July 2024 FFL

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the General Secretary

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

July 2024

I write to you amidst the hustle and bustle in our preparation for Conference22 from the World Methodist Council headquarters in Waynesville, North Carolina.

Last month I participated in the African Methodist Council, Heads of Conference Summit and African Women’s Conference in Lagos, Nigeria. (see excerpts of the Summit Communique on page 7) In my address entitled; “Leadership in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and ambiguous World,” I stressed that some of the words to describe the past decade have been chaos, anxiety, crisis, dislocation, alienation, loneliness, uncertainty, and longing. I hear some people refer to our current generation as the “cut flower generation” meaning a generation severed from their cultural, spiritual, and moral roots.

I am confident that at Conference22 in Gothenburg, we will draw from the deep wells of experience and drink from the calabash of collective wisdom within the Methodist family. The keynote speakers and seminar leaders will also help us reconnect to our Wesleyan spiritual moorings and challenged us to renew our commitment to discipleship.

I was filled with joy to see how many of our churches celebrated anniversaries of women’s ordination in ministry. Since its inception in 1970, the Church of North India reached an historic moment on 21 May 2024 when it welcomed its first woman bishop, the Right Reverend Violet Nayak.

As our team completes our preparation for Conference22 – On the Move: Migration, Pilgrimage and Guiding Lights and has an opportunity to share in the July 4, Independence Day celebration, I am very conscious that America was built on the blood, sweat, tears and hard labour of immigrants. Affirming diversity is at the heart of the nation’s ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Does the words on the Statue of Liberty that welcomed our forebears still ring true for the modern pilgrim seeking freedom; “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuge of your teeming shore. Send these homeless tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Do the words inscribed on the Liberty Bell eight days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence still have meaning? Not surprisingly, it is a quote from Leviticus 25:10, which reads: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”

May our readers who are on summer break and vacation enjoy the time with family and friends.

Shalom, Ivan

The Upper Room’s Guide to Prayer Visit Prayer Room at Conference

In his Welcome of The Upper Room’s Guide to Prayer for The World Methodist Conference 2024, Bishop Ivan M. Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, writes, “I pray that this prayer guide will assist us in the Wesleyan, Methodist, Uniting, and United Church traditions as we undertake an inward journey. May we examine ourselves more fully as we seek a more intimate relationship with God. May we engage in meaningful fellowship and listen to one another’s stories of faith as we forge partnerships and stand in solidarity with those in need.” This is the spirit in which The Upper Room is partnering with the World Methodist Council to provide prayer support for the World Methodist Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, August 13-18, 2024.

The Upper Room’s prayer support for the event includes an onsite prayer room and a digital prayer guide for participants to use each day of the conference.

The prayer room, located in R21 of the convention center, will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. as a sacred place of rest, peace, and prayer. All attendees are welcome to visit and engage with a series of multi-sensory prayer experiences. As people “on the move” in daily life, these prayer practices can be carried as a reminder of God’s faithful presence.

The digital prayer guide will feature a suggested spiritual practice for each day in addition to the meditations, scripture reading, Thought for the Day, and prayer focus. Participants who prefer a physical copy of the prayer guide are invited to download and print the guide at home before the event. At the event, a few printed copies will also be available in the prayer room, R21. The prayer guide will be available for download by email to attendees soon.

Additionally, The Upper Room’s Director of Healing and Resilience, Rev. Dr. Ron Bell, will facilitate two workshops at the event on the topics of Migration and Pilgrimaging from the Various Christian Traditions.

For over 80 years, The Upper Room daily devotional guide has encouraged people everywhere to share their stories of faith. Not long after its first issue was printed,

The Upper Room began crossing borders and being translated into Spanish, Korean, and Hindustani. Today, The Upper Room is translated into more than 30 languages and can be found in over 100 countries, connecting believers around the world each day.

The Upper Room’s international publishing partners work to translate, print, and distribute copies of The Upper Room daily devotional guide to people in their country or region. For many people around the world, devotional material in their native tongue is difficult to find, so the international editions of The Upper Room are considered highly valuable resources.

The Upper Room® is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual life of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginnings in 1935 as a daily devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service.

Have you Registered?

The World Methodist Conference will begin in Gothenburg, Sweden a month from now.

Have you registered for this life-changing event that will allow you to hear renowned speakers, make new international friends, and share in the joy of the greater Methodist and Wesleyan family?

Register now, through the link below:


After 8 July, visa invitation letters from the host country of Sweden will no longer be available as there is not adequate time to make appointments and secure visas.

Payment and registration may be made onsite at the Conference using a credit card, Swedish kroner, euros, or US dollars.

We look forward to your presence for this unforgettable experience. The Conference meets every Quinquennium. The World Methodist Council was established in 1881 as a body that allows the family of Methodists, Wesleyans, and Uniting Churches to join around one table to share common joys and concerns.

A Time of Remembrance

A Time of Remembrance will take place at the Council meeting on 14 August as it traditionally has for those who have gone to reap their reward in Glory and join the Saints. If you have anyone who should be acknowledged for their leadership in the family or WMC, and who died after August 2018, please share their names with us by 15 July to Jackie Bolden at jbolden@worldmethodistcouncil.org. These names will be displayed during the Council meeting.

Leaders and Speakers for the Upcoming 22nd Conference

Ivan Rusyn is a president and professor of missions at the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (www.uets.net). Ivan is an ordained minister of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church and co-pastoring a new church in Kyiv.

From the first day of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Ivan has been actively involved in a relief ministry with his UETS team in cities such as Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and other. The tragedy of the ongoing war and the extreme suffering of people have reshaped the theology and practice of missions.

Paulo Lopes serves as Director of Emerging Leadership at World Methodist Evangelism. He is originally from Brazil and he believed his calling was to become a diplomat. He and God just disagreed on what kind of diplomat he would become. Paulo and his wife Juliana came to the US shortly after marrying in 2007. They now have three Brazilian-American daughters: Carolina, Sofia, and Olivia.

Outside of WME, Paulo has been on staff in the local church and denominational levels, most recently as Director of Next Generation Ministries for the Virginia Conference (UMC). Additionally, he currently serves as a leadership coach through Spiritual Leadership, Inc (SLI). Paulo is passionate about evangelism, helping people and ministries become clearer and better at what they do, and he loves getting to preach or teach.

Dr. Cynthia A. Bond Hopson is a graduate of Clark College, Murray (KY) State University, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. After 18 years on the Philander Board of Trustees, she became interim president and CEO on 1 July. She is on loan from the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have been around more than 150 years and are responsible for educating some of the world’s most effective and influential leaders. These resilient and essential institutions have weathered storms and survived threats—literally, politically, and financially-- by re-inventing, re-imagining, and refreshing themselves as they welcome and serve students and scholars from around the world. Creative partnerships, intuitive programming, coupled with visionary leadership, helps them remain beacons of light and hope amidst financial and enrollment challenges.

First Church Miami UMC transitions Nearly hopeless to a continuing force for good

Rev. Dr. Audrey Warren was excited about the possibilities when she learned of her appointment to First Miami United Methodist Church in 2015.

She was leaving a small rural church with few resources and headed to one in downtown Miami on a desirable property. Rev. Dr. Warren envisioned finally having sufficient money and people to make a positive impact.

“I had come from a church in one of the neediest places in Florida. I had to beg for a lot of things, and the Conference paid most of my salary,” she said. “When I got this appointment, I thought, OK, now I won’t have to beg for curriculum and all those things. Then I got here and realized, hey, there wasn’t an abundance of resources.”

First Church Miami, like other downtown churches, had been declining for decades and needed significant budget cuts to survive. Most of the congregation was older and retired. Several members who were among the biggest givers died or moved away not long after she got there.

However, where some saw obstacles, Rev. Dr. Warren saw opportunities.

“The church wanted to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in downtown Miami in the future and to do so for longer than the next few years, it would need to change,” she said. “We were at a point where we had to leverage our property.”

That 1.2-acre site at 5th Avenue and Biscayne Blvd. was some of Miami’s hottest real estate.

What followed was a decidedly bold move that could be a model for other churches in similar situations. In January 2018, the congregation decided to sell its church to Property Markets Group (PMG) for about $55 million.

The developers planned a mixed-use project that includes residences, offices, retail, a parking garage – and the new home of First Church Miami.

Using part of the proceeds of the sale to buy back space in the development, First Miami now has 25,000 square feet of space spread over multiple floors in the new building. There is room for the church’s coffee shop—open to everyone—a gym, a yoga room, and, of course, the worship center.

The love of Jesus is at the center of it all.

“When I visited First Miami many years ago, the building was very old in the middle of skyscrapers where a lot of businesses were being developed, but the church wasn’t one of those,” South East District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Simon Osunlana said. “Rev. Warren deserves a lot of credit for what has happened since then

“She led the congregation, knowing full well that some people would be in favor of the change and some wouldn’t, and it could be a very polarized environment. But she led in such a way that speaks volumes about her courage because it was a huge endeavor. It also shows how smart and savvy a person she is, someone who can think outside of the box.

“She is someone who can dream and look into the future. She is a visionary leader and an adaptive leader as well. In my opinion, this is a huge reflection of the ministry that continues to unfold every day.”

Read more of this story at https://www.flumc.org/

Praying for Peace with Justice in Gaza

7th WMC Online Prayer Meeting – On the Move – July 9, 2024, 6 pm GMT

Since January 2024, 20 to 30 people met every second Tuesday a month to learn more about people who are displaced because of armed conflicts, climate change, hunger or poverty. The information led us into prayer, as we prepare ourselves for the World Methodist Council and Conference and Gothenburg, Sweden in August 2024 (www.worldmethodistconference.org) under the theme “ON THE MOVE”.

July 9 will be our last meeting. We will focus on the desperate situation of civilians in the Gaza Strip; most of them had to flee the attacks by Israeli Forces more than once. All suffer because of lack of food, clean water, medicine and other basic needs, all are traumatized, many people lost loved ones. We are grateful that Mr. Nader Abuamsha, Director of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, agreed to be with us. He will share firsthand information that not only leads us to prayers, but also to action towards peace with justice.

We will be meeting Tuesday, July 9, 6 pm GMT, which is 2 pm EDT, 7 pm BST, 8 pm CEST and 9 pm IDT.

Registration is needed through the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZclfuytrD0tHtQ7VdxBK5GGGHa-wnP0U5bB

Please share the invitation in your networks.

Mr. Nader Abuamsha, Director of Palestinian Refugees

Meet the incoming UCA President

In just over a week, Rev Charissa Suli will be installed as the 17th President of the Uniting Church in Australia. In this week’s National Update, we profile the next president, her inspiring and faith-filled journey and her hopes for a transformed and reconciled Uniting Church.

Read this, get your Intercultural Neighbouring Sunday resource, find out how to connect with the Assembly, listen to the final #Dwelling ep & much more: https:// mailchi.mp/nat/update-1-7-july

Rosemarie Wenner

Register to attend IAMSCU, WMC Pre Conference Event!

The purpose of the IAMSCU International Meeting in 2024 is to follow-up on the Joint IAMSCU-MSN International Conference “Transforming Lives,” held in the United Kingdom in April 2023, and take advantage of the two events happening in Europe in August 2024 (Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies

and the World Methodist Conference) to reconnect, strengthen the IAMSCU community, expand the discussion on “conciliation” and Indigenous Peoples initiated during the conference in 2023. This event will also reflect on how issues related to worldwide inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and solidarity (WIDEAS) as well opportunities for “intercultural connectionalism” are being integrated into formation processes at educational institutions in the Wesleyan and Methodist traditions. The IAMSCU International Meeting will consist of three pillars.

Register today for the event on August 10-13: https://cvent.me/AYMebO

Africa Methodist Council holds Heads of Conferences Summit

The Africa Methodist Council Heads of Conferences Summit and the second Africa Women’s Conference in Lagos met 29 May to 3 June at the Wesley Chapel, Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria. The guiding theme: “A Revitalized Methodist Movement for the Transformation of Africa’s Socio-Political and Economic Landscape.”

Thirteen countries represented 24 Conferences connected by common heritage and faith, grounded in the Wesleyan tradition defined as Methodists, United Methodists, Africa Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Methodist Episcopal, Free Methodists, Church of the Nazarene and the Salvation Army. This family is driven by its vision to be a Unifying Wesleyan Movement for holistic evangelism for the Transformation of Africa and Humanity.

Those present that we live in a dangerous world, a century of contrasts where negative forces both natural and unnatural disasters like tsunamis, wars, floods, drought, and recession threaten our survival as humanity. The fact that the church is surviving at a time of despotic leadership across the globe. The fact that the human rights of women, children, persons with disability, people from lesser tribes, and other

marginalized persons are trampled upon causes us to worry.

We were challenged: to question our form of being as either a movement, an institution, or an assembly to re-evaluate our relevance as Wesleyans in the face of Africa’s socio-political and economic realities; to be more gender and youth-inclusive in our approach to ministry and mission and to revisit our understanding of the Missio Dei.

Read more of this story here.

Planting trees and ideas at Dundrum Methodist Church

At Dundrum Methodist Church, on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland, we wanted to continue to bear ‘eco witness’ to the wider community - and plans for a micro forest had been on our agenda for some two years.

Brain-child of the France-based landscape gardener, Robert Heslip, son of one of our team members, a micro forest on the lines of the Miyawaki method had been suggested and had instantly captured our imagination. Robert outlined the benefits of the method and his vision for the grounds of the church of which he had been a member so many years earlier.

In essence, the Miyawaki method involves planting native trees very close together so that an underground root network establishes very quickly. This root network provides many benefits to the trees, including the ability to pass nutrients and water to those trees that need them most. By growing faster, these trees jump start the forest creation process, capture more carbon and produce more biodiversity both below and above the soil line. Against the backdrop of the climate emergency and stark warnings about the global loss of biodiversity, being able to create diverse healthy forests (albeit super micro at Dundrum Methodist!) can only be of benefit to our threatened planet.

Robert’s exciting plans for planting out the grounds in large pockets of trees and areas for pollinator plants and shrubs, together with ideas for funding and the belief that this would

serve and, hopefully, involve the community, were presented to the church council. Funding was sought and very generously supplied, in the form of 365 saplings, by Richard and David Mulcahy, brothers who have founded and funded the 100 Million Tree Project (100milliontreesproject.ie) – check out their website.

On two Saturdays in early March, with the help of the Girls’ Brigade and people from the congregation, we planted a variety of hazel, whitethorn, blackthorn, spindle and crab apple trees and some guelder roses.

It was a wonderful experience to have the girls involved in the planting. The legacy to them is that they will be able to watch the trees grow and mature as they do themselves and to appreciate the benefits of this micro forest to the environment.

In undertaking this project and in continuing to encourage care of creation in our worship and routine activities, we endeavour to witness to our responsibilities as 21st century Christians living on a beautiful fragile planet, the one about which we read that “God saw all that God had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31), a world we are tasked to care for with justice and respect.

Helen Shiel and Rosabelle Crampton, with Gillian Kingston

22nd World Methodist Conference Gothenburg, Sweden 13-18 August

Please send press releases, articles and resources! Submissions should be a page or less (450-500 words), edited and ready to publish. Contact us by Monday, 22 July at communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org if you would like your story to be included in the August edition of the First Friday Letter.

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

The World Methodist Council’s Conference website is at worldmethodistconference.org

About the First Friday Letter

The First Friday Newsletter is a monthly publication of the World Methodist Council.

Publisher: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary Communications: Michaela Bryson

To subscribe to this newsletter, please email communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org. Follow the Council on social media!!

All stories and photos, unless otherwise stated, are protected by their respective copyrights. Please do not copy without expressed written permission from the Council.

Methodist Council

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