February 5, 2021
NEWS & VIEWS
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson announces the following appointments & assignments effective July 1, 2021, unless otherwise stated:
North District
  • Rev. Scott Kuhnle (Licensed Local Pastor), from East Stroudsburg UMC to serve Black Creek UMC three-quarter time
  • Rev. Richard K. Brown II (Elder), from Hellertown: St. Paul UMC to serve Quakertown UMC full time
  • Rev. J. William Lentz, Jr. (Elder), from Lansdale: First UMC to serve Hellertown: St. Paul UMC half time
  • Monica Romberger (interim Lay Supply Pastor) serving Clark’s Grove UMC (effective January 1, 2021) quarter time
 
South District
  • Rev. Eric D. Ressler, Sr. (Licensed Local Pastor, retired), to serve Harmony UMC (effective 11/1/2020) half time
  • Rev. Michael Johnson (Elder), to serve Radnor UMC (effective 1/1/2021) quarter time
  • Rev. Laurie Pfahler (Elder), from Langhorne UMC to serve Royersford UMC (effective 10/1/2020), full time
  • John Lafferty (Lay Supply - Certified Lay Minister), to serve Eddystone UMC (effective 12/1/2021) quarter time
Churches kick off Souper Bowl of Caring Feb. 7
Will your church participate in the annual, nationwide Souper Bowl of Caring mission outreach event to tackle hunger while coinciding with Pro Football’s Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7? Please send us information and photos of your activities to communications@epaumc.org

First UMC of Phoenixville will host a modified Souper Bowl of Caring Food Donation/Collection event on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 3–5 PM. And they will add a “Bowl of Stew To-Go." The FUMC Youth will collect non-perishable food items and/or cash donations in the church parking lot for Phoenixville Area Community Services. Supporters are asked to call the church office to order their to-go bowl of stew and a roll (“made by our Kitchen Ministry Crew”) to enjoy while watching the Super Bowl. But all orders were due by Friday, Feb. 5 at noon. 

Meanwhile, Wesley UMC in Bethlehem is gearing up for its Souper Bowl of Caring Challenge to support New Bethany Ministries, which operates a food pantry and serves meals to about 150 people. The church will collect cans of soup--providing a healthier meal than many fans will consume on that special occasion. And since this will be Super Bowl LV, their goal is 555 cans.
Denman Evangelism Award Nominations due by March 5
Eastern PA Conference, The United Methodist Church
Congregational Development Team (CDT)
Evangelism in the midst of COVID…

Psalm 89:37 reminds us of the faitful witnessing of the moon, the most visibly celestial reflector of light God created. The church is the same in the eyes of God. Our light–the light of the church–is to be a reflective witness of the love and grace of God.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference is now accepting nominations for the 2021 Harry Denman Evangelism Award, which honors United Methodists engaged in the exceptional ministry of Evangelism.

…Evangelism is expressed in Word (what), Sign (why) and Deed (how). It is the very act of bringing people into life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our conference joins the Foundation for Evangelism in recognizing:
  • one Youth member,
  • one Clergy member,
  • one Lay member.

To learn more about the award or to download nomination forms visit Denman Evangelism Award page of the Foundation of Evangelism website. Or visit the Congregational Development page of the Eastern PA Conference website.

Download nomination forms, complete and e-mail them by March 5 to Suzette James at suezyq@earthlink.net. Or mail them to the Eastern PA Conference, P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482, in care of Suzette James. All nominations must be received no later than March 5 to be considered for the 2021 awards. The presentation of Denman Awards will be video-recorded March 27 and shown during the Annual Conference session May 21.

Rev. Lloyd Spears and Suzette James, CSM, Co-Chairpersons, CDT
Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Director, Connectional Ministries

New Paycheck Protection Program resources
With a fresh round of U.S. Paycheck Protection Program loans available, United Methodist financial leaders have updated information for ministries considering applying. The General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination's finance agency, and Wespath Benefits & Investments, the denomination's pensions agency, answer frequently asked questions. Read FAQ Read guidance for loan-forgiveness applications
Black History Month:
Elijah Pierce: Telling the Story in Wood
By Bishop Peggy Johnson

Recently the Barnes Foundation of Philadelphia showcased the works of artist Elijah Pierce. Born in 1892 in Mississippi, this son of freed slaves became a wood carver, barber and preacher. Living in Columbus, Ohio, he designed hundreds of masterpieces using wood, cardboard, crepe paper, house paint, aluminum foil, glitter and rhinestones.

His subjects included Bible stories, nature, popular culture, politics and animals of all kinds. But threaded through his work was his passion for justice. I honor the life of Elijah Pierce during Black History Month 2021. He used art to tell important stories. How about you? Your faith in God should always be a message that is seen by the way you live, by the things you value and support, and by your creative outlets. Learn more…
Immigration webinar and Lenten devotional
“We have witnessed many immigration announcements and policy changes in the first few weeks of the Biden administration,” writes Rebecca Cole Director of Organizing at the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society to fellow members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. GBCS, the UMC and some members of the Eastern PA Conference belong to the national network of immigration justice advocates. Cole invites them to a coalition webinar on Monday, Feb. 8, at 5 PM, for an overview of the current immigration landscape. RSVP Here.  For those unable to view the live webinar, it can be viewed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/interfaithimmigrationcoalition/live both during and after the live event. You need not have your own Facebook account in order to watch the recording.

“The first 100 days is a critical moment for faith communities to take action, alongside immigrants’ rights organizations and immigrant leaders,” she writes. “In the coming weeks there will be many opportunities to push for legislative and administrative reforms that create relief from deportation, push towards citizenship for all, and rebuild the refugee and asylum programs.
The webinar will offer an overview of the current immigration landscape, information on how recent changes are impacting vulnerable communities, and an opportunity to learn how you and your faith community can Take Action for Immigrant Justice in 2021.”

Cole also promotes a new Immigration & Refugee Lent Devotional. If you would like a copy sign up to receive Lenten Values: Springing to Action at http://bit.ly/LentenValues and use it with your congregation 
Women of faith invited to join in ‘A Mother's Prayer for Peace’ Feb. 12
Bishop Peggy Johnson encourages all Eastern PA Conference women of faith to participate in “A Mother's Prayer for Peace,” a gathering for prayer on Friday, Feb. 12, at 12 PM (noon), on Zoom at: https://Us02web.Zoom.Us/J/3589852024. The Zoom password is 051702.

The Rev. Donna Jones, pastor of Cookman Beloved Community (Baptist Church) in Philadelphia, invites all to attend—especially “sister clergy…and anyone who has lost a loved one to homicide. Our prayer is that they will experience the presence of the Body of Christ in meaningful ways through their presence and participation.” Jones formerly was pastor of the former Cookman UMC. 

Shantay Love, a Christ Servant Minister at Janes UMC, is one of the organizers of this event. She manages EMIR (Every Murder Is Real), a program that has been serving and supporting family members and friends who have been affected by homicide since 2004. See and share the flyer. 
Church sees surge in giving at year's end
(UM News) — Giving to denomination-wide ministries was better than the worst of the pandemic's projections thanks to a year-end surge of about $40 million, according to the General Council on Finance and Administration. However, the UMC still faces financial strains. Most UMC agencies had budgeted for a 70-75% appportionment collection rate in 2020 but are budgeting for around a 50% collection rate this year.

During its meeting the GCFA board reviewed a slide presentation for a Feb. 13 webinar that the Council of Bishops and jurisdictional leaders are organizing for U.S. General and Jurisdictional conference delegates. Non-delegates will be able to watch the webinar on ResourceUMC.org. 

The bishops have recommended that the delegates postpone elections of any new bishops until 2024 in order to stabilize the fund that supports bishops’ work. At present, 14 U.S. bishops plan to retire this year or have taken on new roles with the Council of Bishops. The webinar will include presentations on the Episcopal Fund, the Jurisdictional Study Committee report and General Conference options. Learn more… Also, read UM News: What goes into funding bishops? To watch webinar
CDT Book Club to explore Caste for Lent
On the heels of exploring Gil Rendle’s transformational tome Quietly Courageous (Jan. 13 to Feb 3), the Congregational Development Team (CDT) Book Club will next launch into the Lenten season with a study of a new, highly touted, instant classic. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020), by Isabel Wilkerson, examines the unspoken caste system of race that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

For five weeks, Feb. 23 to March 23, on Tuesdays at 11 AM to noon, conference members and others will read and discuss this “masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America.” Described as “immersive, deeply researched" with stories about real people, it was recently named by a New York Times critic “an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.”

The Conference’s Commission on Religion & Race (CORR) will co-sponsor the book study and help CDT purchase and give books free to the first 50 members to register. Book purchase scholarships are also available. Anyone can join by registering in advance. Learn more...
Character Matters: North District's new Lenten Bible study is available now
The North District’s new Lenten Bible Study, titled Character Matters, is ready and available for use. The Rev. Steve Morton, District Superintendent, developed and produced the eight-session, multi-media resource. It includes video presentations featuring district Elders, plus worksheets and a leader’s guide, all available on the North District’s website. Bishop Peggy Johnson also recorded a special Easter message to culimate the series.

The videos can be accessed online or mailed to those who request them as stored media on a jump drive or DVD. Use the flyer to promote the study to your congregation and share it with others. Questions? Contact District Resource Assistant Deb Boyd with any questions. Download the flyer.
New video features Eastern PA Conference scholarship recipient
Eastern PA Conference Scholarships are awarded for the fall and spring semesters to undergraduate and graduate students who have been active members of a church in our conference for at least two years. For many, these vital scholarships are one of Eastern PA’s best-kept secrets but are deserving of much more awareness and support. March 1 is the application deadline for our scholarships for the fall semester. More information is available online

Watch an inspiring, new short video “Josh Foster – Community Builder about one recent Eastern PA Conference Scholarship recipient–and now a graduate. We featured him in a story we published in October 2020: “Conference awards record number of scholarships in 2020.
Who are Black women pioneers in U.S. Methodism? (Part 1)
In celebration of Black History and Women’s History months, Ask The UMC remembers four of the pioneering and groundbreaking Black women in U.S. Methodist history in a two-part series. Learn more…
Who’s Afraid of Critical Race Theory?
The Rev. Darryl W. Stephens, an author and professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, who chairs the Conference’s Order of Deacons, reports in his blog, Ethics Considered, thatUnited Methodist Deacons are at it again, stirring the waters of justice.” He writes about the second in a series of dialogues among Deacons on the theme “Becoming an Antiracist Community.”

Deacons of the Peninsula-Delaware and Eastern PA Annual conferences jointly discussed the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality and other dimensions of personhood that have long suffered from interpersonal and systemic bias and injustice. “We began with basic questions: What is intersectionality and how can this concept help us address racism?" writes Stephens. "Even though the idea of intersectionality is part of critical race theory, we refused to let fear be our guide as we navigated these dangerous rapids.”

The Deacons first viewed “Intersectionality: Dismantling Racism Panel Discussion” from the “Dismantling Racism Panel Discussions” video series sponsored by four UMC general agencies and the Council of Bishops. Then they gathered on Zoom for an insightful, challenging dialogue from their diverse perspectives. Learn more…
Vaccines won't save General Conference
The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines is not enough to save an in-person General Conference this year, writes David W. Scott, director of mission theology for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. With the vaccines' slow rollout, especially in Africa, and the emergence of new variants to the virus, he urges the church to look at alternatives. Read commentary
LEARNING EVENTS
Jason Moore will teach us creative, transformative strategies for worshiping both online and in-person when churches return to their sanctuaries. Tuesday, Feb. 9, 10 AM-12:30 PM. (The time was recently extended a half-hour.) Moore, who has pioneered creative, collaborative worship design for two decades, will lead us in exploring new possibilities for worshiping both online and onsite at our churches, in a webinar offered for free on Zoom “Both/And: Maximizing Hybrid Worship Experiences for Online and In-Person Audiences” will “delve into strategies for how to create powerful transformative worship where no one feels like they’re an afterthought.”  . Learn more
UMC program livestreams weekly talks on Black Church 'resilience'
The UMC’s Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century Initiative (SBC21) is honoring Black History Month with a series of discussions livestreamed on Monday nights at 7 PM on its Facebook page. “Resilience: The Staying Power of the Black Church” is the series title. 

The Feb. 1 discussion focused on the impact of Unaddressed Trauma in the Black Church and featured the Rev.. Michael L. Bowie, SBC21 executive director, and the Rev. Ron Bell, pastor of Camphor Memorial UMC in St. Paul, Minn., who is an expert on the topic of trauma. A recording of that fascinating discussion about mental health concerns among biblical characters, Black people and Black churches, is still viewable on the SBC21 Facebook page. Future topics during February (Mondays at 7 PM) will focus on the Black Church and...: Activism; Political Power; and Economic Strategies to Empower Underserved and Marginalized Communities.
CE youth ministry workshop on Zoom, Feb. 24
Longtime youth ministry leader Christian Endeavor (CE) will host its Intentional NextGen Discipleship Workshop on Zoom on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and it invites Eastern PA Conference youth leaders and ministers to attend. The 90-minute session begins at 12 PM. Dave Coryell, an ordained Deacon, is executive director of the Gilbertsville, PA-based organization. CE says:

This workshop specifically equips people to make discipleship more than programs and events. You will capture a vision for inspiring the next generation to live for Christ daily and gain an intentional system to make this happen. You will be taught how to apply this process in your local setting while intentionally caring for the spiritual vitality of yourself and other adults on your ministry team. Learn more...
Online Tools for Ministry coming March 13
The Eastern PA Conference’s 2021 Tools for MinistryMarch 13from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, will make history by being totally online for the first time, rather than being held in onsite district locations. Offering virtual classrooms on Zoom for this annual, half-day academy of learning for church leaders is yet another way the Conference is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and overcoming required social-distancing restrictions against large gatherings. 

Ironically, that adaptation is bearing fruit in allowing the Conference to offer a cornucopia of 35 diverse, online courses taught by expert faculty, all for a nominal registration fee of only $5. And even more fruit may result from a record-breaking turnout, due to the convenience, affordability and growing acceptance of online, home-based adult learning.

Bishop Peggy Johnson will begin the morning plenary with devotions. An offering, using text-to-give on smartphones, or mailed or electronic funds transfer options, will be received to support the antiracism and justice work of POWER, an interfaith community organization to which some Eastern PA Conference churches belong.

The 35 workshops cover a wide array of interesting and helpful subjects. One is in Spanish and another will be offered bilingually in English and Spanish. The workshops will be offered in two 90-minute sessions—beginning at 9:00 and 10:45 AM, with a break in-between. Visit the online information page and register today. Also, download the flyer and the full brochure with workshop descriptions. Learn more…
AROUND THE UM CONNECTION
Churches inject energy into vaccine access
Each weekday since the year started, older adults have poured into a UM church in southern Indiana. They don’t have to wear their Sunday best, but they all have to roll up a sleeve.  

Community UMC in Vincennes, Indiana, is working with its county health department to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. The church has moved its food pantry and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings so its recreational center can serve as a daily clinic. Across the United States, UM ministries helping to immunize people against the disease that so far has claimed more than 446,000 American lives. Learn more....
COVID-19 deaths complicate pastors' calling
HARARE, Zimbabwe (UM News) — With COVID-19 deaths on the rise in Zimbabwe, pastors are trying to balance conducting funerals with the ever-present danger of contracting the virus. "This new wave of the pandemic has brought fear and discomfort to the life and ministry of pastors," said the Rev. Oscar Mukahanana, Harare East District superintendent. Eveline Chikwanah has the story. Read story
Leadership change at Duke Divinity
DURHAM, N.C. — The Rev. L. Gregory Jones will step down as dean of United Methodist Duke Divinity School at the end of the academic year. Jones has been named president of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Rev. Edgardo Colón-Emeric will begin a two-year term as Duke Divinity dean on July 1. Read Duke press release
Call for solidarity with Mozambique
The UMC in Mozambique and the top executive of UMC’s Global Ministries agency are calling for prayers and other signs of solidarity. Thousands of citizens there have been displaced, said Roland Fernandes, who also heads the United Methodist Committee on Relief, in a statement.  Read statementDonate to UMCOR International Disaster Response and Recovery
Discipleship's top executive battles cancer
(UM News) — The Rev. Junius B. Dotson, the top executive of Discipleship Ministries, told his staff and board on Jan. 28 that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He also said he would continue to work as he fights the disease. Read story
RESOURCES
Grant Opportunity for Historic Houses of Worship
Join us for a one-hour introductory webinar next Wednesday, February 10th at 2 pm, to learn about the National Fund for Sacred Places and whether your church would be a good fit for the grant program.

The National Fund for Sacred Places is a matching grant program that offers financial support and technical assistance to active faith communities who are working to preserve their historic houses of worship. Matching grants for capital improvement projects range from $50,000 to $250,000. Register for the Webinar. To learn more about how historic houses of worship in your community can participate in the National Fund, visit, www.fundforsacredplaces.org
Repentance
Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and Lent offer a time for repentance. During Black History Month, our church continues to repent from its complicity with the sin of systemic racism. Learn more…
PBS’ The Black Church series begins Feb. 16
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song on PBS this month will explore the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, the changing nature of worship spaces, and the men and women who shepherded them from the pulpit, the choir loft, and church pews.

This intimate, four-hour series premieres February 16. Executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and other luminaries together trace the journey of the black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and endurance, grace and resilience, thriving and testifying, freedom and independence, solidarity and speaking truth to power. Watch the extended trailer and learn about extras

Also PBS’s American Experience series features Philadelphia icon Marian Anderson in “Voice of Freedom,” Feb. 15. Hailed as a voice that “comes around once in a hundred years” by maestros in Europe and widely celebrated by both white and black audiences at home, Anderson's fame did not spare her from the indignities and outright violence of racism and segregation. Watch the trailer.
When did the church start celebrating Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17 this year) begins the season of Lent, a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. Although Ash Wednesday has ancient roots, it does not appear in the rituals of The United Methodist Church or its predecessor denominations until the 20th century. Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications, has more on Ash Wednesday. Read story 
New Lenten study offers hope
"Reclaiming and Living Covenant," a new adult Lenten study published by the Baltimore-Washington Conference, is a deep dive into biblical covenant and hope that can lead to reconnecting relationships. That's according to its two authors, who say the study is designed to help people on their spiritual journey toward Easter. Read story
Churches Uniting in Christ offers ecumenical Lenten resources
The Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ announces the release of new, ecumenical resources for local congregations to use for this year’s Lenten and Eastertide services. Resources to help congregations understand and observe these special Christian occasions can be found on the Churches Uniting in Christ website resource page. There you will find an introduction video by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and Bible studies and sermons by leading theologians. Learn more...   
REMINDERS
Annual Conference resolutions due by March 5
It has been a long tradition of the Eastern PA Annual Conference to have spirited debate during sessions using resolutions. We will meet May 20-22 using Zoom, a platform in which debate can be challenging. Bishop Peggy Johnson urges Conference members to keep resolutions to a minimum or to not submit any at all and wait until we are in person again.

Conference committees are encouraged to simply send in written reports about what is important for people to know and to do. A short video could also be submitted and viewed if time allows. In this way we are sharing information and urging action but not engaging in tedious Parliamentary procedures in Zoom’s chat function.

This year’s session will include resolutions with legislative debate and amendments allowed. But the plan is to reduce the amount of session time given to debate and amendments by urging all members to read resolutions once they are published and respond promptly with any questions and suggested revisions to resolution authors.

All resolutions are due to the Conference Secretary, the Rev. Jacqueline Hines, by March 5. Any revisions the authors make to their initial resolutions, in response to questions and suggestions, will be due to the Conference Secretary by April 2. Perfected resolutions will be published by April 13. The Conference Commission on Sessions made these and other decisions to ensure efficiency and fairness at its Jan. 12 meeting. Please read the statement and instructions for submitting Resolutions to AC2021 on our website and follow the instructions carefully. And please observe the two deadlines: March 5 for initial submissions and April 2 for revised submissions. Learn more...
‘Come to the Water’ 
Baptism photos, videos sought for Annual Conference
With the theme “Come to the Water,” the Eastern PA Conference’s Connectional Ministries will celebrate the ministry of baptism and confirmation in our Annual Conference in 2021. We would love to share photos, videos and stories of church baptisms and confirmations, if permitted by the families involved, as part of our celebration at Annual Conference and throughout the year.  

If you have or can obtain photos or videos of baptisms or confirmations performed by your church, please share them with us. Send them to our NEWSpirit Communications office at communications@epaumc.org. Photos of confirmation classes on Zoom are welcome, too.  

A selection of submitted baptism and confirmation photos and video scenes received by April 5 may be used in our Connectional Ministries video report to Annual Conference on May 21. Others may be used throughout 2021 in ongoing promotion of our theme “Come to the Water.” Learn more…
Virtual Urban Summit 2021, April 24 & May 1  
The Eastern PA Conference Urban Commission will sponsor its next Virtual Urban Summit with “Kick-off Events” on two Saturdays, April 24 and May 1, 10 AM to 12:15 PM on Zoom. With the theme “God Has Not Left Our Cities,” the two-day event will include a Virtual Urban Youth Summit and precede a series of three mini-Urban Summits being planned for later in the year. 

The main summit will feature “dynamic presenters who will share their abundant wisdom, energy and experiences to help stir up our gifts and passion for radical, innovative urban ministry,” say event planners. The Youth Summit will “tackle hard facts with faith and strategies in a town hall summit addressing issues of violence, trauma, substance abuse, and other concerns. They will create new ways to become peer advocates and birth innovative youth ministries.” A healing service will involve adults and youth serving in healing ministries in urban communities. 

Presenters confirmed include the Revs. Rudy Rasmus, Joseph Daniels, Myra Maxwell and Rashawn Clark. Breakout groups will explore an array of urban concerns and ministry opportunities.

The Summit is being planned for pastors, laity, deacons, youth, district superintendents, missioners, and other persons interested in Urban Ministry and being in ministry with the poor. A series of mini-Urban Summits on Zoom will follow in July, September and November 2021. A flyer and registration page will be published online next week.
This Holy Mystery: UM Study of Holy Communion   
The Eastern PA Conference Board of Ordained Ministry offers a new study of Holy Communion led by the Revs. Candy LaBar and Gary Knerr, in two sessions on Zoom: Saturday, April 24, 9:00-11:30 AM and Saturday, May 8, 9:00-11:30 AM
 
This Holy Mystery: A UM Study of Holy Communion, via Zoom, is designed to help all church leaders -- and in particular, licensed local pastors and lay-supply pastors -- to wrestle with this theological foundation of Holy Communion. 
 
To participate, individuals should read Gayle Carlton Felton's book This Holy Mystery (available at cokesbury.com), including Wesley's sermon, “On the Duty of Constant Communion” (in the workbook). The registration deadline is Tuesday April 6. 0.5 CEUs will be offered to those who complete this course. You must participate in BOTH classes as they will not be recorded. Register today. Learn more…
Marking Ash Wednesday safely  
With COVID-19 still a threat, worship leaders are urging increased caution in observing Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17. An ecumenical team convened by three United Methodists, two of them from Candler School of Theology, produced a six-page guide to reduce health risks as Christians mark the start of Lent. The guide draws on a range of experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Read guide
Free GCORR small-group resource for Lent
The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) has a free Lenten resource to help small groups grow closer to God. Roll Down, Justice!, a Lenten Biblical reflection written by Faye Wilson, features music and reflections by Mark Miller and poses the following questions to believers: 
  • What are you prepared to give in order to have a closer walk with God?
  • What can you give in order to embrace anew the work of justice?

Miller has written a collection of songs, lyrics, and music, which remind us of the work we each have to do to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” Roll Down, Justice! is based on six songs in a book/CD set. The songs are offered as six videos, each with a study guide. Learn more…
Creating change when stuck in sameness
In the latest episode of the "Compass Podcast," Tony Caldwell, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, discusses resilience and how to identify ways we can move forward in hope when so many of our circumstances feel stuck in sameness. Listen to podcast
Using hashtags effectively for engagement
Hashtags, those words or phrases with a tic-tac-toe symbol at the front, are where social engagement happens. The goal is to capture the theme or idea behind an event or topic in one or two words. The Rev. Jeremy Steele, associate pastor at Los Altos United Methodist Church, offers some best practices. Read tips
Saving Grace offers guide on personal finances
Wespath Benefits and Investments and the United Methodist Publishing House have released "Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being," a new personal money-management curriculum guided by Wesleyan values that seeks to promote financial wellness with clergy and laity. Resources are available through the Publishing House's online platform, AmplifyMedia.com. They also can be purchased on Cokesbury.com and Amazon.com. Read press release To see videos To order Saving Grace curriculum
UMCom scholarship, fellowship, apply by March 15
Persons interested in pursuing a career in religious communications can receive higher education support from United Methodist Communications. March 15 is the application deadline for a UMCom scholarship and fellowship. 

“We believe it is vital to have professional communicators who reflect the diversity of the global United Methodist Church,” shares Gary Henderson, UMCom’s Chief Relationship Officer. “Our fellowship and scholarship...provide critical training and experience for people interested in serving the church in this way.” The agency’s annual financial assistance options include:
  • The $6,000 Stoody-West Fellowship assists one United Methodist student in their post-graduate study at an accredited U.S. college or university who intends on pursuing a career in religious journalism. 
  • The $2,500 Leonard M. Perryman Communications Scholarship for Racial Ethnic Minority Students is awarded to an ethnic minority UM undergraduate pursuing religion journalism or mass communications at an accredited U.S. college or university. 

Details and application information are available at www.ResourceUMC.org in the Communications section.  
Eastern PA Annual Conference set for May 20-22
The 236th session of the Eastern PA Annual Conference, May 20-22, will take place mostly online for a second consecutive year, after making history with that first-time format in 2020. The conference business session will again be held via a Zoom webinar, with pre-recorded reports and eBallot voting on Friday, May 21. Non-members will again be able to view the session livestreamed on the Conference’s Facebook page.

This year’s session will include resolutions with legislative debate and amendments allowed. But the plan is for recommended amendments and revisions to occur mostly online once resolutions are made public and before the conference meets. The deadline to receive resolutions is March 5. Recommended revisions and amendments will be accepted until April 2. Learn more...
The federal government’s new PPP2 loans are available first to applicants, including churches, who did not receive a PPP1 loan last year. But eligibility for the aid will expand soon for churches that have already received PPP1 grants and can demonstrate a 25 percent decline in their “gross receipts” in at least one 2020 quarter, compared to the same quarter in 2019. Learn more...
2020 Statistical Reports due April 30
The Conference Treasurer’s Office e-mailed its Statistical Reports letter to churches this week, Completed reports are due by April 30, using the EZRA Data Management System of the UMC’s General Board of Finance and Administration at http://ezra.gcfa.org. Each church’s online username is its six-digit GCFA ID Number, which can be found on its monthly remittance statement or its 2019 Statistical Report. 
 
There is one username per church; but more than one person can enter data by using the same password. For a password, type in “stat2020” (without quotation marks), using all lowercase and no spaces. Churches should contact their District Office if they need assistance . Learn More
Online prayer scheduled for Christian unity
GENEVA — The World Council of Churches invites the global ecumenical family and friends to join a livestreamed public prayer service at 8 a.m. U.S. Eastern time Jan. 25, the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's theme, from the Gospel of John: "Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit." Read invitation
Dismantling Racism II to explore Latinx experience with racism
The Conference’s next Dismantling Racism—Level 2 training event will explore “The Hispanic/Latino (Latinx) Experience—Racism: the Struggle is Real!” All are invited to participate in what should be a fascinating, three-hour webinar on Zoom, on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 9 AM to noon. Register online now!
 
Sponsored by the Conference’s Healing the Wounds of Racism Core Team, this timely seminar will feature several experts who will offer diverse cultural, social, historical and personal perspectives on the racial experiences of Latinx people and the intersection with their faith and religion. The last Dismantling Racism—Level 2 webinar, held last September, focused on the Asian American experience with racism.
 
The Rev. Irving Cotto, a pastor and co-chairman of the Conference’s Latino Commission, and the Rev. Alicia Julia-Stanley, a pastor who co-chairs the Conference Commission on Religion and Race, will co-host the webinar. Register online now!
 
Invited speakers are:
New Bible studies for a new year
The beginning of a new year is a popular time to dive into a new Bible study, as is Lent, which is coming soon. During the pandemic when we may not be meeting in person, many UM churches are offering online group studies. Others are going the independent study route, finding a book and moving through it at their own pace.

Whether you’re with a small group or going it alone, consider these recommendations that UMCom writer Crystal Caviness compiled based on recommendations by staff at The United Methodist Publishing House. You may reach her by email or at 615-742-5138. Learn more...
New Houses of Worship Security Self-Assessment Tool
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides this Houses of Worship Security Self-Assessment Tool. Prepared by the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), it is a security planning resource useful for church facilities. This tool along with other faith-based resources are located on the Faith Based Organization-Houses of Worship (FBO-HOW) resource page,  Learn more…
Conversations about Racism and The UMC
Watch the recording of this important conversation about racism in our churches and religious institutions with the editor (the Rev. Rudy Rasmus) and writers of the new Abingdon Press book I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist. In the book, 10 Black women and men explore their lives through the lenses of their compelling, personal accounts. They are leaders whose lives are tangible demonstrations of the power of a divine purpose and evidence of what grace really means in face of hardship, disappointment, and determination. The moderator is GCORR’s M. Garlinda Burton.  WATCH NOW. Buy and learn more about I'm Black. I'm Christian. I'm Methodist.
Living with faith and doubt
Does being faithful mean being doubtless? The Rev. Brian McLaren talks on the Compass Podcast about his new book "Faith After Doubt." The podcast is a ministry of United Methodist Communications aimed at reaching spiritual seekers. Listen to podcast
Easter outreach resources available for churches
Many people in your community will be searching for a place to find renewal and hope this Easter. United Methodist Communications sells a wide variety of customizable outreach resources to invite people to church, including postcards, banners and digital tools. Use code “UMCEA21” to receive $150 off an order.  To order
Vanco now offers software for child care
Vanco, a digital-giving platform for churches, has acquired Smartcare, a provider of software specifically for child care centers. Vanco is part of the General Council on Finance and Administration's ministry partner program for churches. Read press release
Conference prayer ministry inspires weekly communal sharing
The Eastern PA Conference’s weekly prayer meetings on Zoom continue on Tuesdays at noon, with participants sharing the honors of leading the half-hour sessions. The Rev. David Piltz, Coordinator of Youth & Young Adults Ministries, started the ministry last April as the COVID-19 pandemic became more daunting, taking a growing toll on many lives through infections, deaths and social distancing.

Each week's sharing of personal joys and concerns, followed by intercessory prayers, seems to offer a communal balm of spiritual healing and hopefulness for some participants. The online gatherings have drawn as many as several dozen attendees.  Learn more...
Young adults, college students invited to new Fireside Chat & Prayer
The Open Door Christian Community, our UM campus ministry at Drexel University in Philadelphia, will partner with the Eastern PA Conference’s Young Adults Ministry to offer a new, weekly Fireside Chat & Prayer ministry on Tuesdays, 7 to 8 PM, via Zoom. The pilot program will begin Jan. 26 and last till March 2.

This will be “one of the first times a conference-wide young adult ministry event is co-sponsored with a campus ministry in a very long time,” said the Rev. David Piltz, who directs the campus ministry and coordinates the Conference’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “Our Drexel Campus Ministry is excited. And since our Conference Young Adults ministry is reforming now, this new initiative will help with that effort.”

Two influential speakers who have spoken to the Conference’s Council on Youth Ministry before will conduct the Fireside Chat & Prayer sessions. They will discuss “Healthy Relationships,” especially in the throes of a pandemic, and “Creating Healing in Your Life.” No registration is required. Anyone at least age 18 and of any faith is invited regardless of faith background. Learn more...
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 on. Learn more...
Advance Special application deadline March 5
Now is the time for eligible ministries to submit applications for approval as Eastern PA Conference Advance Specials for 2021-2022. Approved applications must be submitted as a special resolution to the May 2021 Annual Conference for a vote. Please complete the application and return it electronically to Deaconess Barbara Drake at bedrake15@aol.com. The deadline is March 5. Download: 2021 Advance Special Application.  
 
See the roster of 2019-2020 Conference Advance Specials approved by the 2019 Annual Conference. There were no projects approved in 2020. Conference Advance Specials is a missional stewardship program of second-mile giving by generous churches, groups and individuals to support primarily local ministries. Churches that want to give to support Conference Advance Specials should first fulfill their primary connectional stewardship commitments to the conference and general church by remitting apportioned funds and direct bill payments.
Webinar series helps prepare for Lent
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Revs. Magrey deVega, Adam Hamilton and Susan Robb will lead a webinar series to help church leaders prepare Bible studies for Lent, which starts Feb. 17 this year. "A Season of Reflection: Lenten Studies to Prepare for Easter's Celebrations" will be at 2 p.m. U.S. Central time Jan. 12-14.  To learn more and register
Church and Society Ethnic Young Adult internship
Apply today for the summer Ethnic Young Adult Internship Program! Do you know a young person who wants to put their faith in action? Apply by March 1. Program runs from June 5-July 31. The Ethnic Young Adult Internship (EYA) program is for young justice seekers willing to unpack their faith and identity while working with an organization engaged in addressing social injustices. 

Interns are placed with advocacy, public policy, nonprofit and grassroots organizations where they work four days a week. They engage in weekly seminars designed to explore a wide variety of social issues, while also learning about the UMC’s history of pursuing social holiness. 
Plan to attend Transfiguration Day Apart Feb. 10 
Save the date for the Eastern PA Conference’s Transfiguration Day Apart scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, 9:30 to 11:30 AM, on Zoom. All clergy and Certified Lay Ministers (CLMs) serving congregations are invited to attend. The Rev. Deborah Appler, who teaches at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, will be the keynoter. Her topic: “The Transfiguration from an Old Testament Perspective." Download and share the flyer
Conference offers new booklet of scholarships, ministry funds
Announces new Narberth Legacy Ministry Action Grants
The Eastern PA Conference Connectional Ministries Office has published online a new booklet, titled Conference Funding for Ministry and Leadership Development, to inform churches and members about resources for funding ministry, church needs and educational scholarships. The booklet conveniently gathers in one place information already present on the conference website’s individual Funding For Ministry, Higher Education Scholarships & Grants and Conference Loan Fund pages. (All pages are updated regularly and are accessible from our Conference Finance webpage.)

But other funding sources also appear in the booklet, including the William “Bill” Drendall Endowment Fund of Mount Gretna UMC, available to all churches; BMCR/BUMP College Scholarships for active members of BMCR-member churches; and scholarships and ministry funding from general agencies of the UMC. 

One major funding source featured in the new booklet is the conference’s new Narberth Legacy Ministry Action Grants (2021-2023 Action Grants). The Narberth Legacy Ministry Action Fund is a Permanent Endowment Fund administered by the Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation on behalf of the Eastern PA Conference. It was established from the 2014 discontinuation of Narberth UMC, as a living memorial to past church members, to provide substantial support to new, innovative, justice-seeking ministries that impact the life of communities. 

Beginning July 1, 2021 one grant for up to $45,000, distributed over a three-year period, will be awarded annually to a church. Eligible ministries are those that seek to serve populations that may be multicultural, young or intergenerational, unchurched or de-churched, and challenged by racism, discrimination, poverty and other disadvantages. Such ministries should demonstrate viability and a commitment to foster productive cooperation with church and community partners and stakeholders. 

Funds will be granted only for endeavors that produce action and offer the potential for real change. Learn more on the conference website’s Funding for Ministry page or contact the Office of Connectional Ministries. Deadline: Jan. 31, 2021. Learn more...
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.
Let's stay connected. Send us your newsletters
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 UMC.org, 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 www.epaumc.org/news-events/newspirit-digest. 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 communications@epaumc.org. Thanks!
SAVE THE DATES
February
  • February 9: Both/And: Maximizing Hybrid Worship Experiences For Online and In-Person Audiences. 10 AM - 12 Noon. Webinar. Register.
  • February 10: Transfiguration Day Apart. 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM. Zoom Webinar. Download the flyer.
  • February 13: Connectional Table Meeting (on Zoom)
  • Feb. 16, 23 & March 2, 9, 16, 23: CDT Book Club Discussions on Caste, Tuesdays 11 AM to noon,
  • February 27: Dismantling Racism Level II. Further details TBA.

March
  • March 5: Deadline for AC2021 Resolutions
  • March 5-6: Advanced Sexual Ethics: Ministry with Sex Offenders. Friday from 6:30 - 8 PM, and Saturday from 9 AM to 12 Noon. Via Zoom. Register.
  • March 9: Bivocational & Small Church Network 2nd Meeting
  • March 13: Tools for Ministry. Download the flyer. Register.
  • March 18: State of the Black Church Meeting (with Pen-Del Conference)

April
  • April 16-18: Dismantling Racism, Level 1, Virtual. Register.
  • April 24 & May 1: Urban Summit. April 24th from 10 AM – 12 noon and May 1st from 10 AM - 12 Noon for Adults. May 1st from 12 Noon - 2 PM for the Urban Youth Summit.

May
  • May 1: "Relating with Clergy Spouses" workshop by Artos. From 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM on Zoom. Download the flyer. Register.
  • May 2: CONAM Spring Learning & Fellowship Event (Zoom)
  • May 15: Latino Holy Convocation and Assembly
  • May 15: Clergy Transition Workshop led by Dave Woolverton.9 AM - 11 AM via Zoom meeting. Download the flyer.  Register.
  • May 20 - 22: 2021 Annual Conference 

June
  • June 5: Cross Cultural Cross Racial Training for New CR/CC Appointments. 9 AM - 12:30 PM, via Zoom Meeting. Register.

August
  • August 6 - 8: Laity Academy

October
  • October 15 & 16: Domestic Violence Workshop. Friday October 15 from 7 PM – 9 PM & Saturday October 16th from 9 AM – 12 PM. Further details TBA.
  • Oct. 23:  Faith Sharing Evangelism Training w/ Olu Brown
  • Oct. 29 - Nov 1: Dismantling Racism, Level 1, Virtual. Register.

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403