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April 1, 2016
Bishop Peggy Johnson announces a new appointment:

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson announces the following 2016 appointments, effective  July 1, 2016 unless otherwise noted.

  • Rev. Russell Atkinson (Elder) from Quakertown UMC to Drexel Hill UMC 
April town hall meetings to propose district changes
Bishop Peggy Johnson's April conference-wide town hall meetings to present and discuss a proposed 2017 redistricting plan will begin April 4 and 5 in the Southeast and Central districts. She will visit the other four districts over the ensuing three weeks. The plan would reduce our number of districts from six to four.  Lay and clergy members are urged to attend whichever meetings are most convenient to them.

The reduction in districts is proposed to reduce costs, as income from church apportioned payments has declined along with membership rolls. After sharing financial figures, trends and other information, along with a map of reconfigured districts, Bishop Johnson, Conference  Treasurer Jim Cruickshank and other cabinet members will welcome suggestions and answer questions.

The dates and district locations are as follows:
  • Mon. April 4, 2016 - 7:00 pm - Elam UMC ( Southeast )
  • Tue. April 5, 2016 - 7:00 pm - First UMC in Phoenixville ( Central)
  • Tue. April 12, 2016 - 7:00 pm - First UMC in Schuylkill Haven ( Northwest)
  • Tue. April 19, 2016 - 7:00 pm - Huntingdon Valley UMC ( East)
  • Mon. April 25, 2016 - 7:00 pm - Hope UMC in Ephrata ( Southwest)
  • Wed. April 27, 2016 - 7:00 pm - Quakertown UMC ( Northeast)
Ross Brightwell memorialized in tribute
The General Commission on United Methodist Men's (GCUMM) posted on its Website this week a memorial tribute to Ross Brightwell, former president of the Eastern PA Conference UM Men from 2007 to 2015. Brightwell, 69, died from illness March 27. He was a prominent layman in the conference who organized numerous annual gatherings--from men's softball tournaments to United Methodist Day at Philadelphia Phillies and 76ers games and at the Philadelphia Zoo and Dorney Park. His goals always were to bring public visibility to his denomination, stimulate fellowship among its members and raise funds for UM Men. He also led the men in distributing at Annual Conference each year bags of gleaned potatoes donated for the poor by the Society of St. Andrew.

The GCUMM tribute honors Brightwell, a former vice president of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of UM Men, for his leadership in the National Association of Conference UMM Presidents and his support for his beloved alma mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania's, marching band.

The Eastern PA Conference UM Men plans to honor its former president with scholarships to help children and youth from low-income families and troubled neighborhoods participate in Carson-Simpson Farm's summer camp and "Peace Ministries'' program for older youth. 
Delegates to hear members' General Conference concerns
The Eastern PA Conference delegation to General and Jurisdictional conferences will sponsor four Listening and Discernment Sessions in April--three of them face-to-face and one by telephone. Delegates will not speak but instead want to hear annual conference members' concerns about important aspects of proposed legislation coming before the global legislative gathering.

The schedule for the listening sessions is:
  • Monday, April 11, from 7 to 9 PM, at Wesley UMC in Bethlehem.
  • Saturday, April 16, from 10 AM to 12 noon, at Simpson House in Philadelphia.
  • Wednesday, April 20, from 7 to 8:30 PM, at Church of the Good Shepherd in Lebanon.
  • Saturday, April 23, from 9 to 10:30 AM, in which the delegation will conduct a telephone outreach session to hear members' views. They will call a dozen persons who sign up online in advance to request phone calls so they may offer their comments. Each call should last about five (5) minutes or less, with short breaks in-between, allowing the delegation to complete about 12 calls in the 90-minute session. Once again, they will only listen to comments for their discernment; but they will not respond.
"The objective is to just listen, which will be very difficult," said Judy Ehninger, delegation co-leader.  "This new telephone listening session demonstrates our desire to give all an opportunity  to be heard."   

Persons who wish to receive a telephone outreach call from the delegation on Saturday, April 23, from 9 to 10:30 AM, should use  this link on our new call scheduling service to reserve a time for a call. If anyone needs help signing up, they may e-mail the  Conference Communications Office or call 484-762-8215.

 "We look forward to all these April listening sessions, as they will provide us opportunities to hear from our brothers and sisters in Christ across the conference," said the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, delegation co-leader. "Those who attend are welcome to speak or to just sit and listen to the conversation. All that we do will be done in a spirit of Holy conferencing."  

For information on General Conference issues the delegates will address, review our story, "Delegates prepare for General, NEJ conferences."

Something beautiful is growing in North Philly
Rachel Ternes, a UM Young Adult Missionary working at Arch Street UMC's Serenity House community center, shares an enthusiastic report on the North Philadelphia ministry's development as "a healing place where all are invited to gather for peace, fellowship, and encouragement." The renovated former parsonage of the now-closed Cookman UMC was converted into a community center to maintain a ministry presence in the struggling, impoverished community. Neighbors and students from Swarthmore College are collaborating to bring environmental and economic healing to the community by creating and caring for a backyard garden and a nearby "People's Garden" where residents can grow fresh fruits and vegetables, while learning to organize and build community. They're also learning about solar power and have installed a solar panel on the community center's garage. That project became the origin of the Serenity Soular Initiative, a growing enterprise that will equip Serenity House with solar panels while giving neighbors valuable job training in the green economy. Learn more...  
Conference Imagine No Malaria campaign giving tops $40,000 in 2015
The Eastern PA Conference Treasurer's latest report of donations received during last fall's campaign to help meet the UM Church's $75 million Imagine No Malaria giving goal shows  a total of $40,732:

September 1 - December 31, 2015
  • Church Contributions                     $29,946
  • *Adjourned Session Collections     $6,492
  • Other Contributions:                       $4,294
  • Total:                                             $40,732
*The Adjourned Session Collection does not include pledges. It only includes the donations actually received that day.  More donations have no doubt been made in 2016 and others from members who sent donations not to our Treasurer's Office, but to the Imagine No Malaria denominational campaign office. Those donations are not included in this report.  
Each image worth a thousand words on Flickr
We've moved! Well, actually our online photo gallery, full of riveting photos of people, ministries and events from around our conference, has moved. The new Google Photo tool wasn't doing the job for us; so we went looking for something more worthy in the way of a photo storage and sharing site. That led us to an oldie but goodie: Flickr. Lindsey Cotman, our absolute whiz of a Desktop Publisher (and our Website Operations Manager--not her real title, but it fits) has moved all our photos over this week and created a fabulous new Flickr gallery that a few mere words cannot describe. (Good thing our pictures are worth a thousand words.) So start flicking--uh, clicking--and  enjoy the view. We'll experiment soon with organizing groups to receive, store and share photos on various themes and affinities. 
Was the U.S. founded as a Christian Nation?
 A Conversation with Historian John Fea.

Politicians often say they want to "reclaim" or "restore" America's Christian origins. But was the  U.S. really founded as a Christian nation? If it was, can the U.S. be understood as a Christian  nation today given its diversity? As Christians, how are we to understand the distinctions between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world? Historian John Fea will help us take a careful look at the history of Christian-nation debates and help us to see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past.
  • When: Wednesday, April 13 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm
  • Where: Arch Street UMC, 55 N. Broad St. Philadelphia PA
  • Metered street parking is available and the church is conveniently located near various train, trolley, and bus lines. All are welcome to attend. You are invited to 
  • RSVP via the Facebook event page: .  Download the Flyer [PDF]
Organized by David Krueger. 
An insurance e-book resource for congregations
United Methodist Insurance (UMI), the insurance company for the denomination's local churches, provides a free, easy-to-use resource for local churches that briefly explains insurance concepts to be considered when reviewing church insurance policies.  The  Safety and Insurance Handbook for Churches is the newly released e-book that explains property and liability insurance in clear language and helps church leaders protect assets. It includes a safety checklist, an index and a glossary of terms. To receive the free e-book,  click here.  Also accessible from our conference  Website's Trustees Page
Webinars "Writing a Safe Sanctuaries Policy" 
Sessions 1 & 2 
Tuesday, April 5, and Tuesday, April 12, both at 7 PM EST
These two webinars are designed for congregations that don't have a written Safe Sanctuaries Policy. They will prepare a core team of four to five individuals to work with the congregation to write a policy that covers children, youth and vulnerable adults, as well as provide information on how to train trustees, teachers, parents and pastors on the implementation of that policy. The webinars' leader will be Cassandra Negri, a children's ministry and Safe Sanctuaries consultant for the New York Conference.   Details  
Bring your cares to the Eastern Pa Conference Youth Rally April 24
"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) That's the central message of the next
Eastern PA Conference Youth Rally, set for Sunday, April 24, from 3 to 7 PM, at Hopewell UMC in Downingtown. This second annual rally will feature Todd Waites, an extraordinary one-armed keyboardist for the Christian music group ApologetiX. He often shares with concert audiences his story of how Christ enabled him to overcome adversity. Also appearing will be Hopewell's own #JesusTrending Christian youth band, and spoken-word performances from several remarkable youth and young adults. There will be an optional pre-rally Nerf War at 3 PM just to get the competitive energy juices flowing. Then the rally will kick off at 4, with music and messages focusing on God's infinite, healing love. More information to come from David Piltz, Conference Coordinator of Young People's Ministries. Download and display the flyer
Church to host Beat the Bug race against malaria April 17
West Chester UMC will host its 5th Annual Beat the Bug 5K Run/2K Walk on Sunday, April 17. The run and walk start at 2 PM. Early-bird registration--until April 3--costs $20 for adults, $10 for children up to age 14, and $15 for youth age 15 through college. Prices increase after April 3. Sign up as a sponsor (from $100 to $500) until March 25. Learn more...  and download the event poster.

See more important church events on our Local Church Events page.
Native American Ministries Sunday April 10
In just a few weeks, we will join thousands of other United Methodists to celebrate Native American Ministries Sunday. The offering received on this special Sunday is the United Methodist family's way to support our Native American congregations and ministries so they can serve and worship with their communities as only they can. The offering allows us to support Native American pastors and communities through scholarships and funds. God's church is amazing! Our ministry here can tangibly be a part of bringing the gospel to diverse communities across the United States. See the  impact of our giving on Native American Ministries Sunday .   Be sure to  download the free resources   for Native American Ministries Sunday celebration on April 10.
Earth Day: Care for God's Creatures 
Will you celebrate Earth Day 2016 on April 22, or on a nearby Sunday, either April 17 or 24?  Every spring, Creation Justice Ministries (CJM) equips faith communities with Christian education resources on a timely theme. Scientists have released evidence that Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction crisis, with one of five species facing threat of extinction. Therefore, CJM's 2016 theme is Care for God's Creatures; and they offer materials to help your church celebrate Earth Day Sunday. In  Care for God's Creatures , you will find  Christian education resources, liturgical resources to plan a Blessing of the Animals or a creature-themed worship service, and action resources to engage in citizen science and advocate to protect the Endangered Species Act. Find prayer, Bible study, and Christian education materials for creature-care.  Download it now.
Please register for Annual Conference asap
Online registration is underway for the 2016 Eastern PA Annual Conference June 16-18, at the Lancaster Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. Hard-copy materials will be mailed out by next week. All clergy and selected lay members to annual conference are urged to please register online now or well before the May 13 deadline. The r egistration cost is $225 for all members. Registering after May 13 will incur a $50 late fee, with no exceptions. Also, please book your hotel room reservations now . Rooms are $129 a night and must be reserved by April 29.

The deadline to receive Annual Conference Resolutions and Reports is May 13, with no extensions. Instructions for preparing and submitting resolutions will be posted by next week. And you may register for display space online or e-mail Lori Henning or call her at 610-544-1400.

All districts will hold Pre-Annual Conference Meetings June 5, from 3 to 5:30 PM. To learn more visit our Annual Conference 2016 Webpage and read the news story about plans for this historic 230th annual conference session. 
Ads sought for NEJ Conference Program Book
It's time to shine to the farthest reaches of our northeast region. Advertise your church or ministry or agency to UMs across the church's Northeastern Jurisdiction by buying an ad in the NE Jurisdictional Conference souvenir program book. Don't wait any longer; pages are filling up, and the  April 30 deadline is fast-approaching. The Eastern PA Conference is soliciting ads for the book it will publish for the conference, which will meet July 11-15 at the Lancaster Marriott in Lancaster, Pa. 

A letter of invitation and ad submission form, offering various ad sizes and prices, went out in February with an April 30 deadline for submissions. Proceeds from ad space purchases will help fund two United Methodist mission causes and help cover conference costs. The mission causes are: the Imagine No Malaria campaign, the denomination's effort to eradicate a disease that has taken countless lives especially among children in Africa; and LUMINA, Lancaster United Methodist Inner-City Alliance, which serves low-income individuals and families. Learn more...
Denman Evangelism Award nominations sought
Nominations are open for the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, which honor United Methodists in each conference "whose exceptional evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationships with Jesus Christ." Once again we want to recognize three deserving evangelists--a youth, a clergy member and a layperson--at our annual conference in June. The awards are intended to celebrate, inspire and encourage all who feel called to be evangelists. Please prayerfully nominate disciples you know who share their faith in bold, innovative, nurturing, uplifting ways. Learn more . Download the nomination form , complete it and send it by April 30 to Suzette James, of the Eastern PA Conference Congregational Development Team, or to the Eastern PA Conference Office, P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA  19482-0820, to the attention of Dr Christopher Kurien. 
Celebrate, support LUMINA's Night of Light, April 10
Come celebrateLUMINA's Night of Light April 10, from 4 to 7:30 PM, at Columbia UMC, 510 Walnut Street, Columbia, PA. LUMINA , the Lancaster United Methodist Inner-City Alliance, is a cooperative mission project of the Eastern PA Conference and the Southwest District. The Night of Light will feature dinner, a concert by local jazz/gospel diva Robin Work and a silent auction. All money raised will fund LUMINA's work with struggling families in Lancaster. RSVP to  or (717) 394-8412 by March 31
Justo Gonzalez to lecture for Evangelical Seminary's Wesley Forum
For its 2016 Wesley Forum on April 12 (8:30 AM to 2:30 PM), the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, Pa., will welcome Dr. Justo Gonzalez, professor, author and one of the world's foremost Hispanic theologians in the Wesleyan Tradition. He will lecture on the theme, "Can Christianity's past be a roadmap for a hopeful future?"   Visit the seminary's Website for more information and to register for this forum. The cost is $50 and includes lunch. Please print and share the flyer .
Register now for YES Youth Retreat April 16
The next YES Youth Retreat to help youth (in grades 9 to 12) seek and embrace God's purpose for their lives will be Saturday, April 16, from 10 AM to 5 PM, at Cedarville UMC, 1092 Laurelwood Road, Pottstown, PA. God is calling youth into various, important fields of ministry--lay, licensed and ordained. Participants will be exposed to creative ministry options to serve God--whether as pastors, chaplains, educators, youth ministers, missionaries or professionals in human services or other careers. 
The day will feature worship, dramatic portrayal of biblical call stories, self-expression and lively interaction with other young people, fun indoor and outdoor games and activities, lunch and snacks, and encounters with people involved in various fields of ministry. Cost is $10. Questions? Contact the Rev. Matt Heckman at or 717-679-8346 . Register online  today
Certified Lay Minister Graduation April 17
All clergy and laity are cordially invited to a service of recognition honoring the Eastern PA Conference Certified Lay Minister Graduates, Spring Class of 2016, on Sunday, April 17, at 3 PM at West Lawn UMC, 15 Woodside Avenue, Reading, PA. Bishop Peggy Johnson will preach.  
Cross-Racial Cross-Cultural Appointments Part II Training: April 23
This training follow-up to Part 1 last fall will take place on Saturday, April 23, at Royersford UMC (380 Church St.). If you are a pastor serving in a cross-racial or cross-cultural appointment or belong to a congregation with a cross-racial or cross-cultural pastor then this full-day training is for you. It will be facilitated again by our partners at the General Commission on Religion and Race. Cost: The Annual Conference will cover the cost of clergy, missionaries and up to 3 members of your congregation to join you.  Additional participants are $10 per person. Register at
Associate Members & Local Pastors Retreat: April 24-26
The Fellowship Of Associate Members And Local Pastors will hold their annual retreat April 24-26, at Black Rock Retreat Center, 1345 Kirkwood Pike, Quarryville, PA. Associate Members, Local Pastors, Student Pastors and Certified Lay Ministers of both the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences are encouraged to attend and to register online now . The  $275 price includes 2 nights, 5 meals and 2.0 CEUs. For more information contact Mark Beiderman at 610-585-0575.  Download the brochure for a registration form.  The keynote speaker is the Rev. Dr. Charles Yrigoyen Jr., of Lancaster County, the author or editor of 16 books, mostly on Methodism and its founders, the Wesleys. 
"Tamar Speaks!" April 23 for 
survivors of childhood sexual abuse
Samaritan Counseling Center's SafeChurch Movement retreat for male and female adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center in Lebanon, Pa. Adult survivors and members of faith communities invited for  reflection on "how our journeys of healing give voice" to victims and help faith communities better understand the long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse. Visit the   Samaritan Counseling Center's Website to register and get information.  Linda Crockett, Director of Samaritan SafeChurch, will co-lead the retreat with Lisa Hanna Witmer, MSW, LSW, a trauma-trained therapist. Contact Crockett at 717-560-9991 or  for more information. The retreat's general cost is $25, and space is limited. The registration deadline is April 14.            
Update your Find-A-Church profile
Developed by United Methodist Communications, Find-A-Church helps your church connect with people who may be looking online for a church to provide worship, fellowship, spiritual nurture and other needs.   If your church has a Website, having a church page in Find-A-Church doubles your local visibility to reach people searching by city, town or zip code. It is the official online directory of United Methodist churches in the United States and  one of the most visited sections of, averaging more than 1,000 page views a day. You'll achieve the best results from your Find-A-Church profile when you update your church's information. For video instructions on how, visit Video Tutorial: Find-A-Church Overview
Missed any past issues of NEWSpirit Digest?
You can still read or share informative, colorful back issues of our weekly e-newsletter on the Eastern PA Conference Website at this link with others who might want to stay informed about our news, events, resources and concerns. And please encourage them to subscribe by e-mailing Thanks!
Please Save These Dates! 
Two Changing Racism Training Events will be held in 2016,  April 1- 3 and  Oct. 28-30 both at the  new location,  the Daylesford Abbey in Paoli.  Register online . The cost is $300.

May 10-20: UMC General Conference, Portland, OR

May 21:  Pastoral Transition Workshop  9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. at West Lawn UMC. The Rev. David Woolverton leading.

June 5: District Conferences
June 16-18: Eastern PA Annual Conference, Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, Lancaster, PA
July 10-16: EPA Conference to host the 2016 UMC Northeastern  
Jurisdictional Conference Lancaster County Convention Center and the Penn Square Marriott Hotel. Each district will serve as the Hospitality Team for one day.
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
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