|Download the PDF at www.susumc.org/files/news/suslink/2018/Jul_LINK_2018.pdf|
Friday, July 6, 2018
Following is part one of an edited transcript of Bishop Jeremiah J. Park’s Opening Celebration address at the 2018 Susquehanna Annual Conference, held May 31 through June 2 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Scripture references: John 17:20-26; Colossians 1:15-20
I would like you to know that I feel so privileged to serve our beloved church with the committed, dedicated, mission-minded, and generous people of the Susquehanna Conference. Under many challenging circumstances, God’s people of the Susquehanna Conference, laity and clergy alike, continue to provide so many amazing, exhilarating, and powerful testimonies to what discipleship is about as they constantly extend themselves to offer so freely their gifts and graces to serve and love God and God’s people in the world. The heart-warming evidence of your faithfulness and fruitfulness is all over the place. Thanks be to God for you!
Indeed, the Susquehanna Conference is a church alive in Christ together! So I say this out of my heart: I love Pennsylvania! I love the Susquehanna Conference!
Your bishop and Cabinet have a renewed sense of excitement to share with you a refined expression of what our mission is as an annual conference.
You need to remember three words about the mission of our conference:
Grow! Equip! Connect!
The mission of Susquehanna Conference is to:
- GROW spiritual transformational leaders,
- EQUIP vital congregations and create new places for new people, and
- CONNECT with each other and the world
so that (our vision) alive in Christ together, the Susquehanna Conference will embody the beloved community of disciple-making congregations.
That’s who we are and what we are about.
The beloved community is a window for the world to see what the reign of God is like where all live in peace and justice and harmony. It’s the vision of the shalom of God. The prophets envisioned it. Martin Luther King Jr. described it. Jesus proclaimed, taught, lived, died, and was resurrected for it.
The Cabinet and I will do our best to communicate the conference mission with clarity and implement it with clear goals in mind. Accordingly, we will continue to explore the ways to align our resources and structure with this understanding of our mission and vision. The Cabinet and I are enthused as we imagine and envision what this mission-driven focus of the conference will help our churches accomplish.
Thanks and praises be to God that we have many thriving churches, highly vital congregations, and effective leaders among us. But we realize that many of our churches are either barely maintaining or declining, some of them at a rapid pace. Under an unfavorable cultural environment for the church, we are continuously losing worship attenders and members, and we are confirming fewer new disciples. The rate of decline seems to be accelerating, causing some significant concerns regarding human, financial, and programmatic resources for ministry. Our future journey will be very challenging.
Besides, we as a local church and as an annual conference, are not immune to the potential impact that may come from the uncertainty of our current denominational situation regarding the question of human sexuality. The unity of our church is at stake.
When people on both sides of the matter are so passionate and resolved in their position, there seems to be no good or right way forward for all. A certain way forward may please some, but dissatisfy others, causing disillusion and even anger. Whatever I say for the sake of a way forward in unity may gratify some and disappoint others — doomed to say, and doomed not to say. However, in the midst of uncertainty, with many unanswered questions and no easy way forward in sight, I continue to feel God calling me to lead the church to unity as best as I can.
Knowing that the unity of our church is under serious threat, but also recognizing that unity is Jesus’ ardent prayer and aspiration for his followers, we started our quadrennial journey last year as a conference with the theme of unity: “Better Together: Make Us One.” Today we gather once again as the Susquehanna Annual Conference in the spirit of unity under the theme: “Better Together: One With Christ.”
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 will continue to be our biblical foundation for unity.
Unity is a biblical mandate for the Body of Christ. However, we realize that unity is a challenging agenda for the church. The fact of the matter is that unity doesn’t have a chance until we acknowledge that “our way or the highway” is not a way at all, and that breakthroughs can only be made when we are willing and ready to create room for others. It means a change of heart on our part.
Hear me clearly, changing our hearts does not mean to change our core values, beliefs, and convictions or compromising our conscience. It means changing from a heart at war to a heart at peace.
A heart at war sees the other side as an object to overcome. It does not recognize that the other side has as many rights, privileges, and validity as it does. It leaves no room for the other side.
A heart at peace sees the other side as a person who deserves to be of equal worth. It allows the other side to have a space and thus seeks coexistence without demanding or requiring my way or no way at all.
But we know that changing a heart is the most challenging agenda of all, particularly when it comes to examining if our own heart needs to change, let alone changing another person’s heart. Changing our heart is beyond what we can do by ourselves. It’s what the Holy Spirit does. So we have to depend on prayer. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)
One of the most intriguing and helpful insights for unity comes from A.W. Tozer: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”
His point? Seek first to be one with Christ then unity will follow.
What Tozer said connected me to the Colossians’ passage known as “The Supremacy of Christ.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “supreme” as “highest in rank or authority” or “highest in degree or quality.” In essence, there is none better. The supreme of something is its ultimate. So what is the supremacy of Christ and what are its implications? What do these words evoke? What happens inside of you when you hear them?
One of the Cabinet members shared with us this quote about the supremacy of Christ from Sam Storms: “Jesus Christ is the reason, the goal, the aim, the intent, the point, the purpose, the end, the terminus, the consummation, and [the] culmination of every molecule that moves.”
And he added, “For me, the supremacy of Christ is a powerful reminder that: Christ is before all, as in him all things were created.
Christ is for all, in that he died for us while we were yet sinners, proving God’s love toward us.
Christ is over all, in that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.
Christ is after all, the One who is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
“Lived out, it means that Jesus Christ is not just the means by which we find our life — He is our life!”
The point of the supremacy of Christ can be expressed in many other words. Simply put: Jesus Christ is the One. Whatever we are to be and are to do as disciples, God’s people, and the church, Jesus Christ is our ultimate reason and purpose. It’s about Jesus Christ.
The unity we seek is about Jesus Christ. Unity without Christ, unity outside of Christ, unity that has little or nothing to do with Christ is not the unity we seek. The unity of the Body of Christ is unity with Christ, of Christ, for Christ, and in Christ. It’s about Jesus Christ.
Tozer’s metaphor of the tuning fork for unity comes alive when we realize that Jesus Christ is supreme — He is the primary, standard, and ultimate tuning fork for all of us to tune ourselves to.
Watch for the next installment of Bishop Park’s Opening Celebration address in the September issue of Susquehanna LINK. You can view the 2018 Susquehanna Annual Conference Opening Celebration service, including Bishop Park’s address, at tinyurl.com/susumcAC2018video.
Left to right: Ronald Baker, Audrey M. Brosious, Richard P. Hanlon, Jonathan D. Morningstar, Rebecca L. Holland, Rebecca J. (Woomer) McGee
Ruth L. Myers
Left to right: John F. Mackey, Donald J. Smith, Kristopher R. Sledge, David Keyworth, and John W. Bondhus.
I believe stories are important. You get to know a lot about a person by listening to their stories and the details they include. To tell you a little bit about me, I want to tell you a story.
Two years ago, I did something insane. I decided to enter a triathlon. It wasn’t an Ironman, that would be absolute suicide. It was an international, which is a one-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run. It took me just over three hours to cross the finish line, and I felt relieved and amazed. I have never considered myself to be athletic, and I had only run my first 5K one year earlier. Nonetheless, I had made a promise to myself that I was going to do this.
Back in January Bishop Park called me into his office and had a crazy idea (though he wouldn’t call it an “idea.” I’m pretty sure the term he used was “appointment”). When he asked me to be the Director of Connectional Ministries, I was stunned. I was humbled. I was honored. But I was also terrified. I could think of a dozen people whom I thought were more qualified, more experienced, more deserving. And yet he was clear, “Jason, this is your appointment.” I had to do this.
Over the past few months as the shock has worn off, and I’ve slowly transitioned into this new role, working closely with Tom [Salsgiver] and Cabinet, meeting the staff, and preparing for Annual Conference, it has reminded me of training for my triathlon. Twelve weeks before the race, I began a focused training regimen. The workouts started out short and built over time. As your stamina grows, you start to see that you really can do this, but you also discover what you have yet to learn.
For the race, I started watching YouTube videos, reading Triathlon magazine, and talking to experienced racers. Coming into the conference office, I feel blessed to have already had a good deal of training. From seminary at Evangelical, to working with the Young Pastors Network, Lewis Fellows, the Board of Pensions & Health, the Sessions Committee for Annual Conference, and having served at CrossPoint, Harrisburg, and Trinity UMC, Hummelstown,I have great tools at my disposal. But I also know what I need to learn. I have a stack of 20-plus books to read by August, and I’m signed up for two conferences!
Of course, the most important thing I learned when training was the importance of setting your own pace. If you don’t, you’ll wear yourself out or get hurt. When you find your groove, there’s a peace and a rhythm that allows you to run all day. This new position is no different. I have to find my pace, meeting the needs of the conference while also nurturing my relationship with God, who provides the wisdom and peace needed to lead.
So I make this promise to you. I will do this to the best of my ability, committed and focused, willing to learn and ready to find my pace.
Telling stories. It’s something that we all do, it’s a human characteristic.
In the weeks after Annual Conference, I was asked to help chronicle the history of Uriah United Methodist Church for the celebrations of their 140th anniversary. Talking to some of their members, I was struck by how clearly they all remembered very specific details of their times and the growing ministry of their church.
Luke 8:39 says, “Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.” (CEB) And that is what this experience felt like. So many people returned home to Uriah to share their stories. With a history that stretched back to 1878, there were so many things that everyone could’ve spoken about. But, there was a special focus on what kind of future they wanted for their church.
Joann Day, a Uriah member for over 65 years said, “I would want them to make sure that they should be dedicated to the Lord. Take that commitment very seriously. And if you’re asked to do something and help, don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Say ‘I’ll try.’”
These words have really resonated with me, even in the past few days. In my new role here at the Conference, it’s often felt like each and every day a new challenge presents itself. And through everything, honestly, I’ve sometimes felt ill-equipped to handle it all. But hearing these words felt different.
Many times I’ve asked God “Are You sure?” And I know the answer, and I’m not trying to second-guess God’s plan; I guess it’s my reaction to where He’s leading me. Uncertainty. But, I know He’s done so much for me and will continue to do so. And the same is true for our churches and for our Conference. What He has led us through and where we have been are just the beginning.
So, even as tough as it is, I’ll be promising God that whatever He asks of me, I will be responding in only one way from now on: “I’ll try.”
As the Susquehanna Conference continues to focus on its missional priorities to GROW, EQUIP, and CONNECT, a number of Conference staffing changes are taking place. Molly Inners will fill the position of Conference Receptionist as Amy Wynn assumes her new role as Executive Administrative Assistant for Connectional Ministries. Christine Sims will be the new Fund Specialist in the Finance Office as Pastor Jane Rosborough begins her full-time appointment as a local pastor. In the midst of change, we must say goodbye to Sharon Keebaugh who served on our Communications Team. We are grateful for her near 20 years of faithful service. Likewise, we extend gratitude to Curt Knouse, Director of Volunteers in Mission. Throughout his years of service, many people across the conference experienced their first mission trip, served in countless locations, and brought Christ to the rest of the world. Curt will be stepping down, effective August 15, 2018. We pray for Sharon and Curt in their future endeavors.
|Deaconesses Allison Francesco and Fawn McCallister were affirmed in their call and commissioned at the 2018 Susquehanna Annual Conference.|
by Tara Barnes*
Reprinted with permission
“Called to Be What for God’s World?” was the theme of the deaconess consecration service May 18 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, part of UMW Assembly 2018. Twenty-four women from 19 conferences, including Allison Francesco and Fawn McCallister of the Susquehanna Conference, were consecrated for a lifetime of lay servant ministry in relationship with The United Methodist Church.
Deaconesses are laywomen who have responded to the call of God to full-time ministries of love, justice and service. Their life-giving work provides support and dignity to those in need and helps individuals and communities reach their full potential.
“Deaconesses and home missioners today, as throughout their history, serve in many areas of need, in places where the church has not been, was not aware it should be or was afraid or unwilling to be,” said Deaconess Megan Hale to open the service. “Their daily task of serving and empowering is a visible symbol of the link between the church and the world.” Hale is the executive for candidacy for United Methodist Women’s Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner.
Answering a callIndividuals consecrated and commissioned to the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner in The United Methodist Church form a covenant community in service as a lay order. After discerning a call to lay ministry, deaconesses and home missioners (laymen) finish a course of study to ensure biblical, theological and sociological grounding in their ministries. They are consecrated and commissioned full-time mission-oriented service as part of the lay diaconate.
“The first time I read a brochure about the deaconess calling, in the early 1990s, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me,” said newly consecrated deaconess and photojournalist Laurel Akin. “Years later I attended a discernment event and learned more about the wide varieties of ways deaconesses and home missioners work in ministries of love, justice and service.”
Deaconesses consecrated on Friday will serve in such various vocations as parish nurses, social services, photojournalism and Christian education in various communities across the country.
Barnes is editor of Response, the magazine of (United Methodist) women in mission. For more information about the ministry of Deaconess and Home Missioner, visit www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/dhm
Bishops Gregory Palmer of the West Ohio Conference, in which Assembly 2018 took place, and retired Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson took part in the consecration service.
“When I heard a talk about what a Deaconess is, what they are called to do, I truly sat up straight and listened,” said Deaconess Fawn McCallister. “A moment later is when I heard God’s voice, felt His breath on my neck, with the words, “This is what you are meant to do.”
George’s family bought the farm in 1923. On the farm they grew corn, wheat, and hay, and raised turkeys and chickens. George remembers they were the only ones in the area with a telephone, and the farm had its own electrical system.
The woods, which still surround Normandie Ridge, were used for Boy Scout camping and church picnics. The farm was made up of 26 acres of land on both sides of Bull Road, which at the time was a dirt road. The Spangler home was located on the Manchester Township side of the property.
On the farm was an old German style barn with pegged and hand-hewn logs. Tourists were drawn to the barn and its “soul box,” which was really a little door. Superstition had it that when there was a death, the door would be left open so the soul could get out, and when there was a birth, it would be opened for the soul to come in. The barn was the subject of many paintings and was featured in many newspaper stories over the years.
The Spangler family continued to farm the land for many years, but in the late 1980s, the remaining family members decided to sell the farm, which was divided into small parcels. George built his home on one of the parcels.
In 1987 United Methodist Homes of Lewisburg purchased all of the land in response to a request for assistance from United Methodist Care of York, to build senior housing and a nursing home. This was the beginning of Normandie Ridge. Today, the former Spangler farm is home to three churches, several homes, an apartment complex, and Normandie Ridge.
In 2008 George was ready to move to a senior living community, so Normandie Ridge was the obvious choice. George lived at Normandie Ridge from 2008 until 2017, when he decided to move to a facility in Gettysburg to be closer to his daughter. However, he soon found that he really missed all of his Normandie Ridge friends and chose to move back in 2018. George was warmly welcomed by everyone at Normandie Ridge, and he’s extremely happy to be back among his friends.
George says he loves living at Normandie Ridge, where the people are great and his children have peace of mind knowing he always has help available if he needs it. But the best part, he says, is “all the memories that, living once again on this land, brings back.”
Albright Care Services is proud that George Spangler is part of our family. Albright invites you to continue your mission by joining us at one of our six locations. Visit www.albrightcare.org for information on senior living, day programs, giving, or volunteering.
The Council of Bishops, in partnership with The Upper Room, has launched Phase 3 of Praying our Way Forward.
“... Phase 3 [began] June 3 and continues through the Special Session of General Conference in February 2019. In this phase, we are encouraging every United Methodist to fast weekly and to pray daily with the Council of Bishops,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, the prayer team coordinator.
In Phase 3, all United Methodists are invited to:
- Engage in a weekly Wesleyan 24-hour fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-afternoon. Those who have health situations causing food fasts to be unadvisable might consider fasting from social media, emails, or another daily activity.
- Pause and pray for our church’s mission and way forward daily for four minutes from 2:23 through 2:26 a.m. or p.m. in their own time zone OR at another time. This is because the Special Session of General Conference will be held February 23 through February 26, 2019.
- Pray using a weekly prayer calendar that will be posted on the UMCPrays.org website from June 2, 2018, through the end of February 2019. The calendar will list a unique cluster of names each week. The names will balance United States bishops and delegates with Central Conference bishops and delegates. It will also include General Secretaries, Commission on a Way Forward members, the Commission of the General Conference, and the staff of the General Conference.
There is a local church media kit with downloadable resources including logos, social media posts, and bulletin inserts available at UMCprays.org.
Susquehanna Conference leads the wayIn the statistical report recently released from the NEJ regarding Volunteers in Mission (short-term missions) the Susquehanna Conference led the jurisdiction in the number of teams serving in local, national, and international missions. The conference was also among the top three in total number or members participating in mission and percentage of members participating in missions. The numbers reported that from 2012 to 2016 the number of mission teams in Susquehanna Conference have more than doubled from 114 to 253.
Congratulations to the VIM Council and all those serving for being the hands and feet of Christ in the world today.