Monday, April 25, 2016

Call to Annual Conference

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park opened the first business session
of the 2015 Annual Conference with praise and woship.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

We will gather for the Seventh Session of the Susquehanna Annual Conference from June 9 thru June 11 at Messiah College. For many of us this yearly gathering of God’s people called United Methodists is very familiar. We have been to numerous Annual Conferences, and we know the routine and how to navigate the college campus. For others, this year’s Annual Conference will be their first experience and everything will be new and unfamiliar. Whether this Conference is your first or your fiftieth one, it is good to remember the purpose of the Annual Conference.

According to paragraph 601 of the “2012 Book of Discipline”: “The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.” Whether we are in a business session, a worship service, Bible study, or in fellowship, it is important for us to remember that purpose statement. In all that we do as an annual conference we need to have the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ and transforming the world in mind.

The theme of this year’s Conference is: Alive in Christ Together … Creating New Places for New People. Our adaptive challenge is: How will we be partners together in birthing a new and exciting, as well as faithful and fruitful, way to reach more people for Jesus Christ? To be a church that creates new opportunities to connect with new people in our communities is not an option for such a time as this.

Among those who will lead us: the Rev. Lori Steffensen, State College District Superintendent, will be the preacher for the Memorial Service. Mr. Joe Castillo, a world-renowned SandStory artist who appeared on the show America’s Got Talent, will be the presenter for the Celebration of Ministry Service. He will also lead the Bible study. Bishop Ernest Lyght, who served the New York and the West Virginia Conferences, will be the preacher at the Ordination Service.

Each Annual Conference is unique and special. This year we will have a Service of Repentance led by the Commission on Native American Ministries. We will also hear from the delegates for the General Conference.

Please pray that we might discern God’s voice amid of all of the other voices in the world so that we continue to be ever more faithful in our witness.

Welcome to the 2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference! Please come with an expectant heart to be touched afresh by the Spirit of God. Your prayers for our annual gathering to be in holy conferencing and witness would be deeply appreciated. I am looking forward to greeting you at Messiah College.

With You In Christ’s Ministry,

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

Shares of Ministry Video Series is released

Shonyah Hawkins-Cottman of Harrisburg sings "Give Me Jesus" 

A new video series has been released by the communication team of the Susquehanna Conference. The series, called “Better Together,” is designed to build engagement with Shares of Ministry by answering some of the “why, what, how, and who” of this important part of our connection.

The introductory branding video has as a centerpiece a single stanza of the song, “Give Me Jesus,” made popular by Fernando Ortega. “In this case we have used the original rendering of the song as an African-American spiritual. Shonyah Hawkins-Cottman of Harrisburg was invited to record the song, which gives voice to a broken world that pleads with us as a church, ‘give me Jesus’,” says Jerry Wolgemuth, conference communicator. Shonyah is a host for a digital radio station ( that is housed at Derry Street UMC in Harrisburg.

For more details on “Better Together,” see page 3 and visit

Better Together

Better Together is a video series designed to help build engagement with Shares of Ministry in the Susquehanna Conference, The United Methodist Church

This video series is organized around the pamphlet written by Mike Bealla that has been distributed throughout the annual conference. The pages below are available in more readable form at Copies of the booklet are available at your church or call 717-766-7441 to request a copy.

Level 1 - Branding Video - the “why”

Our culture is already submerged in a tsunami of video. According to Cisco, 86 percent of Web traffic will be video in 2016. Video has become a major “influencer” to values. As United Methodists we want to be present and we want our presence to be engaging.

Branding, with video as a major component, is a science, but not an exact science. Clarity in who we are, what we value, and why our world should care, is not an easy endeavor.

Perhaps this video series can be identified as an experiment in branding ourselves as a compassionate Church of Jesus Christ in order to transform the world that God loves.

Certain elements of these two booklet pages are included in the branding video. Some are supported by other communication media.

Level 2 - Mission and Ministry - the “what” and the “how”

Voices of Susquehanna Conference Leadership

Level 3 - The Stories - the “who”

Voices of some of the benefactors of Shares of Ministry

Inter-media Collaboration

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Editorial: Brandishing Basins and Towels

(c) Shutterstock
By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director of Communications

Please allow me to be personal on this one.

This will be my eighteenth year as your editor and communicator, and in May I will travel the “Oregon Trail” to Portland with others for General Conference 2016. It will be my fifth.

There are clouds of apprehension that hang over General Conference 2016 perhaps like no other. Conversations and rhetoric have taken on some of the sounds of brandishing swords and shields in preparation for battle. That will not serve grace and justice very well.

The world will be watching us closely in May. As United Methodists we have held tightly to our claim to be a united community but our “brand” is in danger of slipping, depending on what is demonstrated in Portland. And the question begging for an answer is, “Can the United Methodist Church hold up for the world to see, a peaceful, collegial, united gathering of Christians who are not of one mind?”

In March and April of 2015 there was an invitation to the clergy of the Susquehanna Conference to attend one of four “conversations” around the issues of human sexuality.

The four gatherings came out of casual conversation between a Cabinet member and a pastor who found themselves holding two very different perspectives. Both felt comfortable to explain the path that brought them to differing conclusions. That led to the formation of the same kind of conversation for a larger group of clergy who, like them, would probably hold differing views. Hence, the invitations by Bishop Park to the four “conversations.”

As the press contact for the Susquehanna Conference, this editor was invited to the first of the four in case there was press curiosity. While it was not deemed necessary for me to attend further, I asked to do so.

I have not been able to forget the conversations. I knew most of those in attendance and I also had some kind of perspective of the varied beliefs around the room that might ordinarily lead to voices raised at least a couple decibels. I heard none of that. Instead there seemed to be, unilaterally, a congenial sharing that was demonstrated without one raised voice. Christian/holy conferencing does happen around us!

There is a recognition of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples that is practiced, literally or symbolically, by many Christian associations. (There was a literal expression of the washing of each other’s feet from the stage of our Annual Conference several years ago.)

The practice usually involves a basin and a towel.

In John 13:14-17 Jesus offers a simple explanation of his action: “Just as I have done, you also must do. I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.” (CEB)

May we suggest that, literally or symbolically, we enter the Portland Convention Center, brandishing basins and towels with an Isaiah-spirit of “come now and let us reason together.”

We pray for our delegation who will be among those who sum up the pleadings at General Conference 2016.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

GC2016: How General Conference works

Exerpts from the Guide to General Conference 2016

General Conference, the top legislative body of The United Methodist Church, meets May 10-20, 2016, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The center is billed as the largest convention facility in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Some 864 delegates, elected from around the world, will gather to set policy and direction for the church, as well as handle other important business. Meeting every four years, General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the denomination. The United Methodist Book of Discipline, updated every four years, incorporates changes made by General Conference.

The theme of the 2016 General Conference is “Therefore Go.” The Commission on the General Conference selected the theme in 2013. United Methodist Communications developed the logo as an action-themed graphic that ties to the roots of The United Methodist Church in the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20). That passage reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Mobile App and Online Coverage
The 2016 mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices. The iOS app, available on the iTunes store, will work on all Apple devices running iOS 7.1 or above. The Android app, available on the Google Play store, works on all Android devices running Android 2.3.3 or above. The apps will help interested people keep up-to-date on the latest developments as General Conference nears. Additional features will be added [such as] maps, schedules and petition tracking. The final update is scheduled for April 2016.

Delegates and others can follow the proceedings on the General Conference website at You can also follow General Conference on Facebook and Twitter using #UMCGC. Features will include news coverage in multiple languages, with daily summaries, feature stories and videos, such as interviews with delegates, volunteers and other key individuals. All plenary sessions, worship services, episcopal and laity addresses, and other special events will be live streamed. Users can track petitions and obtain general information about the legislative process. Plenary transcripts and consent calendars will post  each day.

In 2016, the Advance Daily Christian Advocate will also have a digital component and be available in the electronic publication (EPUB) format.

Main Tasks
As the top policymaking body of the global United Methodist Church, General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the 12.3 million-member denomination.

During the 11-day session, delegates will revise The Book of Discipline, which regulates the manner in which local churches, annual conferences and general agencies are organized. The Discipline includes policies regarding church membership, ordination, administration, property and judicial procedures. The assembly may modify most paragraphs by a simple majority vote, but amending the Constitution of The United Methodist Church requires a two-thirds affirmative vote, followed by a two-thirds affirmative vote of the aggregate number of members voting in annual conference sessions. Revoking or changing the Articles of Religion or Confession of Faith requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of the delegates, and three-fourths of the annual conference members must concur.

Delegates also revise the Book of Resolutions, a volume declaring the church’s stance on social justice issues. The statements in the book are considered instructive and persuasive but are not binding on members.

In addition, the assembly approves plans and budgets for churchwide programs for the next four years and elects members of the Judicial Council and University Senate.

For more information about GC2016 and how it works visit

The Journey

By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

Change is all around us! We often use the term “transition” to express change. Perhaps transition implies a kind of continuation with a temporary adjustment which feels a bit more secure. But the bottom line is we are living in a time of not just change, but exponential change. Every aspect of our lives seems to be radically impacted by the frequency and the amount of change.

I led a learning time at this year’s E-Tour on the theme of “What’s Happened to my Church?” We shared great conversations as we talked about how change has impacted the church. What I felt from participants as I led the groups was a sense of uneasiness that ran the gamut from mild frustration to moderate fear. Everyone wants change, but it seems that no one wants to change. The truth is we are resistant to change because we are afraid of what we will lose when change occurs.

Change can rattle our being. Regardless of your political view, you must admit we are experiencing one of the most unsettling primary seasons ever (at least in our lifetime). The fear of the changing world around us has led us — beyond having and creatively expressing opposite points of view — to name calling and disrespectful practices.

If we are not personally careful, we can find ourselves getting caught up in all kinds of things that can separate us from living into the presence of Christ. We can easily play out our frustrations by pointing the finger at others for the world’s problems, judging our brothers and sisters as to which are good and which are bad, and using our faith positions to divide us from each other.

Our concern for the future of our denomination may be pulling us apart by opposite viewpoints and theological differences, and is a reflection of a greater fear that God has left the building! Despite human attempts to divide ourselves in God’s name, God has always triumphed. Easter makes that so very clear!

The change we face today is actually a sharing with God in the creation of tomorrow! Change is God’s way of taking what is (or isn’t) and reshaping into what God intends it to become. That includes us. As painful as transition can be for us, we also know it is necessary if we are to become what God intends us to be! We are invited into this relationship with God to be co-creators of tomorrow. What an awesome gift and awesome responsibility!

I guess I am rambling on simply to say whether we face change in our own lives, in our families, or communities of God’s own church, we are not alone. We need not truly fear change. God meets us in the midst of creation and walks with us into the future. For us it is a matter of remaining true and faithful to God no matter how unsettling life becomes. God will never let us go!

In this meantime between God’s Kingdom and our daily lives, remember God’s ultimate promise! It is real! Stand firm in your trust of God no matter how unsettling life becomes.

God has invited us on this journey of life… we can either embrace God’s change or stay behind and miss out on God’s plan for tomorrow.

Commentary: Ripples on the water

By Jerry Wolgemuth, Director or Communications

Several years ago I spoke for worship at a local church. I needed to illustrate the impact of a certain life-altering phone call I had received. So I delivered the line, “And then the phone rang,” followed by a dramatic pause. As soon as I paused I noticed several people look at each other in shock and begin to laugh. I continued with my presentation, but in the back of my mind was this frantic search for what I needed to cover with some kind of retraction. I could think of nothing. So I concluded my talk with this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach about my delivery.

As I greeted the worshipers leaving the sanctuary, a woman came to me apologetically and asked, “Do you know what we were laughing about this morning?” I said I didn’t, so she explained. “A split second after you said, ‘And then the phone rang,’ the phone in the open office beside the sanctuary began to ring!”

I was relieved that I hadn’t committed some gargantuan blunder.

I remember when I was producing multi-image programs for my church and the ministerial association of my home town. For Easter I produced a program with a resurrection theme - “A Promise in Fowler Woods.” Fowler Woods was a nature preserve nearby. I recorded the narration in the back of the woods on my property to capture the outdoor ambient sound. Part of the narration was, “A bird calls, and the day begins in Fowler Woods.” Those were the days of quarter-inch audiotape, so my plan was to get out the splicing tape and insert a pre-recorded bird call into the space after the words “a bird calls.” In preparation for the edit I listened to my audio track. To my astonishment I discovered, perfectly timed at a perfect audio level, the beautiful call of some kind of bird in my woods on Rome South Road.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, ‘I’ve never seen the waters part like Moses did, but I’ve sure seen plenty of ripples on the water!’ When I was a young guy, full of vinegar, I could talk myself out of those “coincidences” rather quickly. I’m older; I can’t do that anymore. God is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who is not beyond revealing the mystery of a personal presence in a bird call or a phone ring.

Glad we could get together.

A True Neighborhood Center

Story & photos by Richard Lord
Reprinted with permission

As you drive into the Midtown neighborhood of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the smooth pavement starts to deteriorate. The road is marked with potholes, overgrowth, broken streetlights and other infrastructure neglect. The quality of public services is reflected in its poverty.

It’s in this neighborhood that the Neighborhood Center works to empower the community.

The Neighborhood Center is a United Methodist Women supported national mission institution and an affiliated agency of the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church. Once known as the Methodist Mission, the center has been serving Harrisburg since 1910 and remains in relationship with the church. The mission was founded by United Methodist Women predecessors the Board of Deaconess Work and the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The community-based center specializes in helping young people discover and develop their capabilities so that their lives and the life of the community can be enhanced, offering infant and child care, preschool, before- and after-school programs, summer programs, game nights, nutrition and clothing outreach, a prescription eyeglass program and a young mothers program, among other offerings.

Neighborhood Center and United Methodist Women 
“This is part of who we are,” said Toni Oplinger, president of the Susquehanna Conference United Methodist Women. “United Methodist Women is about children. We’re about anything that benefits women, children and youth.”
United Methodist Women members from the local to national level support Neighborhood Center. Mission Giving supports the center financially, and local United Methodist Women volunteers provide additional support through both service and advocacy. The summertime free and reduced lunch program, which serves about 90 kids, is staffed by United Methodist Women members. And United Methodist Women members provide funds to stock the kitchen.

Support for young mothers 
Neighborhood House reaches out to the most vulnerable. In some cases, one time aid can resolve an acute issue. In other cases a longer term relationship is more helpful. Teen mothers fall into the latter category.

Maria Ramirez became pregnant when she was 14 years old. Her parents were not supportive. Today Ms. Ramirez lives with her partner, a restaurant manager, and their two children.

She learned of Neighborhood Center’s Young Mothers program from a speaker who spoke to her class in middle school. She knew that there were resources available to her when her parents refused her.

Between five and seven teens currently attend the Young Mothers Program monthly meeting. In the group sessions they talk about child safety, parenting, life skills and family enhancement. It helps new mothers feel better prepared for their role, especially within a society that is not supportive. The program also offers individual counseling and supplies, such as clothing, diapers and formula. In addition, each of the participants meet with Tamika Lester, the health projects coordinator, for individualized sessions, to help mothers get needed supplies or just to talk. Many of the subjects they discuss are practical, dealing with issues such as behavior management.

“When one of my kids was out of control screaming, my initial reaction was to get pulled into the fight and to start screaming,” Ms. Ramirez said. “At Neighborhood Center, I learned to walk away from the fight. To leave the room. To gather my senses and self-control. Then I could return to the room and we could start over. With better results. “Neighborhood Center has taught me to be in control of myself. To have more confidence. I feel free because of Neighborhood Center and this strength that they have given me. I know that they will be there for me, that they’ll support me.”

A community resource 
Neighborhood Center is a fixture in Midtown. Much of Neighborhood Center’s outreach happens informally. People participate in one of the center’s activities, then they get involved.

It is truly a neighborhood center. Between 80 and 90 percent of people who use the services come from Midtown. And 24 percent of Midtown residents live below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the children in the preschool pay the low weekly tuition with funds they receive from state subsidy programs. The center aims to help a wide range of children, beginning as young as 6 weeks old (as many working women are given only this amount of time for maternity leave). The center also offers programs after school, including meals. The center serves more than 4,000 dinners per month.

The center is also a voting place for two precincts. The Food Bank and Clothes Closet are filled with energy. The Young Mothers Program is complemented with a Young Fathers program, which is co-sponsored by United Way. There are bake sales and an elder food share. The center offers a prescription eyeglass program for people who cannot afford glasses. It has a bicycle recycling program and a used furniture ministry. There are potential points for involvement for many Midtown residents.

Meeting changing needs
Throughout its history, Neighborhood Center has been a service innovator. In the 1930s, it offered the first classes for special needs kids in Harrisburg, and it was sure to reach out to African American children as the public school system neglected (and neglects) them. This service was curtailed when special needs kids were integrated in the public schools.

Its original mission was the provision of services teaching English to immigrants. Slavic immigrants and Italians were among the initial recipients, with a strong representation of Eastern European Jews. As the government and other nonprofits began offering English as a second language classes to help meet this need, Neighborhood Center moved on to target programs to alleviate poverty.

Vivian Thompson, executive director at the writing of this article, had been executive director of Neighborhood Center for 14 years. She worked in a corporate job when she began to volunteer for the peewee football league, which meets at Neighborhood Center. Her involvement grew until she became executive director.

The significance of volunteers at Neighborhood Center is considerable. The volunteer programs are large. Three hundred and fifty people receive assistance from the Food Bank monthly. One hundred and forty-five people come to the clothes closet every month. Both have major impact on the community and thus require considerable labor. Neighborhood Center has a full-time paid staff of four and 20 part-time staff. In 2014, the labor need was filled with 5,400 hours of volunteer time and $123,000 of gift-in-kind donations.

United Methodist Women members’ Mission Giving significantly funds Neighborhood Center. Around 300 United Methodist churches also contribute to the center’s annual operating budget.

It would be difficult to find a person who has lived in Harrisburg’s Midtown in the past 100 years whose life was not touched—and improved—by Neighborhood Center.

This article first appeared in the December, 2015, issue of response magazine (a publication of United Methodist Women). Richard Lord is a photojournalist based in Ivy, Virginia, and New York City and is a frequent contributor to response. View Lord’s portfolio at

Christian Conferencing

Listed below are two examples of how Christians need to relate to one another as we engage in serious dialogue, particularly over issues that often divide us. In a world and in a time where the manner in which we address one another is significant, it is critical that we in the church finds ways to dialogue with each other as people of faith.

Holy Conferencing Principles

Every person is a child of God.
Listen before speaking.
Strive to understand from another’s point of view.
Speak about issues, do not defame persons. Disagree without
being disagreeable.
Pray, in silence or aloud, about decisions. Let prayer interrupt
your busy-ness.
Strive to accurately reflect the views of others.

“[Make] every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
 – Ephesians 4:3 NRSV

“RESPECT” – Eric H. F. Law

Responsibility for what you say and feel without blaming others.
Empathetic listening
Sensitive to different communication styles
Ponder what you hear and feel before you speak
Examine your own assumptions and perceptions
Confidentiality when requested or appropriate
­­Tolerate ambiguity

What is an Annual Conference?

Exerpts from and The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

Annual Conferences
When you hear the term “annual conference,” it could be referring to any one of three things. The annual conference is a regional body, an organizational unit, and a yearly meeting.

Many of these yearly meetings happen in the U.S. in May and June. You can read reports from the 2014 Annual Conference Session on our Annual Conference Reports page.

Regional body
The annual (sometimes referred to as ‘regional’) conference is described by the church’s Constitution and (other parts of the ) “Book of Discipline” as the ‘basic unit’ of the church.

In the United States, an annual conference may cover an entire state, only part of the state, or even parts of two or more states. There are also three missionary conferences in the United States, which rely upon the denomination as a whole for funding.

The United States has 57 annual conferences, which are supervised by 46 bishops. There are 76 annual conferences in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, which are supervised by 20 bishops.

Organizational body
In the U.S., the annual conference has a central office and professional staff that coordinate and conduct ministry and the business of the conference. It likely has a director of connectional ministries, treasurer, directors of program areas (such as camping), communications director, and other staff as deemed appropriate for the annual conference and as required by the “Book of Discipline.” Clergy and lay persons may also serve on conference boards, commissions, and committees.
“The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church: all glory to God” ¶ 601

Annual Conference sessions
Each year an equal number of clergy members and lay members attend their conference’s Annual Conference Session for worship, fellowship, and to conduct the business of the conference, which may last 3-5 days. During these sessions members of the conference hear reports of past and ongoing work; adopt future goals, programs, and budgets; ordain clergy members as deacons and elders; and elect delegates to Jurisdictional and General Conferences (every 4 years). The bishop presides over these meetings.

Annual Conference Membership
The clergy membership of an annual conference shall consist of deacons and elders in full connection, provisional members, associate members, affiliate members, and local pastors under full-time and part-time appointment to a pastoral charge. ¶ 602.1

The lay membership of the annual conference shall consist of a professing member elected by each charge, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, home missioners, the conference presidents of: United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, the conference lay leader and district lay leaders, one youth (age 12-18) and one young adult (age 18-30) from each district, and the chair of the conference college student organization.
If lay membership should number less than the clergy members of the annual conference, the annual conference shall provide for election of lay-equalization members.

Lay members must be members of and active in the United Methodist Church at the time of election (with some tenure requirements) ¶ 602.4

The above mentioned have voice and vote at the Annual Conference Session. Other representatives (¶ 602.9) are given privilege of the floor (voice) without vote.

It is the duty of every member of the annual conference to attend its sessions and furnish such reports in such forms as the Discipline may require. (¶ 602.8)

2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference

Susquehanna Annual Conference
June 9-11, Messiah College, Grantham, PA

Annual Conference speakers

The 2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference will feature the following special events and keynote speakers.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park will preach for the Opening Celebration on Thursday, June 9.

Rev. Lori Steffensen, State College District Superintendent, will preach during the Thursday evening Memorial Service.

Friday morning, June 11, will feature a Service of Repentance led by the Commission on Native American Ministries.

World-renowned SandStory artist Mr. Joe Castillo, will share with us during the Celebration of Ministry service on Friday evening. Joe is an artist, speaker, and storyteller with a passion for promoting the visual arts as a way of touching the heart. He will also lead the Saturday morning Bible Study.

Saturday afternoon, Bishop Ernest Lyght, (retired) will preach during the Ordination Service. The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference elected Ernest to the episcopacy in 1996 and assigned him to the New York Area. In 2004 he was assigned to the West Virginia Area.

• • • • •

Young People’s Ministry at Annual Conference

By Audrey Wilder, Director of Young People’s Ministries

The Young People’s Ministry (YPM) is excited to continue to be a part of Annual Conference. We will carry on the tradition of raising money for and awareness about Youth Service Fund. Youth Service Fund (YSF) is money raised by youth, administered by youth, for the benefit of youth ministries. Apply online for a YSF grant at

This year you will be able to help us reach our goal for raising $7,500 for YSF by donating to ...

A variety of amazing gift baskets will auctioned off during Annual Conference. Interested parties will be able to place bids on all baskets at the YSF table in Brubaker Auditorium.
If you, your church, or your business would like to donate a basket for the auction, please contact Audrey Wilder at the Conference Office no later than June 1 to make arrangements.

Youth at Annual Conference will provide dish removal service for the gathered community following meals on Thursday from 12:00-1:30 p.m. and Friday from 4:45-6:45 p.m. Those wishing to say thank you for the service will be invited to drop a donation in a jar as they leave the cafeteria.

Youth will be making popcorn during each working session throughout Annual Conference.  There is no charge for the popcorn, donations are appreciated.  Those looking for larger portions of popcorn will be able to purchase reusable popcorn containers for $2.00 (supplies limited).

... FINAL YEAR - Get ‘em before they’re vintage!

The Young People’s Ministry will be selling ALIVE IN CHRIST (red and black) and GROW ON T-shirts for $10 each at the YPM table in Brubaker Auditorium. Susquehanna Conference neck wallets will also be for sale for $4. Funds collected from the sale of T-shirts and neck wallets will go to subsidize new T-shirts for the new quadrennium starting in 2016.

• • • • •
Special Offerings at Annual Conference

Memorial Service, Thursday, June 9, 2016:
The Cup of Water Fund (Conf. Advance #8160) is a fund which is available to lay persons in our conference who are facing difficult financial hardship. These donations provide emergency grants to families or individuals who are recommended by pastors to the Cabinet. In these difficult economic times your generosity provides needed help to our brothers and sisters of the Susquehanna Conference family.

Celebration of Ministry, Friday, June 10, 2016:
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing. – Colossians 1:6
The Mongolian Mission of the United Methodist Church (Conf. Advance #2440) supports our missionaries and their work in a country where the major religion is Buddhism, but church leaders are finding people longing for the gospel. Mongolia lies between China and Russia in northern Asia and is undergoing rapid social and economic changes. In 2011 Bishop Park was named the first presiding Bishop of the Mongolian Mission of the United Methodist Church. He travels there once a year to conduct an annual meeting and to supervise, support, and strengthen the mission of our church in that part of the world.

Ordination Service, Saturday, June 11, 2016:
Bishop’s Partners in Mission (Conf. Advance #7090) calls us to Imagine No Malaria and Imagine No More Debt! One hundred percent of the proceeds from this fund go to Imagine No Malaria (the UMC’s global campaign to fight malaria) and paying down the debt of the mortgage of Mission Central so they can focus on their core mission of connecting God’s resources with human need. Bishop Park is inviting individuals, congregations, and church groups to join him and be Partners in Mission, committing to $100 or more a year. Whatever you can give helps the lives of those locally and around the world. God is still calling us to imagine great things; he is calling us to Imagine What We Can Do Together! 

Please make checks payable to Susquehanna Conference and include your church number and the advance number (listed after the name above) on the memo line of the check.
• • • • •

Donations for Annual Conference flowers and worship bulletins

Amounts of $15 or more may be given toward the purchase of flowers for the platform. Names of contributors, and of those persons to be honored or memorialized, will be printed in the Susquehanna DailyLINK. Name(s) and telephone number(s), contributor(s), and the typed/clearly printed name of the honored or memorialized person(s) must be included with the request and payment.

Request and payment must be received by May 2 at the Conference Connectional Ministries Office:
Attn: Lisa Bender
303 Mulberry Dr.
PO Box 2053
Mechanicsburg PA 17055-2053

Neighborhood Center welcomes part-time Development Officer

Neighborhood Center of the United Methodist Church is excited to welcome Lori Hoffnagle as the new Part-Time Development Officer. Lori brings with her a lot of experience in the non-profit community as an employee and faithful volunteer.

Her past employment includes Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA, United Way of the Capital Region, Junior Achievement of S. Central PA and most recently, Leadership Harrisburg Area. She serves on the fundraising committee at Mission Central, the golf committee at New Hope Ministries and several leadership positions at her church, First United Methodist Church, Mechanicsburg. She will be responsible for identification of funding sources, grant writing, identification and cultivation of donors and solicitation of gifts. In addition, she will promote the Center to its constituencies and stakeholders. This includes preparing press releases, developing content for newsletters, the Center’s website and Facebook page, and meeting with various donors, sponsors, collaborators and potential supporters.

Lori is excited to embark on this journey and looks forward to using her gifts and talents to serve Neighborhood Center and the surrounding community. Please join us in welcoming her to our family.

Neighborhood Center of the United Methodist Church is a faith-based nonprofit that has served a multi-ethnic uptown neighborhood, as well as the total Harrisburg community, since 1910 with educational, cultural, social service, basic needs, leadership, and recreational programs for children and their families. It is our vision that each individual becomes a contributing member of their community and each community plays a part in building a better city.

The Neighborhood Center is located at, 1801 N. Third Street, Harrisburg. For more information, call the Center at 717-233-6541, email at or visit the website at

Continue your mission at Albright Care Services

When Steve and Marion Jacobsen joined Albright Care Services by moving to RiverWoods Senior Living Community last year, they made the decision based on comfort and having confidence in plans for the future. The Jacobsens chose RiverWoods because they were attracted to its many conveniences and knew they would not have to worry about property maintenance, including mowing grass and shoveling snow. Albright provides a home for the Jacobsens that allows them to keep fulfilling their own mission in giving back to their community.

Steve taught science at Lewisburg Area High School for 24 years, and found it rewarding to inspire youth to discover, learn and grow in the classroom environment. His mission to help others continued after he retired from teaching and became the business manager of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. His work provided him with the opportunity to educate others about peace and social justice issues, which he still pursues as a member of the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Marion had served as a laboratory technologist and supervisor in the laboratory at Evangelical Community Hospital, where she played an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Her career was dedicated to helping to improve others’ health.

Steve applied his experience and passion for social justice by helping to develop the Central Susquehanna Valley Mediation Center, Inc., where he continues to work as a volunteer today. The center offers the services of trained and experienced mediators to help people who are in conflict learn more effective ways to communicate. “Mediation is a way to help people in conflict to have constructive conversations. We equip them with the tools they need to listen better and be better understood by the other person,” Steve said. “I enjoy volunteering because I like to help people learn and take responsibility for discovering their own agency and move beyond the things that are blocking their capabilities.” Marion also continues to help others, as a trained Susquehanna Valley CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer. She assists the courts in determining what is in the best interest of abused or neglected children who are in the care of Children and Youth Services, and aids in seeking a safe, permanent and nurturing home.

“Moving to RiverWoods has freed up time for us to be able to concentrate on one of the things we love to do—volunteer,” said Marion. RiverWoods has provided the environment the couple needs to continue thriving, just as they have provided a safer and healthier community through their volunteer work. The Jacobsens are shining examples of being called to serve, and we are proud that they are part of our Albright family.

Albright, celebrating 100 years of providing service in the Susquehanna Valley, invites you to continue your mission by joining us at one of our six locations. Visit for information on senior living, day programs, volunteering or giving. 

The annual report of Mission Central

By Rob Visscher, Executive Director of Mission Central

While our work continues to expand, Mission Central daily witnesses the hand of God upon us through our challenges and through our blessings. When we remain attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we experience what we call “God Moments”. These are moments when it is clearly beyond our power, when just in time delivery of materials arrive to meet requests made only hours before or the provision of funds to make facility repairs or meet expenses, when only days before it seemed there was a zero balance. These events are transformative to those of us who participate and to those who are benefactors of our work. God is truly unfolding an amazing story of grace and transformation through Mission Central.

Thankfully, there were no major disasters in our area or the United States for which we were called to respond in 2015; yet we did participate in responses to localized domestic major disasters during the year. We continue to collectively connect millions of dollars’ worth of God’s resources with human need, annually. This past year, we took time to strategically reflect on how we carry out our tasks, insuring our continued success for the second decade of mission.

The Board of Directors has begun and will implement our Five-Year Strategic Plan in 2016. Together we are leading the work and mission of Mission Central.

Total Operating Donations:     $ 504,050.00
Total Operation Costs:            $ 480,473.00

15% International:                                        $ 1,191,346.00
24% National (United States)                       $ 1,966,431.00
  3% State of PA (outside Central PA)       $    277,351.00
58% Local (Central PA)                               $ 4,659,124.00


TOTAL LIVES TOUCHED:                  2,078,691

As a premier mission response center we are poised to continue to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to mission needs and disasters here at home and around the globe. Thank you for your support. We are excited for the possibilities of continued collaboration as we respond to the many needs of this world. We are grateful for the financial support of individuals, churches and civic groups like YOU and, of course, that of our beloved volunteers. YOU change lives!

Bits & Pieces: Serving Jesus by Serving Others

By Morgan Robinette, Young People’s Ministry Council

“The best part of Serving Jesus by Serving Others was getting the youth involved in something bigger than our own church!” 
— Pastor, Williamsport District 

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, over 150 youth and adults came together at five different locations throughout the Conference to serve in mission.

Mission Central
The Young People’s Ministry Council partnered with Mission Central and four HUB’s; Altoona, Covenant Helping Hands, Shoemaker, and Gethsemane, to offer an afternoon of hands-on service for youth groups in the Conference. There was definitely an atmosphere of enthusiasm in all five HUB’s, as dozens of young people formed connections and friendships as they served alongside one another.

Altoona HUB
Each location offered a variety of ways for the youth to be in service, including packing UMCOR health and school kits, assembling home relocation supplies, and even some painting. In between projects, the youth also participated in games and activities, which offered some newer perspectives on the act of serving others.

Covenant Helping Hands HUB
The youth of the YPMC led a time of devotion and reflection, encouraging attendees to consider the challenge found in James 2:16-17, “What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”

Gethsemane HUB
The youth shared personal experiences of both meeting the needs of others, as well as having their needs met during a time of trial. Different ways for young people to serve in everyday life were also discussed and before leaving the youth were presented with a challenge to make any place a mission field.

Shoemaker HUB
A video of photographs taken at all locations throughout the event can be found on the Young People’s Ministry website,

The final Bits & Pieces event, “WHAT’S NEXT?” is scheduled for Sunday, April 24, 2016 at St. John’s Newberry UMC, Williamsport. Details and registration can before found on the YPM website. Registration closes Friday, April 15.

Truckload of shoes will help fight poverty

By Shiela Yorks

On March 12, 2016, Mifflinburg United Methodist Church and Pine Grove UMC, Mifflintown, shipped 1,897 pair of shoes to the mission project Soles4Souls, a not-for-profit global enterprise committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing. (
Both churches gathered the slightly used shoes over the past year to make their collection such a success. Creative Plantscapes’ owners Mike and Stacy Derk supplied the truck to ship the shoes to Doylestown, PA, one of the mission’s drop-off centers.

Discovery Place: Awaiting Pentecost ...

Just a few short weeks ago we all celebrated the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and we now find ourselves in Eastertide, awaiting the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Many churches across our denomination use the celebration of Pentecost to bring in new members or to confirm youth. Some churches will even have a birthday party to recognize the birthday of the Christian Church. All of this celebration is centered on the coming of the Holy Spirit. But what do we know about the Holy Spirit? Discovery Place has resources to help you explore this question. Here are just a few.

When God’s Spirit Moves: What happens when the Holy Spirit moves powerfully within a church? In this six-session DVD study, you’ll not only learn about the person of the Holy Spirit, you’ll also learn: How to make room for the work of the Spirit in your life and in your church; How the Spirit empowers you to be creative and honor God with your gifts and talents; How to listen in prayer and apply the Word of God; How the Spirit is active in the work of healing your body, your emotions, and your relationships; How your personal transformation leads to greater transformations in your community and around the world through the changed lives of believers; How your church can become a place where the message of the gospel is heard and people experience the life-giving power of a grace-filled community. Jim Cymbala shows us how to experience a fresh sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit: In this dynamic seven-session study, Francis Chan reminds us of the true source of the church’s power—the Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we’ve ignored the Spirit for far too long, and that without Him, we operate in our own strength, only accomplishing human-sized results. This resource offers a compelling invitation to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives.

Basic: Holy Spirit: BASIC is a seven-part series of short films that challenge us to reclaim the church as Scripture describes it to be. #3: Holy Spirit: God gives each of us the gift of the Holy Spirit, our source of supernatural power. But today, the church acts neither “super” nor “natural.” How do we join the move of what the Spirit is doing? Maybe once we understand who the Holy Spirit is, the church can stop being so ordinary and can start being the agent of change in the world that God designed us to be.

Where your treasure is - Going Beyond “C.A.M.P.” Stewardship

By Rev. Phyllis M. Bowers, Executive Director United Methodist Stewardship Foundation

In this early spring season, we are excited to get outside and enjoy the wonders of all God has given us. This is the time we start reminding parishioners not to forget their offering when they are away from us on Sundays. We share the reasons we need our “C.A.M.P.” in church. Yet Capital, Annual, Missional, and Planned giving are all different in focus, use, and timing. While capital campaigns are short term goals to make improvements, annual giving sustains our ministries. Missional giving reaches outside the church while planned giving are gifts or bequests that reach outside our lifetime to make a difference. We need them all at church for all we do and support. God blesses us by providing much in which to offer thanks.

Yes, in this early spring season we are excited to get outside and enjoy the wonders of all God has given us. We can go also beyond our base “C.A.M.P.” if we think of stewardship differently. For instance, the diocese in Wichita has “four pillars of stewardship—hospitality, prayer, formation, service.” They remind us that what we give is not just time and treasure. It is also a generosity of inclusiveness, relationship, learning, and helpfulness.

Stewardship this year—let’s start reminding ourselves not to forget our offering wherever we are on Sundays and throughout the week. In what ways can we improve, sustain, reach and go beyond what we have to offer? We need not just to know, but also to do a generosity of “hospitality, prayer, formation and service” to get outside ourselves. May you enjoy the wonders of all God has given us, including a refreshing spring in our church.

P.S. Want to learn other ideas about stewardship? Come hear from Rev. Dr. Clayton Smith, Executive Pastor of Generosity, for the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. He will be speaking at Country Cupboard in Lewisburg on April 23, 2016 from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Register NOW at

For more information contact Phyllis Bowers at (local) 717-766-5376 or 
(toll-free) 1-877-619-5974 or e-mail

Our Heritage

March – 100 years ago
The Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church met March 15-20, 1916, at the Eighth Avenue Church in Altoona. In 1972 Eighth Avenue received the members from Faith (former Evangelical) and became Faith UMC. In 2010 Faith merged into Wehnwood (former United Brethren) UMC. Among the 1916 business conducted was the receiving of $150 in proceeds from the sale of the Opp church on the Washingtonville charge – a building with an uncertain history. It was erected about 1845 (the oldest readable date in the cemetery) in Moreland Township, Lycoming County, because the doors of the old union church “were thrown open for all denominations except the Methodists.” Services were discontinued for a number of years, but re-instated in 1898 and held at least until 1913. The structure was dismantled in 1938 and the wood and windows used in buildings on a nearby farm. The site is presently marked by a small cemetery and a sign reading “Moreland Methodist Burying Grounds” – but only about one-third of the original gravestones remain.

April – 50 years ago
The 12th Annual Methodist Men’s Mass Rally of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Church was held April 1, 1966, at First Methodist Church in Lewistown, Mifflin County. The program opened with a 30-minute gospel hymn-sing led by Ned S. Bly of Watsontown. Featured speaker for the evening was 1962 inductee into baseball’s Hall of Fame Jackie Robinson. Also participating in the program was Bishop Newell Booth. Some churches chartered a bus, and others organized car caravans to transport their attendees. It was reported that 1,837 men “jammed First Church for this outstanding event” as “the largest group of men ever to assemble in one place at one time in our Conference.”

On to Glory - Death Notices

Rev. Ronald E. Bowersox, Retired, of Jean-Lo Way, York, Pa., died Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at his daughter’s home in Pittsburgh, Pa. In addition to his daughter, among his survivors is his wife, Joyce Bowersox. Memorial services were held Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Bethlehem United Methodist Church, Dallastown, Pa.

Mrs. Catherine E. “Cathy” (Matthews) Buffton, wife of Rev. William G. Buffton, Retired, died Tuesday, February 2, 2016. Memorial services were held Monday, February 8, 2016, in Beach Lake United Methodist Church, Beach Lake, Pa. Interment was in Beach Lake Cemetery, Beach Lake, Pa.

Pastor Patricia C. Gable, Retired, of Butter Road, Dover, Pa., died Thursday, March 24, 2016, in York Hospital. Among her survivors is her husband, Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Gable, Retired. Memorial services were held Monday, March 28, 2016, in Otterbein United Methodist Church, Emigsville, Pa. Interment was in Salem Union Cemetery, Dover, Pa.

Rev. J. Marco Hunsberger, Retired, of Adams Street, Williamsport, Pa., died February 17, 2016, at home. Among his survivors is his wife, Beverly A. (Smith) Hunsberger. Memorial services were private and at the convenience of the family.

Mr. Michael Pedone, of Kellows Road, Honesdale, Pa., died Sunday, March 13, 2016, at home. Among is survivors is his wife, Rev. Alice Pedone, Retired. Memorial services were held Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Smith Hill United Methodist Church, Honesdale, Pa. Interment was in Smith Hill Cemetery, Honesdale, Pa.

Mrs. L. Bernice (Sheeks) Shafer, of Newry Street, Hollidaysburg, Pa., died Sunday, February 14, 2016, in Presbyterian Village, Hollidaysburg, Pa. She was the widow of Rev. Donald L. Shafer, Retired. Among her survivors are her daughter, Rev. Elaine Shafer-Stroud, Altoona District Assisting Elder; her son-in-law, Rev. Byron Shafer-Stroud, Retired; her son, Rev. D. L. Brinton Shafer, Retired; and a granddaughter, Rev. Elizabeth Shafer-Glass, serving on loan to Virginia Conference. Memorial services were held Monday, February 22, 2016, in Trinity United Methodist Church, Roaring Spring, Pa. Interment was at the convenience of the family.

Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Shearer, Retired, of Willow Valley Square, Lancaster, Pa., died Thursday, March 31, 2016, in Willow Valley. Memorial services were held Saturday, April 9, 2016, in First United Methodist Church, Ephrata, Pa. Interment was in Maple Grove Cemetery, Elizabethville, Pa.

Mrs. Thelma F. Williams, of Berkstone Circle, Harrisburg, Pa., died Thursday, February 25, 2016, at home. She was the widow of Rev. J. Carl Williams, Retired. Memorial services were held Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Calvary United Methodist Church, Harrisburg, Pa.

Rev. Edward H. Yarnell, Retired, of Glendale Road, York, Pa., died Sunday, March 20, 2016, in Manor Care Health Services. He is survived by his wife, Elsie M. (Phillips) Yarnell. Memorial services were held Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Aldersgate United Methodist Church, York, Pa.