2022 December FFL

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the General Secretary

Dear Friends, Warm Christian greetings!

A few weeks ago, on my visit to the Holy Land, I followed the well-heeled road to Manger Square in Bethle hem, where I watched many children playing, oblivious of the hoards of pilgrims. Two popular songs kept ringing in my head. The first, “We are the World – We are the children,” was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, whom some major artists joined to raise funds for suffering people worldwide. The second song was “The greatest love of all,” with the refrain, “we believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them show the way”. Indeed, children are our future.

During this Advent season, we reflect on the one who is “The Greatest Love of all,” Jesus the Christ, born as a baby in a manager – Emmanuel – God with us.

While Mary, the mother of Jesus, was visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, her unborn child was the first to respond and recognize Jesus. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice, she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry……….As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy”. (Luke 1:41-44)

The Bible is filled with stories of how God calls and uses children in salvation history. God used the young boy Joseph who was abandoned by his brothers, to save many people’s lives. (Genesis 39-50) Miriam saved Moses, who led the Israelites to freedom. (Exodus 2:7) Samuel, the young boy, heard God’s call and succeed ed Eli. (I Samuel 3) David defeated the Philistine giant, Goliath. (I Samuel 17:40-52) The unnamed servant girl who worked in Naaman’s home told him about a prophet who could heal him. (2 Kings 5) I can continue with stories of Daniel and his friends, the boy with the loaves and fishes, Timothy, the young evangelist, and many other Biblical characters who were all used by God in a mighty way.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the holidays, let us be more intentional in protecting children’s rights as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. May our focus on the Christ child make us attentive to the voices and concerns of children in our homes, neighborhood, and world? Chil dren are our future.

In this issue of the First Friday Letter, we have links to Advent Resources from the Uniting Church in Austra lia, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Church in Britain.

Enjoy the read, and may you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas.

December 2022
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Shalom, Ivan Photo 121560754 / Children Playing © Liderina | Dreamstime.com

Condolences for Brian E. Beck

It is with great sadness that Wesley House an nounces the death of the Revd Dr Brian E Beck, alumnus, former Tutor and Principal of the Col lege.

Brian was educated at the City of London School, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and Wes ley House, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge he met and married Marga ret Ludlow and together they had three children.

After his theological education at Wesley House Bri an was appointed Assistant Tutor at Handsworth Col lege (1957-1959); he was ordained at the Methodist Conference of 1960 while serving as a circuit minis ter in Suffolk (1959-1962). He served on the staff of Saint Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, Kenya (1962-1968) during which time the Methodist Church in Kenya became autonomous from the British Meth odist Conference. Brian was instrumental in drawing up the constitution and standing orders of the new church, many of which still stand, and he is fondly re membered in Kenya today. Only a couple of weeks ago Brian and Margaret were recalling travelling to Kenya by boat through the Suez Canal, and then their jour ney home which involved packing their belongings and their children into a small Renault which they then drove from Nairobi to Cape Town!

On his return to Britain Brian was appointed Tutor at Wesley House where he taught New Testament in the college and in the Faculty of Divinity of the Universi ty of Cambridge. He published two books on the New Testament: Reading the New Testament Today (1977 & 1992), and Christian Character in the Gospel of Luke (1989). In 1980 Brian became Principal of Wesley House before becoming the Secretary of the Methodist Con ference in Britain in 1984 until his retirement in 1998.

From 1969 to 2007 Brian shared in the leadership of the international Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies and during this time he deepened his own in terest in Wesleyan theology, which, in retirement, he taught to Wesley House students. Many of his essays on Wesleyan and Methodist theology were collected into a volume published by Routledge in 2017 entitled, Methodist Heritage and Identity. He also published, Ex ploring Methodism’s Heritage, the Story of the Oxford Institute (2004) and contributed to Ashgate’s Research Companion to World Methodism (2013).

In 1993 Brian served as the President of the British Methodist Conference, chairing the difficult debate on human sexuality with great wisdom and patience, that resulted in the six resolutions that for more than 20 years held the church together across deep differenc es. In his letter to the Methodist people immediately afterwards, he wrote, “The Conference had been in vited to adopt resolutions which took divergent views of the issues…. in the event, the Conference did not adopt any of those resolutions. Instead it adopted a pastoral rather than a legal approach and decided to affirm both the traditional moral teaching of the Chris tian church, and the participation and ministry of lesbi ans and gay men in the church, while leaving decisions about particular cases to be taken by the appropriate committees against this background.”

In 1998, in the year he retired, Brian was award ed the Lambeth DD – a doctorate awarded to emi nent and much-published scholars in the field of theol ogy. He and Margaret retired to Cambridge where Brian continued to serve the connexion in a wide range of capacities, and lead worship in the circuit and in the college until January of this year when he preached his last service at Haslingfield, seventy years after he re ceived his first note to preach. He was actively involved in college life, teaching Methodism, and on occasion, New Testament Greek. He looked after the college’s archive and rare books until this summer, only surren dering his keys after the college’s centenary celebra tions in July as his health began to decline.

Brian’s spirituality was rooted in the hymns of Charles Wesley. Of Charles’ work, published as Hymns on the Lord’s Supper in 1745, Brian wrote in 2007 in the Ep worth Review, “gratitude is due, not just for the book and its contents but, in the communion of saints, for the one who wrote it… who in the offering of his own poetic gifts exemplified his own words: Take my soul and body’s powers, Take my memory, mind, and will, All my goods, and all my hours, All I know and all I feel, All I think, and speak, and do; Take my heart but make it new”.

Brian also exemplified these words, offering his consid erable powers of memory, mind and will, dry humour, kindness and wisdom to the church in the many offices he held, as a scholar, as a liturgist, as a preacher and as a teacher.

Read more of this story at https://worldmethodistcoun cil.org/2022/11/23/brian-edgar-beck-1933-2022/

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Brian Edgar Beck (1933-2022)

WMC 2022 Peace Award Presentation Announcement

Award Presentation will be

2023.

CCA calls for uniting to end violence against women and girls

Chiang Mai: The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) issued a statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marked annu ally on 25 November.

CCA urged its member churches and councils, as well as all people of conscience, to be united in ending violence against women and girls.

“The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘UNITE! Activ ism to End Violence Against Women and Girls,’ which aims to mobilize all peoples to take on roles as activ ists to prevent violence against women, to stand in solidarity with women’s movements around the world

and resist the invalidation of women’s emancipation struggles, and, finally, to call for a world free of vio lence against women and girls,” reads the statement issued on behalf of CCA by the General Secretary, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara.

The full text of the CCA’s Statement on Internation al Day for the Elimination of Violence against Wom en–2022 can be found below:

https://mcusercontent.com/ebc902cee14162197fd 5d4aa3/files/293b4d64-277b-15a1-71c2237ec8b0854f/internation_day_for_elimination_of_ violence_against_women.pdf

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The 2022 Peace held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Saturday, 18 February The Award will be presented to Rev. W.P. Ebenezer Joseph by General Secretary Ivan Abrahams. Read more on this presentation in the January Newsletter. UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls

Scholarship opportunities for the 22nd World Methodist Council Conference are open now. Register by clicking on the link below.

https://worldmethodistcouncil.org/wp-content/up loads/2022/11/WMC-Application-Form.pdf

Wesley House offers new online course

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further information can be found
1,000 US Dollars available for Conference lodging. Apply for Youth and Young Adult Scholarship Starting from January 2023
HERE

NCM Philippines responds to Typhoon Paeng devastation

Typhoon Paeng, a severe tropical storm, devastated the Philippines over three days in late October. Mil lions worth of agricultural products and infrastructure were destroyed due to flooding and landslides, which claimed the lives of more than 150 people.

Several days after Typhoon Paeng (international name Nalgae) devastated the Philippines, Nazarene Compas sionate Ministries identified locations where relief aid is most needed.

NCM Philippines mobilized the Nazarene Disaster Re sponse Teams in three districts to respond and dis tribute goods.

The relief goods consisted of food packs with rice, canned food, biscuits, milk, and coffee. Three hun dred fifty families from three districts (Metro Manila – 17 churches, Palawan – 5 churches, and Southern Tagalog – 1 church) received the food packs.

The Philippines typically deals with disasters like ty phoons until December.

NCM Philippines requests prayer for:

The Nazarene Disaster Response Teams and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Philippines.

That the teams will share the hope and love of Jesus even in challenging situations.

--Church of the Nazarene Asia-Pacific

Project Feed Packs Thousands of Meals for Those in Need

Project Feed, a meal-packing partnership of East Ohio Conference Young People’s Ministries and Rise Against Hunger, made a triumphant return after a two-year hi atus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sunday af ternoon event gathered teens and their adult leaders from across the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church to pack meal kits to be distributed throughout parts of the world where food is not as plentiful as within the United States.

Nearly 200 people worked in teams at Wadsworth Mid dle School on November 13 packing meals that will each feed six people. Their efforts produced two near

ly full pallets of meals! The atmosphere of this year’s Project Feed was quite joyful, and the video below cap tures the excitement and passion that East Ohio youth have for serving others around the globe.

Watch the video below...

https://vimeo.com/771709811

To learn more about Rise Against Hunger you can visit their website at www.riseagainsthunger.org.

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“We are thankful for God’s provision and for the lives of our pastors and volunteers who helped during the relief operations,” said Jaime Eniceo, NCM Philippines coordinator.

Church responds as famine threatens Congo

which helped us get closer to the true picture of the staggering scale of food insecurity in DRC.”

Aristide Ongone Obame, Food and Agriculture Organi zation representative in the country, considers social and political stability key to strengthening food secu rity.

“The recurrent conflicts in eastern DRC and the suf fering they cause remain a serious concern,” he said. “Social and political stability is essential to strengthen food security and the resilience of vulnerable popula tions. We urgently need to focus on producing food where it is needed most. The main agricultural season is approaching, and there is no time to lose.”

Unda said neighboring areas not yet affected by inse curity should redouble their efforts in agriculture to produce even more food.

United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda prays for peanuts produced during the last growing season in Kindu, Congo. With an estimated 27 million people facing food insecurity in the country, the East Congo bishop has called for redoubling efforts to combat hun ger through agriculture. Photo by Chadrack Tambwe Londe, UM News.

United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda encour ages people of faith to engage in agricultural efforts to address famine in Congo.

“All people, United Methodists and non-United Meth odists alike,” he said, “need to understand that this is a crucial moment. We must embark, without wasting time, in agriculture in order to produce more food and fight famine.”

Elie Etako, who works for the church’s East Congo De velopment Bureau, said the field cultivated by young people during the last growing season made it possi ble to harvest more than 3,500 pounds of groundnuts. The maize crop did not fare as well, but the harvest for cassava extends from November through December.

In Congo, millions of people have been affected by famine aggravated by conflict in some areas and the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations’ World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organiza tion report that the number of people affected by high acute food insecurity in the DRC is estimated at 27 million, or one in three people. This includes nearly 7 million people facing emergency levels of acute hun ger.

“For the first time,” said Peter Musoko, representative for the World Food Programme in Congo, “we were able to analyze the vast majority of the population, “The surplus of agricultural production in peaceful ar

eas will have to be exported to the provinces affected by insecurity caused by armed groups,” Unda said.

Earlier this year, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries approved $3.5 million to help realize the late Bishop John K. Yambasu’s dream of making The Unit ed Methodist Church in Africa self-sufficient through agriculture. During its fall meeting, board members approved another nearly $1.1 million for the Yambasu agriculture initiative.

Nico Ndomba, who teaches at Kindu Methodist Univer sity, said Congo has millions of acres of arable land just waiting to be cultivated.

“In Congo,” Ndomba said, “you don’t need chemical fertilizers to get the yield.”

However, Etako noted, The United Methodist Church in eastern Congo does not have its own land to culti vate the fields.

As part of the new efforts, Edmund Melusi Makowa will coordinate the agriculture department. A Global Ministries missionary, Makowa will serve as a resource person for agriculture and food security issues in east ern Congo.

“Edmund will provide technical expertise and promote technologies on sustainable agriculture for the episco pal area of eastern Congo, according to the vision and mission of The United Methodist Church,” Unda said when he introduced Makowa to the delegates of the Eastern Congo Annual Conference in July 2022.

Londe is a French news editor for UM News in the Con go Central Conference. Read more of this article at https://www.umnews.org/

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Advent Resources

Check

out the following links for Advent Resources

Uniting Church in Australia https://uniting.church/children-and-families-advent-december/ AMEC

https://mailchi.mp/83e85f980197/2020-advent-resources-from-the-amec-publishing-house251781?e=56f59df310

The Methodist Church in Britain https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/there-is-room-advent-and-christmas-2022-resources/

Times Square Remains a Centerpiece of Advent Advertising

The bustling holiday crowds in Times Square will see an invitation from The United Methodist Church in the weeks leading up to Christmas: join us as we seek out the hope present in God’s love.

New York City is a top travel destination in December, and Times Square is among the most visited attractions. Times Square is called the Crossroads of the World for good reason. Nearly 360,000 pedestrians pass through every day in a typical year. The area is so brightly illu minated that it can even be seen from the International Space Station.

From November 28 through Christmas Eve, United Methodist Communications will be airing messages on a mosaic of nine high-impact synchronized digital screens – over 8,800 square feet of signage – just out side Manhattan’s busiest subway station. Complement ing the jumbo animated ads at Times Square and 42nd Street will be an additional 74 subway digital boards.

The “Connect with Joy” campaign will remind the mil lions who visit Times Square that the hope, love and joy we celebrate at Christmas is already present in the world – and we can connect to it right now, together.

It’s been almost two decades since The United Method ist Church’s ads were first featured in Times Square in November 2003 – but not without controversy. Reuters initially rejected the advertising on its 28-floor, 7,000 square-foot electronic billboard after United Methodist Communications signed a $30,000 contract with its outdoor advertising agency, citing a policy against reli gious advertising.

As reported by United Methodist News, appeals from United Methodist Communications and the National Council of Churches expressed concern that religious organizations should have the same rights to speak in the marketplace as companies selling commercial products. In the wake of the publicity that followed, Reuters’ chief executive reversed the decision in a let ter in which he said the company had reconsidered its position and apologized. Thus the story had a happy

ending. In an even bigger campaign two years later, United Methodist ads were in full view when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade rolled by Times Square.

“While the Times Square messaging remains a major component of this year’s Advent welcoming campaign, there’s much more,” said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “English and Spanish-language billboards in 13 U.S. cities depicting a Nativity scene will reach motorists traveling the na tion’s highways. And we hope to reach a younger audi ence with a new spot for TikTok and Snapchat, as well as other social and digital media advertising.”

Read more at https://www.resourceumc.org/

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Minister or Manipulate

Galatians 5:13, Luke 6:27-31, Romans 5:8

All of us are confronted on a daily, sometimes hour ly basis, with a decision that makes all the difference in our relationships, in our lives, and in the lives of those we relate to. It’s hard to notice it in our every day business, but it’s VERY easy to see when we look backwards. It’s the decision to MINISTER or to MANIP ULATE.

I confess I chose these words because they both start with an “M”, and I hope this will help you remember better. They’re not meant to be lofty words. They actu ally describe quite precisely what we’re talking about here. Here’s the way it works:

.... “I was at work when my boss/employee said some thing that made me upset. Then I ______________.”

.... “I had just sat on the couch to get some rest after a long day and she/he asked me to help with yet anoth er chore. Then I ________________________.”

.... “I found out that someone at work was talking be hind my back. So I ______________________.”

.... “He/She lied to me! Can you believe it?! So I decided to ______________________.”

Obviously we could mention a thousand other scenari os here. The point is that for each one of the hundreds of situations we find ourselves in each day, we are con stantly filling those blanks with the result of a choice: To MANIPULATE or to MINISTER.

So what’s the difference? It’s simple. The difference is in the fruit it produces. When we decide to minister, we produce life, peace, joy. When we manipulate we produce death, anxiety, strife, and division.

Still, so many times we end up choosing to manipu late. I’ll give my boss a piece of my mind; I’ll tell my wife that she’s being unreasonable and should give me a break; I’ll get even with my work colleague; I’ll find a way to humiliate the friend who lied to me. And 10 out of 10 times, when we choose to manipulate, we find ourselves empty and unhappy.

I’d like to suggest a few ways to help us make a better decision the next time we are in one of these situa tions:

1- When we MINISTER, focus is on the other person, not ourselves (Luke 6:27-31)

As humans, our tendency is to act selfishly. We feel it’s not enough to settle things. We need to make things even! But scripture challenges us to act differently.

And as counter-cultural as it sounds, more often than not great things happen in relationships when we fo cus on the well being of another person.

2- When we MINISTER, we are turning to Jesus to fulfill our deepest needs (Romans 5:8)

Most of our decisions to manipulate people or situa tions come out of our need for security and for signif icance. In other words, we want to have the sense that we are safe, loved, cared for, and we want to know that we have a purpose or a meaning in life. When we turn to Jesus to satisfy this need, we lose the need to find it in others.

This is a reality that even Jesus lived. Before Jesus could minister to people, He needed to find fulfill ment in God the Father. Matthew 3:17 says after Jesus’ baptism, that a voice from heaven spoke: “This is MY BELOVED SON, in whom I am WELL PLEASED.” In one short sentence, the Father gave Jesus what he needed in order to minister to others.

Do you know How God feels about you? Do you rely on Him to fulfill your deepest needs?

3- When we MINISTER, we do it out of the freedom we have received in Jesus (Galatians 5:13)

Jesus frees us in two ways. He fulfills our deepest needs, and He frees us from the bondage of sin. Be cause we are free from reliance on pleasing others, and because we are free from sin, we are also free to bless others. God blesses us so that we can bless others.

We tend to say we are blessed when things go our way, or when we feel good about things. But the truth is we are blessed because we are free. And we are free so that we can bless others.

Do you know that you are free? Do you know that be cause of what Jesus did on the cross, you no longer have to live with the weight of the world over your shoulders?

God, teach is to minister instead of to manipulate in all our daily interactions. Amen.

At World Methodist Evangelism, we know sometimes ministry can be lonely. Consequently, it can be hard to find trusted support and resources. So we have built an online community platform to connect and re source Methodist leaders from around the world. It’s called WE419, and we love for you to join our launch in January.

Paulo Lopes is the director of Emerging Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism. He can be found at pau lo@worldmethodist.org.

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On the Web

This and past First Friday Letters can be found online at FirstFridayLetter.worldmethodistcouncil.org.

The World Methodist Council’s website may be found at worldmethodistcouncil.org

About the First Friday Letter

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The First Friday Newsletter is a monthly publication of the World Methodist Council. Publisher: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary Communications: Michaela Bryson All stories and photos, unless otherwise stated, are protected by their respective copyrights. Please do not copy without expressed written permission from the Council.
Photo credits: Perkins School of Theology/ R. Hipps