July 9, 2020
NEWS & VIEWS New content added
Conference Disaster Response Team to provide hand sanitizer, masks to churches
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Ministry has been sharing information about government resources with Bishop Peggy Johnson and her Cabinet since the U.S. outbreak began in March. Now the ministry will provide churches with two essential resources to help fight the spread of virus infections: hand sanitizer and protective masks.
 
Coordinator Robert Simcox and his Disaster Response Team work collaboratively with Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), a national consortium of disaster response groups, and its Pennsylvania component, PA VOAD. He recently learned of a major donation of hand sanitizer gel in 50-gallon containers to be provided to nonprofit organizations. The donation was given to the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to distribute.
 
Dwain Hostetter, West District Disaster Response Co-Coordinator, ordered six barrels, for a total of 300 gallons of hand sanitizer. The team is working to make the barrels available at locations across the conference for churches to come fill their own containers.

“We’re asking churches to bring empty, reusable containers to fill with hand sanitizer that they can use to help ensure safety as they return to worship and other activities in their building,” said Simcox. The gel is 80% alcohol/isopropyl, produced to FDA standards.

The barrels will be located at the conference’s four Camp & Retreat Centers—Carson-Simpson Farm, Innabah, Gretna Glen and Pocono Plateau—which are not currently operating summer camps because of the pandemic. Other, convenient church locations are being considered. The barrels should be delivered and ready for sanitizer distribution next week. 
 
The Disaster Response Ministry is also awaiting delivery of 125,000 donated, washable, cloth face coverings from FEMA to distribute to churches and affiliated service agencies to help them ensure safety during worship and other activities. The adult-sized masks are 100% cotton, and contain silver and copper to help prevent the growth of viruses and germs, said Simcox. They are to be used only by church greeters and others who serve and interface with the public. They are not to be sold or given away. Churches wanting masks can request them using a new online form on the conference website . More information will be sent out once they are delivered. Learn more...

NOTE: Look for updates on this story-including the availability of hand sanitizer and protective masks—next week. 
More disaster response aid sought for Gilberton
The North District has reached its initial goal by collecting $5,000 in matching funds to help residents of Gilberton recover from a recent catastrophic flood. 

“The funds, received directly through the North District, along with the maximum of another $5,000 in matching funds from the district, will go to the Gilberton UMC for its discretion in meeting the needs of its neighbors,” said the Rev. Steve Morton, North District Superintendent.  

In addition, Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Bob Simcox recently received a requested $10,000 Solidarity Grant from UMCOR (UM Committee on Relief) to be used for “unmet needs”—that is, critical, immediate, human needs not met by the survivors themselves or by other emergency funding sources. The funds will be used to address unmet needs identified by the Schuylkill County Long-Term Recovery Committee. Simcox and Gilberton UMC leaders serve on that committee.

Meanwhile, Bishop Peggy Johnson will return to Gilberton UMC, where Robert Schepple is the pastor, on Sunday, July 19, for 9 AM worship. She will come bearing a gift: the total $10,000 check to Gilberton UMC from the North District.  She will also visit First UMC Mahanoy City for 10:15 AM worship. “It is basically a check up on how they are doing,” she said.

Bishop Johnson is asking churches and conference members to support local disaster recovery efforts through the North District appeal fund or through conference’s Disaster Response Fund, Advance Project #0345 . Gifts sent to this fund should indicate Gilberton Flood Response. Learn more...

NOTE: The Conference is also raising COVID-19 Disaster Response funds to help churches address needs and overcome challenges caused by the Coronarvirus pandemic. All gifts to the conference should be sent to The Treasurer’s Office, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, UMC, P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482. 

Licensing School Dean sought
The Board of Ordained Ministry is searching for a Dean of the Eastern PA Conference Licensing School. This position relates to the Board of Ordained Ministry and is a part-time, stipend position. If you are interested in this position, please send a letter of interest and a resume by July 25 to   UMJobs@epaumc.org . Read more. Click here to download the full job description.
Bishop to attend District Conferences online in September
Because of ongoing large-gathering restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern PA Conference’s four District Conferences will meet not in person but online as video conferences, in mid-September. They will convene about a month before the rescheduled Annual Conference session, which will also be held on Zoom, with a reduced agenda, October 13-14. All conferences will use a Zoom webinar format, with voting and comments made by participants online. (Look for a new article on our website next week about changes in the 2020 Annual Conference session.)  

The District Conferences will occur on separate days--not simultaneously as usual--allowing Bishop Peggy Johnson to visit each virtual gathering. She will explain necessary adjustments planned for Annual Conference and also discuss the denomination’s new Dismantling Racism initiative and the importance of Discipleship. The District Conference schedule is:  

South District: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 PM
East District: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 PM
West District: Thursday Sept. 17, 6:30 PM
North District: Monday, Sept. 21, 6:30 PM

Each District Conference must vote for any needed replacement equalizing members for the 2020 Annual Conference. (Equalizing members for the next quadrennium will be voted on at next spring’s Annual Conference.) Districts will also vote on nominees for annual conference leadership, celebrate leadership transitions and thank churches that have paid 100% apportionments. 
Connectional Ministries Good News
Check out these two short Connectional Ministries Good News video reports by the Rev. Lucky Cotto and the Rev. Will Brawner about Latino Ministries and Urban Ministries, respectively. Each shares good news about serving Christ by serving communities through these two vital work areas in our conference. 


Stroudsburg UMC gets first female pastor
The Rev. Monica Guepet, former pastor of West Grove UMC, became Stroudsburg UMC’s first female pastor in the church’s over 230 years of ministry. “I give thanks for all of those who have gone before me in ministry here,” she said. “I give thanks for the good people of Stroudsburg whom I have already met and those I am soon to meet as we walk together in ministry.” Watch the local news story.
Bishop's Blog: Celebrating 30 Years of the ADA
I was serving as a pastor for an all-Deaf congregation when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law was signed July 26, 1990.

For my congregation it meant there would be a free relay service for telecommunications. What an incredible thing! A Deaf person could now call a relay operator using their TTY. This was part of the Americans with Disabilities Act: “Telecommunications.” It meant that Deaf people could then make confidential calls to whomever they wanted without having to go through a hearing volunteer (like me) or a hearing family member.

The other benefits I could see from the ADA included more access to paid sign language interpreters in many places, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, and state and local museums. Many Deaf people began to have sign language interpreters at their places of work for the first time.

Through the years, progress continues to be made. More buildings are accessible, employers are making needed accommodations in the workplace, and people with all kinds of disabilities are able to live more independently and contribute to society. Employment is still one of the most difficult areas with the national average of full-time employment for people with disabilities at 36%. 

The United Methodist Church affirms the sacred worth of people with disabilities, and in our Social Principles we state that our churches should be accessible and welcoming. We encourage our churches to do Accessibility Audits each year, as well as observe a Disability Awareness Sunday in January. Learn more. Also, use the Litany to Celebrate the Americans With Disabilities Act.” 

Bishop Johnson, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities (or people who are differently abled) will be featured at An Interfaith Reflection on the ADA: 30 Years Later , sponsored online by the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Collaborative (IDAC), o n Wednesday, July 22nd, 12pm – 1pm EST . She will participate in a panel discussion with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders. The General Board of Church and Society, on which she serves, is a member of the IDAC. To register and receive participant instructions, use this form: https://bit.ly/ADA30years .
‘Love one another’…enough to wear a mask
When it comes to caring for the safety of others during the COVID-19 pandemic, we wear masks not to hide but to reveal our love for one another. That’s the message the Rev. Candy LaBar, pastor of Wesley UMC Bethlehem, artistically conveys to her members and others through the use of a themed photo collage.
 
Citing scriptures in Philippians and John’s Gospel, she appeals to all to show loving consideration for others by wearing masks or face coverings that can protect others from infection. “Love one another enough to wear a mask,” she wrote to members. “What you are doing is just what Jesus told you to do.” 
 
LaBar recruited church members to participate in this second online photo collage. The first one, which LaBar made in May, offered thanks to health care and service personnel working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more...
AROUND THE UM CONNECTION
Active Bishops named to key council posts
Bishop Marcus Matthews, who formerly served the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, is preparing to retire from his four-year post as Executive Secretary of the UMC’s Council of Bishops, based in Washington DC. Bishop Bruce Ough will succeed him as Executive Secretary Sept. 1. Bishop Sally Dyck will become the council’s new Ecumenical Officer on that date as well, succeeding Bishop B. Michael Watson . Both were elected at the Council’s November 2019 meeting. 

The Executive Secretary serves as the operations officer of the Council and works closely with the President and Secretary to monitor the Council’s work. The Ecumenical Officer is responsible for relationships with other denominations and/or ecclesial bodies. Both serve four-year terms.

In an unprecedented, approved arrangement, Bishop Ough, who serves the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, and Bishop Dyck, leader of the Chicago Area (Northern Illinois Conference) will continue to serve in their residential areas until January 1, 2021. Then active and retired bishops will assume leadership of their areas until new bishops are elected and assigned. Read press release .  Also read: Delay in elections upends bishops' plans.
Civil rights movement veteran the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell made his way to the podium with the help of a walker at a Black Lives Matter rally in Willingboro, NJ. He was moved that the crowd at this protest in suburbia included all races.
 
More than 1,000 marched through the streets of the town of about 30,000 to protest the violent death of George Floyd in police custody. The protest in Willingboro was one of many around the U.S. taking place away from large cities like Philadelphia and involving United Methodists.
 
Caldwell, 86, a retired United Methodist pastor, and a former district superintendent in the Eastern PA Conference, is a revered veteran of the civil rights movement--in both the church and society. He has survived two operations for a brain tumor and has paralysis in his right leg and foot. He came anyway, and was introduced by Greater New Jersey Conference Bishop John Schol. Learn more...
LEARNING EVENTS
Bishop Alfred Johnson, Gil Rendle:
3 conversations on race 
Ardmore UMC will host on the next three Wednesdays of July a special, three-part conversation on race between two noted, retired “clergy sons” of the Eastern PA Conference. The really special part may be that the Rev. Gil Rendle, an Ardmore UMC member, and Bishop Alfred Johnson have been friends for over 40 years. 
They both attended Boston University School of Theology, served churches in Philadelphia and were ordained in the conference in the 1970s. Johnson ( left) has served black and white congregations in Eastern PA and served as a district superintendent and director of Metro Ministries. He now teaches Urban Leadership at the New York Theological Seminary and directs the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion there.
As a top leader and consultant in the Alban Institute and the Texas Methodist Foundation, Dr. Rendle ( left) has helped several denominations as a consultant, teacher and author focusing on issues of conflict, leadership and systemic change. He has published ten books. During the recent "black lives matter" protests, Rendle proposed to Johnson, former bishop of the Greater New Jersey Conference, that they have publicly “an honest conversation about race, the local church, the community and the wider church."
“An Open Conversation: Race Relations as a Part of Our Life Story” will happen as a Zoom video webinar on the next three Wednesdays, July 15, 22 and 29, at 7 PM each evening for an hour to 90 minutes. The Zoom access link is available on the church’s website at www.ardmorechurch.com .

The conversations offered here are similar to conversations they have shared over the years.

  • July 15: Conversation #1- Honesty: telling the truth about ourselves, & telling the truth to one another.
  • July 22: Conversation #2- Uncovering our fears – and the blessings within them.
  • July 29: Conversation #3- Reparations: repairing what was and moving forward.

The Rev. Timothy Thomson-Hohl is Ardmore UMC’s pastor and can be reached at thomhaht@icloud.com or 610-306-3709.
REMINDERS
Unsnarling U.S. and church racial histor y:
View recording of historic UMC dialogue
The United Methodist Church sponsored a denominational town hall discussion about its racial past today, July 1.

Following a 3-minute historical video, UMC historians and leaders led a livestreamed denominational town hall to explore their church’s complicated and sometimes suppressed record on race. Their aim: To help United Methodists turn away from past transgressions and join the denomination’s renewed push against the sin of racism.

“A historical perspective gives us a glimpse into how the church chose to respond at critical inflection points in our history,” Erin Hawkins, the town hall’s moderator, told UM News ahead of the gathering. “I think it’s important to look at the times when we have risen to the challenge and when we have fallen very short.”

The recorded video and discussion is now available for viewing. Learn more and Watch now (Video begins at 9:53)
Worried about church finances? Join the club.
A GBHEM Virtual Book Club Event: Church Finances: How to stay afloat and thrive—even in 2020! Thursday, July 9, at 12 noon. 

GBHEM will host its first virtual book club with Bonnie Marden, author of Church Finances for Missional Leaders: Best Practices for Faithful Stewardship . Viewers are encouraged to order Marden’s book prior to the discussion and to ask questions during the event about how to manage church finances in this uniquely challenging time.  

The is a FREE event and it will be streamed live on GBHEM’s Facebook page and YouTube channel . Viewers will be able to pose their questions through the comments section of either platform. There is no need to preregister. Marden will address important issues like:

  • The positive impact of talking about money—even during a pandemic.
  • Setting up and promoting online giving.
  • Surprising areas for funding opportunities.
  • Handling budget shortfalls and changes in staffing.

Marden is a leadership consultant and financial stewardship practitioner. She offers stewardship education through multiple United Methodist Foundations, and also served as the Imagine No Malaria Campaign Coordinator for the UMC's New England Conference .  Church Finances for Missional Leaders is available for purchase through Cokesbury and Amazon
Congolese pastors need clergy shirts, blouses 
Bishop Peggy Johnson asks for donations of "gently used clergy shirts and blouses" for our clergy sisters and brothers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Please send them to the Conference Office in care of the Bishop's Office: P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820. Phone: 610-666-1442. Thanks!
Helping youth leaders teach racial reconciliation
Adult youth leaders can learn effective strategies for teaching racial reconciliation to youth in a new Zoom video-conferencing workshop on July 25, from 10 AM to 1 PM . Participants will examine their own biases and learn how to navigate difficult, often awkward conversations with youth, while being sensitive to perspectives of youth and their parents. 
 
The Rev. David Piltz, Eastern PA Conference Coordinator of Young People’s Ministries, will lead this experiential training, along with facilitators who will present biblical foundations and principles of racial reconciliation and how to implement it in church youth and young adult groups. Read more...
Intercultural Competency Workshop, Aug. 15
Saturday, August 15, 9:00 AM- 12:30 PM

This training on Zoom is designed for clergy and congregations serving in a cross-racial/cross-cultural ministry context or wanting to engage the racially and ethnically diverse community around them more effectively. By increasing the level of intercultural competency, deepening the understanding of relationship dynamics, and being equipped with practical communication tools, clergy and congregations will become more intentional and effective in their ministry.

The Zoom invitation for the day will be sent several days prior to the date of the workshop. Registration closes August 10. Register online now!   Download the flyer!   
Free Vanco app aims to connect with worshippers
Vanco, a UMC General Council on Finance and Administration partner, has introduced a free app to help church leaders and churches stay connected in this time of separation and transition. Through Vanco Mobile , members can connect, donate, plan and share in new ways. A leading provider of technology and payment solutions to churches, Vanco has experienced rapid growth this year as more faith-based organizations seek online giving solutions. Read press release
New PA program offers rental, mortgage aid 
Persons who have experienced a job or substantial income loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can now get assistance with their rent or mortgage through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The agency opened applications for a new rental and mortgage assistance program on Monday, June 29. This new program is funded through the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund allocated by the Governor and the Legislature and totals $175 million.
 
Re-opening Best Practices for Churches Updated 6/24/2020
Our Conference Guidelines are updated for churches to use as they plan their reopenings. Learn more... 
Bishop's Annual Conference 2020 Update
I am writing to let the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference know that I have prayerfully decided that the bulk of our Annual Conference session this fall will be virtual and not in-person (face to face). The continual rise in COVID 19 cases, the threat of a second wave in the fall, the age of most of our constituents, and the budgetary challenges we are facing has led me to this decision. 

We plan to keep the same dates that have been previously announced, but with a few changes. We will not be gathering at the Oaks Expo Center.
The schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 13, 9:00 am – 11:00 am: Clergy Session (virtual/live streaming). There will be no laity session.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Annual Conference (virtual/live streaming). 
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10:00 am: Memorial Service (at a local church yet to be confirmed). This will be in person but by ticket only with limited seating and live streaming available.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2:00 pm: Ordination Service (at a local church yet to be confirmed). This will also be in person but by ticket only with limited seating and live streaming available.

Many annual conferences across the country have opted for virtual sessions with great success so we are learning from their experiences. Ensuring electronic accessibility for our voting delegates is a priority for us. We are committed to providing accessibility for individuals with disabilities and those who speak Spanish. We will also continue to receive our special Annual Conference offerings online and/or by mail. Learn more...
 
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, Philadelphia Episcopal Area
Conference offers churches online giving page

The conference has created a giving page on its website to allow congregations to easily receive online gifts from church members, visitors and donors, who can select from a menu of participating churches. The online giving portal is now operational.  It is available to all churches, but it should be especially helpful to churches that do not currently offer online giving but want to. The service is provided through the conference’s relationship with Vanco Payment Services.   

Simple electronic funds transfer process
To participate in the program, a local church must simply complete the electronic funds transfer form and return it to the conference accounting office. The conference Treasurer’s office will process and deposit gifts into the church’s designated bank account weekly. A contribution report will then be sent to the church. Learn more...
REMINDER: PA tax exemption extended until September 30
Due to delays in processing of sales tax exemptions as a result of COVID-19, the PA state revenue department  is extending the Eastern PA Conference’s tax-exempt status and that of its subsidiary churches until September 30, 2020. The extension is intended to assist conferences and subsidiary churches in continuing daily operations without interruption of exempt status.
Clergy, pastors, deacons asked to submit photos for directory
The Eastern PA Conference is creating a Clergy Photo Directory to be used by the new appointive Cabinet and to help future transitions in Annual Conference leadership. For convenience, the Cabinet created an online EPAUMC Clergy Photo Portal to allow for easy photo submissions. 
 
Each appointed or assigned pastor (clergy or lay) and deacon is asked to submit one photo. You will be asked for your email address to access the portal. Once you access the portal, you will be asked for your name and a photo to upload.. The portal will only accept image files (.jpg, .png, etc.). The Clergy Photo Portal will guide you through completing these steps. Questions? Contact the Rev. Kevin Babcock, ( above), Coordinator of Church Support Services, at kbabcock@epaumc.org .
Evangelism in a Changing Landscape, Nov. 14
Plan now to attend the Eastern PA Conference’s 2020 Faith-Sharing Event, “Evangelism in a Changing Landscape,” November 14, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, at Wesley UMC in Bethlehem, PA. Cost: $10. $50 for groups of 6 or more! Teams are encouraged to attend. 0.6 CEUs are available. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Our featured speaker: The Rev. Lisa Greenwood, Vice-President for Leadership Ministry of TMF (the Texas Methodist Foundation), Dallas, Texas. 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.

Lisa Greenwood works with church leaders across the UMC connection to help them understand and foster “deep change” by facilitating purposeful conversations of courage, learning, generosity and innovation. She brings wisdom and experience from serving suburban, urban and rural churches as a pastor in the North Texas Annual Conference for 20 years. She also has served on the Board of Ordained Ministry, four General Conference delegations (2004-2019), and as ministry strategist for the Horizons Stewardship Company. Download the flyer!    Register online!
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
  • July 25: Connectional Table Meeting, Zoom online meeting.
  • August 21 - 22: "Camping at the Crossroads" Summer Youth Rally
  • September 26: Basic Sexual Ethics Workshop
  • October 3: Connectional Ministries Leadership Training Event. Cedarville UMC.
  • October 4: District Conferences (rescheduled)
  • October 9-10: Domestic Violence Seminar, on Zoom
  • October 13 - 14: Annual Conference (rescheduled)
  • October 17: ERT/VIM Training, 8 AM – 4 PM, Eastwick UMC
  • October 17: UMW Annual Celebration. Download the flyer!
  • October 17: "Racism, Post-Traumatic Stress, & Transformation"
  • October 23-25: Dismantling Racism Training, Friday 5 PM – Sunday 3 PM, Desmond Hotel
  • November 14: Annual Faith-Sharing Event--Evangelism in a Changing Landscape
  • December 13: Annual "Celebrating our Cultures" Event, Zoom online event

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
(800) 828-9093 |  communications@epaumc.org  |  www.epaumc.org
980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403