Friday, June 24, 2016

Creating new places for new people

By Rev. Bethany P. Wood

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.

The people of the Susquehanna Annual Conference gathered to worship, sing, pray, and holy conference with energetic, inviting song. “Joy of the Lord” echoed through the space created for the work and fellowship ahead.

Led by members of the Young People’s Ministry Council, worship began with the announcement that God, as proclaimed in Isaiah 43, is dong a new thing. Possibilities exist for the church to be transformed into places of vitality; possibilities for walking a new path, a new journey, and a renewed purpose as we together make new disciples for such a time as this.

Do we say “yes” or “no” to God? What are our expectations? We have the expectation that God is always doing something new, creating new spaces for new people, raising up new leaders, new ideas, and new potential. We have the expectation that God can radically change our communities into spaces where the Good News is shared and our neighbors are loved.


Pastors Mindi Ferguson and Kristopher Sledge brought that home in the “Spoken Word.” They each spoke in a litany of how God has taken their lives in an undetermined journey, wrapped in grace. What is ahead, we cannot presume to know. We do know that God is present and that God is working for good as we live into the promise of faith.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park greeted the congregation, delightedly recalling the conversation with the Rev. Beth Jones four years ago signaling his appointment to the Susquehanna Conference. He thanked those gathered for their faithful witness in so many ways – in the increase of paying Shares of Ministry, enabling the conference to pay our General Church Shares of Ministry in full, in raising over $400,000 for the Bishop’s Initiative, in mission ventures, and Second Mile giving in local congregations. He recognized his wife, Lisa, as she was joyfully acknowledged by the Conference.

As Bishop Park began his sermon, he asked God’s people to pray, pray, pray. And pray. He spoke of creating new spaces for new people. Last year, the Conference engaged in a theme of vital congregations. This year the theme has shifted. It is important for the church to disciple young people and create new, exciting, vibrant space for faith to grow and flourish.

In referring to Matthew 13:1-9, he underlined the importance of the sower of the seed, and the kinds of soil the seed fell upon. The sower was extravagant in broadcasting the seed, although the soils that it fell upon were not always productive. He related that to our spiritual life. At times we can be barren, rocky, or fruitful in our faith life. The question becomes, “how it is with your soil today?” Are you ready to take root and flourish? What is in your heart? At the end of the day, it is what is on the inside that counts.

God does surprise us. “Open your eyes and look at the fields,” Bishop Park implored. Don’t give up, for the fields are ripe for harvest. People are more ready to receive God’s grace than you might think.

Keep spreading the seed, keep singing the songs, keep telling the gospel, and don’t lose heart. Let those who have heart embrace a future filled with hope. Bishop Park concluded the service by leading a spirited rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”

The video and transcript of Bishop Park’s message will be available at tinyurl.com/susumcac2016 

A revolutionary ministry

By Rev. Brenda K. Leigey

The 2016 theme for the Susquehanna Annual Conference, “Alive in Christ Together,” continued as the Annual Conference prepared to celebrate the ordination of one commissioning/provisional deacon, Dilip R. Abayasekara, one ordained deacon elder, Megan Burd-Harris, six commissioning/provisional elders: Audrey M. Brosious, Joshua W. Davinsizer, Rebecca L. Harmon Torres, Jonathan D. Morningstar, Timothy R. Parker, and Stephanie P. Rupert, and two ordained elders, Janet Durrwachter and Brent Stouffer.

The processional hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” united the voices of the Susquehanna Annual Conference at the beginning of the celebration, calling the church to remember Jesus as Lord and celebrate our opportunity to “join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all.”

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park introduced the guest speaker for the ordination service, his colleague and friend, Bishop Ernest Lyght, retired bishop in the United Methodist Church who always challenges the church “to think outside the box.”
Bishop Lyght began by sharing his joy to greet the Annual Conference in the precious, risen Lord, and affirming his admiration of the Susquehanna Conference for our high level of commitment to mission.

Lyght’s message for those being ordained and the Annual Conference was entitled, “A Revolutionary Ministry.” He addressed those to be commissioned and  ordained, those who already answered the call, and the laity. Being encouraged to listen to God’s call, we were invited to reflect on our own journey, for God is constantly calling us, calling us to do something different in some form or fashion. God calls in a variety of ways because God needs us to provide leadership in the church.

There is “no room for shallow water ministry; we need deep water ministry” stated Bishop Ernest Lyght in his Ordination Service address on June 11, 2016.

Bishop Lyght proposed a question: “What kind of leader are you? Spiritual? Administrative?” Then he asked us to consider the dynamic of partnership ministry.

One of Lyght’s favorite characters is the Lone Ranger, because the Lone ranger never really operated alone. He shared a partnership with a friend who nursed him back to health on several occasions – his partner, Tonto. They joined in a partnership with the U.S. Marshalls and local citizens striving together for justice.

There is only one response when God calls. “Yes.” By saying yes, it eliminates a lot of hardship. Saying no can create a lot of indecision. God calls those who God wants to be in the God movement. God will equip you when you say yes for ministry, and grants you authority, because the authenticity of God is that “I Am” calls and sends you.

When God called Joshua, God told Joshua, “I will be with you.” God promised never to leave Joshua alone. There may have been times when Joshua felt alone, but God was always be there. It is the same for us. God is there. God shows up on time. Joshua believed in the partnership with God because it was based on the knowledge, acceptance, and faith in God.

Bishop Lyght reminded us that partnership is about relationships, and sometimes clergy have problems with relationships, but as we are called to be in ministry we are also called to be in partnership.

Three questions were posed to the Annual Conference: “Do you know Jesus?”; “How well do you know Jesus?”; and “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

Lyght shared that to know Jesus and to know how well you know Jesus, you must know him as your friend. Friends are people who believe in you, love you, people you can count on and respond to your need. Sharing the words from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” the bishop emphasized the importance of walking with Jesus as your friend.

When it comes to knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, Lyght said that many intellectual people can talk about Jesus but do not know him with the heart. We need to know Jesus with head and heart so that we can sing triumphantly, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness …” We must stand with Jesus to move forward in ministry.

The story of Jesus’ encounter with some of his disciples when they were fishing was shared by the bishop to illustrate how we are not to be in the “shallow water ministry, but in deep water ministry.”

In the story, Jesus meddled in the fisherman’s business when as a carpenter he was telling fisherman how to catch fish. Jesus told Peter and the others to push out into the deep water to catch fish. Peter’s simple answer was, “If you say so.”
The catch was so great that the boat began to sink, and the fisherman called to their partners to come and help. We need partners in ministry; we are not to be a loner. The bishop commissioned us not to stand in the shallow water but to go out to where the people are; we are to go out into the deep water.

There is “no room for shallow water ministry; we need deep water ministry” stated Bishop Lyght.

As clergy we are to be in partnership: First with God, second with Jesus, third with the Holy Spirit, and fourth with the laity. For a revolution to be in the church, men and women need to be in partnership with God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and one another.

 Commissioning and ordination followed, as the assembly affirmed those who have said “Yes!” to a life of service through ministry. An offering was taken for the Bishop’s Partners Mission. An altar call and prayer blessed the congregation as this Session of Annual Conference concluded.

The video and transcript of Bishop Lyght’s message will be available at tinyurl.com/susumcac2016

A day of new beginnings ...


By Rev. Larry E. Siikanen, Co-Chair, Committee on Native American Ministries and Deb Steransky

The purpose of the Act of Repentance service was to repent for actions that the United Methodist Church, its predecessors, and members have participated in against the indigenous peoples of this country.

It was also a service in which we, as The Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church, promised that we will never again stand by and allow this to happen to any group of people just because they are different from us.

We understand that you yourself may never have mistreated Native Peoples, and in fact may be very supportive of Native Peoples. This was not a service to fix blame, it was a service to repent for what has been done and move forward in positive directions.




The service included an Act of Centering, using the four directions and colors of the Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol for native peoples that reminds them that everything is related to each other because we are all formed by the same Creator.

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The need for us as United Methodists to seek new beginnings and enter into repentance for acts of atrocities inflicted on Native Peoples in the past was the focus of the poignant Friday morning service at Annual Conference. While we in present day America did not participate in the crimes committed against the Native Peoples, we do have a dubious history. Rev. Mike Bealla talked about the Sand Creek Massacre, which took place in Colorado on November 29, 1864. The governor at the time of the attack and the colonel who led the attack were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The colonel had served as a minister before moving to Colorado.

Rev. Larry Siikanen, Co-Chair of the Conference Committee on Native American Ministries, introduced special guests Otto and Barbara Braidedhair of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. Both Otto and Barbara are descendants of people who were killed at the Sand Creek Massacre. Barbara Braidedhair also had an aunt who went to Carlisle Indian School. When her aunt, Beth Redneck, was four years old in 1916, she was taken from her family in Montana. The family was told that she was being sent to Carlisle Indian School to be “educated.” Beth was never heard from again.

Ruby Olson compared the ravished and bloodied man left along the road to die in Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan to the way Native Peoples have been treated. There is an institutionalized acceptance of oppression that pervades our culture, and for that we need to repent and find a new view.

To that end the service moved us through the ways we may currently think of Native Peoples to accept a more accurate picture. After singing the first verse of “Amazing Grace” in Cherokee and then in English, we prepared our hearts in an Act of Centering, during which we used the colors and directions of the Medicine Wheel to recognize our God as pure and as the provider of all things. We are all part of His family.

A dialogue between a white person, as represented by Rev. Jim House, and a Native American person, as represented by Rev. Larry Siikanen, revealed where some of the prejudices originate and how the Native Peoples are still being repressed today. Slowly, the white person understood and realized the need to acknowledge our historical role and present role. He recognized the need to repent. Native and white then pray together with the congregation a prayer for peace and love among all peoples of all cultures and colors.

Cyndi Kent, chairperson of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Native American Ministries, shared a brief message with us. She reminded us that repentance means turning away, and read 2 Corinthians 7:9-13. Paul writes in that passage that he rejoices not that we were made sorrowful, but that we were made sorrowful to the point of repentance. Ms. Kent said that we struggle when we repent. We examine what went wrong and contemplate how to fix it. Figuring that out requires doing what her grandmother taught her, and that is listening to each other, and listening builds respect. Listening will correct the misconceptions that still surround Native Peoples, and we will discover or rediscover that we are all much the same. The challenges that the Native Peoples struggle to overcome are not just Native issues. They are human issues. We must work together to solve them. We all have the same God. We need to clear a path for His presence.
With drums playing in the background, we prayed a confession of a broken circle of love and asked for forgiveness for our sins of exclusion and discourse. As a symbol of our turning away we tied a grey ribbon on each other’s wrist to remind us and others that never again will we stand by when we witness oppression and exclusion.


Bishop Jeremiah J. Park expressed his gratitude for the work of this committee. He said that the service is not the end but a beginning of the healing. It’s difficult to deal with our personal sins, let alone the collective sins of our history. The church has denied Native Peoples their own history. But we must reconcile with our past and identify where we are still lacking. Repentance is more than guilt and shame. It’s moving toward living hope and a better way. Bishop Park celebrated the gifts and graces of Native Peoples.

The service closed with the hymn “This Is a Day of New Beginnings.” The last verse seems to sum up the goal of the service: “Christ is alive and goes before us to show and share what love can do.”

Quotable Quotes from Annual Conference 2016

“We have the expectation that God is always doing something new, creating new spaces for new people, raising up new leaders, new ideas, and new potential.”
— Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

“We expect that God can radically change our communities into spaces where the Good News is shared and our neighbors are loved. People are more ready to receive God’s grace than you might think!”
— Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

“Today the congregation of Annual Conference and I repented on a large scale before representatives from the Committee on Native American Ministries on behalf of the Native American community. We repented not only for our church’s role in past atrocities, but also for current ignorance and injustice inflicted upon Native Americans.”
— Morgan Robinette, teen writer for the Daily LINK

“When you volunteer at Mission Central you get far more than you give.”
— Jean Norris, recipient of the Harry Overholtzer Volunteer of the Year Award.

“You are Mission Central. We, the board, just coordinate your efforts.”
— Bob Ryder, President of Mission Central Board of Directors

“Within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania nearly 700,000 children live within the margins with little or no chance to succeed. The demographics are real; the children are out there. Now is the time for the church to step in and step up. All of you have children’s ministries waiting to be born."
— Rev. Dr. Ed Zeiders
for the Commission on Child Advocacy

“Imagine the door of your church. Imagine taking the handle and trying to open it. Is it locked? Is there a need to find an alternate entrance to the church other than the main one? Now open that door and cross the threshold. Sadly, people don’t pass through our doors in the same number that they once did.”
— Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kind, Altoona District Superintendent, in the Leadership Report

“Stories engage and draw us in. By exchanging life stories, we get to know and influence one another. The world’s greatest storyteller was Jesus, and with his death and resurrection, his disciples went out to share their stories of how Jesus changed their lives.”
— Sand artist Joe Castillo, a semi-finalist for television’s America’s Got Talent competition

“We live in the place that society sees as a contradiction. These contradictions resonate within us as we moan the loss of brothers and sisters in Christ who are yet united with us as members of Christ’s body. (Romans 12:4). Unlike the cold, lifeless stones that adorn gravesites, the faithful remain forever ‘engraved on the palm of God hand.’ ”
— Rev. Lori Steffensen, State College District Superintendent

“There are several ways to support the community of young persons in your church: take an active interest in the lives of young people, support vital youth groups, and encourage meaningful participation in church-wide initiatives.”
— Members of the Young People’s Ministry Council

“We are determined to continue our connectional commitments to be of the greatest possible usefulness to Christ and His church, continuing our long-standing commitment to stewardship education and discipleship, building effective networks and partnerships as we share our work with you.”
— Rev. Nick Keeney, Finance Chair and Assistant Treasurer, Stewardship Foundation



Offerings Annual Conference 2016*
Youth Service Fund $8,086.20
Cup of Water Fund $23,455.61
Mongolian Mission $20,247.44

Bishop’s Partners in Mission
Partners in Mission $49,035.18
Mission Central $1,684.00
Imagine No Malaria $850.00

*As of publication date

Conference Statistics

Membership:
2014 - 150,436
2015 - 146,171
-4,265
-2.8%

Worship attendance:
2014 - 61,015
2015 - 57,065
-3,950
-6.5%

Church school attendance:           
2014 - 20,213
2015 - 18,815
-1,398
-6.9%

Professions of Faith:
2014 - 2,096
2015 - 1,898
-198
-9.4%

From where I sit: One More Time

By Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, 
Director of Connectional Ministries

I must admit that I never thought I’d be writing another article as the Director of Connectional Ministries — certainly not after writing my last article eight years ago. But God and the bishop both have a strange sense of humor.

I will share over the next several months more about this re-aligned position. However, suffice it to say that among my prayers as I begin this new ministry is the following from Judges 16: “Lord God, remember me and strengthen me one more time.”

The text is part of Samson’s prayer found in Judges 16.

While I’m not handcuffed to pillars nor anticipating death as the house falls down because of my strength, I believe it is a good prayer as I begin this ministry.

Our conference is not the same conference it was either when I began as director of connectional ministries in 2000, or when I left to become a district superintendent in 2008. Much has changed in the world, in our conference, and in our churches and communities. We are a new conference with new strengths and new challenges.

This ministry and where we need to go as a conference and as a church is way beyond the ability and strength of one person. With decisions of General Conference and other Annual Conferences, the United Methodist Church is at a crossroads. With more and more children and youth growing up in non-church homes, we have more people who have no history of what it means to be a Christian or even go to church.

Our communities continue to be blighted by abuse, addiction, poverty, and a huge separation between the wealthy and the poor. We know that there are literally thousands of people within the shadows of our churches that have never been inside our church — and many have never been invited.

Yes, these are difficult times. But these are God’s times!

These are times not unlike the First Century Church — which in the midst of those difficult times grew and grew and grew. It was in those difficult societal times when the church was persecuted and didn’t have many believers. But it was in those fertile soil times that God, through Christians, did some of God’s most powerful work.

So my prayer as I begin this new and expanded ministry is “Lord God, remember me and strengthen me one more time.” May all of us breathe this prayer over and over as we look for new and different ways for God to use the people called United Methodists in the Susquehanna Conference. God will use us, God will strength us — not for the days past — but for the days of our future.

One more time let us pray that God will infuse us with passion, compassion, and a burning desire to make disciples for Jesus Christ as we transform our communities, our neighborhoods, and the world.

One more time, God!

Report of the 2016 General Conference Delegation and Bishop Park’s statement after Delegation Report

Report of the 2016 General Conference Delegation

By Brenda Leigey

The Susquehanna Annual Conference sent ten delegates to be part of the 864 delegates attending the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Lisa Bender, a lay delegate, shared with the Annual Conference the daily routine of meeting, working, praying, and voting as laity and clergy on behalf of the global church delegation, stating that 40 percent of the delegation in attendance was from outside the United States. Daily worship and sermons by the bishops were designed and focused around the theme of “Go.” The delegates and the global church were encouraged to stay humble, work for unity, and be the church.
During one service, twenty-nine new missionaries were commissioned from eleven countries to serve in sixteen lands in order to reach out with the love of Jesus.

Matthew Lake, a clergy delegate, shared with the Annual Conference some of the high points of the 2016 General Conference. There was great struggle, and emotions ran high over how we as the church would address difficult topics, especially dealing with human sexuality. Two questions surfaced as individuals were interested in the atmosphere of General Conference. The first question, “What was it like to be on the actual floor of General Conference, particularly when the issues of human sexuality were being discussed.” Matt shared that there was a charge of emotions with feelings of uncertainty and deep mistrust. Discussion of unity in the United Methodist Church was also a highly charged topic. In the smaller venues that gathered, there was a sense of productive conversion, even in the midst of disagreement, with a desire to remain in unity.
With the continued discussions about the concern about human sexuality there was also the question of, “Is that all that happened or did we just draw a line in the sand?”

The Council of Bishops encouraged the delegates at General Conference to be patient as a special commission will be established so that the United Methodist Church can move forward when every possible option is discussed to help the church move forward in a new way.

A discussion about the vision statement of the United Methodist Church, Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, encouraged the delegates to remember what our primary focus is as a church united – not to be distracted by issues, but to humble ourselves before Jesus. The time to pray is now; the time to commit to pray deeply is now, discerning how the Lord will help us to move forward.

Rev. Anna Layman Knox and Warren Heil shared with the Annual Conference some of the celebrations as the global church. “Imagine No Malaria” has raised 75 million in cash and pledges the last eight years.

The next Global Health commitment, Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children, has a goal to reach one billion children with life-saving interventions.
The global church approved five new bishops to the African Conference, sending them to areas of the world that is adding to the number of new Christians.
A new commission has been established to create a new version of the United Methodist Hymnal. Once completed and approved in 2020, it will enable local churches to customize the hymns they are more familiar in singing.

The delegates were deeply privileged to serve together representing the Susquehanna Conference, and hope their presence at the General Conference brought hope, grace, and unity to the global church.

Rev. Larry Leland, speaking for the upcoming representation attending Jurisdictional Conference, said that after significant discussion and prayer, the delegation has chosen not to recommend endorsement of any candidate for the 2016 Jurisdictional Conference Episcopal election.

Rev. Gere Reist was recognized for his service of twelve years as the General Conference Secretary, and a total of twenty-four years at General Conference. His retirement was also celebrated.

Bishop Jeremiah Park closed the presentation by offering words of encouragement to the laity and clergy and local congregations to be in a process of deep prayer and discussion as we engage with one another for the future and unity of the United Methodist Church.

Bishop Park’s statement after Delegation Report

As heard in the report from our delegates to General Conference (Daily LINK, June 10, page 8. tinyurl.com/zfzowk4), United Methodists across the connection are facing important issues where there seems to be no simple or easy answer. For now, we are living in a time marked by anxiety and tension on both sides of the issue of human sexuality.

Our beloved church is at a critical juncture. The Council of Bishops took seriously the charge of the General Conference to begin a process of prayer and discussion that will help us to look to the future in regard to same-gender issues. A special commission assembled from around the world and across the theological spectrum will begin soon to envision how our church might remain united.

As this special commission works over the next two or three years, our annual conference has an opportunity to uphold their work through intentional prayer and our own opportunities for conversation, mutual listening, and discernment.
During the rest of the year, God willing, I, as your bishop, and the leadership of the Annual Conference will be involving persons of differing perspectives in order to look at ways to engage clergy and laity in a process of discernment that more closely resembles a Christ-like model of faith. We will depend on the leading of God’s Spirit to show us the ways we can engage in deep prayer and discussion. Our hope is that our engagement with one another will lead us all to a spirit of openness to God’s preferred future for our church.

Be assured that you, as members of the Susquehanna Annual Conference, will be kept apprised as the plans unfold.

An Offering for a Way Forward

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Photo by Maile Bradfield, UMNS

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
— Galatians 3:25-29 NRSV

Your bishops were honored to receive the request of General Conference to help lead our United Methodist Church forward during this time of both great crisis and great opportunity. As far as we can discover, this is the first time that a General Conference has ever made such a request of the Council of Bishops, and we accept this request with humility.

We share with you a deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord. Yesterday, our president shared the deep pain we feel. We have all prayed for months and continue to do so. We seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters. This deep unity allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church. Within the Church, we are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another. This is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23.

UNITY

We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God. We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” while allowing for differing expressions as a global church. Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort. We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church. We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church. Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us.

PRAYER

We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead the UMC in a “pause for prayer” – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future. As a Council of Bishops, we will lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God’s guidance. We ask you, as a General Conference, to join us in this effort, beginning this week. We were moved by the sight of delegates praying around the table, and we hope these efforts will continue. As your bishops we are ready to join you and to lead you in these times of prayer.

PROCESSES

We have discussed in depth the processes which might help our church heal and move forward – up to and including the possibility of a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019. We have not finalized our plans for such processes, but we will keep working on options we have heard from many of you, and we will keep reporting to this General Conference and to the whole church.

NEXT STEPS

We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts. We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this Commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two- to three-day gathering before the 2020 General Conference. (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering.)

CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS

We will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline. We will continue our conversation on this matter and report our progress to you and to the whole church.
Today, as a way of beginning to find our way forward, we suggest that in place of the allotted legislative time we spend 1-2 hours of plenary time in prayer, confession and exploration of a creative way forward. The bishops are prepared to provide questions to guide your conversations. Your conversations will be the first step to a way forward.

A Statement about General Conference from Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS
Dear United Methodists of the Susquehanna Conference, Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world.

The 2016 General Conference has just ended. I would like to thank you for holding the highest legislative body of our church in your thoughts and prayers throughout its time of Christian conferencing. Our deep appreciation goes to the delegates, leaders and many others who faithfully fulfilled their very demanding responsibilities, roles, and tasks in their places of serving the conference on behalf of the whole church.

There were unexpected and extraordinary moments, as well as predictable and regular routines. However, celebrating who we are as a global church with amazingly rich diversity among us was so uplifting, particularly in and through the inspiring worship and powerful preaching. There were many exciting and heart-warming witnesses of life changing and world transforming missions that we, as a connectional church, are able to do all over the world. We rejoiced in an unequivocal affirmation that, united as one body, the United Methodist Church is doing mighty works showing God’s love to the world.

At the same time, the General Conference reflected the anxiety and fear over the undeniable differences that threaten the unity of our church. The body heard clearly from the young people that they do not want a divided church and urged the church to “be in unity even if we do not have unanimity.” Realizing that the future path of the United Methodist Church could decisively be determined by the actions to be taken regarding the language about human sexuality in the Book of Discipline, the General Conference asked the Bishops to lead the church to the best possible way forward in unity. The Council of Bishops responded with the recommendation that called for preempting the debate and decision on those items relating to human sexuality to allow the Council to organize a special commission that would bring proposals to the General Conference, possibly even in a special called session before the 2020 General Conference. The most surprising moment came when the General Conference adopted the recommendation. I understand that people are having very different reactions to this decision. Yet I commend the General Conference for its willing spirit to move together for unity as best as possible for such a time as this by creating an unprecedented space for God to reshape our church.

The 2016 General Conference met with the theme: “Therefore, Go!” As disciples of Jesus Christ, we were refreshingly reminded of the charge given to us from the Lord who has all the authority in heaven and on earth: Go and make disciples of all nations for the transformation of the world. Now the question still to be answered is: “Where to go from here as the United Methodist Church?” The destiny of our beloved church is at stake with the discernment and decisions yet to be made by the church. Ultimately the way forward in unity depends on who’s in charge. Are we willing to let go and let God? In the meantime, we cannot afford losing our perspective and being distracted. The mission of the church is clear. We are to continue to give our best ever more faithfully to making disciples and transforming our communities and the world.

The Council of Bishops met in prayer and Bible study the day after the General Conference to seek the wisdom and guidance from God and each other to proceed with the mandate from the General Conference. During the Bible study, we were invited to many different stations where we were to have a time of reading Scripture, reflection, and a certain activity in response to the selected Scripture. One of the stations I visited had the Scripture of Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27). I believe our church can identify with the disciples who were terrified by the storm. However, the presence of Jesus with them made all the difference. My spirit was calmed with the assurance that, no matter how furious the winds blow and the waves rage to crush the boat, the way forward is possible with Jesus whom even the winds and the waves obey. We are to wake up Jesus as the disciples did. The only way for our church to move forward in unity is to have Jesus in charge. The spiritual way of faith, hope, and love must lead the legislative process.

The General Conference was surrounded by prayer before and during its sessions. Our prayers are to be intensified even more now. We are to surround the Council of Bishops with prayer as it names the commission. We are to continue to lift up the commission that is to come in prayer so that its task would be fulfilled, persuaded, and compelled by the Spirit of God according to God’s desire.

So let me end with a prayer:
O God, our help in ages past and our hope for years to come, we give you thanks for your steadfast love and faithfulness throughout the generations of your people called United Methodist. We celebrate the diverse missions and witnesses of our church that are making a huge difference in so many lives in so many places. As a connectional and global church, we are making your disciples in so many nations for the transformation of so many communities all over the world. We ask you to continue to bless our beloved church so that it will be relentless in expanding its ministry and witness in your name in an even more transformative way than ever before.

As our church is facing the challenging agenda of finding a way of moving forward in unity over the most dividing and unsettled difference regarding human sexuality, we have to totally depend on only you. You are the only Lord of the church. Show us the way to be your instrument of hope and implementation of unity. Knowing that this is your church before it is ours, enable us to surrender to you. Let our church be the answer to your ardent prayer: “They may be one as we are one.” By your grace and mercy, power and might, and love and truth, make us one with you, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, all to your glory. Let this be our mantra until we move beyond the storm. Amen.

Bishop Jeremiah J. Park

Remain in my love, bear much fruit

By Rev. Ryan T. Krauss

Rev. Lori J. Steffensen expressed heartfelt gratitude to the families of the pastors and laity who had gone on to glory: “We are who we are because of what they have done for us.”

The Celebration of Death and Resurrection on Thursday evening paid tribute to the fruitful ministry in the lives of Susquehanna Conference’s departed saints. Though “service to our beloved church at times took them away from you,” continued Steffensen, “we grieve in the expectation of future hope.”

The Celebration of Death and Resurrection is a yearly memorial punctuated by the dedication of stoles and Bibles in honor of the deceased. Placed on or at the foot of a symbolic yoke, these gifts — 22 Bibles and 23 stoles — will bless the pastors of Sierra Leone, just as the saints themselves blessed many of us. This material legacy is only a fraction of the spiritual fruit committed by these men and women who represent over 790 years combined in ministry. Through such commitment, they sacrificed in their own efforts to “make new places for new people” to follow Jesus.

“We live in that place that society sees as a contradiction,” said Steffensen. These contradictions resonate in us as we mourn the loss of brothers and sisters in Christ who are yet united as members of Christ’s body (Romans 12:4). Unlike the cold, lifeless stones that adorn gravesites, Rev. Steffensen reminded the Conference that the faithful remain forever “engraved on the palm” of God’s hand. They live in us as our church seeks unity, in spite of division over human sexuality. They speak to us through John 12:9-17, which was Steffensen’s chosen sermon text: “Now remain in my love … [now] go and bear fruit” (John 12:9b, 16b).

Steffensen challenged the Conference to heed Jesus’ seeming contradiction: stay in deep relationship with God in order to go and bear fruit for the gospel. Remaining in relationship with God “is not the leftovers, is not remaining unchanged.” Remaining in God’s love means seeing God as the perfect home.
As an Annual Conference, we took time to remain in God’s love together during the Celebration of Death and Resurrection. Together we celebrated communion, a foretaste of the coming feast in glory. Together we supported an offering to the Cup of Water Fund. Together we cried and sang with saints – past, present, and future.

“What fruit are we called to produce?” asked Steffensen. In reply she quoted demographic data that suggests upward of 80 percent of people in our districts still do not know Christ’s redeeming and forgiving love. For the people of the United Methodist Church and the Susquehanna Annual Conference, fruitfulness is not gauged by buildings or titles or committees … it’s not even about whose sin is bigger than the others. Fruitfulness is found in the core of our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.





 


Headed for the sweetest place on earth


By Deb Steransky

The Sessions Committee Report, delivered by Chairperson Rev. Dr. Gary Weaver, revealed that next year’s Annual Conference will bring changes in dates and place.

Dr. Weaver expressed his gratitude to Conference members for acting so graciously under current construction conditions on the Messiah College campus. He said Messiah College has entered into a long-term facilities plan that resulted in the current construction project, and there will be many more years of construction to come. The committee applauds Messiah College’s forward-thinking plan.

The Sessions Committee also takes very seriously the joys, God moments, and concerns expressed on the yearly evaluations turned in at the end of Conference. Weaver thanked members for never failing to say exactly what they think. His favorite was one comment from last year that said, “I didn’t meet one perfect person, which means that this Annual Conference isn’t perfect—which is a perfect fit for me and my church.”

Past years’ evaluations revealed increasing concerns over the facilities. We are a complicated group to accommodate. After exploring many possibilities, Hershey Lodge was selected as next year’s site for our Annual Conference. They are excited to host us, and as an example of their hospitality, we were each given a Hershey Bar.

The dates for the next five years were set for Annual Conference, and they are:
2017-May 4-6
2018-May 31-June 2
2019-May 30-June 1
2020-May 28-May 30
2021-June 3-5

Laity Session - We are better together

By Deb Steransky

“We are … the church! We are … better together!” Those were the cheers led by Andra Haverstock and then modified by Jon Konieczny during the Laity Session Thursday morning in Hitchcock Arena.

John Konieczny, our conference lay leader, welcomed the laity to Annual Conference and opened the session with devotions. He read from Jeremiah 17:5-8 and Psalm 37:3-7. Both passages reminded God’s people that when we trust Him, we will be replenished when troubles come. Konieczny then asked, “Where were you on December 31, 1999?” He reminded us that, at that time some people were a little worried that the moment the clock ticked to the year 2000 that there would be catastrophe and that the world would end. He likened that date to May 20, 2016, because that’s the date that General Conference adjourned. People were worried that the moment of adjournment would be the end of a unified United Methodist Church. But it wasn’t. Bishop Jeremiah J. Parks’ letter to our Annual Conference summed up the feeling of General Conference, that the attendees didn’t want a divided church, and therefore found a way forward toward unity.

Konieczny played a short video of highlights of General Conference that showed a lot of praying and hands held high together toward heaven. Interviews were woven into the video of people expressing their hope that the leaders would find a way through God to lead us forward together. For our Annual Conference, Konieczny said, it means we need to trust God, because He is able. We are still together, and we will move forward with Christ.

Konieczny then introduced Matt Wensel, a four-year veteran as the Annual Conference’s music director. Wensel gave a brief description of the music we will have this year. It promises to be as inspiring as always.

Kristen Beckert was introduced next. Beckert serves as a mission strategist and trainer for Fresh Expressions US. Fresh Expressions US is a movement that empowers and equips existing congregations to develop creative expressions of church that can reach our changing culture. Both laity and clergy can take part in cultivating new forms of church that can connect with people wherever they are, from steeple to the street. Beckert explained that Fresh Expressions US started in England where only two percent of the population attends church. So they looked at some options. They could let the church stay where it was - in its building hoping that people will come. Or they could invite people to dinners and activities to get people in their doors. Or the church could go where the people are, which is what happened. With Fresh Expressions US, there have been 21,000 converts, and they are most often led by laity.

The next speaker was Cathy Berkey, president of our conference’s United Methodist Women. Listing over 800,000 members, United Methodist Women is the largest denominational group of women in the world. She shared the many missions and women’s advocacy causes United Methodist Women supports throughout the world. (For more information about United Methodist Women visit www.unitedmethodistwomen.org (global) or tinyurl.com/h55vs49 (conference.))

Andra Haverstock, conference treasurer, reminded us that as a church and annual conference, our Shares of Ministry do more than we think. Ministry Shares fund Discovery Place, our conference video and book library, E-tours, Safe Sanctuaries training, MissionInsite, and Susquehanna LINK, to name just a few. A DVD interpreting our connectional ministries was made available for each church.

Anne Horton, director of Camp and Retreat Ministries, thanked all who attended the Senators Baseball game, which raised over $1,000 for camperships. Horton said there are still openings for camps this year, and encouraged Conference members to invite children in their church and neighborhood to enroll in a camping event. (susumcamps.org)

Horton also invited lay members to Camp Penn on Saturday, August 13, to celebrate the camp’s seventieth anniversary.

Break out groups were created after the presentations so that laity could get to know each other better and share their church’s mission.

Laity was reminded to provide a written report to their churches. Konieczny encouraged lay members to use the Daily Link as a sort of “Cliff Notes” for their report.

Finally, Konieczny asked the laity to promise they would never say “I’m just a lay person” when God calls. “We are all in this together,” he said. “We are better together.”

Video of the Laity Session can be found in the archive at tinyurl.com/susumcac2016

2016 Class of Retirees

Photo by Stacy Eckert

2016 Class of Retirees

Back row, left to right: 
Rev. Douglas M. Compton, Pastor Michael T. Bodek, Rev. Dr. Philip T. Wanck, Rev. Michael A. Druck, Rev. Robert A. Graybill, Rev. Jay A. Morris, and Rev. H. Aden Wertz III.

Middle row, left to right:  
Pastor Troy R. Harrold, Rev. Dr. Stephen E. Gallaher, Pastor Donna Lynne Vaux, Rev.Dr. Michael Shambora, Rev. Keith R. Beasley-Topliffe, Rev. William J. Danis, and Rev. Dr. E. Ann Walker.

Front row, left to right: 
Pastor Ann R. Runnels, Pastor Vicki A. Jordan, Pastor Kathleen M. Ehrsam, Pastor Brenda D. Mitchell, Rev. Bruce Wallace, and Rev. Charles W. Sprenkle.

Not Pictured: 
Pastor Gary M. Blankley, Pastor Judy C. Christmann, Pastor George W. Clippinger, Pastor Robert J. Eddinger, Rev. John R. Eidam Sr., Rev. Thomas A. Page, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey L. Rarich, Pastor Jean L. Swett, and Pastor Patricia A. Wise.

Annual Conference highlights poster

poster is downloadable at
http://www.susumc.org/index.php/communications/news/susquehanna-link

Annual Conference highlights poster

poster is downloadable at
http://www.susumc.org/index.php/communications/news/susquehanna-link

At the threshold ...

By Rev. Bethany P. Wood

This report began with the words of Acts 1:8, calling the church to be witnesses even to the ends of the earth. A video outlining the theme of the brochure, “At the Threshold: Moving Forward, New People, and New Places,” which was made available to each member of the gathering, was shared.

Doors make an impression the first time we encounter them. They can be welcoming or unwelcoming. They can be doorways to the communities we live in or barriers to unintentionally keep people out. Are we intentional in opening those doorways or are we hindered by rusty hinges that make it impossible to push through to our communities of faith? Are we ready to open doors and move forward?

Rev. Dr. Kathleen Kind invited the assembly to go on a mental journey. Imagine the door of your church. Imagine taking the handle and trying to open it. Is it locked? Is there a need to find an alternate entrance to the church, other than the main one? Now, open that door and cross the threshold. Sadly, people don’t pass through our doors in the same numbers that they once did.

We do stand on the threshold, and it is time to step forward. Rev. Dr. Dennis Otto helped us to take a look at how that threshold is being crossed across the conference.

First, he introduced the Conference to a video detailing the Acts Network at First UMC, Williamsport. Mitch Marcello shared the work of the numerous small group ministries and outreach of that congregation. He illustrated how the staff team talk to leaders about being disciples. They talk about being a community. They talk about being missionaries. They intentionally create spaces that non-believers are willing to come to. One of the doorways to this community of faith is through a gym door where basketball, weight lifting, and other sports are combined with Bible study.

Second, Otto introduced Pastor Mack Granderson and Manny Valentin, who spoke of the ministries at Derry Street United Methodist Church, an area high in crime and low in education. Derry Street has become a multi-cultural faith presence, a mini-United Nations for that community. There is a 10 a.m. traditional service, an 11:30 Spanish service, and a 1 p.m. contemporary service; and that congregation is ‘on fire.’ Granderson and Valentin asserted that the congregation reaches a wide variety of cultures; people who have a deep need for God. Some of these people don’t know it’s God that’s missing, but they feel a void. The church at-large needs to become less insular and more forward-looking. It is not always easy. Although Satan is the number one obstacle, love is the key. They asked that we love everyone, from professionals to addicts, and everyone in between.

Third, Rev. Jennifer Williams spoke in a video sharing the story of CrossPoint’s Perking Point. She spoke of how the informal coffee house helps lead individuals to Christ. She indicated that when groups are led to pray, they pray with their backs to each other, facing out to the community.

Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries, took the stage to speak about how creating new places for new people can happen in a variety of ways. We need to rethink how we do church, as 60 percent of our communities are unchurched. The mission field is just outside our doors.

Are you ready to open the door? All that is required is to take the first step.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Salsgiver drew the assembly’s attention to the “At the Threshold” flyer, outlining opportunities for training, consultation, tools to strengthen existing churches, and Fresh Expressions US partnerships.

Concluding the report, Rev. Beth Jones introduced John Hodges Batzka, who brought greetings from Discipleship Ministries Interim General Secretary Mary Jane Pierce Norton. Batzka presented the “One Matters” discipleship award to the Southern Potter County Charge. This award recognizes a move from no professions of faith or baptisms to one, two, or even more. This charge and its pastor have exemplified the spirit and energy of this award.

A celebration of ministry journeys

Ordinanation candidates Janet Durrwachter, Michael Druck, and Megan Burd-Harris answered the Historical Questions posed by Bishop Jeremiah J. Park during the Celebration of Ministry Service on Friday evening, June 10.

By Rev. Bethany P. Wood

The congregation of the Susquehanna Annual Conference gathered on Friday, June 10, to celebrate the ministries of retiring pastors, witness the passing of the mantles from the retiring class to the incoming ordination class, and view the historic examination for admission into full connection to those being admitted as elders.

The evening began with the congregation singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” followed by opening prayer lead by Rev. Michelle Whitlock.
The central themes of the service moved in four parts: The Journey of the Word, The Journey of Sacrament, The Journey of Order and Service, and the Often Overlooked Journey.

The Journey of the Word was a time for honoring the retirees. Each was greeted personally by Bishop Jeremiah J. Park. Honoring service and commitment to the people served and Savior-loved was key. Ministry was related to the living out of the Word, and the grace surrounding that call.

The Journey of the Sacrament began with the proclamation of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, and underlined the importance of baptism and communion in pastoral ministry.

The Journey of Order and Service was based on Ephesians 4, where persons are raised up to be pastors, evangelists, and teachers to equip people for the works of service. Lovingly, retirees were reminded of the many “hats” worn in the course of life in the parish. Worship planner, financial advisor, visionary, manager, and coach were just a few mentioned. Three books, the “Book of Discipline,” “The United Methodist Hymnal,” and “The Book of Worship” were placed on the tables on the stage. These symbolized, along with a towel and basin, the call of service.

The Often Overlooked Journey recognized the pivotal contribution of families and spouses in supporting a pastor in the performance of her/his duties. Spouses and family members were invited to stand and receive the gratitude of the assembly for their sacrifices – all for the sake of Christ.

After the Prayer of Thanksgiving for Journeys of Service, an offering was taken to benefit the churches in Mongolia.

The evening’s message was given by artist and pastor Joe Castillo. Entitled “Sandstory: Epic Stories in a New Light,” he began by gently asserting that stories engage and draw us in. By exchanging life stories, we get to know and influence one another. The world’s greatest storyteller was Jesus, and with his death and resurrection, his disciples went out to share their stories of how Jesus changed their lives.

Without speaking a word, Castillo shared the story of the Prodigal Son. Using his unique art of SandStory, he painted images of the parable in sand projected on the two screens in the assembly hall. Powerful depictions changed with the artistic motion of his hand, bringing to life the drama and resolution of the son and his father. Castillo explained that this is a visual generation, and a generation that is drawn to the gospel in artistic and sensory ways. “We need to capture the eye as well as the ear in worship,” he said. Castillo also indicated that he is lucky to live close to Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, a visual company started by a United Methodist pastor, which promotes family/church-friendly values. Concluding, he shared an inspiring depiction of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Following Castillo’s stunning presentation, the Passing of the Mantles and the examination of ordination candidates occurred. The evening ended in prayer and a hymn of celebration.



Annual Conference archives

Many print and video resources from the 2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference are available to view and/or download at tinyurl.com/susumcAC2016, including:
The Daily LINK, a daily news publication of the 2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference.


  • A Livestream video archive of (unedited) services and plenary sessions. Click on “Archives” under the LIVESTREAMING button.
  • Bulletins from the Opening Celebration, Memorial Service, Celebration of Ministry, and the Service of Commissioning and Ordination.
  • Photo gallery of the 2016 Annual Conference.
  • A Prayer for Children as shared by Rev. Dr. Ed Zeiders in his report from the Child Advocacy Commission.

Ordained and Commissioned


Ordained Elders
Rev. Janet L. Durrwachter and Rev. Brent A. Stouffer


Ordained Deacon
Rev. Megan C. Burd-Harris


Commissioned Elders
Rebecca L. Harmon Torres, Audrey M. Brosious, Stephanie P. Rupert, Joshua W. Davinsizer, Jonathan D. Morningstar, and Timothy R. Parker.


Commissioned Deacon
Dr. Dilip R. Abayasekra

Your story is the best story there is

By Rev. Ryan T. Krauss

Pastor and artist Joe Castillo expressed his apologies to the Annual Conference early Saturday morning. “I can’t give you a sermon because you all give them bigger and better than I ever could,” he said. Castillo’s confession foreshadowed and resonated with a fear that paralyzes us all: “My story is boring; I have nothing exciting to share with the world.”

By sharing his talents as SandStory teller, he exhorted Conference delegates to remember that because they have connected their stories to what God is doing, all of those stories “become fabulous.” Our God moments, he said, are the narratives that can change people’s lives.

Castillo punctuated his warm address with four SandStories. A SandStory is an artistic performance, often choreographed to music, in which the artist draws in sand that lays over a light table. These sand images are video-projected onto screens for the audience.

The first SandStory conveyed the fluid beauty of creation. Images of a bird hovering over the world blended into springtime flowers, tumultuous ocean life, flying birds, lions, elephants, and Adam and Eve. Castillo quipped that his art used to be the “greatest pickup-line ever.” Now the challenge for artists, as well as pastors, is to effectively communicate stories. After all, 30 percent of what we hear is retained, whereas 80 percent of what is seen and heard sticks with us.

Sharing his experience on America’s Got Talent, Castillo spoke of the challenges of life. On the show, he was given only 90 seconds to perform. In the struggles of everyday life, prayer is the most significant power. Castillo then shared his “God Bless the USA” SandStory in recognition of the God who raises all of us up. At the same time, He encouraged us to pray for all people, for our nation, for our leaders, our our president, and even our election candidates.

“The most frequent command of the Scriptures is,” Castillo said, “‘Do not be afraid.’” Our joyful heartbeat is sharing the universal truth that Jesus is for everyone. When Jesus intersects with our challenges, Castillo claimed, we can find freedom. He then presented a third SandStory set to the song “Feeling Good,” a song originally composed to address the plight of slavery. In the final moving segments of the story, a businessman has the shackles of his life broken.

Finally, Castillo shared a sacramental SandStory in which the Eucharist forms a pathway from earth to heaven via the cross. Castillo coupled this presentation with the pithy story of two manure scoopers who worked at an Orange Bowl parade. The first did his job with sullen shame. The second exuded a quirky panache, decorating his wheelbarrow and performing for the crowd. Likewise, Castillo reminded us that the outcome of each of our God-stories rests in part in the joy we choose to find in spite of adversity.

Commentary: A glimpse of heaven on earth: a first-timer’s Annual Conference experience

By Meredith Peachey, Altoona District

One of my favorite songs is “Glory to the King,” by Peter Fuller. Describing heaven for his departed grandmother, Fuller sings, “one sound … one light… one glorious sight!” Those words almost perfectly describe the 2016 Susquehanna Annual Conference.

Walking into the laity session in Hitchcock Auditorium at Messiah College, the energy and excitement exuded from the 700-plus vessels of the Holy Spirit gathered there. As we lifted our voices in worship, and heard various reports, there were no age, gender, or geographical boundaries between us … we were united in Christ and as United Methodists.

As the numbers doubled for sessions and services, so did the presence and flow of the Holy Spirit. We were, for those three days, “better together.” The connectivity spilled over into fellowship before and after group gatherings.

Conversations about how God is working and moving all across the Susquehanna Conference and in each person’s life were encouraging. Each person I met, and with whom I talked, warmly invited me into his or her life, however briefly. It didn’t matter whether we hadn’t met until then … we were family now.

The ordination service was particularly moving; sharing in the delight and testimony of those being commissioned and ordained, and even those who sensed the whisper of the Lord for the alter call to ministry, was joyous and heartwarming. But my most memorable conference experience was meeting, talking with, listening to, and worshipping with Bishop Park. His preaching left me breathless, his humility encouraged my heart, his enthusiasm and energy in worship ignited my spirit. I was awed, made fully aware of God’s presence and work in this man for our conference, the United Methodist Church, and His kingdom.

I anticipate heaven looking a lot like Conference. Suffice it to say, my first Annual Conference will NOT be my last.

God’s Calling Event for Laity!

Explore the Question: “God are you calling me?”


Have you ever wondered “God where/how is it you are calling me to serve?”  Do you know individuals being called to the ministry of a pastor within the United Methodist Church?  Have you wondered what is the difference in serving as an ordained elder, ordained deacon, a local pastor and /or a certified lay minister?  Do you know the various certified ministries honored by the United Methodist Church?

You are invited to join us on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at St. Johns Newberry UMC in Williamsport for the God’s Calling Event presented by the Enlistment & Interpretation Committee of the Susquehanna Conference Board of the Ordained Ministry. This is a day apart for laity 18 years and older as we examine the ministry of the ordained elder, ordained deacon, local pastor and certified ministries of the church.  This event will include information in regards to scholarship and grant availability, educational requirements, seminaries, the role of leadership within the church, and also “How do I know it is God Who Is Calling Me?”

This is an exciting opportunity for those discerning a call to ministry
If you are in the candidacy process this is a requirement for certification, and a requirement for those in the process of becoming a Certified Lay Minister.

Enroll now by downloading the God’s Calling brochure found on the front page of the conference website at www.susumc.org  OR go to the Board of Ordained Ministry website at scboom.org  link onto Resources.  Rev. Sandy Kraft at skraft@susumc.org  for additional information.

Location:
St. John’s-Newberry UMC
2101 Newberry Street
Williamsport, PA 17701

Date: Saturday, August 6, 2016
Time: 8:30 am - 4:30pm
Costs: $20.00, includes materials and lunch
REGISTER NOW!

Continue your Mission at Albright Care Services


Sometimes a little hope can go a long way. Williamsport resident Susan Best has witnessed the way hope can change lives. Susan became involved in Albright Care Services in 2006 when she joined the Albright Board of Trustees and served the maximum of three terms, totaling nine years. She had been recommended for the board after creating a program to keep seniors at her church socially engaged and because of her expertise as a former business owner. Together with her husband John, Sue also started the Williamsport District Volunteers In Mission (VIM) in 2008. The District has since grown to include 150 churches, whose members are all invited to participate in mission trips in the spring and fall, as well as engage in year-round, local mission work — endeavors which Sue and her husband lead.

VIM trips often involve rebuilding homes and lives after a disaster. Often, the group assists those who are incapable of completing the work themselves, or are unable to pay a contractor to do the work. Susan’s experience with mission trips began in 2005, when she volunteered to help clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, traveling with the Altoona VIM group to Mississippi. That first mission trip experience was one she will never forget!

“I think what called to my husband, John, and me — the thing that hooked us — was walking into a home and seeing people with no hope,” Susan said. “People are so sad, they just hang their heads. After spending a few days with them, we watch as their heads lift. Then we see smiles and they might begin to hum. By the end of the week, we’ve provided them with hope.”

The weeklong mission trips bring that hope. Those being assisted are able to see an end to the disaster, thanks to the efforts of volunteers. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a week’s time, planting that seed of faith, by living with — not preaching at — those we help, and interacting as a team,” said Sue. “To see a life changed while we are there is much more important than the physical building projects we accomplish. The projects are simply a tool we use to share the love of Christ.”

Some of the places Susan has traveled include Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, and Haiti to provide help to those in need. Although Susan is no longer on Albright’s Board of Trustees, she continues her calling to help others. Most recently, Susan and her husband led 28 people to South Carolina to assist with four projects where flood waters had done great damage. Among the many tasks completed, the group rebuilt two roofs, gutted and rebuilt a bathroom, cleaned up seeping sewage, installed new floors and walls and refinished a kitchen and living room. They also took on an additional project by going to a men’s homeless shelter where they reorganized the food bank and spent time with the residents there.

Having been very involved in Albright LIFE Lycoming site when on Albright’s board, Sue took 60 unworn staff polo shirts with outdated logos and gave them to those in need. “We put the shirts on a railing so they were on display,” Sue said. “As the men came out of the building, they were so excited to see the shirts and have the opportunity to select one. They were all so thankful, especially one little boy who was there with his father. Many times we don’t realize what seeds we’ve planted. Other times we do. It was great to see their happiness.”

Although she completed her service on the Albright Board of Trustees last year, Sue continues to live out the mission of Albright Care Services through creating compassionate communities deeply rooted in serving others. That’s a mission close to her own heart. Susan is a shining example of being called to serve, and we are proud that she continues to be 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 www.albrightcare.org for information on senior living, day programs, volunteering or giving. 

2016 Annual Conference award recipients

At the 2016 Annual Conference Awards Luncheon held Friday, June 10, at Messiah College, the following people were presented awards for ministry, service, and support to follow their call:

THOMAS K. CARTWRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP for young adults called to ordained ministry was established by the Board of Ordained Ministry to honor the memory of Rev. Dr. Thomas Kevin Cartwright. The awardee was Jacey Johnson.

THE REV. DR. MAUD K. JENSEN/REV. DR. KAREN E. LAYMAN MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP, given by Women in Ministry, was presented to DeAnn Newhouse, Valley Parish, Altoona District.

THE HARRY HOSIER AWARD, given by The Commission on Inclusiveness, was presented to Ruby Olson, Messiah UMC, York District.

THE EARL N. ROWE MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP AWARD, given through The Stewardship Foundation, was presented to David Calovi.

THE HOWARD AND ELIZABETH BRINTON AWARD for Missions was awarded to Rev. Mira Hewlitt, Carlisle UMC, Harrisburg District.

THE J. MARLENE ATANASOFF SPIRITUAL FORMATION AWARD, given by the Center for Spiritual Formation, was awarded to Rev. Patricia Woolever.

THE FLYING DOVE AWARD is given by the Peace with Justice Committee of the Mission and Outreach Team. The individual award was given to Christine Johnson, First UMC, Williamsport District. The church award was presented to Carlisle UMC, Harrisburg District, represented by Joanne Reynolds, John Seaton, Rev. Mira Hewlett, Rev. James Van Zandt, and Charles Reynolds.

THE DENMAN AWARDS for Evangelism are given by the Foundation for Evangelism, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The Laity Award was presented to Donna and Attorney Ray Hammill, Central UMC, Honesdale, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre District. The Clergy Award was presented to Rev. Dennis L. Otto, Director of Congregational Development.

THE BISHOP D. FREDERICK WERTZ AWARD, given by Lycoming College, was presented to Zedna Haverstock, Aldersgate UMC, Harrisburg District.

Mission Excellence Grants

By John Kratz

The Missional Board celebrates the presentation of Mission Excellence Grants to eight congregations of the Susquehanna Annual Conference.

Utilizing a non-designated mission fund, the Missional Board expanded the Howard and Elizabeth Brinton Award so that one congregation from each district may now be celebrated for their excellent work in the area of missions.

Each of the following congregations will receive a certificate of recognition suitable for framing and a cash gift of $500, which is to be used for a mission project that the congregation chooses. (In the case of a two-point charge, each congregation receives a $250 grant.) These congregations were nominated by their district superintendent and affirmed by the Missional Board of the Susquehanna Annual Conference.

The inaugural recipients of the Susquehanna Conference Excellence in Missions Awards are:

  • Altoona District: Altoona East End/Fairview Charge
  • Harrisburg District: Calvary UMC, Harrisburg
  • Lewisburg District: Catawissa Avenue. UMC
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre District: Plains UMC
  • State College District: Runville UMC
  • Williamsport District: Trinity UMC, Jersey Shore
  • York District: Greenmount UMC

The Missional Board continues to select one individual who will receive the Howard and Elizabeth Brinton Award for mission excellence. This year’s recipient was Mira Hewlett, who will be recognized during the Awards Luncheon for her dedicated and consistent work in a variety of national and international missions.

Where Your Treasure Is

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

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I want to thank the members of the Annual Conference for reinstating a grant for $60,000 to The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation. I am overwhelmed and grateful for the wonderful support and affirmation of the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation and its work through your vote for us. Thank you so much for giving us the encouragement and momentum to continue to grow our ministry in order to help you with yours. We will continue to work diligently to meet with you at your churches for stewardship education, generosity ministries, and future investment planning.

This grant will be used to impact the ministries of the churches and organizations throughout our Susquehanna Conference. We feel stewardship and planned giving are key components to revitalizing and sustaining the spiritual development of faithful disciples. Trust in God allows us to put others first and to give where there is a need. We exist to promote the joy and love expressed through our abundant living for God and we look forward to sharing this with your churches.

For me, this Annual Conference was a time of thankfulness for the past even as we transition into our hope filled future. As many of you know, Bonnie Young, our accounting assistant for six years, has just retired. I am thankful for her selfless work ethic and humble leadership, for she exemplified our Foundation’s mission of “serving God and the church by promoting Christian Stewardship in the effective management of all gifts to the glory of Jesus Christ.” She will be missed as we move forward to serve you.

As we consider a summer of new possibilities, let me share one definition of stewardship. It is “recognizing what one has been given by God and in gratitude and trust, giving back.” In gratitude and trust, we, The United Methodist Stewardship Foundation, recognize that we have been given much by God through you and we will strive to give back even more for the transforming of the world and for making disciples through our ministries together.

Our Heritage

By Milton Loyer, Conference Archivist

May – 100 years ago
Methodist work began in Hine’s Corners, Wayne County, in 1849 after Catherine (Mrs. Merritt) Hine was converted and invited the preacher from Lanesboro to hold a series of meetings that resulted in some 50 additional conversions. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse until a church building was dedicated on the Hine farm in 1878. In 1890 the Ontario and Western (O&W) Railroad extended its service to Scranton and the Orson depot/post-office (named for Catherine’s grandson Orson who had died of diphtheria) at Hine’s Corners became a town with two creameries, two ice houses, a grain mill, a saw mill, and several hotels and stores. Land was purchased to move the church building nearer the village, and on May 22, 1916, the Orson Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated at its new location. The railroad, the post office, and the town disappeared years ago, but the Orson church continued serving the community until 2013 – when the remaining congregation celebrated 97 years at the present location and decided to discontinue services and present its assets to the Susquehanna Conference.

June – 50 years ago
Two of our Methodist and EUB predecessor Annual Conferences met in June 1966. Both groups heard reports and had discussions in anticipation of the denominational union. A Methodist report on cooperating with the EUB’s in developing a nursing facility at Lewisburg ended with “we further urge that this be done whether or not the union becomes a reality.”

The Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Church met June 15-19 at Dickinson College in Carlisle, ordained 15 elders (14 males and one female), and celebrated eight retirements. As 1966 marked the official bicentennial of American Methodism, a special historical service was planned with noted historian and pastor of Philadelphia’s Old St. George’s Church, Dr. Frederick Maser, as the featured speaker.

The Susquehanna Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church met June 6-9 at Fourth Church in York, ordained eight elders (all male), and celebrated six retirements. As the EUB denomination elected their superintendents, this was accomplished when it took three ballots for William Woods to be elected to a four-year term as the superintendent of the Northern District.