Friday, March 9, 2018

Mackey appointed DCM, July 1

Rev. Jason Mackey
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference; grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of Our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

Joyfully, I want to share this very exciting news with our entire conference family. Rev. Jason R. Mackey will be appointed as the new Director of Connectional Ministries and Administrative Services of the Susquehanna Annual Conference, effective July 1, 2018. Jason will be a member of the Extended Cabinet in his new role.

Rev. Mackey is currently serving as the senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church, Hummelstown. During his time as their pastor, the Trinity congregation has demonstrated a strong ability and witness as a vibrant, vital congregation, and is experiencing significant growth spiritually, as well as numerically. Prior to this appointment, Jason was one of the pastors at CrossPoint United Methodist Church. While on staff, he was instrumental in the establishment of Perking Point, a coffee house ministry in Hummelstown. Jason’s first appointment was Stevens Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Harrisburg.

Rev. Mackey has also been serving as the chairperson of our conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. His knowledge and leadership of these very critical areas is greatly appreciated and will continue to be a huge asset to the conference. He has also served on the Sessions Committee.

Jason is a transformational leader who is very excited about what God is birthing today. In each of his appointments, Rev. Mackey has been intentional and instrumental in helping each congregation connect with their neighborhood. The same capacity and spirit will flow into his new ministry setting and flourish. He will respond to the demanding responsibilities with competence, confidence, and grace. I know that God has many wonderful things in store for the Susquehanna Conference in and through his outstanding gifts in ministry.

I would like to ask you to uphold Jason, his wife, Christy, and their children Eli and Christian in prayer. Also, please pray as well for the Trinity congregation during this time of transition. God is faithful and will continue to be with us for such a time as this.

With You in Christ’s Ministry,
Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

Moving our church into the future - Bishop's Clergy Retreat

By Shawn Gilgore, Director of Communications Ministry

The 2018 Bishop’s Retreat for Clergy Families was held January 15-17 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. The retreat was a time away for clergy and their families to be able to re-center on God and to learn more ways to be fruitful for the people of the Susquehanna Conference. Keynote speaker was Rev. Tom Berlin, lead pastor at Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia. Rev. Berlin’s theme for the retreat was, ‘Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results.’

Monday evening’s opening worship, which was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featured guest preacher Rev. Greg Milinovich, pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in State College. His message spoke to the mission statement of the Annual Conference: ‘To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.’ “It isn’t just something we say,” said Milinovich. “It’s about living the way Jesus lived and loving the way Jesus loved … if we love in action, we march toward freedom.

“Fifty-three years ago, Dr. King spoke in the town that I serve, State College, Pennsylvania, using a refrain that night that has brought hope to many people in the years since. He said ‘Yes, we shall overcome. Because the arc of the moral is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

Later in his sermon, Milinovich found a rallying call for all of us to come together in Christ. “It’s the brokenness of Jesus in unconditional love. It’s in that, that the community of faith could have a common purpose – they could rally around something – a guiding force, a unifying power that would bind them together. That in the darkness of death and despair, in the utter darkness of the death of Jesus, we meet the one who is the light and who is love … and there is nothing that can separate us from that love.”

In the teaching sessions, Rev. Berlin took steps to make sure that we think about the United Methodist Church the right way. He asked, “Share some statements that sum up your experience with our church. Hear the word ‘our’? Notice that I didn’t say ‘your.’ Your means, ‘They own it.’ Our means, ‘We are in this together.’ And if you ask ‘Is it really that important?’ Yes, it is. Words are important … I’ve learned story after story from the members of my church who told me how God had used them. I learned stories of hardship. I learned things that I had to work through, and I learned things not to do.”

“You need to know your creation story,” said Berlin. “If you know your creation story, you can use that to get your church toward its future. You can get to a future that is consistent with your past, and your church’s values you care about the most will be reflected in a future that we make together and that is based on your past. And it should bring hope.

“Methodists value some things: vital worship; they love music; they love preaching; they value knowing God, and they love the corporate aspects of that; meeting in small groups to study the Bible together and to go deeper in their faith. And Methodists have always been people who love to bless their community. We have always been at the center of the community so that Christ can be at the center of our communities.”

Commission moderators emphasize mission as key to way forward

Commission on a Way Forward

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From Where I Sit: Status, privilege, and church membership

By Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, Director of Connectional Ministries

This last year has been incredibly busy. I’ve had more flights to meetings and stayed in more hotels than probably almost any time in my recent memory. I must admit that the only perk for being on the road is that I now have “status” on one of the airlines and with one hotel chain.

It sounds more glamorous than it really is. But I must admit that with the airline, I don’t have to pay for my first checked piece of luggage. It also means that I can board the airplane with group four instead of waiting until group six or seven. The perk with this is, if I have a carry-on to go in the overhead bin, there is room when you’re with group four, and not always with group seven. And, occasionally, but not often, I can get upgraded to first class (which I must admit is great).

With the hotel chain, I’m not charged for things like internet use, and with some, I get free breakfast. And with one chain there is reserved parking right out front.
I must admit these are nice perks, but they certainly don’t define who I am or what I believe, or even how I act when I travel.

I’m reminded of an old TV advertisement that says, “With membership comes privilege.” While that may be true with credit cards, hotel chains, and airlines, it isn’t, nor should it be, true for those of us who belong to the church.

I wonder how many persons believe that in their local church, membership has privileges. How many of us believe that because I’m a member I can claim the same seat week after week – and heaven help the visitor who doesn’t know that’s my seat.

How many of us think that on Easter, Christmas Eve, and other crowded Sundays, the privilege of membership means I can spread my coat out and save seats.

Maybe some of us think that because of our long-term association with the church we attend, or because of how much money we give, our privilege is that we deserve to be on boards or make decisions.

Three examples of this come from personal experience as a pastor and as the DCM. It was late summer and we were working on the slate of officers and committees for the new year. We came to discussion about the Board of Trustees and I made a few suggestions of new persons who had the skill and desire to serve as trustee. The discussion (honestly, I can’t make this up) was, “they haven’t been here long enough to know how we do things.”

Another example was when I was working with a church that was considering Matthew 28. We got to the structure, and three different people said, “if we aren’t on the committees, what do we do if these new people do something we don’t like”? (Again, I can’t make this up).

Many years ago I was leading a Bible study and we were talking about the passage of, “in my Father’s house are many rooms.” As we talked about that a woman (who was very faithful to the church and a wonderful Christian) said that she really believed that the many rooms meant that the “nicer” rooms were reserved for long-time church members.

These three examples are from a mindset that says, “my church membership comes with privilege.”

Indeed being a Christian and belonging to a church does have its privileges. Our privileges include being the hands and feet of Christ. Our privilege is feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost. Our privilege is that we get the awesome joy of opening our arms wide to the children of God – whoever they are, wherever they live, and no matter their age.

Our privilege has nothing to do with status, seating, or the expectation that the pastor will care for me first. However, it has everything to do with living out a life that follows Jesus without regard to race, color, creed, where people have come from – without regard to sexual orientation, size of the house, or the neighborhood someone lives in.

The privilege of our call and commitment is to walk in the footsteps and the shadow of one and to emulate the one who cared so deeply and so fully that He gave His life for all.

God’s Blessings. — Tom

Pathways of Discipleship: The nature of Christian discipleship

By Kevin Witt, Director of Camp & Retreat and Discipleship Ministries

Offering intentional pathways of discipleship dramatically increases the likelihood that people will begin and continue growing in Christian faith and action. Pathway infers that discipleship involves journey and movement. When Jesus made the invitation, “Come, follow Me,” he wasn’t speaking metaphorically. People literally left routines and preoccupations of their lives to explore what life can become by walking with God. Recall how much of the Bible highlights journeys and encounters as avenues of God’s presence and formational opportunities for growth.

I think this speaks to the nature of Christian discipleship itself. What do we mean by our shared mission together “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” Jesus provides clarity in response to a question.

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?” Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ — Mark 12:28-31

Relationship is where love happens. Love calls us into new frontiers of connection, even with ourselves. Love outdistances the pondering of ideas. It surpasses even belief, because it moves and calls us to embody, not just think. God’s graceful compassion is a life force that fuels us to reach out and expend our energy for the good of all, especially the most vulnerable. Love is experiential and transformative – sacred in the giving and receiving. Our faith and practice arises from the affirmation that “God is Love.”

With this understanding in mind, Jesus’ Great Commission for all of us makes so much sense.

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20

This new column in the LINK, Pathways of Discipleship, will highlight stories and ideas from congregations, extension ministries, and people’s lives that reveal a network of paths, journeys and relationships, which encourage persons to powerful intentionality in going deeper and wider in loving God, loving those we know, loving strangers, and loving the world. What are new pathways and possibilities that your congregation can implement to consistently help persons journey further in faith and love? Stayed tuned for the next installment – Why camps and retreats make powerful pathways of discipleship.

Growing Effective Churches: It's all about relationships

By Kay L. Kotan, Director of Congregational Development

In every church, every pastor and leader say they desire their congregation to grow. Yet we struggle mightily with what appears to be some big obstacles. Despite our desire, eighty percent of our congregations are either plateaued, slowly declining, or rapidly declining. Though there are many facets of the life of any given congregation that could be improved, it is obvious we are not connecting with people we don’t know outside our congregations. If we don’t figure out how to connect with new people and the mission field around our buildings, the rest of the facets of the life of the congregation are all for naught. We will continue to lose ground and decline. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day operation of running our church. We lose sight of our purpose, our priorities, and of the very mission of the church - build relationships with God, with each other, and with other people we don’t know.

The first step in reaching new people we do not know is to create and extend radical hospitality beyond the church walls. Hospitality is a part of extending ourselves in relationships. Hospitality creates an opportunity for a new relationship to be built with the community of faith. Hospitality is crafted in an outwardly focused culture of the community of faith. Evangelism is often defined as an invitation to church. Stop it! Evangelism is an invitation to experience God through Jesus Christ. Evangelism is very much a one-on-one process. The first step of evangelism is not the church, but a relationship. The only way the nonbelieving world is going to give us (disciples) a chance is to build trust through an authentic relationship. We are no longer living in a church-centric world. The church is no longer a valued institution. Therefore, we must rebuild trust and value with people we do not know. That begins through one-on-one trusting relationships. Through that trusting relationship, you might have the opportunity to share your faith and bring someone back to the gathered community of faith in hopes that the Holy Spirit would move their life for a life-changing experience. It is still true that most people find their faith with the help of another person. The sequence of evangelism that we need to learn is: get their name (without being weird), have a conversation, build an authentic relationship over time that leads to a moment where you can share your faith and a chance to bring that person back to the gathered community of faith. We will let the Holy Spirit take it from there.

Here are what I might consider the top five common myths about evangelism in the twenty-first century:

  • Evangelism means inviting people to church. 
  • If people will just come into the building, they will see how nice we are and will want to return. 
  • If we do good deeds in our community, people will see it and want to come to our church.
  • Everybody I know already goes to church.
  • If we just had the right program, everyone would want to come to church.

Here are some best practices on effective evangelism to counter the myths above:

  • Invitation flows from authentic relationships. It is about experiential faith-sharing – not church selling.
  • If you are going to use the building for community activities, consider how you will follow-up and build relationships with the people coming into your building.
  • If you are going to do good deeds in the community, follow the good deeds to the house. In other words, get to know the people you are helping. Invest in them — the person — not just the service.
  • It may be true that everybody you know already goes to church. Where are you willing to hang out to meet people who do not go to church? More than half of the population in every state in America does not have an active faith. Surely you can find a new person or two with whom you can build a relationship.
  • People don’t come to church because of a program. People come to church for a genuine experience that gives their life hope and grace.

While working on a consultation team a few years ago, I encountered one of those pivotal moments of truth as transformational leaders. We consistently challenge churches to build relationships with the people in their own community so they might come to know Christ. On one particular occasion, an older congregant confronted us. He told us we had asked him to reach people in a new way. He has never been equipped to do so. Most importantly, he could not fathom a way to do this without feeling weird or being seen as weird by the other person. That very conversation set in motion the desire to help congregations once again become familiar with a faith-sharing process that was not so scary. This is exactly how one of our books, “Get Their Name,” came to be.

Through hundreds of consultations, we discovered that most churches have some very common blind spots. Those common blind spots include lack of vision, no intentional discipleship pathway, lack of genuine hospitality, no connection process, lack of leadership development, and worship that is not compelling to the mission field. To reach new people in our communities we mostly likely need to re-think “doing church” in a different way than perhaps we have done before. Addressing our blind spots makes us get outside our walls and learn to be contextually relevant with our neighbors. It moves us outside our comfort zones of having “them” come to us, instead of us going to be a part of the community we are called to reach.

I encourage you to sit down with other leaders in your church and evaluate how your church is doing when it comes to building relationships – with one another, Christ, and new folks. Where are the gaps? What do you need to start doing differently?

Council of Bishops: Bishop Ough Address February 26

FEBRUARY 26, 2018
DALLAS - Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough has urged his fellow bishops to be open to Christ changing their minds as they counter disagreements and to be prepared to lead The United Methodist Church into uncharted territories.
Bishop Ough issued the challenged Sunday, February 25, at the opening of the special meeting of the Council of Bishops as the top leaders in the denominations began to receive an updated report from the Commission on a Way Forward.
In a sermon entitled “On Changing Our Minds,” which also doubled as his presidential address, Bishop Ough called on his colleagues to unbind United Methodists and guide them home.
“Let’s help our people empty themselves of the need to control one another. Let’s help our people empty themselves of their fear of the future and their fear of a changed church. Let’s help our people empty themselves of their obsession for security. Let’s not hinder or harm one another. Let’s take our people off the map. Let’s be open to Christ changing our minds,” he said.


Information & Registration

For Your Information


As of January 1, 2018, the conference office is no longer using 1-800 toll-free numbers. Please refer to for contact information.


Michelle Schwartzman is the new Harrisburg District Administrative Assistant. You can contact Harrisburg District office at: or


Mary Beth Mattson will be the new Administrative Assistant in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre District starting in June. You can contact District office at: or 570-901-1569