FEB 2021
By Superintendent Amelia Cleveland-Traylor
I was born in Sandusky, OH but I have lived in many other cities. These include Richmond Heights, OH, Twinsburg, OH, Rochester, NY, Penfield, NY, Shaker Heights, OH, and San Antonio, Texas. The moves I made early in life were related to my education and medical training. More recently, my moves have been motivated by my appointments within the church. I have learned that every city, every hospital, and every church has its own “flavor.” When one moves into any of these new settings, one must take time to learn who the true influencers are, what behaviors are expected and acceptable, and what beliefs and ideas are primary. To ignore or violate one of “rules of engagement” will create conflict, disappointment, or fracture. 
In Mark 7, the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus why his disciples eat with unwashed hands. They were not living according to the tradition of the elders. On the surface, this may not seem like an unreasonable question. After all, there is a role for tradition as one exercises his/her faith. Consider the benefits of communion, responsive prayer or readings, and corporate worship. Communion allows us to focus on Jesus’ sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sin. Recitation of Apostle’s creed provides a succinct summary of foundational beliefs. Corporate worship provides an opportunity for fellowship and mutual edification. Traditions clearly can be good, but Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question the following way:
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.” Mark 7:6-9 NLT
You see, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had perfected religious rituals but had disconnected from the heart of God. They were confident of what to say. They were confident of what to do. Their faith traditions had been learned and practiced for a long time, but they failed to establish a relationship with God and to know His heart. Their behavior was not dictated by a love of God but a love of self and tradition. They were experts at church culture but ignorant of the heart of God. They exercised the letter of the law but missed out on the spirit of the law. 
There are many rules and traditions that control the faith community. In some churches, music is limited to hymns alone. In some churches, there must be quiet reverence while in others there must be expressive praise. In some churches, one must identify as conservative while in others one must identify as loving and socially aware. In some, there are rigid dress codes while in others clothing choices are without restrictions.  
Have you ever wondered if we have lost sight of God with our traditions? Have we challenged ourselves to ask what does God have to say about our traditions, our biases, and worship? Now that we are in the Lenten season, let us ask ourselves if our tightly held traditions lead us toward or away from God. Do we dare offer Him more than our habits? Let’s commit to making His priorities our own. Let’s get past the rituals of religion to establish a meaningful relationship with Christ.  Let’s offer Him our hearts. 
Here is a website that was recommended by one of our pastors.

It's free and confidential. Blesseveryhome.com gives you the tools to become a Light for Christ in your neighborhood. Join an ever-growing community of Christ followers who are devoted to being a Light in their neighborhoods through praying for, caring for, sharing the gospel with, and discipling their neighbors.

They provide all the tools to get to know your neighbors by name so that you can begin to build relationships with them. Use your dashboard to track your individual progress with each neighbor. You will even receive optional daily reminder emails with a prayer prompt and 5 neighbors to pray for that day.
TRC Churches in the Deep Freeze
As you all have heard, our Texas churches were in the middle of the recent arctic blast that hit in February.

The River Conference set up an online giving portal for anyone who would like to contribute to those churches effected by the recent weather phenomena. The issues that have and will arise for these churches will be great.

If you would like to donate please use the QR Code below.
The Deacon's Bench
TRC uses Brotherhood Mutual for our insurance needs. They provide periodic newsletters to help their customers with various situations. This edition is very helpful with natural disasters. Please take some time to review this by clicking below.

The NY/NJ Metro Ministry Training Center is pleased to begin a new online cohort for theological and pastoral formation that will be taught directly in Swahili (and other African languages as needed) via Zoom. The tentative course schedule and enrollment form is attached below.

For more information, email chris.pulice@acts1224churches.com or text/call 540-241-7021.

Recommended tuition for each student is $65 per credit hour. A minimum of 8 students per cohort is ideal. When this is not possible, churches and/or conferences are encouraged to give an additional Love Offering to help compensate the instructor.

The influx of African Immigrant Kingdom leaders into the USA is a great opportunity for the FMCUSA to advance the Kingdom of Jesus. However, a robust theological and pastoral formation program that is directly taught in native African languages is largely missing. In response to this opportunity and challenge, we seek to multiply the African teaching ministry of the NY/NJ Metro Training Center into Annual Conferences across the USA. As we launch this initiative, we seek to raise $75,000 over the next three years to mentor a next generation of instructors—"reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 2:2). We invite you to join us in carrying this vision, raising support, and identifying potential candidates whom God is calling to equip the saints through the spiritual gift of teaching.

The Benefits Committee passed a policy concerning eligibility for voluntary pension enrollment. Any domestic FMC ordained pastors who are at non-FM churches, and not appointed to a FM church, have the option to choose to enroll in the FMC-USA pension plan. These non-FM churches will have the same contribution policies as all other churches in the plan. This means a church that is not a FM church may enroll a pastor who is ordained in the FMC. They would then pay 13.5% of the pastor’s pension eligible compensation. We would need to have the ACH form completed for the church in order to process the payments for the pastor. This also means that if you have a pastor who is leaving to work outside the denomination, but plans to keep their FMC credentials, their new church has the option of contributing to their FMC-USA pension. 

Effective January 1, 2021, our office is once again assessing delinquent interest charges to all churches with a balance due over 60 days. The interest rate is determined by the pension plan’s prior year’s investment return with a minimum of 5% and a maximum of 15%. The plan had an investment return of 14.7% for 2020, therefore the interest rate for 2021 is 14.7%. If you have a church with a delinquent balance, it will be displayed on the outstanding info sheet.
We are now asking that all conference offices begin using the Nyhart Portal for the Pension Enrollment and Change of Status forms. Please ask that anyone needing to submit an enrollment form use the Nyhart link instead of the old one. The old ones are still active, but we are trying to move forward with the new forms as quickly as possible to better streamline the billing process. If you need the login information for your conference, please contact our office. The Nyhart Portal link for the Pension Enrollment form is portal.nyhart.com/FreeMethodist/OnlineEnrollment, and the Change of Status form link is portal.nyhart.com/FreeMethodist/Status. The enrollment form will not require you to login to your account, but the Change of Status form will. Active pension plan participants did receive notice of their login information in 2018 with their annual benefit statements, but we have not yet set up account login info for the individual churches. 
TRC signed up to take advantage of Amazon.com's "give back" campaign. Amazon Smile is a program where you can designate a charity to receive a percentage of any purchase made on Amazon.com.

If you buy things off Amazon, please consider designating TRC as your charity. How to get started:
www.smile.amazon.com - find The River Conference of the Free Methodist Church, Lakewood, CO on the charity list, select it. Now every time you order something from Amazon, you must enter through the smile.amazon.com website, you'll see what charity you're supporting in red letters. Then start shopping. Amazon will automatically deposit donations into our checking account.

If you buy things off Amazon, please consider designating TRC as your charity.
Around the Conference
TRC COVID-19 State Resources
Below are the websites for all the states in The River Conference that have current information on COVID-19. Stay informed. These websites have the most current information for each state. Simply click on the state and it will take you to the corresponding website.

Ben Forsberg (Phoenix, Citizen's Church) ben@citizensofphoenix.org

Ryan Stoops (Caldwell, Deer Flat Church) ryanstoops@deerflat.org

Mark Douglas (Pueblo, Light & Life) pastor@pueblolightandlife.com

Ali Mitachi (Abilene, Portland Avenue) mitachilw@yahoo.com

James Ford (Corpus Christi CPP) jesusandjames@yahoo.com

James Leman (Spokane, First) james.leman@ffmwired.com
Upcoming Committee Meetings

Tuesday, March 2, 2021
MAC Monthly Video Conference

Thursday, March 4, 2021
MEG Monthly Video Conference

Thursday, March 11, 2021
Property Team Monthly Video Conference

Thursday, March 18, 2021
Board of Directors Monthly Video Conference

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
District Leaders Video Conference

Find out what is happening around the Free Methodist Church. Click below to view the respective newsletters
Just LANDed Newsletter
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