March 29, 2017
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Bishop  Peggy  Johnson   announces  new appointments, effective July 1:

Central District
  • Rev. Mark Salvacion (Local Pastor) to Philadelphia: St. George's UMC
  • The Rev. Angela Kellie Ebo (Provisional Elder) from Phila: Emmanuel to Evansburg (1/2 time). 
Southwest (West) District
  • Rev. Joan H. Trout (Full Elder) from Hibernia to Willow Street: Boehm's, full-time.
Northwest (North) District
  • Rev. Jerry Reifsnyder (Retired Part Time Local Pastor) to Schaefferstown: Zion (1/4 time)
Building Church Websites Training, 
May 5-6
"If you build it they will come..." A congregation with a quality website can reach beyond its front door to inform its community and the world about its life and faith, ministries and concerns. With just a peek inside, it can inspire others to come visit, join and get involved.

Eastern PA Conference Communications will partner with United Methodist Communications (UMCom) to offer two, 6-hour workshops in  Building Church Websites (in WordPress)  on Friday  and Saturday, May 5 and 6. The conveniently central  location will be Cedarville UMC, 1092 Laurelwood Rd, Pottstown, PA.

We will offer this training twice, if we can draw enough registrants,  on Friday and again on Saturday, from  8:30 AM to 3 PM. But we can only accommodate up to 30 people for each intensive session; so space is limited. All who are interested should  REGISTER ONLINE as soon as possible.

The  absolute deadline to register is April 3. Sorry, but we cannot accept registrants after that date, due to advance preparations needed for the training event. The cost is only $30 per person, which must be paid in advance. That amount pays for lunch and other event costs. (UMCom is not charging for the training, thanks to our World Service apportionments.) 

This workshop is for lay and clergy individuals, but preferably for teams, who have the important responsibility or desire to build and manage their church websites, including those who want to create new and improved church websites.

Church registrants will receive by April 5 a Web Training Application/ Contract from UMCom's Local Church Grants Office. It must be signed and returned to UMCom by April 10 . UMCom will then send each registered participant a code that allows them to take at no cost the required online class " Your Church Website: Rethinking Your New Front Door."  This preparatory class will explain how to create or transfer a domain name (URL) and create a WordPress website.     Learn more...
Pocono Plateau hosts NEJ UMVIM/UMCOR academy
The Rev. Greg Ellis and other Eastern PA Conference mission volunteers are at Pocono Plateau Camp & Retreat Center with peers from across the Northeastern Jurisdiction this week. They are attending the NEJ's combined UM Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR) 2017 Training Academy. It started Sunday, March 26 and ends  Wednesday, March 29, at  noon.

Bishop Johnson joined and welcomed the gathering, which is focusing this year on racism, bias and privilege as part of its training. This year's academy is exploring how those challenges play out in the real world of disaster response and mission work. Their theme is "Confronting Race and Privilege."

Also, a UMVIM Team Leaders Training event will happen this Saturday, April 1 , from 9 AM to 3:30 PM, at Ardmore UMC. It's for people interested in learning more about being a UMVIM team leader or hosting mission teams. The $35 cost includes training materials and lunch.     Learn more...
Eastern PA Conference wins 5 UMAC national communications awards 
The Eastern PA Conference Communications Office won five awards for journalistic excellence from the United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC) March 23 at the professional organization's annual meeting in New Orleans. Those awards included two, shared top writing awards for a feature article about a Philadelphia pastor and also recognition for the conference's newspaper, website and weekly e-newsletter.

Communications Director John Coleman shared a tie for two top awards: first place in feature writing and the overall Best in Class, Donn Doten Award of Excellence in writing. Both were for the article "Pastor's healing from abuse inspires ministry and a meeting with the Pope." His profile of the Rev. Myra Maxwell, pastor of Trinity UMC (formerly St. Barnabas-Bethsaida-St. Luke's UMC) in Philadelphia, appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of NEWSpirit newspaper  and later  on the conference website Coleman and Desktop/Web Publisher Lindsey Cotman also won three other awards together. Learn more... 
Children describe miracles in new UMC ad campaign  
Miracles, and what children have to say about them, will be the focus of The United Methodist Church's national Easter advertising campaign and coordinated local church resources this spring. Running late March through mid-April, the ads are the second phase of the 2017 campaign, "Our Beliefs. Their Words," which features children sharing about their faith.

"A miracle is an everyday extraordinary," says Alisyn, an 11-year-old United Methodist. "It's when you find the strength that you didn't think you had, when you find hope when you thought all was lost." Each ad encourages viewers to rediscover miracles in their own lives, with the statement, "Children believe in miracles. What would the world be like if we all did? We believe that together, we can make it happen this Easter." 

People who see these ads on TV and elsewhere may go online to locate a UM church to visit. So be sure to order free materials and update your church's Find-A-Church website , Learn more... 
Innabah begins t-shirt drive to buy playground
Innabah Camp & Retreat Center is raising funds this spring through a new T-shirt Drive to purchase a new playground. The " Pennies for our Playground" campaign is using crowd-funding website Booster to sell a colorful, limited edition t-shirt that can help the popular, 88 year-old, child-nurturing camp ministry offer even more playful fun and recreation to children of all ages. They want to raise enough to purchase a new playground for the summer of 2018. So far, they have raised nearly $1,500. "Our playground is old. We need something new," writes  Michael Hyde, Director. "Can you help us out with a penny or t-shirt or two?" Find out  how you can help
Creation Caretakers to meet about climate justice
The United Methodist 2017 Caretakers of God's Creation Climate Justice Conference will be held Friday, April 28, from  8 AM to 9 PM, at Mt. Olivet UMC, 1500 North Glebe Rd. in Arlington, Va.   Learn more about the conference. The event is being held in conjunction with the March for Science, during which people of faith are invited to join with scientists from all parts of the nation on Earth Day,   April 29.   Learn more.
Schism threat has some churches caught in middle
When the Rev. Gary Nelson looks out over his congregation, he sees people who don't believe homosexuality is sinful. He also sees people who do. Nelson leads Cross Lanes UMC, near Charleston, West Virginia. It's growing in membership and mission work, despite members' differing views on homosexuality.So the prospect of schism in The United Methodist Church alarms Nelson - especially if it means his congregation has to vote on whether to align with traditionalists or progressives.

"I think it would rip people to shreds," he said of 600-member Cross Lanes. "I think it would just really, really hurt deeply if people are pushed to step across a line." United Methodist churches with diverse views on homosexuality are, their pastors say, particularly vulnerable if the much-discussed possibility of a denominational breakup occurs and results in a realignment choice.  Learn more... 
Discipleship exec: 'Stop fixing churches'
The top executive of Discipleship Ministries has a message for a denomination struggling with dwindling numbers in the U.S. "Let's stop fixing churches and start seeing the people Christ called us to reach." 

The Rev. Junius B. Dotson made that declaration to the Discipleship Ministries board   as he laid out his agency's disciple-making strategies  for the multinational United Methodist Church. The board met March 15-17 at the agency's office in Nashville. At General Conference 2016, church leaders announced the denomination's goal   to make 1 million new disciples in the next four years. Dotson explained how his agency, which is responsible for supporting local churches and annual conferences in disciple-making, plans to help United Methodists reach that goal.  Learn more... 
More Rivers to Cross: Black caucus celebrates 50-year legacy
More than 400 members of The United Methodist Church's African-American membership caucus celebrated the 50th anniversary of its earliest beginnings, even as many speakers addressed work that still needs to be done in fighting racism and inequity in the church and society.

At its 2017 General Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 8-11, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic, 1967, planning meeting that led to its founding. Caucus members, spanning multiple generations and including at least five members from the Eastern PA Conference, reveled in worship and fellowship during the event. But they also engaged in tense dialogue about BMCR's mission and response to current crises in the church and in society.

The meeting's lengthy theme began with "Celebrating a Legacy of Faith, Hope and Renewal," but speakers more often quoted the second part of the theme: "More Rivers to Cross, More Milestones to Reach." Philadelphia native and West Ohio Area Bishop Gregory Palmer, who hosted the gathering, emphasized the caucus' unfinished mission in his sermon during the opening night's worship service.  Learn more...
Bishop urges doing 'God's work' on the world stage and 'from house to house' 
Bishop Peggy Johnson has published two new essays worth reading on her  Bishop's Blog, which we also feature in the  INFORM  and INSPIRE  feature sections of our website. In

In "'United Nations of the World'--Doing God's work and ours" she notes the birth of the United Nations in 1948 and recalls an eye-opening visit there as a youth  20 years laterShe recently returned during a meeting of the General Board of Church and Society, on which she serves along with five fellow bishops and other UM clergy and laity. "So much has changed since 1948 and 1968," she writes. "But the (UN's) theme is still the same. Talk things over. Come together around common goals for the planet. Have respect for all people.  This is none other than God's work!"

Bishop Johnson also shares the UN's "Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to Transform Our World by 2030," and calls on us all to promote and advocate for them in letters to our new U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. "Your voice can be heard to promote peace in this world.  It is the responsibility of all of us," she pleads.   Learn more...
In  "From House to House" Bishop Johnson recalls Bishop Felton May's last words of advice to her, urging her to encourage her pastors to always visit the homes of church members and visitors, neighbors and even strangers (whom some say are "just friends we haven't met, yet"). "Get out into the streets with this message," he told her, referring to the message of Christ's gospel.

Likewise, in her time spent with new ordinands, she recommends to them Bishop Ernest Lyght's helpful 2015 book  Have You Faith in Christ? A Bishop's insight into the Historic Questions asked of those seeking admission into full connection in The United Methodist Church.

"It is still appropriate for pastors to visit from house to house in today's culture, with all of its limitations," he writes. "There is no substitute for personal contact with one's parishioners."

 "Visit from house to house," Bishop Johnson urges clergy as well as lay leadership to "further the cause of Christ... We never know whom we might visit that might later become a great leader in our churches and communities."  Learn more... 

'Hearts on Fire' to promote justice, social holiness

Faithful Christians from around the Eastern PA Conference, whether committed to or just concerned about biblical and Wesleyan values of peace with justice, are invited to gather on Saturday, May 13, at Holy Cross UMC in Reading, Pa. There they will explore and engage hearts and minds in their shared struggles against racism and other forms of oppression.

"Hearts on Fire: Stories of Shalom and Social Holiness" is planned as a major learning, networking and mobilizing event, unlike any before it, to create "a diverse network of people connected by story, committed to justice and collaborating for peace." The theme is inspired by the Apostle Paul's encouraging admonition in Romans 12:11-13: "Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord. When you hope, be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful. Share with God's people who are in need. Welcome others into your homes." 

Scheduled for 9 AM to 2 PM, the gathering will hear topical "TED talks"* by justice ministry practitioners and engage in small-group discussions, networking activities, biblical reflection and worship. Inspired by Christ's gospel, they will "learn and work together as leaders to help create  social change and build thriving communities of shalom." Speakers will share creative ideas and practical applications that work "on the ground."  Learn more

Early registration for National UMM gathering ends April 1st
The 12th National Gathering of UM Men will be held July 7-8 at St. Luke's UMC in Indianapolis, Indiana. Register by April 1st to receive the Early Bird discounted cost of $99 and a complimentary t-shirt! Registrations after April 1 will be $129 per person.

Learn more and register:
New Advance Special applications due by  April 15
The  application for approval as a 2017-18 Advance Special project, in order to receive local church donations, is available on the  Missions & Outreach page of our website. Advance Special projects are endorsed by the Annual Conference for second-mile giving by local churches that have fulfilled their apportioned giving responsibilities. Completed applications must be received by no later than April 15.

The application includes a cover letter addressed to pastors, agency and program directors, and local church leaders of mission and ministry--all of whom are eligible to apply. Applications received via e-mail, postal mail or fax by the  April 15 deadline will be considered by the conference missions board and, if selected, may be included in a resolution for approval at Annual Conference,  June 15-17. Approved projects will be eligible for Advance Special funding immediately after Annual Conference.

"Please start now, and make sure we receive your completed application forms before the  April 15 due date," writes the Rev. David J. Davis, Conference Secretary for Global Ministries.
Check out our Local Church Events page
A bunch of Lenten worship services, dinners and Bible studies sponsored by various churches and mission   connexions; lively concerts at several music-minded churches; a couples retreat and a yard sale coupled with an oyster supper; a comedy theater show; and an annual men's Lenten breakfast now in its 54th year. These are just some of the sure-to-be delightful events to be sponsored in the coming weeks by churches around our conference. And all of them are promoted on our website's  Local Church Events page. Check it out. You may find just the activity you need to attend to experience more faith, fellowship or fun during this time of changing seasons when we could all use a little more warmth.

And please, please, please send us your church's  special events and activities so we can add them to our webpage. Many people are coming to our website every day, some without a church to call home; and many want to see what's happening at our churches. Please help us show them that we've "got it going on" all across this bustling conference of ours. Use our easy  Submit News page or write to us at
Three Christ Servant Ministry classes offered in May
The Eastern PA Conference offers 3 Christ Servant Ministry classes in May. 

A Basic Course taught in Spanish by the Rev. Brunhilda Martinez is scheduled for May 5-6 at Emmanuel UMC in Allentown. This course needs at least 12 participants and is limited to the first 20 registrations. Cost: $35.   Click here   for the registration application.

A Basic Course in English, taught by Judy Ehninger, is scheduled for May 12-13 at Asbury UMC in Allentown. This course needs at least 12 participants and is limited to the first 20 registrations. Cost: $35.   Click here   for the registration application.

A Speaking 1 Course, taught bythe Rev. Harold Burkett, is scheduled also for May 12-13 at Asbury UMC in Allentown. This course also needs at least 12 participants and is limited to the first 20 registrations. Cost $35.  Click here   for the registration application.

For more information contact Northeast District Director, Judy Ehninger  at  or 610-442-3140.
Wesley Forum to welcome Asbury Seminary professor
Each year, the Wesley Forum at Evangelical Seminary invites interesting speakers to share insights into how Wesleyan theology contributes to "a vibrant, intelligent, and authentic faith." Dr. Bill T. Arnold, from Asbury Seminary, will present at the 2017 Wesley Forum April 6, from 9 AM to 3:30 PM. First UMC in Lancaster will host the gathering, and the Boehm's Chapel Society will sponsor it.

Arnold will address the topic "A Singular Israel in a Pluralistic World." Christians throughout church history have struggled with how to be 'in the world but not of the world,' reads information about the forum. But "the Bible itself offers a better example of how faith and culture relate, although many Christians miss it. ... These lectures explore three ways in which Old Testament Israel was completely at home in ancient Near Eastern culture, while at the same time emerging as a unique people of God with a religious faith unparalleled in ancient history."

For more information see the flyer or contact Ken Nafziger at  0.
  • Changing Racism WorkshopMarch 31 - April 2, Daylesford Abbey, Paoli
  • Fresh Expressions Vision DayApril 1, Mount Carmel UMC
  • Eastern PA Conference Youth RallyApril 22, Hopewell UMC
  • Fellowship of Associate Ministers And Local Pastors RetreatApril 23-25, Black Rock Retreat Center
  • NEJ VIM/UMCOR Academy Training EventMarch 26-29, Pocono Plateau

Bishop to convene talk on Religious Freedom Resolution  
Bishop Peggy Johnson will convene in May a one-time dialogue on the Religious Freedom Resolution (#2016-18; see the full resolution below), which was debated but not voted on at the 2016 Eastern PA Annual Conference. The resolution was committed to the bishop with a request for representative dialogue and a report in lieu of legislative action. The dialogue will take place at Asbury UMC in Allentown (1533 Springhouse Road), on Saturday, May 20, from 9 AM to 12 noon.

The resolution, offered jointly by a dozen churches, asks for the Eastern PA Annual Conference to formally denounce any attempts, in any state or jurisdiction, to pass laws that would "limit LGBT citizens' freedom from discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation based on any individual's, company's or organization's supposed right to 'religious freedom...'"

Bishop Johnson intends to present a requested report on the dialogue at the 2017 Annual Conference, June 15-17. She offers reading resources to the conference in preparation for the dialogue and encourages those who plan to attend to read and use these publications, available on our website, as guidelines for their participation. Learn more... 
EPA Annual Conference 2017 to 'Rise Up' in prayer 
Rise Up and Pray! is the elevating main theme of the 2017 Eastern PA Annual Conference, which will return to the spacious Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., from Thursday to Saturday , June 15-17

Preachers, prayers, musicians, liturgists and others will center the gathering in the practice and power of prayer, no doubt invoking the God of eternal grace to "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour." That focus will also receive special attention when special guest the Rev. Tom Albin, Dean of the Upper Room Chapel in Nashville, offers a Friday teaching session on prayer.

Three bishops will preach during this annual conference session including two familiar voices and a new voice on the NEJ College of Bishops. Resident Bishop Peggy Johnson will preach for the Opening Worship and Eucharist Service on Thursday afternoon. New Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who leads the neighboring Baltimore-Washington Conference, will preach for the Ordination Service ("Rise Up and Lead!") on Friday night.  Bishop Peter Weaver , a retired former leader of our own conference and the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, will preach during the Memorial Service ("Rise Up in Glory!") on Saturday morning. Learn more...  
Changing Church for a Changing World event, April 1
There's more information about the April 1 Fresh   Expressions t raining event that could change your church. " Changing Church for a Changing World: Fresh Expression Vision Day" will happen on Saturday, April 1, at Mount Carmel UMC, 2203 Harmonyville Road, Elverson PA. J.R. Briggs and Kristin Beckert, both skilled church planters and trainers, will bring their creative, strategic ideas as gifted facilitators. The Eastern PA Conference is a co-sponsor; so members can attend for a discounted $20 each. 

Fresh Expressions   is a movement that is cultivating new forms of church alongside existing congregations in order reach a changing world. Visit and scroll down to "Pottstown Vision Day." Learn more ... 
Denman Evangelism Award nominations sought
When you experience God's love, you want to share it with everyone!

The United Methodist  Foundation for Evangelism  helps annual conferences annually honor extraordinary clergy, youth and adult laypersons with the  Harry Denman Evangelism Award  for sharing with everyone God's message of love through Jesus Christ. As Christians, we work in a variety of ministries and contexts with a common goal to build up of God's Kingdom.

This year, until May 5, the Eastern PA Conference's  Congregational Development Team (CDT)  is pleased to accept your nominations of persons to receive the 2017 Harry Denman Evangelism Award. That noteworthy award signifies a remarkable commitment to introducing others to the living gospel in ways and places where "new believers can encounter Christ."

All completed nominations with comments should be submitted to the CDT by May 5. Please send e-mail nominations to
addressed to the EPAUMC/Congregational Development Team, c/o of Suzette James/. Attn: Denman Award Nomination. Or mail them to the Eastern PA Conference Office, ATTN:  Dr C. Kurien (identified as "2017 Denman Nominee"), P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA  19482-0820.

Applications can be downloaded by visiting:
Youth invited to confirmation camp
Gretna Glen invites churches to have confirmation classes in their neck of the woods, learning all about faith in the midst of God's creation.

Gretna Glen's three Confirmation Camp weekends- March 31-April 2, April 7-9 and October 13-15-will focus on the five vows of affirmation: prayer, witness, gifts, service, and presence, say planners. "Each vow comes alive as confirmands participate in hands on activities, discussions, and reflections that help draw connections from the act of confirmation as the start of a full-time life of faith." Cost is $90. Register using their Brochure.

Be sure to read Bishop Peggy Johnson's article about summer camp, " Our camps-changing seasons and young lives." 
Sign up your church for
the Abundant Health
10,000 Church Challenge
The Conference Health & Healing Council urges all churches to join the 10,000 Church Challenge, initiated by the UMC's Global Ministries as part of its new Abundant Health initiative. 

Bishop Peggy Johnson is promoting this effort in both of her Philadelphia Area conferences, Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware. Your church is invited to help increase opportunities for healthy lifestyle choices by promoting: Physical Activity; Healthy Diet and Nutrition; Tobacco-free and Drug-free Living; and Mental Health Education and Promotion. 

One of our four denominational goals is to improve Global Health. After raising over $68 million to fight malaria in the "Imagine No Malaria" campaign, it is time to broaden the focus of "Abundant Health." Global Ministries' goal is to sign up 10,000 churches across the connection, asking each to choose a health focus for its congregation and community. Every church that signs up will receive ideas about education, treatment and prevention; and when it implements ideas and activities it will be designated a Health Promoting Church .  Sign-Up Today  . Get more information. Deaconess Sharon Hachtman,RN, FCN, is Health & Healing Council, Co-Chair and campaign contact. Visit the council webpage to learn more. 
Order your 2016 Conference Journal before they're gone!
A limited number of printed 2016 Eastern PA Conference Journals are available.  Order yours today for only $30 each. You can  order and pay online or send a check, by USPS, to: EPA UMC, Attention Gloria Knoeller, PO Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820.

What's in the Journal?  A lot! Contact information for Conference staff, clergy, Camp and Retreat Centers, Districts, and United Methodist Boards and Agencies.  Also, clergy appointments, pastoral salaries and service records.  Plus, all about the 2016 Annual Conference; Conference statistics for 2015; historical highlights; and conference policies and procedures for clergy, staff, and others. Questions?  Please contact Gloria Knoeller at
Changing Racism Workshop 2017 dates
This year's dates  for  Changing Racism Workshops, led by  Visions, Inc., are   March 31-April 2  and   October 27-29.  The March location will again be the Daylesford Abbey, 220 South Valley Road, Paoli, PA. Visit our  Changing Racism Workshops webpage to learn more and to register.
Wake up, God's People!... 
All-day Eastern PA Youth Rally, April 22, 2017
Plan to attend the 3rd Annual Eastern PA Conference Youth Rally on Saturday, April 22, 2017. For the first time, this youth rally will last all day, from 9 AM to 4 PM. We're planning fantastic features, with dynamic speakers, soul-stirring music, fun games, powerful prayers, laugh-out-loud humor, great food and hospitality, and enough friendship and fellowship moments to give you a lifetime of memories. Don't dare miss it! See and share the flyer, and look for more details, coming soon.
More events coming in Spring:
Update your Find-A-Church profile
Developed by United Methodist Communications, Find-A-Church helps your church connect with people who may be looking online for a church to provide worship, fellowship, spiritual nurture and other needs. If your church has a Website, having a church page in Find-A-Church doubles your local visibility to reach people searching by city, town or zip code. It is the official online directory of United Methodist churches in the United States and  one of the most visited sections of, averaging more than 1,000 page views a day. You'll achieve the best results from your Find-A-Church profile when you update your church's information. For video instructions on how, visit Video Tutorial: Find-A-Church Overview
Missed any past issues of NEWSpirit Digest?
You can still read or share informative, colorful back issues of our weekly e-newsletter on the Eastern PA Conference Website at this link with others who might want to stay informed about our news, events, resources and concerns. And please encourage them to subscribe by e-mailing Thanks!
2017 Academy for Laity
Aug. 4-6 (Fri.-Sun.) at Cedarville UMC Pottstown. New dates, new location, new courses. Theme: Embrace the Journey: Step Up, Step Out." More details to come.
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
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