By Susan Kim (UMCOR) and LINK staff
“...That this Conference create a Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief...We urge our Methodist people to participate fully, heartily and sacrificially...”
These words, excerpted from the proceedings of the First General Conference in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1940, represent the start of the journey of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)—a journey that has helped millions of people across the world.
Seventy-five years later—on March 15, 2015—around 500 people gathered to celebrate the creation of UMCOR during a service at Asbury United Methodist Church—formerly Central Methodist Church, the location in Atlantic City where UMCOR first came into existence.
Congregations from Asbury, Venice Park and Hamilton United Methodist churches, as well as friends from across the country, including representatives from many conferences, UMCOR staff, folks involved with Hurricane Sandy recovery, and the mayor of Atlantic City, gathered with a sense of historical appreciation and future vision. The celebration service lasted about two hours, and there was a reception to follow.
March 15 was One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday, during which churches across the globe collected an offering that enables UMCOR to continue its 75-year legacy of responding to those in need. Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing fund UMCOR’s administrative costs, and allow 100 percent of all other donations to be spent on programs specified by the donor.
“...to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness...” Isaiah 42:7
At the service of celebration, the Rev. Denise Honeycutt, UMCOR deputy general secretary, preached a sermon entitled “Now That’s Worth Celebrating.” She focused on Isaiah 42:5-9.
|Jean Norris and her husband Rev. Dave Norris represented Susquehanna Conference and Mission Central.|
Jean Norris was touched by the event in a variety of ways. “As a United Methodist, I was extremely proud to be there to see what we have been doing for seventy-five years as a connectional church, to be able to see the help we have been able to provide around the world to folks in need. I’ve always supported UMCOR, but this just kind of cemented my respect for what we are doing as a denomination.” Jean was also grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the UMCOR leaders.
Secondly, being in Atlantic City on the heels of Hurricane Sandy and hearing them talking about how UMCOR almost immediately gave them a huge grant, which they used to form a partnership organization called A Future with Hope, was very meaningful to Jean. That organization is now responsible for the restoration in Atlantic City and the whole coast of New Jersey. They reported that through February, 2015, they had completed the repairs on 134 homes in New Jersey, returned more than 300 people to their homes, and have been working with more than 9,000 volunteers. The work is still in progress, and UMCOR will stay for the long haul, to the end.
Thirdly, Jean gained greater understanding and appreciation of the tie between Mission Central and UMCOR. “To be there to represent Mission Central and to know that we are an arm of UMCOR, being one of the seven relief supply depots across the U.S., is pretty impressive.” They also had the chance to meet and talk with representatives from a Mission Central HUB in Northfield, New Jersey; the Good Shepherd HUB, who were funneled all the supplies from Mission Central in Mechanicsburg to aid people who were in need in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
Bishop John Schol of the Greater New Jersey Conference and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, who currently heads UMCOR’s board of directors, also attended the service, along with United Methodist missionaries, both current and retired, from New Jersey and elsewhere.
“Bishop Schol personally came up to us and asked us to bring gratitude back, because he knew that the Susquehanna Conference had given $40,000 to aid the folks after Hurricane Sandy. To be there and be part of that was pretty neat,” said Jean.
|Jean Norris and Bishop John Schol, episcopal leader of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.|