set a foundation for future Interpreter OnLine. She lives in success.” The Center has Nashville, Tennessee. five primary areas of work: academics, college prep, health and wellness, alumni support services and student/family services. Methodist College in an afterschool program for teens. “You hear it’s too late to change a high schooler’s life,” Jackson said. “You hear high schoolers don’t want after school programs. But if you staff it with people who care about them, they will come. We are the only after school program for high schoolers in the city. Our first year, our goal was to have 20 consistent youth. The first day we opened we had three. Now we have 135. I love that the church was willing to take the risk.” Jackson described the Center’s programming as








Council of Bishops’ president Bruce Ough presents the proposal which led to the Commission on a Way Forward to General Conerence 2016.

HE SPECIAL MEETING of The United Methodist Church’s top lawmaking assembly will be limited to acting on a report by the Council of Bishops, based on the proposals from the Commission on a Way Forward. The 32-member commission, appointed by the bishops, has the charge of finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences around homosexuality. In 2016, by a vote of 428 to 405, General Conference decided not to take up any legislation related to homosexuality and instead authorized the bishops to form the Commission on a Way Forward. The vote came after rumors of a potential church split reached a fever pitch. When Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, presented the proposal for the commission to General Conference delegates in May 2016, he also raised the possibility of a special session in 2018 or 2019. The bishops do not have a vote at General Conference. However, they do have the authority under The Book of Discipline to call for a special session of the assembly. Ough announced last fall that there would be a special General Conference, but did not give a specific date. At the time, he said, “A requirement that materials be in the hands of delegates at least 230 days before such a session makes it unlikely that the Commission could complete its work in time to meet that deadline for a 2018 meeting, so 2019 seemed to us to be the best option.” CONTINUE UNCEASING PRAYER

“The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing


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prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the special session of General Conference,” said Ough in a letter released April 25. Among the tasks of the Commission, which will next meet in July, is examining every paragraph in The Book of Discipline related to human sexuality and possibly recommending revisions. The Discipline bans same-gender weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. However, debate over those rules has intensified recently. The Commission on a Way Forward includes two leaders of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, as well as at least three openly gay members. The Wesleyan Covenant Association is a member-based network that, according to its website, “connects Spirit-fillled, orthodox congregations, clergy and laity.” The commission includes eight bishops, 11 laity, 11 elders and two deacons from nine countries. Serving as moderators are Central Congo Bishop David Yemba, Florida Bishop Ken Carter and West Virginia Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball. 2016 DELEGATES TO SERVE

Delegates to General Conference 2016 will serve in the called special session unless their annual conference chooses to elect new delegates. The Commission on General Conference, which plans the lawmaking assemblies, has set the delegate number at 864 — about 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa. The remaining delegates are from the Philippines, Europe and Eurasia as well as 10 from “concordat” churches with which The

United Methodist Church has formal relationships. Discussing the location for the called session, Sara Hotchkiss, General Conference business manager, said the St. Louis Convention Center and hotel packages were reasonably priced and able to meet United Methodists’ needs. “Explore St. Louis, the convention and visitor bureau, has a volunteer corps that can assist in some of the areas that are often done by a local host

committee,” she added. “With limited planning time, this was a benefit from a host city.” In 2016, Moses Kumar, chief executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration, told church leaders that a special General Conference session would cost $3.39 million for two days or $4.12 million for three days. Kumar is also the treasurer of General Conference. To pay for such a gathering, Kumar recommended

The bishops in 2009 ultimately opted not to call that session. The hope is that the 2019 special General Conference will help strengthen the denomination that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Adapted from a story by Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service reporter. This story was originally published on April 25, 2017, at



Members of the Commission on a Way Forward hold discussions in small groups during their meeting in Washington, D.C. in April.

shortening the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis by the number of days used for any special General Conference session. Since The United Methodist Church formed in 1968, it has only held a General Conference once outside of the normal four-year schedule. That was in 1970, and its purpose was to organize the merger of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations. A special session was considered to address the worldwide economic crisis of 2008.


Summer 2017 issue

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Photo by Paul Jeffrey

Serving as spiritual leaders and moderators for the Commisson on a Way Forward are (from left) Bishop David Yemba, Bishop Ken Carter and Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball.


People, personalities, passions

I Am United Methodist


diaconal ministry. I do this through coaching, education and mission trips abroad.” In cooperation with both Norwegian Church Aid and CCM, he has coordinated four mission trips for deacons and other church workers – Ethiopia (2008), Thailand (2009), Turkey (2014) and Hong Kong/ China (2016). In November, he will take part in a trip taking the mission advisors to Liberia to see how The Norwegian Mission Alliance works there. He also hopes this trip will make it possible to see how The United Methodist Church works there since United Methodists and the Mission Alliance cooperate in Norway. From 2002 to 2004, Eide worked in the ministry of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Miami, a religious organization serving Norwegian seamen abroad and Norwegians visiting the United States for The Rev. Marit Kristine Danielsen and the Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide were ordained deacons in The United Methodist Church in Norway on June 1, 2014. With them are United Methodist Bishop Christian Alsted (left) and Acting Bishop David Gjerp of the Lutheran Church in Norway. COURTESY VETLE KARLSEN EIDE


y call to ministry is simple,” said the Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide. “I believe my faith needs to be lived. To me, this life is best lived as an ordained deacon.” Ordained in May 2014, Eide is appointed to Sotra Metodistkirke (Sotra United Methodist Church) just outside Bergen, Norway’s second biggest city. He works in the Bjorgvin Diocese of the Lutheran Church of Norway as an advisor on mission and diaconal ministry. His employment comes through “The Community of Grace,” a joint agreement between The United Methodist Church of Norway and the Lutheran Church that mutually recognizes the orders of elders and deacons in the denominations. “The mission part of the job concentrates on making contracts between the local congregation and seven Lutheran and ecumenical mission societies through the organization CCM (Cooperation for Congregations in Mission),” he explained. “The diaconal part of my job concentrates on teaching, raising awareness on the ministry of deacons and making diaconal ministry a vital and important part of the local church,” he said. “My job is to motivate the congregations – 188 total – to get more involved in mission and



The Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide

“I am United Methodist” is a regular department of Interpreter featuring stories of individual laity and clergy eager to claim their United Methodist identity. To suggest a person to feature, send an email to

The Rev. Vetle Karlsen Eide

study, employment or travel. The Seamen’s Church also caters to Norwegian youth working at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. During the next eight years (2004-12), he was a youth deacon at a shopping mall on the island of Sotra, just outside Bergen. “The local government, the church and the shopping mall financed the project,” Eide said. “I served at a place called Basecamp. It is a joint council between the government, the mall and the local Lutheran church.” Eide grew up in The United Methodist Church of Norway in congregations in Oslo and Arendal. He is a board member of the Norwegian Ecumenical Foundation against Violence and Sexual Abuse, the Haraldsplass Foundation and the Norwegian Association of Deacons. For several years, he been engaged in the

United Methodist Interpreter

national board of diaconal ministry and evangelization within The United Methodist Church of Norway. Eide said he appreciates the relationship between social holiness and salvation in United Methodism. “The love of neighbor and the love of God [are] so closely connected and related. What I find most challenging about being a United Methodist is the theological assumption of the [Wesley] quadrilateral,” Eide says. “Are any dogmas forever set? Will theology always change due to human condition? Why are things accepted today that were considered wrong years ago? What is human reflection and will on one side, and God’s eternal and unchangeable will on the other side? Are there conflicts between these two positions or are they the same? This I find personally challenging.” He emphasized his hope that the church will remain active ecumenically. “I dream that The United Methodist Church in the future will be a relevant church that more people locally, nationwide and internationally consider theirs.” Barbara Dunlap-Berg retired in June 2016 from serving as general content editor and other positions at United Methodist Communications. She now lives in Carbondale, Illinois.

Getting wired for God



t can feel as though every couple of days a new “revolutionary” social media platform pops up. Some have disappearing content or limit you to text only, while others are almost a tiny version of the internet with every conceivable type of content and person available to friend you. With such rapid change, how do we navigate this new world without sinking under the ever-rising sea of social media? How do we enjoy the benefits without starting a fight? And, how can adults both appropriately engage with kids and protect their children from the dangers that lurk in this new frontier? The Rev. Robert Sturdivant, minister of students at Trinity United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has two simple rules to help navigate the choppy seas of social media. Both focus on thinking about what we are posting before we post it. Social media is about sharing your life. “We just start there,” he says. “We encourage our volunteers to share their life.” Unless we are paying attention, our presence on social media can make a quick turn from sharing our life to merely posting links to news articles. Often the articles can be offensive to some or many of our social media connections. When we share a polarizing article, these platforms meant


Navigating the sea of social media

to connect us with each other turn into tools to divide us. Most of that completely disappears when we choose to share what is happening in our life rather than post an endless stream of news links. After we shift to focusing on what social media does best – sharing our life – Sturdivant has a second rule to help avoid the complications that arise from doing just that. “Share what is universal,” he says, “share things that do not require a backstory.” When we write a post about something from our life, we want to do it in such a way that it is understandable by anyone who reads it. It is understood without needing to be explained. Why? It’s simple, Sturdivant says, “People don’t ask for a backstory. They just create their own.” That’s how most of the social media-fueled rumors begin: Someone creates a backstory from an ambiguous post. You can avoid much of the drama by asking the simple question: “Does

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Tools to help schedule social media posts

People are often most active on social media in the hours when leaders and staff are not at the church. These tools can help schedule content to post automatically when leaders are not in the building but social media consumers are likely to be online.

this require a backstory to understand?” These two rules help us navigate the often dangerous sea of social media. We will find our lives enriched as we use these channels for their intended purpose while avoiding the dangerous regions. Happy posting! The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords. com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications.


FACEBOOK PAGES: Facebook Pages now offer the option of scheduling posts by simply clicking the triangle

next to the “publish” button and selecting “schedule.” HOOTSUITE: This is the Swiss army knife of managing social media. Using it, you type your content once and then use this tool to schedule it to post on all your different social media platforms at once. It also has power tools to help you monitor and respond to what’s happening on all the different social media outlets. LATER: Though Instagram will not let you use any sort of auto-post tool like Hootsuite, Later will allow you to create a post in the app. It will pop-up a notification “later,” which allows you to post the content you created with just a couple of clicks.


People, personalities, passions

To Be United Methodist Our pastor is being moved to another church. How is this decision made?


n The United Methodist Church, clergy appointments are made annually by the bishop, who has the responsibility for setting all the pastoral appointments in the conference. This unique system of assigning clergy dates back to John Wesley. Congregations in The United Methodist Church do not “call” or “hire” their pastors. Each year, usually in the fall or winter, the Staff/Pastor/Parish Relations Committee consults with the district superintendent and communicates if it desires a change in pastoral leadership. Recommendations of the commmittee are advisory only. Pastors also can indicate annually whether they wish to stay at their current

appointments, wish to move to another appointment or have no preference. However, they are not assured that they will get their first choice. Elders and local pastors in The United Methodist Church agree to serve where sent and to accept and abide by the appointments. Deacons, on the other hand, generally find their own employment in a local congregation, elsewhere in the connectional system or outside the church and then request their bishops to appoint them to those ministry settings. The bishop and the cabinet (all the district superintendents in the conference) look at appointment needs throughout the conference, taking into consideration the needs of each church, the gifts and talents

of each pastor and other circumstances in the conference. They then determine the appointments for each church in the conference. The bishop will “fix” the appointments at the annual conference meeting each year. These meetings usually take place about April, May and June. Your pastor or your district superintendent can answer other questions and address any concerns you have about the system of appointing pastors in The United Methodist Church.


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Interpreter | 2017 July/Aug  

Living Together in a Diverse World

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