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December 1, 2016
World AIDS Day 2016, Dec. 1
"It's been a few decades now since the AIDS epidemic got the full attention of the world," writes Bishop Peggy Johnson in her new Bishop's Blog essay. Despite advances in medical treatment, HIV/AIDS it is still a huge health crisis in the U.S. and globally. According to about 5,600 people contract HIV every day, and over 1 million die annually from its complications. 

Bishop Johnson considers it "a social justice issue because many who continue to contract this virus lack the educational resources to help them with prevention and the means to get treatment."

One of the chief causes of HIV/AIDS is intravenous drug use, she explains. The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that the two are "inextricably linked," especially through the sharing of drug-use equipment like needles. 

World AIDS Day falls in our calendar alongside Advent each year, during the season when we prepare for the coming of Christ. "But that time of preparation should inspire us to examine our lives and our Christian responsibility to love and help our neighbors," says the bishop, who urges us to "look for ways to be personally supportive and involved in education, prevention and treatment efforts that address our stubborn HIV/AIDS crisis and the growing drug addiction crisis that fuels it."

Please read her full essay reflectively, and then see how you might respond as you prepare for the coming arrival of Christ.
Free College Preparation Workshop 101
Saturday, Dec. 3,10 AM-12 PM, at Wharton-Wesley UMC, 5341 Catharine Street, Philadelphia, PA. This workshop is offered to help parents and guardians of students in grades 9 to 12 to plan now for higher education. It will include information for getting financial aid. Led by Lenora Thompson and the Rev. David W. Brown (Deacon). 
Real Talk about Racism
Saturday, Dec. 3, 9 AM-3:30 PM, at First UMC Phoenixville (865 S. Main Street). The Central District invites everyone to this guided, instructional dialogue, facilitated by Helen Stafford Fleming, leadership development trainer, author and consultant. Fleming was the pastor of Eastwick UMC in Philadelphia for eight years and now works with churches and groups to plan for racial transition and reconciliation in urban areas. The $10 fee covers lunch and materials. 
Gretna Glen: Children's Winter Blast Retreat
Dec. 2,  7 PM, to Dec. 3, 7 PM, at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center,87 Old Mine Road, Lebanon, PA
Camp Innabah: Youth Around the World Retreat
Dec. 2,  7 PM, to  Dec. 4, 1 PM, at  Camp Innabah712 Pughtown Rd,  Spring City ,  PA.
Also, be sure to visit our Advent/Christmas Events page for special observance events this weekend, sponsored by local churches and mission connexions.
Check out new stories on our website
UMs to offer gift of hospitality in Phila.  Dec. 15-18
United Methodists can share a warm cup of hospitality-and warm cocoa-on the streets of Philadelphia  Dec. 15-18, along with the message, "When we find the true meaning of Christmas church can happen anywhere." Now we're looking for a few good volunteers to help make that hospitality happen. It's all part of a national Rethink Church Advent "creative outreach campaign" planned by UM Communications for nine major cities this month, focused on high-pedestrian traffic areas.   Learn more...
Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, again offered a one-day convergence of generous folks donating to worthy mission and ministry efforts, perhaps after heavy shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But as we celebrate Advent and prepare to receive and share the gift Christ at Christmas, our giving doesn't have to stop. Why not celebrate Giving Advent by supporting missions throughout the Advent season to celebrate God's gift of Christ to the world? We have some suggestions. Learn more...
To witness against the violence so prevalent in its city, Grace UMC in Philadelphia embarked on a recent Friday night "Prayer Walk for Peace," accompanied by officers and chaplains from its friendly neighborhood police precinct. Church members of all ages sang and prayed, some holding brightly-colored signs, while walking for blocks around the church, escorted by 14th Precinct officers and chaplains. The Rev. William Gary George, Grace's pastor, and the Rev. Robert Coombe, pastor of nearby First UMC of Germantown helped lead the procession. "There is so much violence and unrest between the community and police, especially for many families that have had conflicts," George said later. "The church needs to take a stand and show the community the hope and love that comes from our relationship in Christ and as members of the human family."   Learn more...
In mid-December many houses of worship around the nation will observe a collective, interfaith Sabbath of shalom to protect life. It's National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, Dec. 14-18, especially on Sunday, Dec. 18, for many Christians. The timing commemorates the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But the prevailing concern over gun violence extends far beyond that unforgettable tragedy. It encompasses many more lives taken through senseless shootings in many places, about two-thirds of them by suicide. Our coverage offers activity suggestions and looks at the advocacy being done by individuals, churches and organizations like Heeding God's Call to End Gun Violence and the UMC's Board of Church and Society. Learn more...
Lima UMC joins in Media's Santa parade
The Praise Band of Lima UMC participated in Media's Santa's Parade. Band members were perched on a float decorated with stars and lights, as they sang out the Christmas gospel message all along the parade route. Meanwhile, church members walked alongside the float handing out invitation cards, each with a jingle bell attached. Printed on the cards was Lima UMC's missional motto: "Where faith, hope and love are real," along with a star on one side and the church's social media and physical addresses on the other. Learn more and see their cool photos. Also visit our Advent/Christmas Events page to see what other Eastern PA churches are up to. And please send us your church's plans for celebrating Advent, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's. (And also send us news and photos from your events).  

Order your 2016 Conference Journal before they're gone!
A limited number of printed 2016 Eastern PA Conference Journals are available.  Order yours today for only $30 each. You can  order and pay online or send a check, by USPS, to: EPA UMC, Attention Gloria Knoeller, PO Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820.

What's in the Journal?  A lot! Contact information for Conference staff, clergy, Camp and Retreat Centers, Districts, and United Methodist Boards and Agencies.  Also, clergy appointments, pastoral salaries and service records.  Plus, all about the 2016 Annual Conference; Conference statistics for 2015; historical highlights; and conference policies and procedures for clergy, staff, and others. Questions?  Please contact Gloria Knoeller at
Haiti ready for UMVIM teams in January
After Hurricane Mathew caused devastation in Haiti  Oct. 4, the UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR)  quickly responded with emergency supplies and  other assistance to T he Methodist Church in Haiti (L'Eglise Methodiste d'Haiti, or EMH). But Global Ministries' Mission Volunteers Office had to delay sending UM Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) teams in to help with recovery efforts until preparatory assessments and planning could be done. That was a lesson learned after the 2010 earthquake there. 

Now that Mission Volunteers (MV) staff and consultants have been meeting with church leaders and carefully researching the situation, a strategic process is evolving with the goal to offer visiting work teams a "productive experience." As result, the MV office invites UMVIM teams to start preparations now because the Methodist Church in Haiti should be ready to receive them starting in January 2017. But there are some key recommendations that are important to follow.  Learn more...
More new additions to the conference website:
We've added a new Commission on Religion & Race (CORR) page to the conference website. You can find resources, recent news articles and upcoming events, all related to CORR's ministry and concerns. That includes recent and future racial dialogues and training events among our districts, churches and mission connexions.

We've also added two new conference leadership directories that do not require login access (because they don't include home contact info). They are adapted from the 2016 Conference Journal and are located on the Directory page of the "About Us" section. They are:
  • Eastern PA Conference Officers - A directory of Conference Officers, including: Conference Secretary, Lay Leader, Directors of Administrative and Connectional ministries, Conference Legal Counsel and Corporation Officers.
  • Conference Agencies with Membership - A directory of "Conference Agencies" and their chairpersons. Our conference boards, councils, commissions and committees provide essential leadership, guidance and oversight to much of the work and ministries of the Eastern PA Conference. Their elected officers and members include both lay and clergy conference members. Also included on this roster are district-elected resource teams and independent agencies and organizations affiliated with the conference. 
Open Enrollment for 2017 health coverage
Clergy and lay staff MUST participate in Open Enrollment online, from  Nov. 28 to Dec. 9, if they wish to receive 2017 health benefits.  Also, read important EPA Health Care News for churches, clergy and lay staff with conference health coverage, including information on premiums, policy changes and church remittances. Learn more ...
Christmas gifts for Native American children in Montana
Our conference Committee on Native American Ministries asks that you read and respond to  Verna Colliver's story about the annual  Christmas Shoe Box Mission of the   Blackfeet United Methodist Parish. You can help and delight a child of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana with a shoebox full of Christmas toys, books, warm mittens or hats.  CoNAM invites you to support this important, worthy cause. Visit the   parish's website  to learn how to donate shoe box gifts. All gift boxes must arrive in Browning, Montana, by  December 10.  Download an informational flyer here. Contact Sheri Hill at or by phone at  406-338-2823 with any questions.
Women in ministry to celebrate Advent with Bishop
Women in Professional Ministry will have an Advent Morning Apart with Bishop Peggy Johnson on   Dec. 6, at   10 AM, at the Bishop's Residence in Phoenixville. They will enjoy brunch, inspirational remarks and fellowship together as women serving in professional ministry. Respond to The Revs. Monica Guepet and Jennifer Sauerbrun are co-conveners of  the group.

Read about the group's 2015 Advent  Morning Apart with Bishop Peggy Johnson, "Clergywomen retreat for soul-care."  
Lifetree Cafe Orientation & Training, 
January 4
The Congregational Development Office will hold a Lifetree Cafe Orientation & Training (Part 2) on January 4, from  6:30 to 8:00 PM, at the Conference Office. Contact the Rev. Gordon Henderson, Coordinator, at or call him at 267-258-9509 if you wish to attend. Learn more...
Disability Awareness 
Sunday , awards for Disability Ministry
Plan now to celebrate Disability Awareness  Sunday in our conference  Jan. 22, 2017. The UMC's Book of Discipline calls for every conference and church to celebrate a Disability Awareness  Sunday annually. So our conference's Disability Ministry Committee wants to have as many churches as possible observe this special  Sunday, preferably with a special offering for UMCOR's "Disability Ministries" Advance Special (# 3021054), on  Jan. 22 (or on any other  Sunday). You can find information and  resources online at Also visit the  committee's webpage for more information. 

Pastors and lay leaders may contact Disability Ministries Committee members in their districts to get disability awareness promotion ideas. (See the list on the Disability Ministry webpage.) Or contact committee chairwoman Barbara Skarbowski at  bskarbowski@gmail.comor 717-584-6170.

Also, see if your church can qualify for a Certificate of Recognition for Excellence in Disability Ministry or even the new "Bishop Peggy Johnson 4A's Award for Disability Ministry." The conference Disability Ministry Committee established that award to give recognition to one "Congregation of the Year"  and one  "District of the Year"  that have made great strides toward being in inclusive ministry with persons and families who experience disability. Additionally, all conference churches are eligible to receive a  Certificate of Excellence  in outstanding disability ministry after meeting certain criteria.  Learn more...
Check out our Local Church Events. Send us yours!
Many churches have informed us of special events they are planning (Thank you!), so we can inform visitors to our conference website. You never know who might show up after seeing your announcement on our Local Church Events page or our Advent & Christmas Events page. Check out our listings of upcoming church events. And please send us news of yours, so we can share that good news of what God is doing through your church. You can simply use our Submit News page (preferably) or e-mail information to us at Thanks in advance.
Pen-Del Youth Rally 2017: "This Is Love"
The annual Peninsula-Delaware Conference Youth Rally will return to the Ocean City (Md.) Convention Center January 6-8 (from Friday evening to Sunday morning).  Thewinter weekendrally and retreat will offer praise and worship, learning and laughter through games, fellowship and plenty of fun. 
Register early online by Nov.15 for $67
or by Dec. 15 for $77 at
The theme is  "This Is Love" from 1 John 4:10. Featured guests will be motivational speaker and "champion for youth" Steve Fitzhugh, along with Rend Collective, Zealand Worship Band, Dave & Brian, and a full concert by gospel singer Tasha Cobbs.
Restoration 2017: "Prayer, Praise and Presence"
The Restoration 2017 Retreat is Bishop Peggy Johnson's invitation to clergy and lay members of the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences, to gather in retreat January 26-28, at the Sands Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del. The theme is "Prayer, Praise and Presence." The purpose: "Finding new life in the spiritual disciplines to bring strength to our Christian journey." This event replaces the former Mid-Winter Retreat for Clergy and Spouses that had drawn fewer participants over the past several years.
The focus of this Restoration retreat is to bring to light aspects of ministry, life, and community that need to be restored within us on our journey of making disciples. Our guest speaker will be the Rev. Junius Dotson, the new General Secretary of UM Discipleship Ministries.
All are invited to join in this gathering to pray, praise and worship God in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Worship will begin the retreat Thursday evening and end it Saturday morning. In-between there will be ample time for prayer and personal reflection, workshops, fellowship and meals together, and even laughter inspired by a guest comedian. Two (2) CEUs will be granted for attendance.
Online registration will be available once all the program details are finalized. With October being Clergy Appreciation Month, Bishop Johnson is asking churches to consider showing appreciation and care for pastors and their families by gifting the cost of their registration for Restoration. 
Faith-Sharing Training Event  
Our 2017 annual Faith-Sharing Training Event will happen March 18, from 8:30 AM to 2 PM, at New Hanover UMC. Our guest presenter is the Rev. Terry Teykel, a leading "prayer evangelist" and popular speaker and author. He travels the world encouraging churches to develop and strengthen prayer ministries as a means of revival and transformation.
Teykel, the founder of Renewal Ministries and Prayer Point Press, has authored several books, including The Presence-Based Church, My Most Wanted: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost, and Pray the Price: United Methodists United in Prayer. He has spent his life teaching churches how to develop a heartfelt, meaningful relationship with the Lord. His warm, humorous style makes him a much-sought after speaker and seminar leader.
"We believe that when prayer and evangelism are reunited the Church will emerge as a powerful force for reclaiming the land and setting the captives free."      -Terry Teykl. 

Learn more about this passionate, powerful speaker and man of God.
Clergy Lenten Day Apart
And on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the day before Ash Wednesday, clergy across the conference will gather at locations in their respective districts for a Clergy Lenten Day Apart. They will pray, worship and fellowship together in preparation for the beginning of the Holy season of Lent.  
Wake up, God's People!... 
All-day Eastern PA Youth Rally, April 22, 2017
And for the trifecta of upcoming youth events, plan to attend the 3rd Annual Eastern PA Conference Youth Rally on Saturday, April 22, 2017. For the first time, this youth rally will last all day, from 9 AM to 4 PM. We're planning fantastic features, with dynamic speakers, soul-stirring music, fun games, powerful prayers, laugh-out-loud humor, great food and hospitality, and enough friendship and fellowship moments to give you a lifetime of memories. Don't dare miss it! See and share the flyer, and look for more details, coming soon.
More prayer, praise and study events coming in the Spring:
  • April 22: Eastern PA Conference Youth Rally. 9 AM to 4 PM at Hopewell UMC, Downington, PA. Theme: "Wake Up, God's People! God's People, Wake Up!"
  • April 23-25 - Local Pastors and Associate Members Retreat. At Black Rock Retreat Center, Quarryville, PA. Theme: "The Authority of Scripture."
  • April 29: Tools for Ministry (possibly including classes on prayer, worship and other spiritual disciplines). Times and locations determined by districts.
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!
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
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