December 6, 2019
Advent at Wharton-Wesley UMC, Philadelphia.  William Thompson photo  
Churches celebrate Advent in many ways

Worship during Advent in many churches, like here at Wharton-Wesley UMC in Philadelphia , includes weekly lighting of the Advent wreath candles. Families are often engaged to light candles--each symbolizing a virtue or gift offered to humanity by Christ-- and to read special themed liturgy before the congregation.

What is your church doing for Advent? Lighting Advent wreath candles? Decorating the sanctuary? Displaying Christian symbols on a “Christmon” tree? Hosting or participating in pre-Christmas concerts, pageants, parades or other community events to celebrate the season? Doing special mission projects to share the love and expectant hope and joy of Christmas? Teaching about preparing for the coming of Christ in special Advent Bible studies?

Please send us ( -by Dec. 17--news of your Advent plans and activities and your Advent celebration photos , present or past. We will select photos to feature, with your permission, on the conference website and in NEWSpirit Digest. Thanks!
By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

The season of Advent is at our doorstep, and once again we hear the ancient story of Jesus’ birth foretold by the prophets. The prophets give us instruction about preparing for this Immanuel, who is God coming to be with us.

As we begin this season I am savoring the words of Isaiah who calls us to “walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5) How do we do this? The prophet gives us the roadmap for our Advent journey. First we learn from the Lord. Then we engage in God’s salvation plan for the world. And then we Practice God’s Peace Plan.   Learn more…

Advent NEWSpirit Bulletin

Also, want to share this compelling, reflective essay about Advent with your congregation? Simply download , print, copy, display it and/or insert it in worship bulletins at your church. This is our second NEWSpirit Bulletin , a new media resource for churches . Learn more…
What do candles in our Advent wreath mean?
The Advent wreath was originally a German and Scandinavian home devotional practice used to mark the four weeks of Advent. Although many symbols have been attributed to it since that time, it was originally intended as a way to mark the Advent season and the weeks until Christmas

Families would light a candle for each past week and the current week at their dinner or evening time of prayer. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, did not matter. Neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe). What mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached. Learn more...
Four in ten seekers would visit a UM church
A new survey from United Methodist Communications found willingness to visit a United Methodist Church rose to 42 percent in 2019 among U.S. adults seeking more spirituality in their lives and who are aware of the denomination. That's up from 28 percent in 2017.

About half of those who would be willing to visit a United Methodist church said they would definitely or probably do so in the next three months. Millennials are more likely than GenX-ers to say they would probably visit. Among those unwilling to visit, about one in ten say they might attend if invited by someone they knew.

“The takeaway from this study is that The United Methodist Church garners positive perceptions among potential churchgoers, despite ongoing conflict within the denomination,” said Dan Krause, head of United Methodist Communications. Learn more...
Read NEWSpirit’s fall issue now online
Our fall 2019 issue of NEWSpirit newspaper is online, with news, features and photos in a colorful layout, ready for you to read, enjoy and share with others. Also, look for our new online publication, NEWSpirit Special , coming this month. We’ll focus on local churches in mission. Learn more...
Eastern PA delegation to begin process of inviting nominations for election of new NEJ bishops
One of the responsibilities of the Eastern PA Conference delegation to the 2020 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference is to identify potential episcopal candidates from our conference. As this work begins the delegation wants to remind the Annual Conference of the rule change , relating to Episcopal candidate endorsement, adopted at the 2017 Annual Conference. Please review this new rule as listed in the Rules of Order as Article XVII, 2018 EPA Journal, page 346. 

Here is a synopsis of the implications of this rule change:

The jurisdictional delegation may also choose to present no names to the annual conference. If the delegation places one or more names before the conference, annual conference delegates shall then proceed to confirm the recommendation(s) of the delegation by a 2/3 vote by those present and eligible to vote. Likewise, if the delegation recommends no persons, the annual conference shall vote to accept that recommendation by the same 2/3 vote.  

If the opening ballot fails to obtain the necessary 2/3 majority to confirm the delegation’s recommendation(s), additional nominations from the floor shall then be in order... 

The delegation asks all members of the Annual Conference to join in prayer and discernment as the process of identifying potential episcopal candidates from our conference begins. Further information regarding nominations will be published next week.

In His Service, 
Judy Ehninger, for the 2020 General-Jurisdictional Delegation 
Recent Conference events address matters of head and heart
The Eastern PA Conference was bustling with conference-wide events from September through November, filling many weekends and some weekdays with rich learning opportunities to resource leaders and ministries and even to offer some fun and fellowship. Training event topics—addressing matters of the head and heart—ranged from preventing domestic violence to using emotional intelligence, from ministering to veterans and families struggling with the wounds of war, to leading churches in the midst of conflict.

Even with so much learning going on, our “fall semester”—unlike real school—began with recess. Learn more...
Doing justice, loving mercy for our neighbors
When 6-year-old “Mariana” came from Guatemala with her aunt and cousin ­this year to join her mother in Warrington, Pa., she got separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers at the U.S. southwest border in Arizona and placed in detention with other children. And then she got lost in the system. 

Her mother, who came here several years ago to escape domestic violence, was frantic with fear. Lacking adequate English skills, she relied on her pastor, the Rev. Lillian “Luky” Cotto, to contact ICE officials almost daily with urgent appeals for updates on their search. After three weeks, “Mariana” was found at a center in nearby New York, and she was finally reunited with her family, who are members of Cotto’s Casa del Pueblo congregation at St. Paul’s UMC Warrington.

When immigration officials asked Cotto who she was and why she kept calling on the distraught mother’s behalf, she replied with a simple answer that seemed to satisfy them: “I’m her pastor.” Learn more…
Historic St. George’s celebrates 250 years
Historic St. George’s UMC, founded in 1769, inaugurated what may become a yearlong celebration of its 250th anniversary with an historic Sunday worship service Nov. 24. Ensuing events include a Dec. 1 Christmas concert and dedication of special plaques during another concert Jan. 25, 2020, to help dedicate its new Justice for Our Neighbors immigration legal aid ministry.

The Rev. Mark I. Salvacion, pastor, welcomed the Rev. Fred Day, former pastor and the denomination’s chief historian, as the anniversary service guest preacher and Bishop Peggy Johnson, who led the celebration of a special Holy Communion. Learn more...
Enjoy a special UM Night with the 76ers, Jan. 17
Order tickets by Dec. 17

Eastern PA Conference members and guests can enjoy a spectacular night of pro basketball together on United Methodist Night at the Wells Fargo Center Arena, on Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 PM, when the Philadelphia 76ers tame the Chicago Bulls . Start your MLK holiday weekend off with a connectional celebration of team spirit.

And there’s a new, special feature for this annual night of fun and fellowship for United Methodist Sixers fans. It’s called the Assembly Room . All UM members, groups and guests can enjoy the game together in a large viewing area that includes a lounge with couches, large TV monitors, food and beverage concessions, and other amenities. It’s a special-ticket, reserved space connected to a regular seating area, where we can move about freely.

Those who order tickets should indicate the name of their church on the order form where it says “School.” Why? Because the Wells Fargo Center will recognize all churches in attendance on the big message board.

This annual gathering is sponsored by our conference’s UM Men’s organization, and a portion of the proceeds from our purchased tickets will help fund their ministries. Contact UM Men’s president Clifton Hubbard at or 610-265-923 with any questions.

The UM Night Assembly Room purchase deadline is Dec. 17. So, please order your tickets ($40 each) today to join fellow United Methodists, their families and friends at the big game to cheer on the home team together. Learn more... Download the flyer!
MissionInsite WEB-CAST
When? Saturday, Dec. 7, 1 - 3 PM . Where? In front of your computer or participate in a group at a church’s webcast location. This webcast of MissionInSite basic instruction will help your church use demographic and life-o-graphic research information for congregational growth, targeting and expansion. See and know better the members and neighbors you want to serve.

Interested? Contact the Rev. Gordon Hendrickson, Eastern PA Conference Congregational Development Coordinator, at or 267-258-9507 for further details.

Participant instructions:
NEWSpirit Bulletin: Advent-- Walk in the Light
Bishop Peggy Johnson offers us a thoughtful essay about Advent, when once again we hear the ancient story of Jesus’ birth foretold by the prophets. The prophets give us instruction about preparing for this Immanuel, who is God coming to be with us. “Walk in the light of the Lord,” says one. (Isaiah 2:5) How do we do this? First we learn from the Lord. Then we engage in God’s salvation plan for the world. And then we Practice God’s Peace Plan. Share this compelling reflection with your congregation. Simply download , print, copy, display it and/or insert it in worship bulletins at your church. 

This is our second NEWSpirit Bulletin , a new media resource for churches. Learn more...
UMNS hires new director, plans annual Holiday Lunch, Dec. 12
UM Neighborhood Services, at Janes Memorial UMC, 47 East Haines St., Philadelphia, will celebrate Christmas with its annual Holiday Lunch on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 11:30 AM.  Millicent Clarke, the newly hired Managing Director of UMNS, will welcome guests.
More North District churches to try daytime services on Christmas Eve
In 2018, the Rev. Steve Morton, North District Superintendent, suggested to churches on his district that they try what a growing number of churches are doing to attract new visitors: holding daylight worship services on Christmas Eve. 

At least four of the churches tried it; and because it went well, they say they will repeat it this year, offering worship on Dec. 24, beginning their services between 2 and 4 PM. Those churches are Keokee UMC in Paradise Valley, Salem UMC in Shoemakersville Richmond UMC and Mount Carmel UMC.

Several churches--like Salem UMC in Allentown and Covenant UMC of Moore Township--have offered daylight Christmas Eve services before. At least another seven churches have said they will begin theirs this year: Bushkill, Danielsville, Quakertown, Green Pond, Elysburg, McMichaels , Bethlehem: Wesley. And more may soon join them.

"Please pray for the success of these congregations that are trying something new in their outreach," says Sheri Kentner, District Resource Assistant, "so  that more persons would find welcome in our churches on the holiday, and that the birth of Jesus the Savior might be celebrated even more broadly!" Amen.     
Philadelphia UM Mass Choir Concert Dec. 14

The Philadelphia United Methodist Mass Choir will perform their annual Christmas Celebration Concert on Saturday, Dec. 14, 5 PM, at Mother African Zoar UMC. The offering this year will go towards BMCR global mission project to renovate a primary school in Nederburg South Africa. Learn more....
Bishop Peggy Johnson and her Cabinet visit Cornwells UMC at Cornwell Heights in Bensalem in November 2018
Cabinet to visit Norristown State Hospital for Day of Service fellowship

Bishop Peggy Johnson and her Cabinet—including the four district superintendents and the Conference Lay Leader, Treasurer and Benefits Director —will all celebrate the spirit of this Advent season with their annual Day of Service on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
They will spend the morning at Norristown State Hospital, hosted by the Rev. Robert Crane, Lead Chaplain there. Crane, a UM chaplain who provides spiritual support services, will tell Cabinet members about the hospital’s history and mission, before patients and staff join them for fellowship over lunch. Then the hospital’s staff choir will lead all in singing Christmas carols.

In recent years the Cabinet has visited and volunteered during Advent at mission sites across the conference, including the Methodist Children’s Home, the Chester County Prison’s Correctional Center, community meal ministries at First UMC Lancaster, Holmesburg UMC and St. Paul UMC in Elizabethtown, plus the Lehigh Valley Outreach Depot, operated by Wesley UMC Bethlehem.
Pen-Del Youth Rally 2020

Register early for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference’s 2020 Youth Rally, Jan. 10-12 , in Ocean City, Md. Join 3,500-plus young people and their adult leaders for three worship-filled days—celebrating faith, fun, freedom and fellowship—as they converge on Ocean City for this 33rd annual weekend-long Youth Rally.

At Roland E. Powell Convention Center (4001 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, Maryland) the stage will be set for music that will inspire your crew to shout and scream. Inspiring featured speakers will share words of inspiration and challenge.

The 2020 theme is “ Inseparable .”  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord . –Romans 8:38-39 NIV     Learn more…
True Justice: Seeking Equal Justice for People and Communities of Color
A Film Showing, Discussion and Action Planning for Change

Feb. 22, 2020 (Snow date: Feb. 29, 2020), 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM , at Cedarville UMC , 1092 Laurelwood Rd, Pottstown, PA. Cost: $10. Lunch included. CEUs certification requested. This event is co-sponsored by the Eastern PA Conference’s Prison Ministries & Restorative Justice Team and Commission on Religion & Race.

Join us in viewing together the compelling HBO documentary film True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality about the lifesaving, life-changing crusade of Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is a dedicated public defense attorney and the founder and Executive Director of the groundbreaking Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

The film examines his personal journey, as he labors to bring justice to wrongfully convicted and disadvantaged prison inmates. The film weaves together his own story, those of his clients, and a history of injustice and complicity in our justice system. As Stevenson reveals a troubling narrative of racial inequality still prevalent in this country, he challenges us to seek the truth, confront it and work towards reconciliation.

After we view this powerful film, we will hear from a panel of leaders seeking ways to foster racial justice in the criminal justice system. And then we will gather in groups to learn more and determine how we can “do justice and love mercy” by joining Stevenson’s fight in a national campaign that seeks true justice for people and communities of color.

Topics for Discussion and Action Planning:
  • The Legal System and Returning Citizens
  • The School to Prison Pipeline
  • Unconscious Bias against People of Color
  • Communities of Color: Causes and Consequences of Mass Incarceration

Please register by February 1, 2020. Register online now!
Visit our Local Church Resources webpage
Do you find yourself wondering where you can obtain a 501(c)3 letter? Clergy W-2s? Various other bits of information that is crucial for churches? Look no further than the Local Church Resources page under the Administration tab on the EPA website and you can answer these questions.
Conference leadership opportunities for all!
The Conference Leadership Committee asks all clergy and lay members to use this Leadership and Service Interest Form to indicate how and where they are willing to serve. 
Video series can help win disciples

A new teaching series offers instruction in making disciples for Christ by emphasizing relationships and stopping attempts to fix churches. The "See All the People: Discipleship Begins with Relationship" course is free and available through the internet.  Read press release   Enroll
GC2020-related Preview & Review Sessions
2020 General Conference Delegation Listening Sessions:
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – 7 pm to 8:30 pm Church of the Good Shepherd, 1500, Quentin Rd., Lebanon PA
  • Thursday, April 2, 2020 – 7 pm – 8:30 pm Downingtown UMC751 East Lancaster Ave, Downingtown, PA. This event will be streamed and accessible by ZOOM
  • Saturday, April 4, 2020 – 10 am to noon Simpson House, 2101 Belmont Ave., Philadelphia, PA
  • Monday, April 20, 2020 – 7 pm to 8:30 pm Epworth UMC, 3245 Oakland Rd., Bethlehem, PA 18020

Post-General Conference Review Sessions with Bishop Johnson
  • Saturday, May 23, 2020, 10 am – 12 noon, West Lawn UMC, Reading, PA
  • Saturday, May 30, 2020 10 am – 12 noon Aldersgate UMC, Wilmington, DE
2020 Faith-Sharing Event, April 25
E vangelism in a Changing Landscape
Plan now to attend the Eastern PA Conference’s next Faith-Sharing Event on Saturday, April 25, 2020. The Rev. Lisa Greenwood , of Dallas, Texas, will be our featured presenter. She is Vice-President for Leadership Ministry of TMF (the Texas Methodist Foundation), and she will explore the theme “ Evangelism in a Changing Landscape.”
This one-day event will stimulate reflections on the changing landscape of our mission field—both its challenges and opportunities—and invite us into conversations about the implications for our church leaders and ministries. Congregations are encouraged to send teams to learn, strategize and prepare to grow together.
At TMF, Greenwood works with leaders in various settings to explore and foster “deep change in the church by facilitating conversations of courage, learning and innovation.” She speaks, consults and facilitates conversations among denominational and congregational leaders for the sake of creating a culture of purpose, generosity and courage in the church.
For our Faith-Sharing Event, she asks these questions: 
Ever feel like we have inherited models for ministry that just aren’t working? Has evangelism taken on the qualities of an unwanted virus (thus, to be avoided like the plague!)?

And yet, we know that we are compelled to share Christ’s good news of love and grace, justice and hope. What does that call mean for us as leaders and for the churches we serve?
With psychology and Master of Divinity degrees, Lisa was ordained in 1992 and successfully served for 20 years in suburban, urban and rural churches in the North Texas Annual Conference. She served her conference on its Board of Ordained Ministry, Order of Elders and four General Conference delegations (2004-2019). Lisa was also a ministry strategist for the Horizons Stewardship Company. She and her husband have seven children.
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Please add our  Communications Office  to your church newsletter's digital and/or print mailing lists. We find much of our news in church newsletters (when we find time to read them), and we try to report local church news and events as much as possible. (We also love seeing Conference news reported in your newsletters. Thanks!) However, we want to receive only your church newsletters please, not other e-mailed church announcements. Thanks!
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 . Share 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!
  • December 7: Comision Latina meeting at Holy Spirit UMC in Philadelphia, 4 PM
  • December 7: MissionInSite web cast, 1 PM
  • January 28, 2020: Connectional Table Meeting, 7 PM – 8:15 PM
  • February 8, 2020: HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, 11 AM – 2 PM, Wharton-Wesley UMC
  • February 22, 2020: “True Justice” — Seeking Equal Justice for People & Communities of Color. Film showing & discussion, 9:30 AM – 3 PM, Cedarville UMC

Download: Printable Listing of Eastern PA Conference Events: 2019-2020 (Updated weekly. Last Updated: 12/03/2019)
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
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