Thursday, December 10, 2015

We are at 90% of our $75 million goal to Imagine No Malaria!

Congratulations! Thanks to the efforts of United Methodists across the connection, we’ve reached 90 percent of our goal of $75 million to combat suffering and death from malaria.

At a special press conference on Nov. 16 at Camp Hill United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, three United Methodist bishops announced that the denomination has raised $68 million in cash and pledges for Imagine No Malaria.

Bishop Jeremiah Park of the Harrisburg Episcopal Area announced that he, in partnership with his conference, has pledged $1 million – the gift that pushed the global campaign to the fundraising milestone. Park presented a check for $149,238.93, 15 percent of the pledge, to Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Pittsburgh Episcopal Area as part of the celebration. Bickerton, who chairs the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, has led Imagine No Malaria since 2010.

“We thank Bishop Park and United Methodists throughout Central Pennsylvania who have made this pledge. We also thank United Methodists throughout the world whose fundraising efforts have now raised $68 million in cash and pledges for Imagine No Malaria,” Bickerton said. “Today’s announcement is a celebration for all United Methodists, who serve as a testimony to what we can achieve when we unite for a shared vision of a world without malaria deaths.”

Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, where local congregations have raised more than a quarter of a million dollars, was also on hand for the major announcement. Johnson also shared her conference’s fundraising experiences, which have ranged from 5K races to bake sales. And the Rev. Tom Willard, senior pastor at Camp Hill UMC, shared his personal story of contracting malaria following a mission trip two years ago to Sierra Leone.

Suffer the little children
The event began with children from Camp Hill’s preschool program singing “Jesus Love the Little Children” and a medley of other Sunday school favorites, while images of children on the continent of Africa played behind them. The multimedia presentation helped drive home the point that for many children, malaria threatens the opportunity to grow up healthy. That is what Imagine No Malaria and other global partners are working to change.

It was fitting that children were a part of the event as young people in the church have been vital to Imagine No Malaria’s fundraising efforts, planning events and donating from their piggy banks. The initiative has taken on a grass-roots quality with donations coming from individual givers and kids with lemonade stands. Churches have run races, shot hoops, and challenged each other on social media. From motorcycle rides to bake sales, United Methodists have rallied around the cause, and every penny has made a difference.

During the event, Bickerton also shared congratulatory remarks from Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer who heads the President’s Malaria Initiative in Washington, a leader in the global fight against malaria. Ziemer could not attend the event because of travel outside of the country.

“What a remarkable achievement! The United Methodist Church’s delivery on their commitment of $75 million in support of your Imagine No Malaria campaign is unprecedented and has set the bar very high for other faith-based partners,” Ziemer said. “Imagine the thousands of lives that have been saved and the families that have benefited from less malaria in their homes and communities. I recently visited Zimbabwe and saw firsthand the fantastic work that The United Methodist Church is doing.”

We’re almost there
On November 16, Imagine No Malaria launched a social media campaign to kick off the final phase of fundraising with the #Give10 Challenge. By donating $10 or more, the people of The United Methodist Church will work together to reach the last 10 percent of the goal. Contribute at
Help us reach $75 million by donating and making a difference in the life of a child, adult, or family. With your help, we can reach our goal. Donate at or order a free donation box bank by visiting

Imagine No Malaria is committed to ending death and suffering from malaria through prevention, communication, trained health workers and facilities, and grass-roots education.

For more information, visit

What the “H” are we doing here?

The following is an edited transcript of Rev. Barry Robison’s address at his installation as Harrisburg District Superintendent, held at Grace UMC in Harrisburg, October 18, 2015.

Since we’ve been in the Harrisburg area, there have been several big storms that have rolled through. We were only here a couple of weeks when a really big one hit in the middle of the night. It was loud. Right after we had gone back to sleep, there came a pounding on the door.

I got up and I went downstairs, turned on the porch light, and opened the door, and there is a guy totally drenched. And through the screen of the door, I could smell the alcohol. I looked at him and he looked at me, and he kind of said could you give me a push? Now, you have to understand, it had not been a particularly good day. And the fact that my sleep had already been interrupted by the storm, I was not in a very good mood. And I told him that. I said, “You’re kidding me.
You want me to come out in this storm and give you a push? Why don’t you just call AAA?” What I wanted to say was, “Why don’t you just get back in your car and sleep it off?” And I closed the door. I went back up to bed and my wife Joni said, “What was that all about?” And I explained.

Joni said to me, “Barry C. Robison, I am ashamed of you. Don’t you remember just a couple of weeks ago when our car broke down in a place we didn’t know anybody? And when you asked for help, someone gave you help?” She said, “I am ashamed of you. What kind of witness is this for a minister, and now a D.S.? What kind of Christian witness are you giving?”

Well I thought about it. She was right. So I went back downstairs, opened up the door, turned on the porch light. It was dark. The wind was blowing. I stepped outside. And I am still on the porch, but I’m getting wet and drenched. So I hollered, “Hey, are you still there?” And I heard a voice say, “Yes, I am.” I said, “Do you still need a push?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, where are you?” He said, “Over here on the swing.”

Now, what does that story have to do with what we are doing here? Absolutely nothing. I just thought it was a cute story.

The sad thing is, that’s exactly what a lot of people think about the church. They think the gospel is nothing but a bunch of cute stories, and the church has nothing to do with what they are doing.

Why is that? What has happened that we appear to be irrelevant to many? Could it be that we refuse to get out of our comfort areas, to be disturbed by others?
Shortly after I got the call [from the bishop] and began sitting with the Cabinet, someone asked me, “What is your vision for the Harrisburg District?” I had no idea, because I only knew a few of the pastors in the district, and even fewer churches. How was I to have some sense of vision for this district when I didn’t know the churches or the pastors?

As we began to meet and I began to receive paperwork and all the things that go along with the position, every time the Harrisburg District was recorded it was done so with the letter “H.” And so I began thinking we’re the “H” District. And words began coming to me about what our district might be.

Could it be that we have become irrelevant to many in the world because we don’t know what the “H” we’re doing? Or at least we have forgotten what it is we should be doing.

And so as these words began coming to me, the first one was holy. If I were to say that I had a vision for the Harrisburg District, it would include being holy. Now, I’m not talking holier-than-thou. That’s one of the problems I think that has contributed to the distain for the church and its people today. But I’m talking about being holy in terms of being different, of being set apart from the world that is around us. Now I’m preaching to the praise band here, we know that. But doggone-it, it’s hard to live like that.

Obviously the story I told at the beginning didn’t happen. I hope that was obvious. But I’ll tell you what, had it really happened, I’d have been sorely tempted.

I’ve always been struck by the passage where God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” There is our example. We’re going on to perfection — we’re not there — but we’re to be separate, we’re to be distinct. And it seems to me that part of the reason that the world thinks we’re irrelevant is because we look just like the world in many ways. We’ve lost that distinctiveness. We struggle at times, even within our own church families, to be Christ-like. We tend to treat each other in the church sometimes like others treat us out in the world.

I don’t want this to be a negative message, because there are churches who are lifting up the importance of being holy, of being different and distinct for Christ. I wish I could be speaking about this a year from now, when I will have visited almost every church, but I’ve only been to a handful so far. But I do know of a congregation who is being the face, the hands, the feet of Christ to what they call “neighborhood friends.” For the people who live around them they are trying to be distinct and set apart, so that they might see Jesus.

It starts with personal holiness. Sometimes I struggle with that, setting aside that dedicated time with God, because there is so much more to do. But when I don’t start by giving that time to Jesus, I lose some of that distinctiveness for the rest of the day.

The second word that came to me was home. A vision I would have for the Harrisburg District is that our churches would become a place where people would feel at home. Not so much in terms of being comfortable, but rather that people would feel that they belonged, that they were accepted. People would feel that church is a place where they could grow into the person that God created and intended for them to be. That our churches would be a place where they felt loved. Isn’t that what home is to us? A place that we want to go back to, no matter how far away we are.

There is another church in our district that I have encountered who is redefining themselves to be a church to the neighborhood. They shared with me that people in that neighborhood — many of them the least, the last, and the lost — now know that if they want to find someone who cares, that church is the place to go. What a wonderful witness and testimony for that congregation to give to the world.

The Chi Rho Singers sing an anthem by Heather Sorrenson entitled, “Home (The Arms of God.)” We’ve been singing this for two or three years now, and nearly every time I sing it I begin to tear up, and I have a hard time getting through it, because I know people who are described in this song. I know people who need to hear a church say, “Welcome home.” Listen for people you might know who need to hear your church say to them, “Welcome home.”
   Every heart without a home, every widow left alone, 
   Every soul that is distressed ...
   There is hope for the broken. There is help for the weak ...
   Every sinner who confessed, but in guilt is still oppressed, 
   By the sin that’s been erased, there is grace. 
   When the father’s walked away, and the mother’s left to pray, 
   When the child has been disowned, welcome home.

When Jesus is in the center of our church families, folks will find that rest, that peace, that grace. And as a result they will receive the third word that came to me, which is hope. Something to look forward to, something to live for, something that makes a difference in world.

So the third part of my vision for the churches in the Harrisburg District is that as we become more holy, more distinct, set apart for Jesus, as we offer a place where people can come and not only find the love of Jesus, but find the love of other Christian brothers and sisters, that we will be a place and places that offer hope.

So what the “H” are we doing? My hope and my dream for the Harrisburg District and on into the Susquehanna Conference is that we would be a holy people, whose places of worship are seen to be home to those who need the loving arms of Christ. And that we would be a people who would bring hope to the world. Amen.

Visit for the video of Rev. Robison’s address.

Hearts Strangely Warmed - Miguel Arenas-Herrera

God calls us to tell our story so that others may come to know Jesus Christ. “Hearts Strangely Warmed” was created to share these stories about transformational encounters with the Living God.

Miguel Arenas-Herrera

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
before you were born I set you apart.” —Jeremiah 1:5a NIV

The words of the Lord to Jeremiah are deep words of trust and obedience in my life. I was born and raised in a Christians Methodist environment. I am part of this distinctive group called “PK’s.” I would say that I was a “double PK” by my parents both being ministers. My life was always involved in church.

Itineration became part of my routine, and during that time I met many people who shaped and helped me during my journey while we were traveling all along the extensive and narrow geography of Chile, my native country. For thirteen years I saw God’s action in the life of my parents’ ministry and in our family, but it was not until a youth retreat that I surrendered my life to Christ and I experienced my “heart strangely warmed.” It was not just my parents’ experience of faith, but it was my personal experience with God, so real in intimacy and closeness. I gave my life to God in full.

I became a strong lay leader in my national church, and in the Latin American ecumenical church; but there was something missing in my young life. I could hear the outer call from many people encouraging me to go into ministry, but I was really running from God’s invitation, and bringing excuses, as the prophet Jeremiah said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (Jeremiah 1:6). I tried to escape this call by keeping my life busy, doing other things away from ministry.

First I earned a degree in education and I became an ESL teacher. That was a good way of keeping God happy! I was serving … but the emptiness was still there, and I could still hear the outer call from many. After seven years of teaching in my country, I got an invitation from the General Board of Global Ministries to become a missionary. This was certainly an answer to calm down this call. I was going to serve in a better capacity. I was almost sure that God would be satisfied with my decision. I served for seven years as a missionary to Uruguay, as an ESL teacher and chaplain in Crandon School.

However, God had something else for me that I was not counting on. God’s sense of humor went beyond my own excuses!

I was called by the Uruguayan Methodist Church to serve as a local pastor in a location where a church needed to be re-opened. I accepted the invitation. It was there that God brought my outer call and my inner call together, and I could feel my “heart strangely warmed” so intensively in my life. God took me away from my family, from my country, from my culture, to experience his presence on a strange land; through the wonders of God’s love, through the people of the city of PaysandĂș, Uruguay, through Renacer Camp Center, Montevideo Central Methodist church, and through many other people who became part of my journey of faith. From being a minister of the smallest church in the country, I became the pastor of the largest church in the country, and God was there. I accepted his invitation to follow Him as a servant, and go to the next step.

I moved to the United States to serve as a student pastor while I was studying to earn my M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary. Since then, God has moved many people in this conference who have journeyed with me, being a blessing in my life. In my time here I have served in Stevens Emmanuel UMC, Harrisburg, [Hispanic Ministry], Oakdale and Big Spring UMCs, Shippensburg, and now in Fourth UMC in York.

This past Annual Conference I was commissioned as a provisional elder, and I am working toward my ordination.

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

Vital Congregations - a dialogue to inspire churches with ideas for ministries of vitality

The following is part four in a five-part series based on a dialogue begun at the 2015 Susquehanna Annual Conference around stories and experiences of congregational vitality. The team that presented included Pastor Janet Durrwachter, Rev. Rich Morris, Rev. Dr. Randy Willis, and Jaime Carpenter. The video of this session (held Friday morning, June 12) and a full transcript can be found at

Stay the Course
Pastor Janet Durrwachter, First UMC, Williamsport
edited transcript

Maybe you’ve done cardboard testimonies at your church. We have. It’s not a brand new idea, but it is meaningful because it’s a simple way for people to effectively communicate the difference Jesus makes. Saved; forgiven; free; thank you, Jesus.

Centre Grove Church posted a video of cardboard testimonies ( on their Facebook page in late 2013, and it was shared with a man named Brian, who went from exploring atheism to exploring a call to ministry. The video wasn’t high-caliber, it wasn’t professionally shot using HD cameras and edited using Final Cut Pro. But it was high-impact. It changed the trajectory of a man’s life — all because someone from Centre Grove Church chose to reach out by sharing that video on Facebook.

A story like Brian’s provides inspiration when leading becomes challenging. We need to collect and celebrate those stories, because they remind us why we keep doing what we do. Equipping vital congregations involves repeating what is important. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeat the vision; repeat that it’s all about Jesus; repeat the church’s call to reach out to the community; repeat the need to develop passionate connections.

We have all reached the point that we we’re tired of the repeats, haven’t we? Haven’t we reached the point where we we’re just tired? If you care about equipping vital congregations, if you are trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, you know what I am talking about, because sometimes we’re tired and sometimes we’re more than tired.

Sometimes we’re worried, ‘Is this going to work? Will the old guard give up power so that we can move forward? Will there be enough money to do what we’re planning? Will the leaders step up?’

So sometimes we can’t sleep at night. Sometimes we have a knot in the pit of our stomach. Sometimes we’re afraid that we’re going to fail. If you care about equipping vital congregations, if you are trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, you know what I am talking about. Every time we set out to accomplish a great vision, we will encounter circumstances at some point that will lead us to believe that we are headed toward failure. When we move from here to there we will almost always want to turn around half way. And I stand here to tell you just one thing – stay the course.

That’s my message.

I have seen the difference that it makes when leaders stay the course. It comes with a cost. It requires great faith. But it is what we must do to partner with God to change the culture of our churches. And until our churches have a culture that will nurture vitality, making disciples is going to continue to be very, very difficult.

 I have been a part of my congregation for over twenty years. And I have seen an amazing transformation in which the culture of a church changed dramatically. I have watched a congregation wake up to its potential, and has resulted in not only nearly quadrupling in size, but in becoming a significant, positive influence in our community. And I don’t take credit for this. We all know that none of this happens apart from a movement of God’s Spirit. But even more than that, I am not the primary leader. I have not, never have been, and am not the lead pastor at First Church, Williamsport. But I have been there, and I know what can happen when we stay the course.

And I just want to share with you a few of my observations of how I think that happened.

First of all, it’s all about Jesus. It started with discipleship. That’s why we started this dialogue with Rich Morris (September 2015 LINK). It started with raising people up who study Scripture, pray daily, are committed to tithe, support one another in small groups, and understand servant leadership. And that starts with the pastor. But it can’t be just one person. One person cannot change the culture.

Our leadership team is critical, and we never settle when choosing our key leaders. No warm bodies. You cannot do this alone; you have to build a team.
We also have found that it is just so important to remember what is at stake.
Anyone who is leading a vital congregation has wanted to quit. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church wanted to quit. Perry Noble, New Spring Church, wanted to quit. Be honest. Hasn’t there been a time when you were just tired out and beaten up? When you feel that way remember what is at stake, because if you stay the course something wonderful can happen. The culture of your church can change. The church can become a place where disciples are made for the transformation of the world.

We make it a habit to share good stories. Stories of transformed lives; stories that make it real for us. We share these stories because they are our oxygen. When we’re getting worn out these stories give us energy. They keep us going. They help us remember why we are willing to risk failure; why we get down on our knees at 3 a.m. when we cannot sleep. Why we stay the course.

And one of the stories that we love to share in our congregation is Edwin’s Story. Edwin lives a different life because of the United Methodist Church. I invite you to listen to what Edwin has to say about how the church introduced him to life in Christ, and changed his life:

Look for part five (final in this series) in the next issue of Susquehanna LINK or go to for the video and full transcript.

Editorial: We will not rest on our laurels

By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications

Each new generation presents its own unique set of communication challenges. In order to address those challenges effectively we’ve set for ourselves, as a communications staff, three desired outcomes of our endeavors: A Wesleyan understanding of connectionalism, less/better, connectional information, and digital-age literacy.

Our tools are new technologies, contemporary competencies, and innovative thinking.

There are three realities that we must recognize: the shrinking windows of communication opportunities, the imperative presence at multiple communication crossroads, and an understanding that “the medium is the message.”

We hope that you have witnessed progress over the past few months and years in our pursuit of effective communication. This periodical has gone through subtle face-lifts in its presentation for more image intensity. Broadcast email (QuikLINK) draws activity that equals, or exceeds, the activity of our peers. Monthly website visits number over 14,000 from more than 5,600 users for about 34,000 pageviews. The conference Facebook has well over 1,000 “likes.” There are over 200 videos in the conference video library.

But, we do not want to rest on any laurels.

While we enjoy increased activity in our media, in many cases there is room for improvement.

Perhaps in as little as five years ago, the future of print media was in question. Often, printed communication was discontinued in the interest of cost-saving. Now it is obvious that print and digital need to coexist, and more importantly, collaborate.

February of 2016 will be an important month in communications for this annual conference in two ways:

  1. The circulation of Susquehanna LINK will expand from 11,000 copies to 20,000 copies. In addition to the present mailing list, every congregation in the Susquehanna Conference will receive several copies of each issue based on membership. The number ranges from 5 to 45. Those copies may be distributed at the discretion of congregational leadership.
  2. A Shares of Ministry video initiative titled “Better Together” will be introduced in February. The videos are designed to be Internet friendly and church-presentation friendly. Therefore, short and to-the-point will be the rule. We want to celebrate what we accomplish in the name of Christ through Shares of Ministry with an engaging presentation of the “why, what, and who” of Christian stewardship. Watch for more information is future media.


The Journey

By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

I’m setting aside my usual resourcing-focused article for this issue of the LINK in lieu of a slightly more timely and theological reflection upon the celebration of Advent and Christmas. In my pastoral history I have shared with my congregations that Advent is a time of experiencing the world in its darkness awaiting the light of Christ. It occurs to me that our world finds itself in a very dark place at this moment of history.

Along with the annual din of the Black Friday frenzy extended over to Cyber Monday, Tuesday, and so on, as part of the pre-Christmas shopping madness, come the reports of terrorism, anti-Muslim sentiments, and stories of refugees fleeing from horrific situations. A sense of fear seems to be growing all around us. Sadly, such fear often leads to the need to blame someone for the current situation and can lead some in power to irrational decision making.

As I pondered this darkness invading our lives I realized that in many ways our world is eerily similar to the world that longed for a savior to be born. The birth story in the Gospels is clearly written in the face of political power and an occupying empire. It is a story proclaiming God’s breaking into human history in a way that makes the powers that be look foolish. A story of an unmarried teen about to become a mother, a nervous, earthly carpenter confused by his situation, shepherds minding their flocks suddenly hearing a heavenly choir, and a king fearful of what a homeless child might mean for his political future.

In the midst of all of this fear, confusion, and intrigue comes the message, “Do not be afraid!” These are the words Joseph hears in Matthew’s Gospel as he wonders what to do with Mary’s pregnancy. (Matthew 1:20) “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” They are the same words Mary hears the angel proclaim in Luke 2:10, “and the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!’” Even the shepherds hear these words as they looked skyward on that birth night, “Do not be afraid … for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.”

As people of faith we are told some 365 times in the Scriptures in some form to not be afraid. For us, faith is the opposite of fear. Fear only has power when our faith takes a back seat and lets fear control our lives. How wonderful it is to realize that the birth of this child of Bethlehem is God’s gift of salvation to all people. It is God coming in the flesh to live among us so that we can experience the very depth of the ultimately powerful One who loves us so much, nothing can separate us from God’s love. No darkness, not even the threat of death itself can take away the gift of love that comes to us anew during this season. And in the midst of all the chaos, the threat of terrorism, the violence of hatred, the flexing of political powers, and refugee families (of which Jesus’ family was one too) … nothing … nothing at all stands between God and God’s people who God came to earth to remove our fear and plant in us the gift of faith.

May this Christmas be a deeply spiritual time when more than ever before each of us faithfully reflects the love of God in our lives — it is a gift perfect for re-gifting — that God’s world might be transformed by the power of God’s gift of Jesus Christ in and through us!

COMMENTARY: Let’s sing

By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications

I enjoy quotes of the famed Leonard Bernstein. These three come to mind:
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

“Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
The one that seems to be for the moment is: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

Fear is a dangerous thing. It can, and has, brought people, communities, and nations to ruin. Is it any wonder that “fear not” is such a common directive in our Scriptures. God knows our human tendency to become so frightened of the known, and the unknown, that we must be reminded so often, “be not afraid.”

When fear strikes, often the antidote is some kind of music. The Maria von Trapps of this world get children singing in the midst of fear. Some of the songs we sing have been birthed in the midst of fear and disaster: shipwreck, slavery, storm, death — you name it.

Many of us may have a favorite song that comes to mind when fear strikes. I’ll sing mine. You sing yours.

O God, our help in ages past, 
our hope for years to come, 
our shelter from 
the stormy blast,
and our eternal home. 

Under the shadow of thy throne, 
still may we dwell secure; 
Sufficient is thine arm alone, 
and our defense is sure. 

Before the hills in order stood, 
or earth received her frame, 
from everlasting, thou art God, 
to endless years the same. 

A thousand ages, in thy sight, 
are like an evening gone; 
short as the watch
that ends the night,
before the rising sun. 

Glad we could get together.

A Pastoral Letter in Response to Recruiting Efforts of the Klan

Rev. J.P. Bohanan, pastor of Christ UMC in Mountain Top, Pa., was the driving force behind the pastoral letter (below) responding to the Klan’s recruiting efforts in the area.

As pastors of churches in and around Mountain Top, we are at once grieved and dismayed to read recent local news of Ku Klux Klan recruiting in our county and a cross burning in our own Mountain Top community. We are grieved, because this anti-Christian and un-American organization claims to represent Jesus our Lord and the values of our nation. We are dismayed, because we are concerned that local media coverage of these events only serves to publicize the Klan’s message of fear and hatred. As leaders of the religious community in Mountain Top, from Catholic, Protestant, and Independent churches, we stand together against the Klan’s efforts in our entire region and are committed to welcome and celebrate our African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Jewish, Arab, and Asian neighbors and friends.

The Klan brands itself as a peaceful Christian organization protecting and promoting Caucasian culture and heritage and claims that the burning cross represents nothing other than the light of Christ. This is nonsense; symbols have meaning rooted in the history of their use, and the burning cross is today what it has always been, a symbol of terror used to intimidate nonwhites into subjugation. The Klan’s methods and language clearly demonstrate their fear, hatred, and embrace of violence. In an October 18 Times Leader article, their Imperial Wizard claims the organization is nonviolent, but ominously adds, “If someone interferes, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen.” One local member says, “We’re called the Invisible Empire because nobody knows who we are. We could be your neighbor.” This language is both violent and threatening; the Klan and other hate groups, in spite of claiming to be Christian, only demonstrate the potential of Scripture to be abused by evil. As followers of Jesus, we categorically reject the hatred, fear, and violence of the Klan as sinful, evil and anti-Christian.

Furthermore, we embrace one of the great gifts of the American tradition: the diversity that makes us great, our roots as a nation of immigrants, and our ongoing welcome of immigrants. The Emma Lazarus poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty names Liberty the “Mother of Exiles” and calls out in welcome to the world, “. . . Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We therefore denounce the efforts of the Klan as both un-American and non-Christian.

It is our hope that our community and churches will continue their long tradition of welcoming “the alien, the orphan, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:17-22) into a community “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). We devote our support to victims of racist violence and bias, and our leadership to making our churches and communities safe and welcoming for all.

Rev. JP Bohanan, Christ United Methodist Church, Mountain Top
Rev. Mark Dodson, Stairville, Slocum, and Faith United Methodist Churches
Rev. Joseph Evanko, Saint Jude’s Catholic Church, Mountain Top
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, Dorrance
Rev. Michele Kaufman, Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, Mountain Top
Rev. Brian Knorr, Mountaintop Family Center Church
Rev. Tom Miller, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, Mountain Top
Rev. Jim Shanley, The Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top
Rev. Jeffrey Tudgay, Saint Jude’s Catholic Church, Mountain Top
Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, Dorrance
Rev. Virginia Miner, Acting General Presbyter, Presbytery of Lackawanna
Rev. Dr. Thomas L. Salsgiver, District Superintendent, Lewisburg District, Susquehanna Conference, The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah J. Park, Resident Bishop, Harrisburg Area, Susquehanna Conference, The United Methodist Church

To take your stand and endorse this letter with us, please register your support at

Mission Central dedicates new truck

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — On October 21, 2015, Mission Central was able to fulfill a dream many years in the making. Thanks to a generous grant from UMCOR, a new truck was dedicated. The grant covered the purchase of the truck, the “wrap” for the truck, and expected maintenance for two years.

The truck can be used to service the HUBs, which have always had to rely on individuals to make deliveries. Being able to provide this service to the HUBs will allow for faster and more regular exchanges of supplies, delivery of UMCOR kits, and many other goods. In times of disaster and crisis, this will prove to be an invaluable resource.

Additionally, Mission Central now has the means to pick up donations, which has never been an option in the past.

Among those on hand for the dedication were Rev. Ruth Ward and Rev. Bob Ryder, along with Executive Director Rev. Rob Visscher, who all spoke and provided words of prayer. Also present was Bishop Park, who had a special prayer of dedication for the truck.

Bishop Park had these words to say, “Mission Central is no longer location bound … it is EVERYWHERE now!”

CLMs continuing education

By A. Robert Cook

In October 2015, twelve persons gathered at Christ United Methodist Church in Waynesboro to participate in a continuing education event for certified lay ministers. A certified lay minister is a qualified United Methodist lay person called to congregational leadership as part of a ministry team under the supervision of an ordained clergy. Our Annual Conference has approximately 25 CLMs serving in a variety of parish and church settings.

The event called “Holy Scripture: Biblical Foundations for Worship, Preaching, Spiritual Formation, and Leadership,” was led by Rev. Dr. G. Edwin Zeiders, and was sponsored by the York District Committee on Ministry. It was the second educational event for our CLMs.

Visit for more information.

Re-route enables church to reach out

By Pastor Nanci Kenyon

Saint Mark’s UMC in Harrisburg is typical of many smaller churches during this time. We are struggling as our membership declines, mainly due to changing demographics and an aging congregation. The week after we held a congregational meeting to discuss future options to pray about, we received a notice from the township police on our door informing us that the Harrisburg Marathon had changed it’s route, and would this year be going right past our church (closing the street) on a Sunday morning.

After researching online to see what other churches in our predicament had done, we realized that this was an opportunity that God had dropped into our laps.
An announcement was made from the pulpit that we would be “taking church outside the building” the day of the marathon to help serve the runners and to cheer for them. The director of the marathon was contacted, and the water station they had planned to man only a hundred feet or so away from our building was moved to right in front of our building. The volunteers assigned to that station were a group of middle school and high school age cross country runners and coaches from our local schools.

We, and a small start-up congregation who uses our building for worship, provided breakfast and lunch for the volunteers as well as use of our facilities. We also offered fruit for the runners. We played music over loud speakers and even had a keyboard and drums.

The organizers told us that we had the best water station on the route. Best of all, most of our small congregation came to help and cheer with enthusiasm that day. We are now planning to have at least one community outreach event per month and pray that it will be as blessed as this one was.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Spirit of Invention - Christmas Treasures

By George and Chris Binger, and Pastor Nancy Lee Goff

In 2009 a small Sunday school class had a vision to develop a Christmas gift-giving program that would provide families in need with several gifts of their choice for each of their children. With the suggestion from a dear sister in Christ of how it could be done, God took this idea and blessed it beyond our wildest imaginations!

Our first year, we set up at our recreation field in a one car garage and pavilion. We had raised over $8,000 to supply toys for nearly 500 children of 200 Perry County families. We gave each child two new toys and also had a variety of items donated such as: hand-made blankets and quilts, gloves, hats, scarves and even a few Christmas trees. Families stood for hours waiting to select toys for their children. It was a blessing that we will never forget. We had many conversations throughout that year of the blessings each and every person who served on that cold winter day had experienced.

Our second year was even better! We moved operations to the Shermans Dale ambulance building and we had over ten different partners making handmade quilts and donating toys. At the end of the event, we had provided toys to 400 children from 139 families. Each child also left with a handmade quilt, hats, gloves, scarves, books, stuffed animals, bibles, coloring books and crayons!

Again, we had donated Christmas trees available for the first 15 families who indicated a need for one. We also selected three needy families from all of the participants and delivered complete Christmas dinner kits to each of them several days before Christmas.

In 2012 we partnered with Join Hands Ministry, Inc. of New Bloomfield* and are still doing so to date. Giant Foods have generously donated gift cards which we have been able to give to eight lucky families. Along with that, several local tree farms have been donating Christmas trees. That year we provided toys for 333 children of 138 families.


In 2013 we helped 288 children of 133 families and we provided socks for the children along with items donated by Crayola. There were 35 Christmas Trees and 8/$25 Giant gift cards donated for the event.

In 2014 we helped 302 children of 127 families. Crayola donated many items again. We provided underwear for the children and 60 Christmas trees were donated as well as the 8/$25 Giant gift cards. Boy Scout Troop 7 and Cub Pak 7 served free hot chocolate on a wet chilly morning.

Now in 2015 we helped 453 children of 190 families. We were able to bless 15 families with $25 Giant Gift cards and 1 family with a $25 gift card to Karnes. Sixty-three Christmas trees were donated for the families to enjoy!

We raise funds by the help of many who love to serve from both Youngs and Shermans Dale congregations through our annual Pancake and Sausage Breakfast in the Spring, sandwich sales, Community Aid clothing bin, food stands at our church softball games, Community Gospel Concerts and wherever there is a need, a theme basket silent auction in the Fall, our Drive Thru Live Nativity in December along with many generous donations and this year we were selected to receive a grant from Community Aid.

The Christmas Treasures Committee is headed up by George Binger. He is joyful in his leadership of this great mission. There are numerous individuals who help in the program. We have parking lot greeters, shopper helpers, hosts/hostesses, those helping with the Christmas trees, and folks who pray with each family.
God has truly blessed us and many others through this ministry.

*Join Hands Ministry, Inc. is a mission of the Perry County United Methodist Cluster. It is a ministry to help those in need (electric, rent, pharmaceuticals, etc.). It is an Advance Special of the Susquehanna Conference.

Sessions Committee announces fees for 2016 Annual Conference

At its most recent gathering, the Susquehanna Conference Sessions Committee announced an increase of $25 to the cost of registration for all who attend our Annual Conference Session in 2016. The committee is charged with setting this cost annually. After reviewing all of the financial data, and facing increasing costs at Messiah College, the committee had to add the increase.

Listed below are the new registration costs indicating the change:

  • Conference Members (Laity and Clergy): $165
  • Conference Member Commuters: $165
  • Retirees (commuter, no meals): $25

Please share this information with the appropriate persons in your church in order to help with budgetary planning well in advance of Annual Conference 2016.

UM immigration ministry welcomes our Syrian neighbors

Reprinted with permission from

Jenny Ansay has a question for the 28 governors who have signaled that they would not accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attack in Paris. It’s the same question she has for members of the U.S. Congress who voted to pause acceptance of further Syrian refugees.

“Do you even know any Syrians?”
Jenny does. As an attorney for Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, Jenny works with teams of volunteers at three Chicago-area United Methodist Churches that provide free immigration legal services to low-income immigrants. Northern Illinois JFON is part of the Justice for Our Neighbors network, a United Methodist ministry founded by UMCOR in 1999 with 25 staff immigration attorneys and 40 immigration clinics around the country.

Northern Illinois JFON currently serves seven Syrian clients, which, Jenny acknowledges, isn’t a huge number. But, because of the nature of the attorney-client relationship, she learns about their lives in a very detailed way.
“I know them really well,” she says. “And I can say, without reservation, that they are all exactly the kinds of people we want and need to have in the United States.”

“We just want to live” 
Amira was the ministry’s first Syrian client in Northern Illinois.  Warm, loving and the mother of three girls, she is usually found in the kitchen, making Syrian specialties—baba ghanoush, falafel—for her new American friends. Her young daughters have recovered from the trauma of their early life and are happy in their new school.

Amira has long opposed the human rights violations carried out by the Syrian government, the opposition, and terrorist groups. She believes there is a peaceful way to bring reform. But Syria has become a dangerous place for people who believe in peaceful ways.

“Oh my God, if I have to go back to Syria,” she says in her halting English. “There is too much killing. I cannot go back.”

Marwan, also a Syrian client at Northern Illinois JFON, is an emergency room doctor. He got into trouble with his superiors because of some Facebook posts he made criticizing President Bashar al-Assad. That was the extent of his anti-government activities, but it was enough.

In most countries, doctors are valued; in Syria they are targets. Disregarding the Hippocratic Oath, the Syrian government persecutes doctors who may or may not be treating enemies of the state. “If you treat the wrong person, they are suspicious of you,” explains Marwan. “If you have the wrong religion, or you look or sound anti-government or you have friends who are anti-government, or you post on Facebook, or you watch television shows that are anti-government, then they will hurt you, torture you, kill you.”

The doctor shakes his head, searching for the words to explain what coming to America means to him and other Syrians. “We aren’t aiming to take anything from you,” he says fervently. “We just want to live.”

Finding comfort, aid, and refuge at United Methodist Churches
Refugees are granted protection by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because of their fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.  Refugees are among the most highly vetted immigrant groups admitted into the United States and must undergo fingerprinting, in-person interviews, and thorough background checks.  The process that the U.S. uses to screen refugees is much more thorough than the method used by countries in Europe.

The Justice for Our Neighbors network serves nearly 3,000 immigrants each year, including hundreds of refugees who need assistance to obtain their green cards.  The majority of our JFON clinics are held in United Methodist Churches, where volunteers help with clients’ immigration applications while also learning their stories.

For many of these vulnerable immigrants, coming to a church to receive legal services is a source of comfort and safety. Clinic volunteers prepare food for their visitors. Their children play alongside the children of clients. Volunteers within the United Methodist Church have the opportunity to engage with their neighbors from across the globe—118 countries in 2015—and appreciate the journeys they have made to be here.

Marwan reflects upon his first encounter with Jenny at a JFON clinic. “She didn’t hesitate, she didn’t say she ‘would think about it’ or ‘let me check my schedule,’” he says, his soft voice tinged with awe. “She immediately said she would help me.”

For her part, Jenny is equally impressed by all seven of her Syrian clients. “It can’t be an accident,” she says, “that all the Syrians I know are exactly the kind of people the U.S. should be welcoming. They are all lovely people. They are all Muslims. They are not terrorists.”

JFON is proud to provide a space for United Methodists to know their neighbors.

National Justice for Our Neighbors is an Advance of the United Methodist Church, Project #901285. Visit for more information.

Pray USA worship rally in Harrisburg

Left: Representative Kerry Benninghoff (a member of Bellefonte UMC) and United Methodist Advocacy Coordinator, Rev. Dai Morgan--standing in front of the historic desk.
By Rev. Dai Morgan, UM Advocacy

On Tuesday evening, November 17, 2015, Grace United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, PA hosted a Pray USA worship rally. Over 200 people attended, including 20 Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives. Several of the lawmakers spoke about the need to draw upon the beliefs and values of our Christian faith in the political process and halls of government. The event concluded with the assembly signing the Pray for America Proclamation, which was placed on one of the desks used by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives when the House moved to Grace Church after the Capitol was destroyed by fire in 1897.

Learn more about the Pray USA movement by visiting the website:

Grace UMC pastor Rev. Yvette Davis (left) and Senator Steward Greenleaf.

Christ United Methodist Men’s toy project

By Tom Wynkoop, member of Christ UMC, Waynesboro, PA

Continuing their annual toy ministry, the Methodist Men’s group from Christ United Methodist Church in Waynesboro recently completed twenty-one wooden toy fire trucks. Measuring almost 18” long, each unit consists of twenty-three pieces, including two ladders, three figurines and six wheels. Materials for the project were donated by the local Lowes store and the twenty-one units required approximately sixty man hours to complete.

At a time closer to Christmas, the fire trucks will be delivered to Waynesboro Area Human and Community Resources organization for distribution to less fortunate children in the area.

This is the 25th year the men’s group has worked the toy Ministry. Plans are already underway for next year’s project.

AC resolutions due in February

One of the special expressions of the United Methodist polity is the opportunity for members of the connection to offer a resolution for consideration to a conference. The founders of our movement believed that in conferencing the Holy Spirit of God could guide us to consider the prompting of our members. The opportunity is here once again for you, your congregation or any of its members to offer a resolution for consideration at the 2016 session of Annual Conference.

A resolution typically is formatted with a series of statements beginning with “whereas.” These statements provide the rationale of the petitioner. These statements demonstrate the assumptions that the petitioner holds. They belong to the petitioner. After the series of “whereas” statements, there appears at least one statement that begins “Therefore, be it resolved.” This becomes the main motion that is put before the Conference. If more than one action is being petitioned, another statement may be added beginning “be it further resolved.”

The Mission and Outreach Team is charged with receiving these resolutions and passing them on to conference with either a vote of concurrence or non-concurrence.

Resolutions are to be clearly printed and sent together with supporting documentation. It is preferred that all resolutions be received electronically via email. You can email them to me at And, if you are unable to email the resolutions, you may mail them to:
Mission and Outreach Team
Rev. Mark Reisinger, Chair
42 S. 3rd St
Lewisburg PA 17837

All resolutions must reach the board no later than February 16, 2016. Please indicate a contact person should the Team need to contact the petitioner for clarification.

125th Anniversary at Pleasant Grove

By Elaine Hibner

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the building of the first church at Pleasant Grove, 900 Pleasant Grove Road, Red Lion, PA. Bible study and preaching services were held as early as 1868, but no church was built until 1890.

In honor of this event and throughout 2015 we have had several special programs. We started on June 6 with a musical jamboree with food and entertainment for everyone. The musical groups “Greatly Blessed,” “Delta Road String Band,” and “Total Surrender” provided our entertainment which was enjoyed by all.

On Sunday, June 14 our district superintendent, Rev. Dr. Charles Salisbury, blessed us with his presence. In July and August two of our former pastors, Rev. Ersel Staples and Rev. Joseph Yorks were with us. In October Rev. Jeffrey Slemp was with this and in November we had a special service with Bishop Jeremiah J. Park and his wife with us. As a congregation we were truly blessed with these services. After the services we celebrated with a luncheon and enjoyed meeting and sharing with everyone. The Lord has truly blessed us with his presence over the years.

Happiness for Mission Central!

United Methodists throughout the Susquehanna Annual Conference are eager to pay off Mission Central’s mortgage! Through generous gifts and many sacrifices the mortgage now stands below one million dollars ($914,000)!

We’re proud to report that Mission Central has served over two million people world wide! Eight thousand volunteers have made this possible, making it the largest single ministry of the Susquehanna Annual Conference.

Mission Central is now pleased to announce a new opportunity to to help pay off its mortgage.

A new book has just been published entitled “The Secrets of Jesus Happiness.” It is an easy, light hearted celebration of Jesus’ greatest teaching from His Sermon on the Mount.

Bishop Park has high praise for the book. He writes, “I have to warn you that once you start reading [The Secrets of Jesus Happiness] you won’t want to put it down until you finish it.

All proceeds from the sale of this book ($9.99, Tate Publishing) will be dedicated to Mission Central to help pay off its mortgage, so you’re encouraged to go online (via and and purchase the book — release date December 15. In doing so you will help pay off Mission Central’s mortgage.

By the way, the book enjoys an additional benefit. It can be read for personal enjoyment, but it can also be used for a small group or Bible study. Each chapter ends with study questions that make for an excellent Lenten study.

Down to earth and to the point. You will be inspired, instructed, and amused.
— Bishop Jeremiah Park

Discovery Place - Lent is right around the corner

As you bask in the glow and peace of the Christmas season, don’t forget that Lent is right around the corner. January is not too soon to begin planning your Lenten Bible studies. Here are some of the Lenten studies available from Discovery Place:

John: The Gospel of Light and Life:  Join Adam Hamilton this Lent and Easter in exploring the major themes of the Gospel of John, the most deeply spiritual of the four Gospels. In this six session study, you’ll follow the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus and understand the context of some of the best-known verses of the New Testament.

Final Words From The Cross: In this inspiring study, Adam Hamilton examines Christ’s dying hours and his final words as seen and heard through the eyes and ears of those who stood near the cross.

A Place At The Table: 40 Days of Solidarity With The Poor: In a culture built on consumption--especially of food--it is easy to forget the poor that Jesus cared so much about. We get caught up in acquiring, buying, getting, eating. Author Chris Seay is giving you a challenge--eat like the poor for 40 days and donate the money you save on groceries to a charity or project that serves the poor in concrete ways.

The God We Can Know: Exploring The I Am Sayings of Jesus: In this 7-session study, Rob Fuquay explores the “I am” statements of Jesus. The DVD, filmed on location in the Holy Land, allows us to travel with Rob and actually see the places where Jesus stood while disclosing his identity, and in what context he spoke each “I Am” statement.

24 Hours That Changed The World: No single event in human history has received more attention than the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. In this study, Adam Hamilton guides us through the last twenty-four hours of Jesus’ life.

Resurrection: Did It Happen? What Could It Mean?: The most startling claim of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead after being brutally executed on a Roman cross two thousand years ago. Could it possibly be true? And if it were, what difference could it make to us today?

The Last Days of Jesus: Deeper Connections Series: This study invites us to see the behind-the-scenes truth of the main events of Jesus’ death—so that his death can affect our lives today, right where we live, in the midst of our weaknesses and failures.

Prophecies of the Passion: The Old Testament prophets looked centuries into the future and described the final days of Christ’s life on earth. Their visions were fulfilled in remarkable detail, revealing the true identity of the Messiah—the Savior of the world.

Conference students earn college scholarships from U M Higher Education agency

Congratulations to the following students who were awarded college scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year from our General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) in Nashville:

Beth Pyles, Wolfsburg UMC, Bedford, Pa., Evangelical Theological Seminary

Jessica Sivers, Fairdale UMC, Montrose, Pa., Lycoming College

Nicalus Harclerode, Second Ave UMC,  Altoona Pa., Lycoming College

Emily Thoman, Christ UMC, Yorkana, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Matthew Houck, Grace UMC, Hummelstown, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Abigail Stoner, Camp Hill UMC, Camp Hill, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Alexandra Miller, Baughman Memorial UMC, New Cumberland, Pa., Lycoming College

Brooke Barrett, Christ UMC, Yorkana, Pa., Arcadia University

Emma Musto, Lenoxville UMC, Lenoxville, Pa., Albright College

Cassie Harrison, First UMC,  Williamsport, Pa., Houghton College

Rachel Shaffer, Donnally Mills UMC, Millerstown, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Taylor Pfaff, Camp Hill UMC, Camp Hill, Pa., Duke University Divinity School

Adam Evanko, Park Forest Village UMC, State College, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Dennis  Wilt, Wehnwood UMC,  Altoona, Pa., Juniata College

Christine Hallman, Fishburn UMC, Hershey, Pa., Lebanon Valley College

Margaret West, Mansfield First UMC, Mansfield, Pa., Allegheny College

Lisa Aronson, First UMC, Mechanicsburg, Pa., Evangelical Theological Seminary

Aaron Wink, Christ UMC, Selinsgrove, Pa., Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Students who are members of The United Methodist Church may apply for a Fall 2016 GBHEM scholarship online between January 4, 2016 – March 1, 2016 at Student loans are also available at interest rates as low as 3.75% (lower than federal educational loan rates) with a credit worthy cosigner.

Thank you for your support in recognizing United Methodist Student Day, World Communion Sunday, and Native American Sunday which help fund a portion of these loans and scholarships. The remaining funds for these awards come from gifts, annuities and endowments GBHEM has invested and administered for decades.

General Conference prayer observance to begin Jan 1

Nashville, Tenn.: January 1 will lead off 131 days of continual prayer for the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (#UMCGC), which meets May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon.

The quadrennial legislative event begins 131 days after the New Year. By coincidence, there are 131 annual (regional) conferences in The United Methodist Church.

As the spiritual leaders of The United Methodist Church, the Council of Bishops conceived the plan for a prayer vigil in the months before the event as a meaningful way to focus spiritually on the experience, as well as to surround the delegates and church leaders with prayer for a General Conference that inspires us in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

 “We are encouraging people to pray for God to guide delegates and church leaders as they prepare for General Conference,” said Bishop Al Gwinn, who chairs the Council’s prayer subcommittee. “We hope they will pray that God would give them an understanding and loving heart; that all will have a spirit of humility and a desire to do God’s will; and that the fruit of the Spirit would be evident in such a way that all who observe would sense that true Christian conferencing will take place.”

Read full article at

Where Your Treasure Is

By Rev. Phyllis Bowers, Stewardship Foundation Executive Director

There’s a growing cry about the Christmas season starting before Thanksgiving as if there is no connection between the two holidays.  How do you feel? Are we finally moving toward living out the sacrificial love of Christmas all year round or are we only trivializing and desensitizing ourselves to the meaning of the gifts and gift giving?

It almost seems fitting for the Christmas season to unofficially start on our All Saint’s day even if the commercial world promoting this is motivated by other agendas.  Because we feel the push of others to set our calendar and giving ideas, we can resent the pressures of escalating expectations and our loss of time and control. We can feel like we have to take back and hold onto Christmas to save it.

Stewardship offers another way to appreciate what is happening. We celebrate with joy, not fear. We celebrate with peace, not stress. We celebrate Jesus, not one day of the year.

So many people say, “I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.” Others, “I can’t wait for Christmas to begin.” But I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to be a continuous part of Christmas. I can’t wait for us to stop fighting about the timing of the celebration and just celebrate God. I can’t wait for us to start inviting those who are so eager to have the superficial part of Christmas to accept the gift of so much more in Jesus.

Stewardship is in part about saving and giving. We don’t have to “save Christmas” and keep to ourselves; we give it to others and share why. We don’t have to worry about others trying to take our time and money and holiday if we constantly ask God to be in control of our lives.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holy-days! May we give Christmas joy to those who need it most and share Christmas spirit all year long. God bless!
Faithfully in love and service,

Phyllis Bowers
Terri Cartwright
Bill Fordney
Dolly A. Marzullo
Bonnie Young

Our Heritage

By Dr. Milton Loyer

November - 100 years ago
November 1915 was a big month for Central Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre and its pastor Elmer E. Helms. Admitted on trial by the Genesee Conference in 1891, E.E. Helms soon became one of Methodism’s “big church” preachers. He came to Wilkes-Barre in 1911 from Buffalo, and had been invited to accept an appointment to Chicago’s prestigious Park Avenue Church at the October 1915 session of the Rock River Conference. When he decided to remain at Central, the congregation gave him a hearty and well-attended reception. This was followed by a previously arranged series of nine lectures November 7-14 by Dr. John Price Durbin John, former president of DePauw University and now a lecturer-at-large for Methodism. While in Wilkes-Barre, Dr. John also lectured before the Methodist Ministers’ Association, the Federation of Churches, and Wyoming Seminary. Dr. Helms, as it happened, remained in Wilkes-Barre for only one more year – in 1916 he moved on to Calvary Church in Philadelphia, and in 1921 to Los Angeles First. The Wilkes-Barre Central congregation erected their first building on Ross Street in 1857 and moved to their current Academy Street location in 1901. The large stone structure in which Dr. Helms preached and Dr. John lectured in 1915, however, was destroyed by fire in 1975 and replaced by the present modern building.

December - 50 years ago
An all-day Methodist-EUB “Christmas Conference on the Ministry” was held Wednesday, December 29, 1965, at Dickinson College in Carlisle. Planned by a joint committee representing the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Church and the Susquehanna Conference of the EUB Church, the event was designed “to initiate and maintain a continuing fellowship of those preparing for the ministry” within the two separate denominations that would soon be united. Participants in the program included bishops Newell Booth (Methodist) and Hermann Kaebnick (EUB), Lycoming College president D. Frederick Wertz and United Theological Seminary professor Harry DeWire. Invitations were extended to high school, college, and seminary students who had indicated an interest in the ministry – and high school students were asked to bring their pastors with them.

On to Glory - Death Notices

Rev. Donald J. Ciampa, Retired, of Winterhaven Drive, Mechanicsburg, Pa., died Sunday, November 15, 2015. Among his survivors is his wife, Joanne H. Ciampa. Memorial services were held Saturday, November 21, 2015, in First United Methodist Church, Mechanicsburg, Pa. Interment was in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Rev. Calvin B. Haverstock Jr., Retired, and former New Cumberland District Superintendent, of Williamsburg Way, Mechanicsburg, Pa., died Wednesday, November 25, 2015, at home. Among his survivors is his wife, Zedna M. (Shaffer) Haverstock. Memorial services were held Saturday, November 28, 2015, in Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Mrs. Gladys C. Sebring, of Brook Street, Moscow, Pa., widow of Rev. Edward F. Sebring, died Saturday, October 31, 2015, at home. Memorial services were held Friday, November 6, 2015, in Moscow United Methodist Church, Moscow, Pa. Interment was in Fairview Memorial Park, Elmhurst, Pa.

Pastor Leon G. Scholl, of Selinsgrove, Pa., local pastor on medical leave, died Thursday, November 12, 2015, in Williamsport Regional Hospital. Among his survivors is his wife, Susan Scholl. Memorial services were held Monday, November 16, 2015, in Christ Community United Methodist Church (Hummels Wharf), Selinsgrove, Pa. Interment was in Evergreen Cemetery, Selinsgrove, Pa.

Rev. Aaron M. Sheaffer, Retired, of Indian Ripple Road, Dayton, Ohio, died Saturday, September 26, 2015, in Trinity Community of Beavercreek, Dayton, Ohio. Among his survivors is his wife, Patricia S. (nee Oyer) Sheaffer. Memorial services were held Saturday, October 31, 2015, in Shiloh Church, Dayton, Ohio.

Rev. George A. Zimmermann Jr., Retired, of Towers Circle North East, Atlanta, Ga., died Tuesday, October 13, 2015, in Embracing Hospice, Snellville, Ga. Memorial services were held Saturday, October 17, 2015, in Georgetown United Methodist Church, Georgetown, Fla. Interment was in Georgetown Cemetery, Georgetown, Fla.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

700 emerging NEJ leaders meet to ‘See Know Love’

Photos by Susquehanna Conference staff

More than 700 church leaders from the Northeast Jurisdiction gathered in Hershey for SEE KNOW LOVE, a leadership training event.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber

Rev. Albert Mosely
Photo gallery from NEJ here:
Article by Erik Alsgaard, UMConnection Staff, Baltimore-Washington Conference

Hearts Strangely Warmed - Pastor Jen Ryerson

“While the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
— John Wesley, May 24, 1738

God calls us to tell our story so that others may come to know Jesus Christ. “Hearts Strangely Warmed” was created to share these stories about transformational encounters with the Living God.

Pastor Jen Ryerson
I grew up in a Christian home with two very loving parents. My heart warms as I think about my childhood days of church potlucks, bake sales, handbell choir, Sunday school, and singing my first church solo. I get tickled with joy when I think about the Sunday mornings I sat in the pew of my grandfather’s churches. I would watch him in awe and wonder as he would preach the Word of God with such authority, with enthusiasm, and deep passion. My grandfather, Rev. Harold J. Knepp, was a mighty man of God. He impacted my life in profound ways. He had a servant’s heart and he showed me how to love. He taught me how to be the hands and feet of Jesus, leading by his own powerful example and witness. In my heart I believe he laid the foundation for my faith, he spoke blessing after blessing into my life.

It was around a campfire at Camp Penn church camp that I was saved. I was thirteen years old that summer I became a Christian. At that moment, around that warm camp fire with tears streaming down my cheeks, I received the Holy Spirit into my life. I remember feeling so alive!

Listen, my faith journey has not always been smooth and exciting. There have been times in my life when I have doubted God’s goodness and His grace. I abandoned the church and I abandoned God for a couple of years as I ventured out on my own and began to study at cosmetology school and even into my early 20s. I was living purely on my own strength and my own terms, never consulting with God during those years. I was having fun. Or so I thought. Looking back I realize, God never left me, not once. God has been constant! He never stopped whispering His promises in my ears. Glory!

The Lord led us to an amazing church and church family in 2002 and that is where my husband and I laid claim to our own personal relationships with Jesus Christ. No longer was I living with the Jesus that my parents and grandparents found for me. I had found Jesus and I began my very own intimate relationship with him.

Fast forward many years. My husband Dan and I have four beautiful and precious children. It was shortly after having our fourth child, just four-and-a-half years ago, that I strongly felt God’s call upon my life. I knew God was up to something. There was this fire, this passion, a stirring deep in my heart and my soul. I wanted so much more of Him and I so desperately wanted what He wanted for my life. I would be lying though, if I didn’t say that when I discerned that this call was a call to a life of pastoral ministry, I fought it. I fought it hard at first, full of so many mixed emotions. The greatest emotion that overcame me was doubt. Doubt in myself and quite honestly, doubting that God would be calling me. Me, the stay-at-home-mom of four. I just didn’t believe that I discerned the call correctly. I had to be wrong. I had a hundred questions and believe me, I feel like I asked God all one hundred of them many times over.

Glory to God! He just kept pursuing me and placing mentors and friends in and out of my life who were affirming my call. When I wanted to give up and when fear took up residence in my heart, there they were. My husband and many people were encouraging me, speaking truth into me, and holding me accountable. I wouldn’t be where I am today without God so lovingly allowing me the privilege of having these people so present in my life. God used these people as His holy vessels and I am eternally grateful.

I am thrilled to share that I am currently serving Longstown UMC in York, Pa., as a licensed local pastor. The Lord continues to mold, grow, challenge, and stretch me beyond my comfort zone. And I love it. I am reminded daily of the truth that His love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out. I am very excited to be on this journey. So often I say, “Yes, God, I am ready. Let’s go, let’s do this!”

And in those moments when fear and doubt creep in (because we all know those emotions are real) and I find myself on my knees before the King, I turn to the words of a favorite song titled, “The River”:
Precious Jesus, I am ready 
To surrender every care. 
Take my hand now, lead me closer, 
Lord I need to meet you there!

God meets me there every single time and He is ready to meet you where you are too. Hallelujah!