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WHAT'S NEW--Oct. 2, 2015
Another killing rampage roils pain, concerns
Ten people are dead and seven others wounded, according to media reports, after a 26-year-old gunman opened fire Thursday morning with multiple firearms at a community college in southern Oregon. The massacre follows other mass shootings at U.S. college campuses, an elementary school, churches, movie theaters and military bases in recent years. "Somehow this has become routine," said a visibly angry U.S. President Barack Obama. Bishop Peggy Johnson called for all people of faith to join in prayer for the victims, their families, the college and its community, during this "awful time of tragic loss, unbearable pain and confusion." She also suggested that the age of the shooter and reports that he asked victims if they were Christian before shooting them may be indicative of two disturbing trends.  Learn more...

Hurricane Joaquin no longer a threat, but flooding may be

  Hurricane Joaquin wreaked havoc in the Bahamas Thursday. But its  current path is expected to head out to sea and not affect us in Eastern PA, reports the Rev. Greg Ellis, Conference Disaster Ministry Coordinator. Nonetheless, he adds, “the current batch of storms is expected to cause local flooding. This flooding may occur as flash floods especially during and following periods of heavy rain. Remember, if your church’s property is damaged contact your district office as soon as possible. And while the urgency of preparing for a hurricane may have passed, it is still important to prepare for severe weather. Hurricane season is not over, and the challenges of winter weather will follow in a few short months.”
Voting at Annual Conference Adjourned Session
Clergy and lay members will vote again, using proven electronic devices from Padgett Communications, to select delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional conferences during the Annual Conference Adjourned Session Nov. 14. The session will be held at Bethany UMC’s Macungie campus, 3801 Brookside Road, Macungie, Pa., near Allentown. Bios and personal statements of the nominees can be found on the conference Website at Laity Delegate Bios and Clergy Delegate Bios.  Also, information about the voting process can be found in two documents on the Adjourned Session webpage:
World Communion Sunday offering promotes Christian unity and ministry 
World Communion Sunday is this Sunday Oct. 4. Will your congregation celebrate the Lord's Supper in holy connection with other Christians around the world? Will you give to the World Communion Sunday churchwide offering that supports educational opportunities for deserving racial-ethnic and international students pursuing careers of service and ministry? Download free resources for World Communion Sunday, including posters, sermons and bulletin inserts. Encourage your congregation to give generously to the offering. Learn more...

After watching her mother suffer a stroke due to taking incompatible prescribed medications, Lena Kuffuor-Afriyie, 19, decided to pursue a career in pharmacy. A sophomore at the University at Buffalo (NY), she received a World Communion Scholarship, administered by the UMC’s missions agency, Global Ministries. Kuffuor-Afriyie says she was called into her ministry at Ghana Wesley UMC, Brooklyn, NY, at age 13 after hearing a musical performance by the Ghanaian Methodist choirs of North America. "I wish to open my own pharmacies in Ghana because there are some remote areas where people have no access to the proper materials for good health," she said. Our gifts to the World Communion Sunday offering are helping her and many other students like her pursue their callings in many fields of service. Learn more…

Also, Eastern PA Conference and church leaders attending the "Seek, Know Love" Transformational Leadership Event in Hershey, PA, will join peers from nine other conferences around the NE Jurisdiction in a climactic World Communion Sunday worship service. It will feature the Great Thanksgiving, diverse songs and hymns, displayed images of our commitment to global mission, and the Tongsung Kido, a Korean traditional form of prayer.  
Learning your community to grow your church: Oct. 5-6 
The Rev. Thomas Bandy, a renowned expert in strategic church and leadership development, will teach four workshops here, Oct. 5-6, on using MissionInsite's demographic and lifestyle research to learn community needs and spur congregational growth. Bandy will teach on Monday, Oct. 5, at the conference center from 10 AM to 2 PM, and at New Hanover UMC from 6:30 to 9 PM. The evening session at New Hanover will be video broadcast via live-stream. He will also teach on Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the conference center from 10 AM to 2 PM and at Church of the Good Shepherd UMC from 6:30 to 9 PM.  Attendance at the Oct. 6 session at the conference center is by district superintendents' invitation only; but it will also be broadcast via live-stream video. Learn more...

To view the live-streamed video of Bandy's Monday night presentation visit New Hanover UMC's YouTube page ( To view his Tuesday daytime presentation visit our Website's Media page ( 
Bishop's district talks to cover varied topics
Bishop Peggy Johnson hits the road again next week with her annual Days on the Districts tour. She begins Oct. 8 in the Southeast District, followed by the Central (Oct. 13) and East (Oct. 14) districts. She enlarges her territory further the ensuing week when she visits the Northeast (Oct. 20), Northwest (Oct. 22) and Southwest (Oct. 28) districts. She will report news happening across the Eastern PA Conference. But she will also discuss controversial issues emerging for the 2016 General and .Jurisdictional conferences, promote commitment to the new Imagine No Malaria campaign, and shine a timely spotlight on race relations and reconciliation. Learn more...
Discovering the Myth and Meaning of Columbus Day
Christopher Columbus is widely understood to have discovered the "New World” here in the Americas. But it was certainly not new to the millions who had long lived in the hemisphere. Columbus initiated a period of tremendous suffering for Native people, and despite his well-documented crimes against humanity, he is revered by many as a hero and symbol of ethnic pride. How and why do Americans celebrate Columbus Day, and what can we do to honor instead those who tragically welcomed him to their lands? Come discover "The Myths of Discovery: Re-Thinking the Meaning of Columbus Day" on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6 to 8 PM, at Arch Street UMC, 55 N. Broad St., Philadelphia PA.

A light supper and child care will be provided. RSVP to the Facebook events page. For more information, contact or 267-259-4995 .  Learn more...

Also, be sure to read Bishop Peggy Johnson's new Bishop's Blog essay, "Being true 'Christ-bearers' in search of peace" about the tragic genocide that followed Columbus' "discovery" of the "New World" and the fallacy of honoring him when we should instead honor the world's indigenous people.
CONAM gathering to explore mixed cultures, Native American worship

A part-Native American author, lecturer and historian will speak about his book, A Clash of Cultures, at a fall worship and fellowship event on Nov. 8 (at 4 PM) at Camp Innabah (712 Pughtown Road, Spring City/Pughtown), sponsored by the Eastern PA Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). Darvin L. Martin will share findings about his Native and European family roots and the historic interaction between both cultures in the Susquehanna Valley. The event will include Native American Christian worship with music by the duo Spirit Wing and friends, followed by a light meal. RSVP by Oct. 30 to Felicia Anderson at or 484-762-8248.

Register your youth now for 2016 Pen-Del Youth Rally 
David Piltz, Eastern PA Conference Coordinator of Young People's Ministry, has important news for conference youth who want to attend the 2016 Peninsula-Delaware Conference Youth Rally in Ocean City, Md., Jan. 8-10, 2016, but have not yet registered. "If you did not receive a mailing  from Pen-Del and missed the early-bird special" you can call him to receive a discount code to use. Either way, "please register now. You don’t want to miss this!" said David.

The rally will feature three high-spirited days of worship, witnessing, fellowship and celebration. "WORD" is the theme, based on John 1:1, and the stage will burst forth with lights, music, praise, testimonies, humor and more highlights. Early-bird registration ($55) ends Oct. 12. Regular registration ($65) ends Nov. 2. After then, late registration is $75.  REGISTER ONLINE NOW!!  Check out the colorful online brochure

Also Eastern PA Conference youth and adult leaders will have another gathering of their own during the rally just to learn, laugh and get to meet each another. "It will be mind-blowing!" says David. And we are planning our own (second annual) Eastern PA Youth Rally. Watch for a date and details soon.

Building community one word at a time

Clergy members of the Southeast District gathered at the Malvern Retreat House Monday, Sept. 21, for a day apart to be renewed and inspired by the Rev. Jim Walker, an innovative pastor, speaker and author of the book Dirty Word: the Vulgar, Offensive Language of the Kingdom of God.  The book describes the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, which Walker and others planted in a South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2004. The outreach-focused church is a dynamic, cutting-edge venture where people are intensely engaged in transformative ministry. He engaged his clergy audience in very serious word-play. Learn more...

NE District clergy enjoy family picnic

The Northeast District's annual Clergy Family Picnic drew nearly 70 people Saturday, Aug. 29, at Covenant UMC in Moore Township.  Clergy and their family members enjoyed food, fun, fellowship and faith-filledworship together on a gorgeous day. A dozen laity worked hard to continue a district tradition. The district's gifted praise band, Free Spirit, led worship as children and adults playing along with percussive instruments. Rev. "Bruny" Martinez, new to our district, encouraged them along in praise.

An added treat this year were group games with prizes, including a  three-legged race and relay race, Bible trivia a tug of war between Elders and Local Pastors with help from their families. Next year's picnic is tentatively set for Aug. 27.  (Reprinted from NE District Website.)

News from the Pension & Health Benefits Office
Open Enrollment meetings scheduled
Open Enrollment meetings to present and explain 2016 health insurance coverage plans to participating clergy and church employees are scheduled for each district . All enrollments must be done online. Please try to attend the meeting scheduled for your area, although you may attend a meeting at any location. 
UMPIP pension accounts to allow Roth contributions 
Pension plan participants will be able to make Roth contributions to their UMPIP accounts beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits will contact plan participants in October to explain Roth contributions, savings and important tax considerations. Please examine the Contribution Guide for Roth contributions to UMPIP. Learn more...
Finding Noah opens Oct. 8
"Beyond myth, science, and faith lies something deeper," says promotion for the new film Finding Noah . Join a brave team of archaeologists, explorers, and theologians as they summit one of the world's most dangerous mountains in a quest to find answers to one of mankind's greatest mysteries. On Oct. 8th, in a special one-night cinema event, explore Mt. Ararat's desolate summit with director Brent Baum and a crew of courageous men as they look for the final resting place of Noah's Ark. Narrated by Academy Award nominee Gary Sinise and shot in "never-before-filmed locations," the documentary depicts an expedition of faith, with songs by Christian musicians For King & Country. Up to 20% discounts are available for groups of 25 or more. Visit You can see locations and buy individual tickets at
Looking Ahead

Upcoming UMC dates and activities reported by UM News Service.

Thursday, Oct. 8: Free webinar "Setting Meaningful Goals for Discipling Men" — 7 to 8 p.m. CDT. Are men missing from your church? A "Kingdom-building" webinar will help you establish goals to involve men in discipleship based on your church's mission, vision and values. The one-hour webinar is sponsored by the Commission on United Methodist Men. Details

Tuesday, Oct. 13: Deadline to submit 2016 General Conference petitions online — To be considered at General Conference, petitions must be submitted online no later than Oct. 13.  The denomination's top lawmaking assembly next meets of May 10-12, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. Details on how to submit

You can see more educational opportunities and other upcoming events in the life of the church here.

Pastor offers DivorceCare group counseling

The Rev. John Bletsch will offer DivorceCare, a 13-week group program designed to help people who are going through, or have recently gone through, the painful experience of marital separation and divorce. The group will meet Sundays, beginning Oct. 11, from 5 to 6:30 PM, in the fellowship hall of Otterbein UMC (181 Walnut St, Mont Clare, PA). They will discuss material to help them cope with the practical, emotional and spiritual stresses that separation and divorce generate. The cost is $35 for a participant workbook. The group is open to anyone, says Bletsch, who chairs the Conference Communications Ministry Team, "so please consider inviting friends or family members who might be working through issues related to separation and divorce." Contact him by phone (610-933-8690) or email ( to register or ask any questions.  

Refurbished Conference Archives to reopen Oct. 19
Historic St. George's UMC in Philadelphia will celebrate the long-awaited opening of the refurbished Archives of the Eastern PA Conference with an Open House on Oct. 19, from 2 to 4 PM.  Bishop Peggy Johnson and the Rev. Maridel Whitmore, the venerable church's first female pastor, will jointly dedicate this vital treasury of our conference's rich heritage. Come tour the restored facilities, and enjoy fellowship over tea at 3 PM with Archivist Donna Miller and other supporters whose endeavors made it all possible.  Historic St. George's UMC is at 235 N 4th St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. Register now . Contact Donna at or  215-925-7788 with any questions.
  Preaching, worship event for black clergy
The Peninsula-Delaware Conference's Strengthening the Black Church and Congregational Development Office will sponsor a Preaching and Worship Training Event for black clergy, Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, at Whatcoat UMC, 341 Saulsbury Road Dover, Del. Presenters include Bishop Violet Fisher, the Rev. Cynthia Wilson, the Rev. William McClain, the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III and the Rev. Fred Allen. Registration is $25, which may be sent to the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, 139 N. State Street Dover, DE 19901 Attention: Judy Bratton. The deadline is Oct. 22. See the brochure for information or contact Judy Bratton at or (302) 674-2626 ext. 21. 
Christmas Cards for Inmates 

You can share God’s love with prison inmates who are incarcerated at a difficult time by writing a brief caring, encouraging note inside a Christmas greeting card. The Eastern PA Conference Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice Team hopes to receive hundreds of signed cards, sent or dropped off at district offices, to deliver to inmates at several correctional facilities in Eastern PA. Nov. 9 is the deadline to have all cards at district offices, so they can be collected, delivered and screened by prison officials before Christmas. Many inmates find it difficult to maintain connections with important people in their lives, and the absence of loved ones can be felt most deeply during Christmastide. Please see the guidelines and use the sample cards and expressions offered on our Website. 

Conference launches Imagine No Malaria campaign

The Eastern PA Conference has embarked on a new, short-term Imagine No Malaria campaign to build broad awareness and financial support for the life-saving mission to eradicate the deadly disease of malaria. Bishop Peggy Johnson encourages churches to contribute $10 per worshiping member by the end of 2015 to help the denomination raise $9 million and reach its $75 million goal by 2016. She is appealing to leaders, members and churches throughout the conference to learn about this preventable disease and our collective efforts to help remedy it, and to “Press on toward the goal.” Learn more...

Teaching financial leadership to laity

 Building on the success of its Financial Leadership Academy for pastors, the Mid-Atlantic UM Foundation will launch in November a Financial Leadership Series for Laity, offering lay members valuable stewardship wisdom in four sessions over the next year. The first class, titled "Theology of Stewardship and Creating a Culture of Giving," will occur in three locations on Nov. 7 and 21 Learn more...

PA Council of Churches event to explore flawed criminal justice system

The Pennsylvania Council of Churches (PCC) urgently invites all to attend an important weekend gathering in the capital city, Oct. 23-26, to educate people of faith about mass incarceration in the nation's troubled criminal justice system and how churches can respond. "Let Our Eyes Be Opened: Breaking the Chains of Mass Incarceration" will happen at Harrisburg's Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center Friday evening through Sunday, October 23-25, and then move to a day of social action at the State Capitol Monday, Oct. 26. This gathering for clergy and laity replaces the council's former annual Pennsylvania Pastors Conference. Learn more and register online...

Boehm's Chapel 30th  Annual Apple Festival promises historic favorites

Boehm’s Chapel will hold its 30th annual Apple Festival Oct. 10, from 9 AM to 3 PM., rain or shine, at Boehm’s UMC, 13 West Boehm's Church Road, Willow Street, PA. An array of tents will harbor old-fashioned treats, including homemade apple butter, apple dumplings and baked goods, plus kids' games like the ever popular 'apple sling-shot.' Lunch fare will be scattered around the campus, and vendors will display homemade crafts en route to the old chapel and inside the church fellowship hall. The historical video “More than Just a Chapel on a Hill,” about the Boehm family and the chapel, will be shown in the  historic 1791 chapel. Admission and parking are free. For additional information contact Dolores Myers, Executive Director of the Boehm’s Chapel Society by e-mail or call 717-872-4133.

2016 Faith Sharing Event set for March 19
The 2016 Faith Sharing Event is set for Saturday,  March 19 , 2016, from 9 AM to 3 PM, once again at the centrally located New Hanover UMC. Our featured guest will be the  Rev. Romal Tune , a compelling, sought-after young speaker who voices his passion, intellect and faith in fresh ways, challenging listeners to see a new intersection of faith and public life. With unapologetic candor, Tune addresses the redemptive power of authentic engagement that is too often lacking in church outreach and evangelism efforts. He authored the book  God's Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens  in 2013 and recently completed a companion devotional guide.

Associate Members and Local Pastors plan 2016 retreat

The Fellowship of Associate Members and Local Pastors of the Eastern PA and Peninsula-Delaware conferences will retreat together April 24-26, 2016, at Black Rock Retreat Center, 1345 Kirkwood Pike, Quarryville, PA. Associate Members, Local Pastors, Student Pastors and Certified Lay Ministers are all invited to attend and may earn 2.0 CEUs. Online Registration is open now. For more information contact Mark Beiderman at 610-585-0575. Download the brochure, which contains a registration form.

Healing Communities  Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice event Oct. 10
The Eastern PA Conference will sponsor a Healing Communities training Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 AM to 4 PM, at St. Matthews UMC of Valley Forge, 600 Walker Rd, Wayne, PA. Healing Communities is a proven, national model of engaging congregations and communities in restoring relationships among those who have been impacted by crime and the criminal justice system.  Register online or by mail now . The cost is $25, including training materials, continental breakfast and a light lunch.  Learn more
Register now for Planting Seeds for Ministry Growth
 Hopewell UMC will host the annual Planting Seeds for Ministry Growth full-day event Saturday, Nov. 7.  An advanced Christ Servant Ministry course will again be offered in conjunction with Planting Seeds, Nov. 6-7, beginning Friday evening. The theme is "A Force Outside the Fortress," and the keynote speaker will be the Rev. Mike Slaughter, lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio and keynoter at our 2014 Annual Conference. Workshops will include Growing a Mission Movement, led by Slaughter; Teaching the Bible through Film, led by Bible Professor Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch; and Exploring Our Worship Dimension, led by sacred jazz musician Warren Cooper. Register today.
2016 Midwinter Retreat set for Jan. 12 in Lancaster 
The 2016 Midwinter Retreat for all clergy (elders, deacons and local pastors) and their spouses is set for Jan. 12, 2016, at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 2400 Willow Street Pike, Lancaster, PA.  Our guest speaker is retired Chaplain, Brigadier General Charles R. “Ray” Bailey. Sharing his experiences, he will discuss reaching outside our walls to share the Good News. Chaplain Bailey, a UM elder, served churches in Texas before becoming a U.S. Army chaplain in 1982. In 2011 he became the Army's 24th Deputy Chief of Chaplains and has a powerful, personal testimony of the faith and courage of our military heroes.  Please register by Dec. 7  (due to hotel requirements). For questions contact  Amy Botti . Please note that there are only 20 openings for commuters at this event.  
Missed any past issues of NEWSpirit Digest?
You can still read or share informative, colorful back issues of our weekly e-newsletter on the Eastern PA Conference Website at Share this link with others who might want to stay informed about our news, events, resources and concerns. And please encourage them to subscribe by e-mailing Thanks!
Adjourned Session of Annual Conference
Save the Date! Nov. 14, 2015:  The Adjourned Session will be held at the Macungie campus of Bethany UMC, 3801 Brookside Road, Macungie, PA 18062. Register online
Please Save These Dates! 
Oct. 8-28: Bishop's Days on the Districts
  • Oct. 8: Southeast District
  • Oct. 13: Central District
  • Oct. 14: East District
  • Oct. 20: Northeast District
  • Oct. 22: Northwest District
  • Oct. 28: Southwest District
January 12-14, 2016: Midwinter Retreat, DoubleTree Resort, Lancaster, PA. Online registration now open

May 10-20, 2016: UMC General Conference, Portland, OR

June 16-18, 2016: Eastern PA Annual Conference, Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, Lancaster, PA

July 10-16, 2016: EPA Conference to host the 2016 UMC Northeastern  
Jurisdictional Conference Lancaster County Convention Center and the Penn Square Marriott Hotel. Each district will serve as the Hospitality Team for one day.
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church
980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403
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