Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cermonial first pitch

Photos: Quinn Ney, York Revolution Client Services

Bishop Jeremiah Park threw the ceremonial first pitch at the York Revolution baseball game on July 15. More than 260 people from York District UM churches were there to enjoy the game. (Below) Bishop Park shakes hands with York Revolution infielder Andres Perez.

What was this “Red Lion Boy” doing in Singapore?

“I have a much, much better understanding of the peoples of the world called Methodists."—Kirby Hickey
By Jerry Wolgemuth

In 1991 Kirby Hickey found himself asking God, “What is this boy from Red Lion, Pennsylvania, doing here in Singapore on two different committees with no idea what they’re about?”

Previous to his appearance in Singapore, Hickey was selected by Bishop Felton May to be among 500 persons selected by their Methodist bishops to serve on the World Methodist Council. “I had no idea why he selected me other than the fact that I had been involved at the Central Pennsylvania Conference level in a variety of activities.”

In Singapore Hickey was selected to be one of 100 persons to serve on the Executive Council. He brought to the council his business acumen by being involved in a twenty-million-dollar capital campaign called, “Achieving the Vision.” “This is an endowment that we’re still seeking funds for,” he quickly adds.

Hickey soon sold his businesses and retired. Five years ago he was called out of retirement to serve as a chief financial officer for the World Methodist Council, and along with that came an election as treasurer and chief financial officer.
“I feel very blessed to have been asked and to have received the confidence of those members of the council. And I thank God for the gifts and graces that he has provided,” Kirby says.

Is Kirby Hickey a different person than in 1991 because of the World Methodist Council? “Yes,” he will respond. “I’m much more mature in my faith. I have a much, much better understanding of the peoples of the world called Methodists.”
The World Methodist Council provides a gathering place for all people who call themselves Methodists or who would be of the Wesleyan tradition.

The council also provides a voice on the international stage as well as dialogues with those outside the Wesleyan tradition. Hickey points to a dialogue committee that opens those conversations. “The committee is headed by a Ph.D. in Theology from Australia. For example, he has a team that meets regularly with representatives from the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes they meet in the Vatican. These dialogues have been going on for fifty years. The conversations are primarily to find common ground, to find out where we are not so different from each other. Does it mean that we’ll become one at some point? Probably not. But at least we’re able to share our alliances, our beliefs, our differences in a setting that is healthy dialogue.”

The World Methodist Council celebrated its one hundredth year in 2013. If you want to know more about the World Methodist Council, you can visit their website at where you’ll find this descriptive statement: “The World Methodist Council is a worldwide association of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan, and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80.5 million people. It engages, empowers, and serves the member churches by encouraging Methodist unity in witness, facilitating mission in the world, and fostering ecumenical and inter-religious activities. It promotes obedience to the Great Commandment of Jesus Christ to love God and neighbor and to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples through vibrant evangelism, a prophetic voice, cooperative programs, faithful worship and mutual learning.”

Youth in mission

Elm Park United Methodist Church, Scranton, Pa., hosted a United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth group from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in July as part of a week-long mission event to reach out to the community of Scranton.

Projects completed by the young people included building two handicap ramps, providing and installing a chair lift, painting, trash removal, yard cleanup, and much more.

Elm Park church also hosted a dinner during the week for recipients of the services provided. Together with the mission team members they shared stories of their experiences through the week.

“The kids did so much more for us than just scrape and paint our deck and foundation; they gave themselves, their hearts. We shared devotions,” said recipients Joe and Carol.

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

The following is part two 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

It’s all about Jesus
Rev. Rich Morris, Hicks Memorial UMC, Duncansville
(edited transcript)

I know this isn’t ground-breaking news but it’s still all about Jesus. It was all about Jesus yesterday, and it’s still all about Jesus today, because he is the Lord of life. And the transforming power of God is only accessed by faithful disciples who follow Jesus in the kingdom life.

He is the Lord of life, he is declaring that the school of life is in session, and he invites us to enter into life with him today. He is Savior, and he is one who calls us to step into the kingdom today; not to wait until after we die, but today. And his kingdom preaching was [that] now is the day of salvation — today is the day that we enter into life with him.

I am also convicted that nominal faith produces nominal life. Early in my pastoral ministry I observed good church people behaving badly. I don’t know if you have ever observed that. I remember the very first administrative board meeting I attended as a new pastor. The treasurer threw her books across a table in anger at someone else, and I sat there agape, thinking what have I signed up for? What is going on here?

I continue to wrestle with the question of why the church that I pastor fails to produce authentic disciples. I ask the questions, what about our life together is good, and what is not really helpful? And I realized that the usual way of doing things is not producing the disciples that we need.

For example, I discovered not all of our Sunday school classes are actually spending their time engaging the Scripture. They are talking about other stuff. I thought, well, what needs to change here?

I realize that it starts with me, and the rest of our leadership as a church. So, as the leadership of the church, we try to make our expectations clear about what a disciple looks like and what a disciple does:

  • A disciple worships weekly with the church, and daily in his or her life. 
  • A disciple is in a small group to study Scripture. 
  • A disciple grows in spiritual practices. 
  • A disciple tithes or grows toward a tithe. 
  • A disciple serves in the larger community. 
  • A disciple witnesses for Christ all the time. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular. We are on-call all the time, giving a witness for Christ.

We expect the leadership in the church to model this so that we have a right to ask this of our folks.

I’ve been asked by people in my church  — long-time church members, church members that I’m friends with personally say to me, “Rich, do you really get up in the morning and open your Bible?” And I say, yeah, that really happens. And that can happen for you. People want to know if it’s possible to live like Jesus today. They want to see if anyone is living it.

As for reaching new people with the gospel, I feel like for the past thirty years we have been crying out to the culture, hey, come join us, we are just like you, we are just like you, we are just like you. And they finally believed us. They said, you’re right, you are just like us, so why should we come to church? I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be culturally relevant. I think my church seeks to be that. But in critical ways the church is called to be counter-cultural. For example, Tim Keller says that Christians today will be different from the culture in several key areas: in how we use power, in how we use money, and how we express our sexuality.

Have you ever wondered if celebrities on TV actually [use] the products they endorse? Have you ever wondered that? In the church we endorse a product, but perhaps we are not [consuming] what we are selling either. Perhaps the way we do church has no relevance and power for daily living. What people really need to see are Christians actually living and becoming like Jesus Christ.

Now anytime you talk about high standards of discipleship you open yourself up to charges of hypocrisy and self-righteousness and criticism, but the grace of Jesus Christ is not only the power to forgive us but the power to change us. Can I have an amen, church?

To focus on Jesus and the church is to do the things he did; to do what he is doing; to emulate him in discipline and practice. Things like prayer, solitude, service, study, fasting, worship, and celebration.

So at my church we are trying to introduce new people to these age-old disciplines. We do this through small group ministry. And as Janet Durrwachter so aptly said, we haven’t arrived. We do some things poorly, and we’re trying, and struggling, and growing.
We did a church-wide read-the-Bible-in-a-year program, and that was such a blessing for so many people to do this for the very first time in their lives — to read through the word of God from beginning to end together. And there are some that couldn’t do it in a year — I have a group that’s reading the Bible in four or five years, but they are sticking with it.

We focus on inter-generational ministries so that we are teaching and mentoring each other across age groups.

An example of this is, the first Sunday of each month at two of our three Sunday morning worship services we have something that we call family worship. And that just means that we are all there together. We don’t send the kids to Sunday school. We don’t send them to children’s church like we do other Sundays. But we are all together worshipping. And so we try to create our worship experiences so that the generations are interacting together and worshiping together. We challenge our whole church to memorize Scripture each Sunday by giving memory verses in the bulletins that correspond to the message.

It can be challenging, because we have a lot of kids. Since children’s ministry is a strength for our church, we take it outside the building into the neighborhood through something we call Backyard Club. It is a weekly, kind of mini-VBS that we do at a local housing project. We’re there to teach them about Jesus. We’re there to model how people of Christ treat each other, because their default is fighting and anger anytime anything goes wrong. One day a boy threw a piece of pizza at a girl. It wasn’t a big deal, until the parents got involved, and then it escalated.

The kids of the project are used to having churches send vans and busses in to ship them out to their building for a time, and then return them. We’re not going to do that. We come to them, because we know Jesus is already there where they live. And we want to be there with them.

Methodists give lip-service sometimes to John Wesley, and we have our favorite Wesley quotes, but are we doing the things that he did? Are we rising to pray, to study God’s word? Are we giving sacrificially? Are we serving? We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

We live in a time where this ancient wisdom is fresh every morning for those who would enter in to following the Master of the school of life. It takes time and effort to lead Bible studies, to train new leaders, to model what a follower of Jesus actually does. The world’s great need today is to see Christian’s live authentically like Jesus. This is what the Holy Spirit blesses. This is where power and transformation is found. This is the church that is vital.

Look for part three in the next LINK or go to for the video and full transcript.

Editorial: Four C’s toward 21st century skills

By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications

We seem to be attracted to communicating these days with lists of a certain number of memorable, single-word tenets. If you’re active on social media you’re exposed daily, to 7 reasons …, 8 ways …, 22 best …, etc. Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist, is known for his suggestions of how we develop new skill-sets to meet the challenges of this 21st century. Robinson recently suggested four C-words that might deserve our attention in our endeavors to be a church for a broken world: creativity, compassion, composure, and collaboration. The four might even be a simple tool to audit our effectiveness in carrying out Christ’s commission.

As the fruit of imagination, creativity is the capacity for new thinking. This culture looks to the church for the preservation of immutable ideas but they beg us to find ways to apply those ideas in ways that relate to their daily concerns for living in the 21st century. The world is crying for fresh thinking.

It’s certainly “our word” as we follow our Lord. Compassion is rooted in empathy. It’s our ability to see from another’s point of view, to “walk in their shoes” in order to see the world as others see it. Compassion will temper the interchange between persons of disparate views.

In this very complex world many people find themselves off balance in a variety of ways. While not endorsing a particular spiritual perspective, Robinson points to a spiritual deficit in the lives of many. A recent report by the World Health Organization asserts that “by the year 2020 depression will be the second largest cause of disability in human populations.” It’s reassuring to see the church responding in this area of opportunity to support healing of the mind.

Collaboration – We live in systems that have become based more and more on competition, win-win, and individualism. If we are not careful, even within the church we can be unwittingly drawn into a competitive mode: to attract the most, sign up the most, raise the most, and so on. There can be a place for appropriate competition but there’s a much more important place for collaboration. When we face common challenges we’re more likely to solve them if we work together. We’ve been saying lately, “We’re better together.”


The Journey

By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

Greetings in the name of Christ!

One of my favorite opportunities is to resource a local church with the visioning process. In the life-cycle of a vital congregation it is its vision that drives its mission and ministry. Over time such a vision for outward focused ministry can be replaced with other driving forces that can sap its energy and its life. For instance, a church driven by meetings and structure spends most of its time and energy on committees with little time for faith formation or ministry beyond the very basics. A church focusing on its financial stress and despair, rather than ministry, can easily lose focus upon its mission and begin a journey of serious decline even unto death. A clear vision makes a church relevant. Most young adults (a missing segment in our churches) explain they do not attend church because they see the church as irrelevant to their needs and the needs of their communities.

A congregation with a shared vision provides the energy and focus necessary to carry out its God-given mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Vision is the picture of the future that the church strives to make a reality. Without vision, “wandering in the wilderness” becomes the norm.

Several years ago I believed that visioning was like dreaming. It seemed like a congregation could start its visioning process by picturing the reality it hoped for. For instance, “We want a vital youth ministry.” Sometimes just stating it made it work. Sometimes by the grace of God the dreams of a congregation, the demographics, and needs of their community happened to match, and real ministry happened. But “sometimes” isn’t enough to embark upon a journey, and can lead to frustration and ultimately shattered hope.

Over the last few years I have challenged those I have worked with to begin the visioning process from a new place. Using MissionInsite, our online resource for understanding our mission field, it is possible to discover a vision rooted in the needs of the community rather than our perceived notions. By going beyond simple demographics – numbers and statistics alone – MissionInsite can help any congregation better align its vision for the future with the actual needs of the community it serves.

While the MissionInsite tool alone can’t create a vital vision for your church, it can open the door for the Holy Spirit to speak to a congregation about the ministry needs of the community wherein God has placed that church. Ministering to what really matters with the folks who have yet to experience God’s love in Christ can make all the difference in the world between a church that simply survives and one whose people are Alive in Christ.

For help with visioning or using MissionInsite, please contact me at the conference office (1-800-874-8474 or  for more information. I’d love to make the vision journey with you.
Grace & Peace!

Commentary: Did anyone ever take Madelyn to lunch?

By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications

I thought of Madelyn Murray O’Hare some time ago while riding down Forrester Street. Whatever happened to her? She was an American atheist activist, founder of American Atheists, and the organization’s president from 1963 to 1986. She is best known for the Murray v. Curlett lawsuit, which led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling ending official Bible-reading in American public schools in 1963.

Madelyn was born in Hayesville, Ohio. She lived there for awhile. You can’t get the folks in Hayesville to talk about Madelyn. The folks at nearby Ashland College, where she attended, don’t like to talk about Madelyn either.

Madelyn, chief of all atheists, always made for great ratings for the talk show types. You could book Madelyn and get some hoot-and-holler preacher to put her on the skewer, and the sponsors would grin all the way to the bank.

I’ve wondered what Jesus would have done with Madelyn. I think Jesus might have taken her to lunch, gone down by the sea, had a little fresh fish on a fire, talked about the weather, the kids, the garden. Maybe he’d have slipped a box of chocolates behind her screen door on her birthday.

I’ve a feeling Madelyn was another Saul waiting to be transformed into a Paul ... but no one ever took her to lunch ... or slipped a box of chocolates behind her screen door.

How sad!

There are Madelyns all around us, folks downright hostile to what we believe. I’ve a suggestion: Let’s take ‘em to lunch ... talk about the weather, the kids, the garden, maybe slip a box of chocolates behind their screen door on their birthdays.

I’ve concluded that we can package our message of Jesus in all the gimmicks we want, but if it never gets down to goin’ to lunch or droppin’ a box of chocolates behind the screen door, this “Gospel Ship ain’t going’ nowhere.

Glad we could get together.

GET REAL: finding your true self in Jesus

What an amazing summer it has been for each of the Susquehanna Conference Camp & Retreat Ministry sites. God’s spirit has been consistent at each site through Bible study, hikes, water games, swimming, tubing, singing, worship, canoeing, and much more. Friendships have been made. New skills have been learned. Risks have been taken in these safe environments to try new things. What an amazing God we serve!

This summer campers were encouraged to “Get Real, Finding Your True Self in Jesus!” They learned who Jesus is and what he means to each camper. They saw how Jesus is our friend, a great teacher, a healer, how he offers forgiveness, and how he calls us to join him in his ministry everyday of our lives.

Check out the new video on the camping website at to see some of the pictures from the summer.

Thank you to all the churches that sent children and youth to camp. Thank you for supporting Camp & Retreat Ministry. This year the Camper Scholarship Fund gave assistance to 110 campers for a total of $17,744. There were 72 first-time commitments to Christ made, and over 600 re-commitments made. It’s a blessing that we can give this assistance.

You can see from these fabulous pictures how wonderful the summer has been. Thank you so much for helping to touch lives for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Sunday, September 20, is Christian Education Sunday. One hundred percent of the special offering collected will go toward camper scholarships. Please consider supporting this vital ministry.

TOP churches sending campers to summer camp

Aldersgate UMC, Mechanicsburg (69)
First UMC, Mechanicsburg (50)
First UMC, Williamsport (49)
Camp Hill UMC (46)
Stewartstown UMC (40)
Christ UMC, Selinsgrove (38)
Duncansville UMC (34)
Calvary UMC, Harrisburg (21)
Aldersgate UMC, York (18)
Grace UMC, Hummelstown (18)
Wesley UMC, Bloomsburg (18)

What do young people want from the church?

By Rev. Mira Hewlett
Reprinted with permission from Interpreter Magazine, May/June issue

It’s all about relationships.
After working several years in campus ministry with colleagues my age, I was appointed associate pastor to a newly merging congregation in the same town. During the first two years, I was always in a meeting or working on a project. In Year 3, I knew I had to make a change. As burnout and loneliness loomed, I realized I had to find friends my age within the church.

Desperate, I sent an email to other young adult women asking if they would be interested in starting a small group. Of the 15 people emailed, 13 committed instantly.

In our first gathering, a few things became clear. They liked a women’s-only group. They wanted to be real and authentic. They wanted to pray for each other, and they wanted to meet at least twice a month.

Curriculum wasn’t critical, so we started with the United Methodist Women mission book Chasing Chaos by young adult Jessica Alexander. The book allowed us to share our life stories and our struggles and challenges of making decisions and living as women of faith. It became a springboard for many tangents. Our welcome sharing took 40 minutes, our book time 30 minutes and our prayer time 20 minutes.

One of the women said, “It has helped me talk about the Bible and my faith more openly with my husband. This has really made him more eager to come to church, and it has strengthened our marriage. I also ... talk to God a lot more about things. The fellowship makes me more eager to learn about the Bible with socializing!”

What do young adults crave from the church? We want a place where people care and know our joys and concerns and where relationships trump accomplishing a book study. We want a place to question Scripture and God openly without having to find, know or decide on an answer. We want a place to make friends with others who have similar values. We want a place where people hold us accountable for showing up, bringing snacks or participating in conversation. We want a place where we clearly see, feel and know God’s love.
Year 4 of my ministry looks a whole lot better with a group of women my age in my church who listen, care and gather regularly.

To view the May/June issue of Interpreter Magazine, go to

Fitting together with God

Figuring out your life with God can feel similar to putting together a puzzle. You move along, uncovering bits of your relationship one piece at a time. The whole picture of you and God begins to emerge as you fit pieces together.

The Young People’s Ministry Council is providing students and their leaders four opportunities to fit faith pieces together. Our Bits & Pieces Events will help attendees fit together pieces of community fellowship, personal leadership, service to others, and ongoing discipleship with the goal of uncovering and building a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Join us for one or all four FREE events held throughout the Susquehanna Conference from September to April.

Registration and information at

Bits & Pieces: Strengthening Your Faith Family
Focus Topic: Youth Group Building
Event Description: Join us for a youth group kick-off event. We will provide games and activities to help your youth group to bond. We want to help youth leaders and their students work together to build solid foundations for ministry in the upcoming school year.
Location: Wesley Forest
Date: Sunday, September 13, 2015
Time: 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Scripture: Romans 12:5

Bits & Pieces: Becoming a Leader
Focus Topic: Student Leader Development
Event Description: We want to help you make better student leaders. We will provide hands-on learning opportunities for youth and youth workers. Bring your student leadership team, student leaders, or potential student leaders and tap into their God-given leadership potential.
Location: Fishing Creek Salem UMC
Date: Sunday, January 31, 2016
Time: 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Scripture: Joshua 1:5b-6

Bits & Pieces: Serving Jesus by Serving Others
Focus Topic: Packing Disaster Relief Buckets
Event Description: We are coordinating with Mission Central to provide service opportunities for youth groups at Mission Central and regional HUB’s. We are hoping to link them virtually at some point during the event. Space will be limited for this event due to size restrictions of the HUB locations. This event is FREE. We highly encourage youth groups to bring a donation for Mission Central with them. A special certificate will be given to all churches that contribute.
Location: Mission Central and Regional HUBs
Date: Sunday, March 13, 2016
Time: 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Scripture: James 2:15-16

Bits & Pieces: What’s Next?
Focus Topic: Faith On The Next Level
Event Description: This event will challenge youth and their leaders to consider what’s next in their faith journey and provide them with a time to commit to taking the next step toward a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. We will be especially highlighting what faith looks like after high school graduation.
Location: St. John’s - Newberry UMC
Date: Sunday, April 24, 2016
Time: 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Scripture: Matthew 28:19-20

Mission Central Capital Campaign - An Unfolding Story

At the 2015 Susquehanna Annual Conference in June, Mission Central launched a $2 million capital campaign called, “An Unfolding Story.” The goal of the campaign is to eliminate the mortgage on the Mission Central warehouse, make improvements to the warehouse, and expand the ministries of Mission Central.
Mission Central is the mission warehouse of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since it’s beginning in 2002 Mission Central has had three points of focus: disaster response, mission outreach and mission education.
When creating Mission Central, the main goal was centralization and unification of the mission work of the various churches in the conference. Mission Central now has five ministry partners that share the warehouse, and partnerships with more than 80 other ministries throughout Pennsylvania and around the world.

Mission Central is host to thousands of volunteers who come to experience being “the hands and feet of God” in service. Volunteers help process United Methodist Committee on Relief kits of various types (school, birthing, health, sewing, etc.) for use all around the world, as well as sorting and packing supplies of all types needed for local, national, and international ministries, ultimately sending God’s love around the world.

The foundation of the year-long capital campaign is prayer. Every week for 52 weeks a devotional will be published at People are invited to devote time to prayer for Mission Central every Wednesday at noon.

“When we began planning for the Mission Central Capital Campaign, it was obvious that we needed to begin with prayer, for ‘prayer has been and is the engine that runs Mission Central,’” said Rev. David Norris, Vice President of the Mission Central Board of Directors.

Every Wednesday at noon for a year (June, 2001 - June, 2002) the original task force that Bishop Irons called together to explore a possible mission center in our conference, prayed together for discernment. The answer to those prayers was the unexpected … a warehouse already built and ready for the amazing mission ministry that God was calling our conference to undertake. It was the first “God moment” to unfold that the 2002 Annual Conference overwhelmingly approved the purchase of the warehouse.

“None of us can describe God exactly, but we know when we have God moments ... They are moments of recognition when we know what is true, realize what is real, and experience what is good. God moments are rare glimpses into eternity.” 
—Jeremy Langford

God moments happen so often at Mission Central, its HUBs, and its partners. The committee has been asking for God Moments to be written and shared as part of the Wednesday prayer vigils for June, 2015 - June, 2016. Early in the morning every Wednesday, a new devotional is posted on the Mission Central website at telling the Unfolding Story of God’s movement in and through Mission Central. “What a blessing to hear the stories, listen to the witnessing, and experience God’s Spirit anew.”

You are invited to join in the Unfolding Story Prayer Vigil every Wednesday at noon or anytime during the day. God has entrusted us to support Mission Central in all ways, starting with prayer,” said Norris.

Mission Central (Conference Advance Special #7050) annually connects nearly $10 million worth of donated material to nearly two million people. Mission Central’s annual operating budget is approximately $500,000 to operate a 48,000-square-foot facility and manage nearly $10 million of inventory with six staff members. Obviously, the support of volunteers (over 8,000 annually) and you and your church’s financial support is vital to its success.

Mission Central does not receive funding from Shares of Ministry, but depends solely upon your gifts. Please prayerfully consider gifts, in addition to current donations, that you or your congregation can make toward this campaign. It can be a one-time donation, or can be spread over several months.

You are invited to join the Unfolding Story that is Mission Central.

Spirit of Invention - Back to Basics

 By Rev. Dr. Michael Koplitz

A problem for a church that holds more than one worship celebration is how to get the people from each worship service to connect with each other. The basic answer is fellowship events. Then the problem is determining what type of fellowship events and at what time. A solution: why not hold fellowship events between the two or more worship celebrations? The earlier members are already at church, and with good food (after all we are United Methodists) you can attract the later worship attendees to come early.

On Sunday, March 29, 2015, Bethany Church in Felton held it’s third inter-worship fellowship event with fantastic attendance, even boosting the worship attendance. Bethany’s traditional worship is at 8:45 a.m., and the contemporary worship is at 11 a.m. Instead of holding the education hour the church held a “Bacon Sunday” fellowship event with members of the Worship Events Team bringing in different kinds of food that included bacon in them. The simplest dish was just plain bacon and another was a brownie with bacon.

The past fellowship events included a Christmas Cookie Social, and Cupcake Sunday. Future fellowship events will include Salad Sunday and Sundae Sunday.

Now the people from each worship celebration are getting to know each other more than they did before.

SHOUT OUT to our supporters!!!

SHOUT OUT to our supporters!!! 

Pictured above: Mount Asbury Site Director Daphne Orr accepted the check from Harrisburg Senators​ Chuck Heisley from the UM Night with the Senators event held in June to support Camper Scholarships. 
On behalf of Camp & Retreat Ministries, we extend a huge THANK YOU for helping to give the gift of camp to children, youth, and adults in our communities. We’ll see you at the ball park next year. 

—Daphne Orr and Emily Sliski—
Camp & Retreat Site Directors

The secret to faith after high school? Parents!

By Joe Iovino, 
United Methodist Communications

Many youth in the U.S. who regularly attend worship, go on summer mission trips, sing in the youth choir, and actively participate in the youth ministry of their United Methodist congregations, drop out of church after high school graduation. In 2006, the Barna group reported that only 1-in-5 maintains a similar level of church participation in their 20s.

The Rev. Daniel Dennison, Wesley Campus Minister at the University of Oklahoma, has noticed the difference a maturing faith makes in the lives of high school graduates.

“The students who come to us that have been discipled and taught how to have a growing relationship with Christ while on their own, generally thrive in college,” he said. “They [appear to] do better in school; they are more well-adjusted and become stronger leaders in our ministry.”

Many others “fall away from the church altogether,” he added. “Some continue to stay involved, but it’s nominally and surface level.”

This is distressing news to pastors, youth leaders, and parents who long to keep young people engaged in their faith.

Parents’ faith is key
The National Study on Youth and Religion recently found a factor that is “nearly deterministic” in turning this around. Eight out of ten (82%) young adults ages 24-29 who were still participating in their faith after being active in high school, had one thing in common.

The secret? Their parents.

Youth leaders agree. “Parents are the critical discipler, period,” said Seth Martin, Lead Student Pastor at Faithbridge United Methodist Church in Spring, Texas. “Student ministries aren’t (or shouldn’t be, rather) the primary spiritual mentors of students, but should instead subsidize the discipleship already taking place in the home.”

Many youth ministers are encouraging parents in their critical role in the spiritual development of their teenage children.

“Every chance I get to talk to parents,” said Stephen Ingram, Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, “I remind them of the stats.”

But not all parents feel prepared to spiritually mentor their kids. That’s why, Ingram said, “the best youth ministries work in partnership with parents.”
United Methodist Communications spoke with several youth ministry leaders about what they are sharing with parents.

Deeper parent-youth communication
The study found that youth who remained active regularly had faith conversations with their parents.

Often the extent of parent-youth spiritual discussions happen on the ride home from church. “How was church (or youth group, Sunday school, small group, etc.)?” the parent asks. “Good,” is the monosyllabic response.

Casey Walker, Minister to Youth and their Families at Searcy (Arkansas) First United Methodist Church, saw something similar following a youth trip. “I noticed not a lot of conversations were happening at home,” she said. “The youth didn’t know how to put words together to express what they had experienced, and parents were not sure how to ask good questions.”

Walker invited parents to a gathering where she shared some tips for starting spiritual conversations with their youth.

Ingram encourages parents to avoid questions that can be answered with one word. He teaches parents to facilitate discussions. Parents don’t need to be experts with all the answers. They just need to be willing to journey and question along with their children.

Some great places to start are talking about Sunday’s sermon; including faith when discussing something in the news; or asking about the youth group lesson.
Martin emails parents in his youth ministry “Followups,” which are overviews of the youth lesson that contain “Scripture and a few basic questions to enable parents’ conversations with their students to be a bit more targeted.”

Without a tool like “Followups,” parents can ask their children what they liked best about the lesson, or what challenged them.

Parental support
In addition to education opportunities, Walker’s youth ministry has formed several discipleship groups for parents of youth. They “intentionally put parents of 6th graders in groups with parents of seniors to encourage one another.”
Faithbridge also holds educational workshops that “pull parents together … and connect them with sharp people who can inspire, equip, and challenge parents to engage on a given topic,” Martin said. These two-hour dinner gatherings also connect parents who might not otherwise meet.

Parents are strengthened by the support of others who have teenage children.
Walker wants parents to know, “You’re not alone. Parenting is tough and there are others to journey with you.”

A spiritual journey for the family
Parents sharing the importance of their faith with their teenage children was named by the study as an important factor.

Ingram, who is also the Director of Whole Family Spirituality at Canterbury United Methodist Church, helps parents by holding an annual Whole Family Spirituality Retreat. The retreat seeks to “help families think about and practice being an intentionally spiritual unit,” Ingram said.

He encourages families to think theologically together. Some might discuss a devotion over dinner while others might talk through the highs and lows of their day.

The goal of this time together, Ingram says, “is not so much how to deal with X, but what you think about X, and what our faith teaches us about it.”

Start small
Ingram said it is wise for parents to begin by taking “baby steps.” Walker agrees and encourages parents to persevere.

When she first wanted to start praying a blessing over her daughter every night, Walker was hesitant. “She’s going to think I’m crazy,” she thought.

After a few nights of discomfort, things changed. Her daughter wanted to know more about the blessing. “Show me where [in the Bible] it came from,” she asked.

“Now, when I’m out of town,” Walker said, “she will call and ask me to give her the blessing over the phone before she goes to bed.”

A matter of influence
While involvement in youth ministry is a valuable experience, “Nobody has the influence, exposure time, authority (or even biblical command/expectation) to raise up students like the parent does,” said Martin.

“After youth group,” Walker said, “parents are still there, for the rest of their lives.”

Link to original article:

Youth 2015 reflections


By Julia Briselli and Lidiya Louder, Young People’s Ministry Council

Youth 2015 challenged participants to go from standing still in their faith to moving on to perfection. Speakers like Sam Yun, the morning Bible study leader, encouraged us to take a journey from “Here to There” in our faith, and at each Bible study session and worship service we felt inspired to take that journey.

The first day, Sam Yun discussed the purpose and importance of communion, and that night during worship service we got to experience communion ourselves. Whether it was your first time taking communion, or a normal occurrence, it was a touching experience for all who partook in it. The next day Sam Yun went more in depth into the story of the Good Samaritan and empowered us to be like the Samaritan. To us, being a good Samaritan means that you are putting another person’s life ahead of your own. On the last day the Bible study was about baptism, how it is not only the beginning of our new life in Christ, but also the death of our past self. That night during worship, a girl was baptized on stage, surrounded by members of her church. It was amazing how so many tears were shed by people who didn’t even know the girl being baptized.

Everyone at Youth 2015 renewed their covenant with God and each other to support one another on our faith journey. We were invited to remember our own baptisms by placing one of our hands in a bowl of water and thinking back to when we ourselves made the commitment to God. It was wonderful to see so many people reliving the moment when they chose to give their lives to God.
But Bible study and worship service were not the only places that you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that you must sing your praises to the Lord, and Youth 2015 definitely had no shortage of music. Music was in the air at the Marriott World Center. From Trace Bundy, fan-dubbed the “Acoustic Ninja” for his astounding guitar playing ability, to Propaganda, a Christian Rapper who’s songs tell a story, there was something for everyone. Worship music by the Wayne Kerr Band and late night concerts enabled many opportunities to sing your praises to the Lord.

But what really made Youth 2015 an experience unlike any other? The people. Youth could meet others their own age who share their love of God, and that is something hard to find outside of your own hometown church. From making friends during workshops, at the pool, during dinner, and even in the elevator, Youth 2015 was a very social event. For youth in middle and high school, meeting people from different states across the U.S. with lives so different from your own is an amazing experience. Y15 was just that. People with different backgrounds, opinions, and lifestyles all together in one room because of their love of God. That is something you cannot get anywhere else.

So is it disappointing that there will not be another youth event for four more years? Yes, but it will allow for a new group of youth to experience this event, and there isn’t anything more I could ask for. Youth 2015 made us more passionate about our faith and made us want to devote our lives to the Lord. The best way to describe what Youth 2015 taught is this short song lyric: “Like the fire lights up the sky, only Christ can satisfy.” We hope that everyone who went to Youth 2015 will work to put what they learned to action and encourage others from the Susquehanna Conference and beyond to be a part of Youth 2019.

Barefoot Sunday

By Rev. Jan Hughes

What happens when an outwardly focused church hears the call from Mission Central for gently used shoes? One hundred fifty-two pairs of shoes went walking out the doors of Middlesex United Methodist Church to help others. Barefoot Sunday, June 7, found folks coming forward for communion in humility and thankfulness for the chance to make a difference. Who says church can’t be fun while transforming lives? Step out of your comfortable shoes and make a difference for Jesus.

Appreciating first responders

Calvary United Methodist Church in Dillsburg recently held an appreciation dinner for all of the area first responders and their families. This was the project of the church’s Mission Committee, and was wholeheartedly endorsed by the leadership team of the church, as well as the congregation.

Invitations were sent to the fire departments of Dillsburg Borough, Monaghan Township, Franklin Township, Wellsville Borough, and Upper Allen Township, to the EMTs of all fire departments, and to the Carroll Township Police Department.

This was an opportunity for the congregation of Calvary to say thank you to all of the first responders who serve the community of Dillsburg. Comments from some of the first responders were that this was the first time anyone had done anything like this, and they were very appreciative of the evening.

Members of the congregation provided homemade coleslaw, meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, green beans, applesauce, and homemade desserts. The evening ended with an hour of entertainment by the Klinger-McFry Band, a local bluegrass gospel group.

Seven things John Wesley expected every Methodist preacher to do for kids

By Chris Ritter, Geneseo UMC, Illinois
reposted with permission

click here to read the original article:

Reaching out to our college students

By Jennifer Gruendler, Director of Campus Ministry
St. Pauls UMC and Wesley Foundation

It’s the beginning of another academic year. As we bless and celebrate our beloved youth it’s also important to pause and take a moment to intentionally think about how we are going to stay connected to them as they set out to college, the military, a new job, or whatever else God might be calling them to in this new season of life.

Here are three simple ways your congregation can do that this summer:

  • Gather their new addresses and cell phone numbers and use them. As a campus minister I get the joy of walking along side hundreds of students at Penn State each year. Even though if they are looking, there are plenty of campus ministry options right here in State College (Wesley Foundation being one of them), there still is nothing better than a card or care package or something of the like from their home congregation. This is true wherever they are living. Tastes of home are awesome. It does not have to be big … a simple birthday card, a finals care package, a weekly text, or a small gift card to a local coffee shop is an easy way to remind them you’re keeping them in your prayers and thoughts. 
  • Connect them with a local campus ministry or congregation. Once you know which school or community your new grad will be moving to, connect them to a campus minister or local congregation. All it takes is a quick email to the minister or pastor, and it then becomes their responsibility to reach out to your student. And they will. But If we don’t get the information that they’re new in our community, we very likely will never know they are here unless they come to us. Most campuses don’t provide the information anymore, so please help us out and let us know they are in town.
  • Host a gathering for college-age students over Christmas and/or summer breaks. When your students are back home, get them together. Invite former youth sponsors and others in the congregation with whom they have relationships to join you. Enjoy a meal together and give them space to share about their new life, both their struggles and joys. 

Change is exciting, scary, and transformational all at the same time. High school graduation is one of those seasons for many of our youth. These roller coaster transitions require us to be extra intentional as a congregation to care for our children God’s has given us to raise in the faith. Jesus promises to be with all of us in every season, but perhaps maybe especially in seasons of change. We can be Jesus to our students simply by intentionally sharing our love and grace with them through these simple ways (and there are so many other ways too). May it be so.

Discovery Place Resources: new resources for a new season

Business slows down a bit in the summer months here in Discovery Place. That gives me a great opportunity to catalogue some new resources. Here are just a few you might consider as you are planning your Sunday school and small group lessons for the coming year. As always, you can learn more on our website or give me a call at 1-800-682-2615.

The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul by Adam Hamilton: What would lead a first-century rabbi to travel thousands of miles by sea and by land, to be beaten, imprisoned, and ultimately beheaded for his faith? It was a call, a call to turn the world upside down. Join Adam Hamilton as you follow the journeys of Paul, beginning with his dramatic conversion, as he spread the Gospel through modern-day Greece and Turkey.

Follow by Andy Stanley: Lots of people think Christianity is all about doing what Jesus says. But what if doing what Jesus says isn’t what Jesus says to do at all? Jesus’ invitation is an invitation to relationship, and it begins with a simple request: follow me. Religion says change and you can join us. Jesus says, join us and you will change. There’s a huge difference. In this eight-session DVD Bible study, Andy Stanley takes you and your small group on a Bible study journey through the Gospels as he traces Jesus’ teaching on what it means to follow. This would be a good resource for a seeker’s class.

Set Apart: Holy Habits of Prophets and Kings by Jessica LaGrone: In today’s world, people want to be set apart, recognized, admired, followed, liked. But God calls us to be set apart in a different way. God wants His spirit to mark us and make us different from those around us so that we may know Him and love Him more, and so that others may be drawn to know Him, too. Set Apart is a dynamic six-week study of 1 and 2 Kings designed for women’s groups.

All The Places to Go, How Will You Know? By John Ortberg: Very rarely in the Bible does God command someone to “stay.” He opens a door, and then he invites us to walk through it into the unknown. And how we choose to respond will ultimately determine the lives we will lead and the people we will become. In this six-session video curriculum, John Ortberg opens our eyes to the countless open doors God places before us every day, teaches us how to recognize them, and gives us the encouragement to step out in faith and embrace all of the extraordinary opportunities that await.

Where Your Treasure Is - And a little child shall lead ...

As school starts, have you thought about what it would be like to go back? Perhaps the secret to having childlike faith is to remain a lifelong learner. What if you decided to learn stewardship from children? While the first biblical example to reflect upon might be the actions of a young boy to give away his five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9), there are other children that can inspire us to learn to give whatever we have. For example, a little girl gave advice and empathy to her captor (2 Kings 5:2-3) while some other unnamed children gave Jesus praise (Matthew 21:15-16).

Have you asked a child what it means to give what he/she has? What kinds of treasures would they give? To whom would they give? How could they give regularly and consistently?

Why not learn from a child? We never stop growing, but sometimes we forget that we can learn from anyone or anything God places in our lives. Perhaps you are looking for a way to teach children stewardship when it might be interesting to see what they can teach you.

According to research, we remember 20 percent of what we see, 30 percent of what we hear, 70 percent of what we do, and 90 percent of what we teach. If we let our children teach us, they’ll learn more and together we can then go and practice what we teach.

Just as school starts, we are in our own learning transition at The Stewardship Foundation. After twenty-five years of service, Kathy Lemkelde has just retired. Her heart has been with stewardship, and she feels she can continue her call as a volunteer with children in her local church. I know she also looks forward to learning from them with great joy and openness. We wanted to honor her this month by writing about children and her passion for stewardship and teaching, while thanking her for the many examples of stewardship she has given all of us throughout the years.

Our Heritage

July – 100 years ago
July 1915 was a big month for the Stevens Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Harrisburg and its energetic preacher, Clayton A. Smucker. The son of Evangelical Association preacher Cyrus Smucker (1840-1902), Clayton was originally licensed by that body but left it during the 1894 denominational split to become one of Methodism’s “big church” preachers. He came to Stevens Memorial in March 1914 after pastoring large churches in the cities of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and during his first 18 months the congregation added 507 members to reach a membership of 1,301. In conjunction with the regular services in the church, a special July 1915 summer campaign featured a series of open air meetings with preaching by Dr. Smucker, music by the 25-member Men’s Club Male Chorus, and use of the “gospel autocar made to carry thirty or more” persons at a time – although details of its exact design and purpose are no longer known. In addition, it was reported that the church “is aiming at more modern and more effective advertising” and installed “two electric out-door bulletin boards.” This property, on Thirteenth Street in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg, is in a constantly evolving neighborhood. In 2004 Stevens Memorial UMC became Stevens Emmanuel UMC, an Hispanic congregation, and in 2013 the congregation voted to discontinue and the property was sold.

August – 50 years ago
The ad hoc Child Care Study Committee created at the 1965 Wyoming Annual Conference met for the first time on August 26, 1965. The committee was charged to investigate the care “for neglected, dependent, handicapped, and delinquent children within the area of the Wyoming Conference … with special attention to the Children’s Home of the Wyoming Conference” – which was begun in 1913 through the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The committee noted the general societal move away from traditional orphanages to the use of foster homes, the need for counseling services, and a shortage of temporary residential facilities for emotionally disturbed and at-risk children. It concluded that the Children’s Home was not a resource used by the parish minister, but that it provided a vital and needed service deserving of continued conference support. While the committee was careful not to “invade the prerogatives of the board,” it made several specific suggestions that have since been implemented. Located in greater Binghamton, New York, the Children’s Home (which as of this writing still has the web address presently describes itself as “a multi-service child welfare agency … offering residential, educational, preventative, and therapeutic care.”

On to Glory - Death Notices

Rev. Luke J. Brinker, Retired, of River Road, Lewisburg, Pa., died Sunday, August 16, 2015. Among his survivors are his wife, Theda J. (Jones) Brinker, and their son, Rev. David L. Brinker (Chris) of York, elder in Susquehanna Conference. Memorial services were held, Friday, August 21, 2015, in Marlow Hall on the RiverWoods campus, Lewisburg, Pa. Interment was in Northwood Cemetery, Emmaus, Pa.

Mrs. Alice Virginia (Mickley) Funk, widow of Rev. Amos M. Funk, died Monday, July 6, 2015, in Claremont Nursing Home, Carlisle, Pa. Among her survivors is her son, Rev. Timothy A. Funk, elder in Susquehanna Conference. Memorial services were held Saturday, July 11, 2015, in St. Johns United Methodist Church, Chambersburg, Pa. Interment was in Salem Cemetery, Chambersburg, Pa.

Mrs. Patricia L. “Patty” (Johnston) Gorton, of Clearfield, Pa., widow of Pastor Rodger J. Gorton, died Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Mt. Laurel Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Clearfield, Pa. Memorial services were held Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Bennett and Houser Funeral Home Inc., Clearfield, Pa.

Mrs. Ruth Hood Knisley, of Normandie Drive, York, Pa., wife of Rev. Bruce F. Knisley, Retired, died Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Normandie Ridge, York, Pa. Among her survivors is her grandson, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Loyer, elder in Susquehanna Conference. Memorial services were held Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Normandie Ridge, York, Pa.

Pastor Calvin F. Morgan, Retired, of Frantz Road, Pine Grove, Pa., died Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at home. Among his survivors is his wife, Michele Morgan. Memorial services were held August 4, 2015, in Pine Grove Community Church, Pine Grove, Pa.

Mrs. Marguerite H. Shumway, of Mechanicsburg Road., Ithaca, New York, died July 24, 2015, at home. Among her survivors is her husband, Pastor Thurston C. Shumway, Retired. Memorial services were held Tuesday, August 4, 2015, in Spring Hill United Methodist Church, Wyalusing, Pa.