Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Susquehanna LINK, March 2024


Susquehanna LINK can also be viewed and downloaded from https://susumc.org/link/

Remembering Our Heritage

Dr. Milton Loyer, Conference Archivist

March – 100 years ago 

On March 2, 1924, the Otterbein United Brethren Church in Harrisburg dedicated its new parsonage on 220 Harris Street. The first floor of the old parsonage adjoining the Reily Street sanctuary was converted into a room for the men’s Bible class, and the second and third floors were made into apartments. This was part of the congregation’s long-range relocation plan. In 1928 they erected a new facility at Third and Peffer Streets. Designed as a Sunday School unit, the building proved so adequate for worship, education and fellowship that the once envisioned sanctuary was never added. The congregation’s membership and attendance peaked at 1164 in 1959, and the church was closed in 2003. The Reily Street building is now the United House of Prayer for All People church, and the Peffer Street building is now the New Day International Kingdom Ministries church.

April – 50 years ago

On April 7, 1974, the youth of Uriah UMC in Cumberland County turned a bike hike into a money-raising project for the Conference’s benevolent homes. Accompanied by their advisors and pastor Rev. Mel Bole, the teens rode 15 miles from the church to Laurel Lake and back. The 2½ hour journey netted over $500. The top money raiser with $86.25 was Kathy Bream, while her 13-year-old cousin Sid Bream netted $45.50. Sid Bream went on the play major league baseball 1983-94 and is best known for his bottom of the 9th inning 1992 slide in game 7 of the NLCS that won the game for the Atlanta Braves and sent them to the World Series. Two of the girls, Lynn Weigle and Jessie Waggoner accomplished the ride on a bicycle-built-for-two. While everyone got a little saddle sore, the youth agreed that “it was a small sacrifice for the elderly folks in our Homes compared to the sacrifice that Jesus made.”

The Archives of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church are located at Lycoming College, Williamsport. For more information and to arrange a visit to the archives, visit https://umarch.lycoming.edu/, email loyer@lycoming.edu or call 717-766-0977.

Discovery Place Resource Center

Studies about Pentecost and the Early Church

The Efird Bible Study: The Acts of the Apostles. Relive the emotion and wonder of Jesus’ followers from Christ’s Resurrection to that Pentecost when all were filled with the Holy Spirit and passionate about leading others to Jesus. Learn about the formation of the New Testament church, see Peter and Paul grow into leadership, and discover how the Biblical story is also our story. This study consists of 19 lessons on 4 DVDs. Sessions could be done within an hour, 90 minutes, or 2-hour format and/or retreat format. This is considered a serious Bible Study. 

Faith Lessons on The Mission of Jesus by Ray Vander Laan. Enter the Chaos. In John 17:26 Jesus says: “I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known…” In this fourteenth volume of That the World May Know, you’ll deepen your understanding of this passionate revelation to a broken world God longs to redeem. Discover how Jesus triumphantly made God’s presence known on earth, and how he asks you to do the same -- bringing God’s shalom to the chaos of others. This is a five-session study, with each DVD segment being roughly 30 minutes long. The topics are:

1. Capernaum: Jesus Binds the Evil One

2. Decapolis: The Other Side -- Jesus and the Man from the Tombs

3. Crucifixion: The Coronation of a King

4. Ascension: The King Takes His Throne

5. Pentecost: God Changed His Address

Faith Lessons on the Early Church by Ray Vander Laan. The triumph of the Christian faith is nowhere more striking than in the ancient Roman province of Asia Minor. This video transports you to locations in Israel and Turkey from which the early Christian church, on fire with the message of Jesus, literally changed the world. By taking us into that immoral culture where the early Christian missionaries had such a dramatic impact, Ray Vander Laan reveals how Christians today can impact our culture for Christ.

5 Sessions:

1. Everything to Lose, Nothing to Gain-Caesarea Philippi

2. The Salt Of The Earth- Sardis

3. Where Satan Lives-Pergamum

4. The Mark Of The Beast-Ephesus

5. Hot Or Cold-Laodicea

You can find many more FREE spiritual growth resources by searching the Discovery Place catalog.

2024 Susquehanna Annual Conference

Mark Your Calendars for Annual Conference

Thursday, May 30 – Saturday, June 1, 2024.
Community Arts Center in Williamsport, Pa. 

The theme for 2024 is: The Harvest is Plentiful.

Donations for 2024 AC Stage Decoration

Amounts of $15 or more may be given toward the purchase of decorations for the stage in honor of or in memory of person(s) and will be listed in the online Susquehanna Daily LINK.

Please complete the following Google form:
and mail your payment to:

Susquehanna Conference UMC
Attn: Amy Wynn
303 Mulberry Dr
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050-3179

Please submit Google form and payment by March 31, 2024.

Questions, please contact Amy Wynn at 717-766-7441ext 3600 or by email at awynn@susumc.org.

Find out more at https://susumc.org/annual-conference/

The United Methodist Foundation of PA: Laity Leadership Academy

In 2019 the United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania launched a Laity Leadership Academy designed to empower laity to lead the churches of our region in the ever-changing landscape of congregational life. Participants read some of the greatest books currently available on the topic, experience seminars led by the finest leaders in our conference, engage with one another in dialogue, and build relationships that provide support for the journey.

Each one of the Academies is structured around two modules. The first module is one year long, experienced together in several weekend retreats held at Mount Asbury in Newville. During these retreats, topics relevant to congregational leadership in the current culture are covered.

The second module is custom designed for each participant, allowing her or him to explore an area of leadership individually for which she or he is especially well equipped. That determination is made after an assessment of the participant’s spiritual gifts and strengths. That module is open-ended; it can be accomplished at whatever pace makes sense to the individual participant.

In total, the entire experience provides 100 hours of training.

JoAnne Konick-McMahan, Lay Pastor of Mosaic Community Church, Halifax, was part of the fourth class to experience the Laity Leadership Academy, in the first group of participants from the Susquehanna Conference after the merger of our foundations. JoAnne is aware that ministries of caring do not belong to the pastor only, that laity need to be more involved in visitation and support to those who are experiencing the vulnerability that accompanies health crises or aging. People who are in clinical settings and their families often experience anxiety and fear, especially those who are traveling closer to the end of life. JoAnne is no stranger to the needs of vulnerable people. She served many years as an acute and critical care nurse and served our connection as a certified lay servant. 

Through her participation in Module I, JoAnne became convinced of the need of the church to encourage laity to be more involved in caring ministries, especially in hospitals and nursing homes. During the Laity Leadership Academy, her spiritual gift assessments pointed out that God has called her to a life of faith with a positive approach to living. And she heard in the Academy that the church needs to live out our mission, vision, and core values more intentionally; and that the day is upon us when we need to rethink the ways in which we recruit, train, and deploy volunteers.

All these dynamics came together as JoAnne planned her project for Module II. It took two forms. First, she enrolled in a training program at a hospital in Harrisburg to become a chaplain’s assistant, a course that was supervised by the hospital’s full time, professional chaplain. She not only completed the training, but also attended several additional meetings and workshops offered by the chaplain’s department. By so doing, she far exceeded the number of hours required by the Laity Academy. 

But she still was not done. JoAnne designed a four-hour course for church lay volunteers which introduces the process of hospital and nursing home visitation. The course provides a general overview of the visitation process, with special consideration for issues that emerge at the end of life. The course draws not only from JoAnne’s vast experience and insight, but also from resources used by professionals in the field.

JoAnne has been on quite a journey. Not only has she heard to call to serve and to empower others to serve, but she did so at a time when congregational life has been disrupted by cultural change, the pandemic, and the dynamics within our denomination. But she realized, amid all that change, that our call to serve the least among us needs to be paramount; that Jesus himself reminds us that our care of those on the margins reflects our faith in him. Many aspects of the Christian church have changed and will continue to change, but our call to care will not. 

Betty Ann Berry, a member of Mifflinburg United Methodist Church, was also part of the fourth class to experience the Laity Leadership Academy. 

Through her participation in Module I, Betty Ann became convinced of the need for congregations to be more fully in touch with their unique vision, mission, and core values. So often, congregations seek to be like every other congregation, without being aware of the ways in which the Holy Spirit gives them, as a group, a very specific role to play in the Body of Christ. And so, Betty Ann developed a project that would help folks be more aware of the work of the Spirit, especially focused on the gifts that the Spirit gives.

But Betty Ann also learned clearly that leaders in the current season of congregational life need to be ready to adapt and adjust on a moment’s notice; that the same Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual gifts also calls us to new ventures as the needs of the church change over time. The Holy Spirit spoke to Betty Ann, and she listened. She became convinced that pastors in the church of today are dealing with profound stress. She became convinced that she needed to use one of her own spiritual gifts, the gift of encouragement, to find a way to encourage pastors who are serving in these difficult days.

Each one of the participants in the Laity Academy is asked to submit a report to the Dean of the Foundation School of Leadership summarizing their project. For her project, and her report, she wrote a devotional book designed to give courage to those who serve. It offers devotional thoughts for 52 weeks, an entire year of encouragement! And while Betty Ann intended to support the work of pastors, it could also be helpful to anyone who needs a word of encouragement to face the week ahead.

But the Holy Spirit was not quite done with Betty Ann. Through this journey, the cabinet of the Susquehanna Conference recognized that her gift of encouragement could be used in a broader context as a pastor. They approached her about that possibility and invited her to serve as the pastor of Lincoln Chapel United Methodist Church. Betty Ann recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit calling her to yet another new venture and accepted their invitation!

On December 31 at Mifflinburg UM C, Rev. Barry Robison, Director of Relationships and Stewardship Development at the Foundation presented Betty Ann with a Certificate of Completion on behalf of Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and the Board of Directors. Her pastor, the Rev. Bob Rice, also took part in the presentation.

The Laity Leadership Academy has been retooled to meet the needs of congregations who are experiencing hardship in this season. Now known as the Empowered Church Project, the program is designed to assist churches who struggle due to cultural shifting, the effects of the pandemic, and the dynamics within our denomination. Recruitment for the 2025 cohort will begin soon. If you would like to enroll your congregation, or if you simply want more information, please contact the Dean of the Foundation School of Leadership, Dr. Joseph Patterson at jpatterson@umfoundation.org.

To find out more about the funds management, education, and strengthening ministries provided by The United Methodist Foundation of Pennsylvania, visit umfoundation.org.

Spring Grants

The UM Foundation awards a limited number of grants to local churches and affiliated agencies of the Western Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Conferences of the United Methodist Church. These grants are intended for (but are not limited to) funding for ministries, programs, consultant and auditing services, stewardship resources, conference or meeting attendance or hosting costs, and emergency needs, among others.

Applications for funding may come from any church or ministry of or related to the Western PA or Susquehanna Conferences of the United Methodist Church and must be for a need consistent with the mission of the UM Foundation. Grants are made possible by funding from the Stewart Endowment and the Paul D. Taylor Ministry Opportunity Fund. Before completing an application, please carefully review both our Grant Guidelines and How to Apply to ensure that the ministry or need for which you are applying meets the requirements of the Foundation’s grant program. Applications must be received during the grant application window: February 23 - March 18. All applications for Foundation grants must be submitted electronically via email to grants@umfoundation.org using the Grant Application Form. Be sure to watch the on-demand webinar called “Ten Tips For A Successful Foundation Grant Application.

“God Always Provides”: The Power of Donations

Maggie Kissinger, Director of Development and Communications, Mission Central

In my first two weeks as a Mission Central employee, I heard one sentiment repeated over and over from staff members and volunteers alike, “God always provides.” 

I have listened to some amazing stories over these last few weeks: the story of the community member recently diagnosed with an illness who needed a specific piece of medical equipment that Mission Central did not have in their inventory, only to have one delivered later that same day; the story of the volunteer struggling to create auction baskets with a limited supply of items, only to receive a surprise shipment from a major shopping brand with items that were perfect for the auction; the story of a partner who was in need of suitcases to transport medical equipment for a mission trip overseas, and a thoughtful community member just happened to drop off 20 suitcases right before the trip; and the story of the truck driver who was en route to deliver a large shipment of UMCOR kits to a warehouse, receiving a call to re-route and deliver the kits directly to a community that was hit by disaster just as he was approaching the interstate split to head West or South. In each story you see the faithfulness of God’s people; those who are trusting that the Lord will provide what is needed, and those who are obeying the command to give freely of their resources. Yes, God indeed always provides, and He uses His people as His hands and feet. 

Mission Central is able to provide abundantly to our community, our partners, and to people around the world, because of the individuals, businesses, churches, and groups that provide their time and resources to us. While we know at Mission Central these resources are an answered prayer, we recognize that the people who donate their items to us are often unaware of these stories and the end result of their actions. I am here to tell you that one small act of donating can be the catalyst to the next “God always provides” story. We want to continue sharing these stories of provision with you, so we ask for your partnership in being the first step in our donation process and the first step in the next “God always provides” story. 

In the year 2024, we are seeking church partners who are willing to set up a donation box that will follow a monthly donation collection calendar. Mission Central will provide a calendar and bulletin with the list of items we are seeking for that month, and we will coordinate a pick up or drop off of those items at the end of each month. While we continue to accept all of the items on the list throughout the year, we are requesting specific items each month for two reasons:

  1. Our volunteers will have a consistent supply of the items they need to create kits throughout the year.
  2. Our community members and partners will have more access to highly-requested items throughout the year.

Mission Central wants to have another year filled with “God always provides” stories, and we hope that the next story will start with you. 

If you are interested in partnering with us in this monthly donation drive, please contact Anna Harris, Volunteer Coordinator, at aharris@missioncentral.org for more information. You can also give us a call at 717-766-1533. We are so grateful for your continued support. 

Looking Ahead

We also want to share an exciting in-person event we will be hosting on May 4, 2024: Grow With Us - Plant and Vendor Fair. Mission Central will be hosting an outdoor plant and vendor fair in our parking lot, and we will be opening our doors to offer warehouse tours to the community. With Mother’s Day and gardening season approaching, we look forward to welcoming community members and Mission Central supporters to shop local and learn about the sustainability practices within our warehouse that make Mission Central unique. For more information on this event, please subscribe to our weekly newsletter, here: MissionLink.

Embody Compassion, Serve as God’s Light, and Be Love in Action

Douglas Hoy, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator

In John 3, we learn that Nicodemus came to see Jesus during the night because he was afraid or ashamed to be seen with Him. Nicodemus questioned Jesus and the two had a candid discussion about spiritual matters. Jesus welcomed Nicodemus in the darkness and provided him with the understanding he needed to develop his own faith. As part of that conversation, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

According to Pastor Rick Warren, a life without meaning “has no significance or hope.” Without hope, our lives would be empty. It can be difficult to find hope after a disaster. Those affected by disasters are left with feelings of pain, despair, and loneliness. At a time when it may feel like they have lost so much, survivors need to know there is hope. That’s where UMCOR comes in. 

UMCOR and its volunteers embody compassion and serve as God’s light for people who feel caught in the storms of life. UMCOR comes alongside those who suffer from natural or human-caused disasters to help relieve suffering. They provide a loving, caring, Christian presence during those dark times of need. They share the light of their faith so that others can see and eventually enter the kingdom of God. 

Forrest White, director of missions for the First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, Florida, said it best after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole devastated his state. “Scripture tells us that we are called to nothing less than to show our Christian love in action. If we show up for people affected by disaster…we are tangible reminders of God’s love and God’s presence.” 

On Sunday, March 10, we will celebrate UMCOR Sunday. Please consider giving generously so that UMCOR can focus on providing compassion, healing, and hope to communities and individuals going through crises and disasters. To give online, visit UMC.org/SSGive. To give by check, mail your checks to: GCFA, P.O. Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203. Please include “UMCOR Sunday” in the note section.

When you support UMCOR, you become part of something much larger than yourself, help that light shine even brighter in the dark shadows of disaster, bring hope to those in need, and allow the church to be a living example of God’s love in action.

Douglas Hoy
Disaster Response Coordinator
Email: drc@susumc.org
Phone: 717-766-7441, ext. 3402
Disaster Response Ministry Blog:  susdisasterresponse.blogspot.com/

New Strategic Directions for the Future of Camp & Retreat Ministry

Dear friends and supporters of Susquehanna Conference Camp & Retreat Ministry,

The Susquehanna Conference Camp & Retreat Ministry Board has been working diligently for the past two years studying, assessing, prayerfully discerning, and developing strategic direction. The goal of this in-depth process is to provide the best way forward for the future of the overall ministry, its growth, and its missional impact among a widening circle of people in our congregations and communities. Central to it all has been a deep cherishing and valuing of the importance of camp and retreat experiences and the unique benefits and life transforming opportunities they provide.

As many of you know, the past several years have been very challenging and the landscape in which we all do ministry has changed significantly. It is a great responsibility to steward this ministry forward so that it can be responsive and thrive within the changing dynamics, and re-orient to address the emerging needs of our congregations and communities. The Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries will be bringing key recommendations to Annual Conference this year that include strategic realignment to enhance the programs, leadership preparation, outreach, and facilities.

This recommendation also involves reducing the number of facilities we manage, and reinvesting resources and re-aligning staff focus to enhance the fruitfulness and impact of the overall ministry. The plan is to transition programs to Wesley Forest, Camp Penn, and Sky Lake (our Upper New York partner to serve northern tier churches closer to this center.) The recommendation is to sell Mount Asbury and Greene Hills and reinvest the resources for improvements and growth of the overall ministry.

We encourage all of you to attend one of the upcoming regional gatherings to learn more about the background, details, and important reasons for these recommendations. This will also be an opportunity to ask questions and be in conversation together.

Important: These recommended changes do not affect 2024. Camps and Retreats will proceed as normal this current year. Implementation of changes will begin in 2025.

Two gatherings have already taken place. Remaining gatherings are as follows:

Harrisburg Supervisory Area – 
Sunday, March 3, 3 – 4:30 pm
Fishing Creek Salem UMC, 402 Valley Rd, Etters, PA 17319.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Supervisory Area –
Sunday, March 10, 3 – 4:30 pm
Trucksville UMC, 40 Knob Hill Road, Trucksville, PA 18708.
(in the Education Building.)

State College Supervisory Area – 
Saturday, March 16, 10 – 11:30 am
Park Forest Village UMC, 1833 Park Forest Ave, State College, PA 16803.

One Matters Award: St. Paul’s UMC, Berwick

(L-r) Pastor Bill Klebe and Lay Member Katrina Gilbert receive the One Matters Award for St. Paul’s UMC, Berwick, from Superintendent Rev. Dr. Gary Weaver at the 2023 Susquehanna Annual Conference. 

Rev. Dr. Gary Weaver, Superintendent

As it often is...this is a relational story. A story where one makes a difference. 

In the past 20 years St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Berwick (an extended ministry of First UMC, Berwick) has received only three new members through Profession of Faith and no adult baptisms have been recorded in their history for the memorable past. 

Imagine a local church, like many of yours, that has an annual yard sale and bazaar. People come in and out buying your junk—their soon to be treasures—a simple cash-business transaction. Yet over time there just might be a relationship formed. That happened at St. Paul’s. A woman, whose only interaction with church was the yard sale, was inspired to attend a worship service and the relationship grew. 

She began attending the church just before COVID hit because she felt she needed something more in her life; that something was missing. She came to St. Paul’s UMC in Berwick because it was the only church that she knew. 

God opened her heart and she realized there was more to following God than just hearing a sermon, and helping out with church activities. She met with the pastor to talk about it and learned about the meaning of baptism and church membership. 

Pastor Bill Klebe and the woman agreed that she should go home and pray about it for a few months to make sure she was ready to make a commitment. In February, 2022, she decided that God was calling her to be baptized and become a member of St. Paul’s.

During the service on March 6, 2022, something rare happened at St. Paul’s: an adult, initially attracted by a yard sale, became a seeker and chose to be baptized and become a member through profession of faith.

The woman has since connected to the four-church food distribution, she has embraced neighbor and community, and as a follower of Jesus Christ she is making a difference. Her mother and a friend of her mother have begun to attend. She brings two of her grandchildren on a regular basis and her mother’s friend has a teenage granddaughter joining her many Sundays as well. 

One relationship, one person, makes a difference. I am excited to award the 2023 Lewisburg District One Matters Award to St. Paul’s UMC in Berwick.

Your Church Mission Team is a Volunteers in Mission Team

Attention Churches! 

Did you know that your church mission or outreach team is a Volunteers in Mission team?

Any of our local church mission teams that are sent out in our neighborhoods, our state, our country, and all over the world are considered Volunteers in Mission (VIM). 

An exciting benefit of our connection between our local church teams and the Susquehanna Conference VIM is that Susquehanna Conference VIM provides supplemental accident insurance FREE of charge to our teams serving domestically. We contract with AIG through the Northeast Jurisdiction United Methodist VIM to offer you a medical and accident insurance policy with $50,000 coverage for Domestic teams.

In order to receive this insurance for your domestic journey you simply submit a Team Roster. Simply complete the form and hit the submit button. Your form will be processed, and you will receive notification of your insurance from Susquehanna Conference VIM. Please be sure to submit the roster two weeks prior to your mission unless prior arrangements have been made.

For international journeys, we ask that teams register with the Team Roster and purchase low-cost supplemental insurance from UMVIM-NEJ.

For more information on the domestic AND international insurance go to https://www.umvim.org/nej-insurance.

Another benefit of the Susquehanna Conference Volunteers in Mission is that we love to celebrate you and your mission partnerships. Articles of VIM teams can be found here in the LINK, on the VIM website, and our Volunteers in Mission Facebook page.

The Volunteers in Mission Conference Coordinator, Michelle Schwartzman, provides VIM training. VIM Training prepares us to have a positive impact in mission whether it is a few hours, days, or weeks, local, national, or global. It is open to those who have led teams and those who have never been on a mission trip. Taking this training does not require you to lead a trip but equips you for service. Topics covered include Best Practices, Cultural Awareness, Health & Safety, Team Orientation, Useful Forms, Insurance, and Fundraising.

For questions about resources for our Susquehanna Conference Teams, please contact Michelle Schwartzman, VIM Coordinator: vim@susumc.org. Also, contact Michelle to set up a VIM training that’s convenient for you.

Michelle Schwartzman

VIM Coordinator
Web: www.susmb.org/vim/