Wednesday, December 31, 2014

VP of Audience

I noticed a job posting in the local newspaper Sunday that caught my attention. They are looking for a Vice President of Audience. I'd never heard of, or thought of, such a position. I guess it makes sense if you think about the significant challenges newspapers have faced the last 40 years as cultural and media changes have swept the land. Consider the place of newspapers in the 1960's (or read some history) and the growth of TV news, internet, and current news cycle. With the aging Baby Boomers, (perhaps the last newspaper subscribers?), you have a declining market with the following generations not showing much interest in the daily print media. It's a tough market!

My work is in church and community, in mission and outreach most specifically, so I'll jump to the application that intrigues me with this job description. There are plenty of parallels between the old successes and recent challenges of the newspaper industry and the last generation of the church in the United States.

As I think about building audience there are plenty of applications, and questions, that a church might consider (unless the congregation wishes to go the way of many newspapers):

How are local congregations focused and structured to intentionally reach and build audience in their community? More specifically, who are the people in the church that serve to engage the community and build your audience? What skills are expected and nurtured in members to help them build audience? What collaboration of ministry/ministries is necessary to effectively engage your community as you engage and build? How is this vital function consistently promoted and how does your church assess how members are doing in building audience? Like newspapers today, how are we redeveloping our strategy so that we maintain our focus while using new tools?

Perhaps you think of questions specific to your context as you play with this concept of building audience. Here's the job description to fuel your thoughts and discussion. The job goal is to 'become integral and indispensable in the lives of local people, resulting in much larger audiences." It sounds like a vital function that every member of a strong community church might well consider as their own job.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Incarnational Church

It's the end of the calendar year and beginning of the Christian year. This offers great opportunity to reflect on the past year/years and to dream about the possibilities in the coming year.

A couple of days ago I was reading about GM and their last year with the new CEO, the ignition switch recall of 800,000 vehicles, and their ongoing quest to change in order to succeed today. It reminded me of a blog I posted some 5 years ago comparing the UMC to GM as the big institutions which did well in previous years must now retool in order to be competitive and strong today. These years later I wonder how much, or is it how little, talk leads to action. I also wondered about rhetoric inside the organization versus the objective reality of  "by the numbers approach" and comparison to similar organizations. Of course, do we look for profit, or production, or consumer perception, or dependability, or other numbers. It is easy to "do what you've always done," but given some time that typically leads to an institution finding itself "overspending, overmanned, and inefficient."

In this Christmas season we wonder again at the mystery and reality of incarnation. "If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here." What does it mean to be an incarnational church, the Body of Christ today, in ways that save us and save those in our midst? What does it mean for us to be the Church Militant/ Ecclesia Militans in our own community?

I'm also thinking some about the complexity, yet simplicity, of church. The complexity seems to revolve around the every day reality of life in a church- the flow/tug/tide of tradition, personalities, and small group dynamics, and issues of position and power in a community. The simplicity seems to revolve around what God continues to do in people's lives, the way of Christ, the ongoing power of Spirit, the yearning we all have for the Kingdom of God unleashed in our lives today.

I'm thinking a lot about congregations and how they are effectively sharing a witness for Christ in their community. I'm also thinking about how many of us struggle in this secular day to be effective in such ministry. Is it that this generation is less religious or that the churches we have built/designed/programmed just don't meet the needs of people today?

A new year is almost upon us. Now is the time for renewal and for being an incarnational church where our neighbors may find the community of salvation.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Can You Help our NGUMC Portugal Bridge?


Rev. Everhart’s original message:
We have been given a new opportunity today. Bishop Sifredo has asked our help in funding a new church start by contributing to the salary of the new pastor, Marcelo Fonseca. Marcelo was trained last May here at our License to Preach School. He is ready to serve and has already committed himself. To support him and to pay for the rent we need $25,000 right now (by February) to take to Portugal. Alone this is a huge amount of money but if each church in the Atlanta Emory District would send a check for $500.00 from their Mission Funds we would have $22,500.00. I will ask the Annual Conference to come up with the difference for this first year. ONLY $ 500.00 is all I’m asking. Do you have $500 left in your budget? Please check with your leaders and if they agree to be a part of planting a church in Portugal please send a check to the District Office ASAP marked for Church Plant Portugal.  I will count you as one of the 50 churches on the Bridge to Portugal and you will have a part in bringing good news of great joy to all people.

I know I’m asking a lot with our Fair Share Mission Asking, our District Work Fund and your benefits but please see if you cannot find $500 to contribute ASAP before 2014 is closed. I’m willing to receive your gift in January as well, beggars are not choosy.

Grace and peace,
Teresa Lilja
Administrative Assistant
The Atlanta Emory District
5161 Brook Hollow Parkway, Suite 210
Norcross, GA  30071
770.446.7506 - Office

Christmas Celebrations with Philippines United Methodists

Here are photos from various United Methodists churches in the Manila area of the Philippines where Rudy Juan is the residing bishop.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas with Action Ministries

Action Ministries is our North Georgia Bridge partner that is right here in our own conference area. This ministry sprung out of the churches in 1963, and has strong community ministry engaging a variety of partners in locations across the northern part of the state to address the challenges of poverty with focus on hunger relief, housing, and education. Sites in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Decatur, Gainesville, and Rome lead the charge as we mobilize to transform lives. Here are some photos courtesy of Rev. John Moeller, President & CEO, from Christmas at Action Ministries Atlanta held at Grace UMC today. 

Christmas Celebration with Portugal Methodists

Celebrating Christmas in Porto:

Christmas singing:

Christmas story:

Christmas sweets:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas: Russia

Our United Methodist brothers and sisters share these photos from their celebration of Christmas in their churches in Russia.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas: Bahamas

As we prepare for Christmas it's interesting to remember our various NGUMC Bridge partners as they also celebrate.

Here are some photos from church Christmas programs courtesy of Tori Danielson of Bahamas Methodist Habitat.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014: Six Mission Highlights

Often the end of the year brings time for reflection and a recap of the biggest news. I'm thinking about mission and outreach today. How have you experienced the Kingdom of God this year? For me, this has local to international implications. I'll list a quick synopsis as so much has already been written on most of these topics throughout the year.

Here are my 6 mission highlights of the year:

Churches continue to refine, redefine, right size as it seems we are ending a chapter in U.S. Christianity and entering into a new era. This offers both impact and potential for churches in mission. How will this play out as the Baby Boomer generation continues aging and what opportunities are there for the next generations?

US discussions and action related to race. Many communities are at a boiling point in race relations. Rather than sides being drawn how might the church offer a way forward? How is the church part of the solution in community building? What next steps might you take in relationship building, and community building, which will create the community everyone deserves?

Ebola- this has been a significant story this year and still continues. What is the short term and long term impact? What have we learned?

UMC Global Ministries announced a new direction which will reshape their missions and ministries. This story will continue to unfold in 2015-2016 as the global nature of the UMC will be even more reflected in the structure.

Congregations in Mission- whether small church or large, inner city or rural, the community of faith is called to follow in the way of Christ as we participate in the Missio Dei and respond to the Holy Spirit today. Unfortunately, many congregations have become distant from their community and this generation. How can your church share true Good News in word and deed in your own community in ways which match your time and place?

I took on a new job in mission as I work with my annual conference and GBGM! This has me available for congregations across the UMC to assist with mission celebrations (look for update on this link soon!) and a strategy of mission that will launch your church into the next year of service. In the NGUMC I'm available to help with mission at the local, regional/national, and international level for networking, assessment, coaching, equipping, etc. For NGUMC I have special focus on Bridges in order to have at least 50 churches on every Bridge as we partner better for greater transformational impact.

OK, I know that last one isn't on the same scale as the others, but my work does have direct connection to all of these biggest stories. And so does your mission and ministry! 2015 will offer us even more opportunities to work together as we become part of the biggest stories lived out in our time. The global, connectional nature of The United Methodist Church gives us the vehicle we need to be part of this ongoing drama of redemptive service in our time.

What are your mission highlights from the last year? What are you anticipating in 2015 as you serve in the Mission of God?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Out of the Box Church

I just read about Out of the Box Church. It seems like this sort of local community engagement out to be the norm. Though it may differ depending on a church context I would hope every congregation is looking for the ways to be a servant in their area, follow Christ in the streets in the ways that are authentic and transformational, grow relationship with the children of God (of all ages) out in the community, and help them find their place in the community of faith/ the family of God/ the church.

"They don’t apologize for doing things differently at Out of the Box. Instead, they work to endear themselves to their community by providing members lots of opportunities to engage in ministry with those around them. For example, members regularly volunteer on cleanup and recovery crews after storms, chop firewood for those who heat their homes with wood stoves, and host free cookouts in low-income areas of their community. They encourage every member to be an active evangelist for Jesus Christ, not only by serving their neighbors, but also by inviting those neighbors into the congregation and making sure they feel welcomed and loved."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Seasonal Mission Texts: The Suffering Servant #1

The Advent texts of the various reading cycles guide us in expectation, and in feeling the strain of reality and what we long for in life and faith. I've always been drawn to the "Suffering Servant" songs/poems and the powerful imagery. Of course, the readings remind me of the hoped for Messiah and define for me who Jesus is as I lean toward Christmas. Over the years I also learned that a Hebrew reader may think in terms of the people Israel as the Suffering Servant. That has always been very helpful to me as I read the Old Testament/Hebrew scriptures, and as I grapple with the promise and hope found in the New Testament. When I combine these two interpretations- one with focus on Messiah and the other upon the people of faith- I am personally forced to consider what it means for the Church, the Body of Christ today, to be the Suffering Servant in our communities and in our world. This also helps me to avoid that overly sentimental, but spiritually lacking, repetition of Advent and Christmas that is either too distant and historic or too individualistic, self absorbed, and removed from the realities of life today.

How is your Advent leaning into that intersection of the harsh realities of life and the incarnation of God? How is your celebration of Christmas more than a consumerist orgy or personal/family extravaganza lacking the larger social connections which might grow your holiness as you best express love of God and love of neighbor? How are you, and your church, following in the way of Christ and the model of a Suffering Servant?

Read and struggle with me in living out the answers.

The First Song: The Servant of the Lord 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Partners Needed for Scouting Ministry in Cote d'Ivoire

I'm looking for some churches who either believe in the power of scouting or the power of community outreach to children and youth. If you believe in both you will certainly want to embrace this opportunity with your prayers and encouragement.

Ty LaValley soon departs to serve in Cote d'Ivoire to serve in mission by helping the United Methodist conference and churches there to establish scouting ministry as a way of engaging communities and growing the church. This is something of a pilot program as indigenous scouting ministry could take root in countries all over the world!

This week Ty has been on a bike ride adventure touring the United Methodist churches of the Augusta District. He's continuing to actively build support, but needs more people and churches on the team. 

Here's Ty's mission profile as he soon departs to serve the United Methodist Church in Cote d'Ivoire. Or you can keep up with his adventures at  his personal Facebook page or FB group. Or you can keep up with his blog. But do try to keep up with him and actively encourage his good ministry.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dynamic Global Mission

I have spent Monday through Wednesday in New York City with Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. In some respects this is a lifelong dream fulfilled to spend time in this place with people who devote their career and energy to mission throughout the United States and around the world. The support of long term missionaries, short term missions and teams, missional institutions, young adults in mission, UMCOR & UMVIM, sharing and coordinating stories, and needs, and opportunities... and in so many different ways engaging the United Methodist Church in mission... is awe inspiring!

While here I've met incredibly gifted people who help in this effort that requires so much understanding, discernment, and communication.

I've heard of the trio of United Methodist missionaries returning to Liberia November 6 to support the Liberia UMC response to ebola.

I've seen the GBGM team in action in all sorts of ways that has impact in so many countries and cultures.

I've heard of new missionaries, including one from my home area of Augusta, GA, who are now in Ecuador in training.

I've heard of the United Methodist work in new areas where there are many challenges, and little funding, yet the Good News of Jesus Christ is being shared in word and deed and people are responding in incredible ways.

I've heard of so much more about our global United Methodist mission movement that there isn't enough room to recount it all here!

And I've only been here 3 days.

Today I was particularly interested to hear a report from Vietnam where the UMC is experiencing incredible growth. Three reasons were given why so many people are attracted to the Methodist witness:

1) United Methodists talk about and get involved with social concerns as they express the love of God and Christian faith in action.

2) United Methodists not only allow, but encourage women in leadership, as the Holy Spirit gifts all of us for the work of the Church in mission and ministry.

3) United Methodists are connected to a global church and not just a congregation. No matter how remote or isolated a congregation may seem there is a larger Church that is their Church.

I'm being renewed in my sense of the power of our United Methodist history, doctrine, and polity, and how effective that can be as we work together for the sake of proclaiming the gospel to the whole world. It calls each of us to do our best and to be part of a larger team. That necessarily involves some "give and take." I might need to yield as I give up some control as we conference and come up with the best plan that does all the good possible without doing harm. I must be part of a larger, more diverse team, in order to better navigates languages, customs, and cultures that are likely very foreign to me. This all seems more like the Body of Christ deserving of great wonder and mystery.

It has been quite a 3 day week!

I've felt somewhat like a young child who loves the circus that gets to "go behind the scenes" and see firsthand what happens. I'm glad to report that the magic and excitement is heightened for me after going deeper into the life of our mission agency. I certainly know there are a lot of largely unheralded workers who will have my prayers, support, and encouragement. These mission folk are all becoming more real to me as I match their name with their face with their job in mission. It turns out that God needs all of us to work together to do what we need to do for the Kingdom.  

More than ever I'm sold on our United Methodist "connectional" system of mission and ministry. While there is always plenty to work on to be effective and responsive to the current day, and deal with the challenges, it's a solid system that calls for our best teamwork.

These are good days of adventure for Christ in mission. I'm already stronger in my faith, and resolve in the mission of God, because of my involvement in Global Ministries.

I wonder what the fourth day will bring?!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Helpers at the Crossroads of Congregation & Missio Dei

My new job has me working with United Methodist congregations as a missions strategist. It's an incredible time to be in mission as the work of God is both local and global. Our opportunity is to join up with this movement in the new fresh wave of the Kingdom which is taking place around the world. For a congregation this means the opportunity to follow Christ in all sorts of exciting ways in any number of 125 locations.

Mission is an exhilarating venture as the missionaries and ministers and baptized believers involved are as diverse as all the ethnic groups in those 125 countries. This new way of mission is more than just funding. It's more than just study and prayer. It's more than just projects a team may carry out in a visit.  

This mission of God involves a new dynamic of relationships, activities, and partnerships. More than a mission sending agency, both the NGUMC Connectional Ministries office & UMC's Global Ministries offer the opportunity to help a congregation, district, or conference become more effective in mission in ways which are transformational for those who serve and those who are being served. I join two gifted teams eager to assist congregations in this vital task of our generation to share true Good News in word and deed in many, many communities and countries.

What is your role in God's mission today? How might I best encourage, equip, and support you and your congregation in this high calling? Watch for exciting news throughout the next few weeks as I begin that exploration with many followers of Christ who are also on the journey as mission leaders!

See God's Mission Is Global to learn more and be sure to watch for updates...

Friday, October 17, 2014

This Week in My New Mission Post

I've finished two weeks and a day in my new mission post. What a wild, wonderful ride!

Here are some of the things I've learned, or learned again, along the Way this week:

1) The love and support of those you've previously served is a great foundation for the next challenge.

2) Conference office staff know how to throw a welcome party and extend hospitality.

3) North Georgia communities and churches are wonderfully diverse.

4) How much time was spent in the past on navigation and frustration before we had electronic navigators who would tell us where to turn?

5) Thank goodness the Voice will guide us when we get lost or misplaced!

6) Music is a wonderful, soothing way to endure ATL traffic.

7) Conversations about mission and ministry with future orientation and discovery are a lot of fun.

8) To be something of a circuit riding mission guy who asks to sleep in a church is an interesting way to learn.

9) It is a wonderful thing to be dependent on more people and to be in a shared ministry that offers richer experience of the Connection and the Kingdom.

10) It's great to be home to rest and reflect before it's time to ride again!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mission & Outreach in North Georgia & Beyond

Well, I'm a week and a day into my new appointment working with the Connectional Ministries of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church (60% of my time- focus on Bridges, mission effectiveness for conference, districts, and congregations) and focus on Mission Celebrations and mission strategy in a congregation for UMC Global Ministries (40% of my time). I went from serving Trinity on the Hill UMC in Augusta on Tuesday, September 30, and enjoying a half day off after my "good bye" lunch, to getting settled in the Conference office on Wednesday with a Connectional Ministries staff retreat at Camp Glisson on Thursday. I enjoyed Friday & Saturday back in Augusta getting some things settled from my old office into my home, working on some ideas and contacts, plus enjoyed some time with my family and cutting the grass and taking care of "home" work.

Sunday offered opportunity to worship at Wesley UMC in Evans (I hadn't worshiped in their new sanctuary before, hadn't been there for worship since hearing Glenn Ethridge many years ago, and had never heard Adam Hilderbrandt preach until Sunday) and then packed and had the late afternoon drive to Simpsonwood to be ready for a week of intensive training.

This week I have been in coaching training. I'm part of the CAST Fast Track group with a 40 hour immersion this week. We've had instruction, practice, and supervision in Coach Approach Skill Training with Rev. Chris Holmes & George Casey. Chris co-wrote the curriculum with George Howard. This has been a strong week for me due to the phenomenal leaders and participants paired up with excellent content.

I must confess I was originally a little suspicious, and maybe even skeptical about this coaching stuff. I knew it was a fad a few years back, and fads tend to make me uneasy as they are often shallow, personality driven, and lacking skill development. I couldn't have been more wrong. The reading, interactions, and depth of training have really exceeded my expectations. I rarely say such a thing. Like many folk, I tend to "get what I can get" out of any experience and expect some training may cause me to work harder to find any gold. Or aluminum. Or anything of use. This was a very, VERY different experience than I expected and I'm grateful for it.

Rather quickly I realized there is a lot I can gain from someone who can help me in my thinking and action, who is safe to bounce ideas off of, who can encourage me and challenge me, who can hold me accountable even as they move me to action, and who I trust for confidentiality and genuine deep interest in my needs as they work with me personally or might assist me and my team. The exercises were practical, absolutely not role play, and based in my/our own practical, real life situations.  

I've still got to put hours in by coaching and by being coached, but I can tell this is launching me into my new job/s in a significant way. I've got one more day of training this week, yet I've already been coached in ways that will make me more effective in my thinking, my performance with groups, my leadership, and my overall personal and professional life. I've found this to be very holistic as it meets the needs I have and addresses the areas where I asked a coach for assistance.

So, if you would like to be coached to become more effective in mission and ministry and life, or want more information to decide about getting your own training in coaching, I'd be glad to talk with you. Or you can talk to a number of other clergy friends from North GA, TN, NC, NJ, and MO who were at our training and had similar experiences to mine. I'm looking forward to being coached and making myself available to coach others in ways that lead to transformation and action.

And who knows how exciting my next week of work will be?!

Blessings, Scott

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Needed: Horse That Can Go Far on Little Hay & a Barn For the Night

I won't have it as bad as the Methodist circuit riders of old, but it is fun to reconnect with the concept of being a "traveling preacher" versus being a "located preacher." Those were some of the terms used in the early days of Methodism which would differentiate between a preacher constantly on the move versus someone who settled in a community with family and church. 

I've spent my clergy career based in congregations with strong community mission and ministry. Now I'll become a resourcer, strategist, and equipper for congregations. That means I'll be a traveling guy. I've found myself checking back in with Methodist history... and talking to a lot of traveling salesman to learn tips from them about life on the road. 

There are some great stories about circuit riders.

I've been thinking a lot about transportation as I make my change. The horse worked well for the circuit rider of old. Today, I'm wondering about the best car that gets great mpg and is comfortable to ride in all day, day after day, month after month. I wonder how Francis Asbury sized up a horse fit to hold up to Methodist miles and lifestyle. I've been talking to traveling salesmen and Methodist circuit riders that get in a lot of miles every week and Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Mazda 6, VW Golf TDI, and Toyota Camry are recurring entries for the great mileage/high comfort in my price range. Any others or any ideas? 

I'm also thinking a lot about where those traveling preachers would spend a night as they moved from one preaching station to another. The journal entries from the old days often speak of folk from a church/circuit, or those friendly to the cause, who might offer a barn and hay, or perhaps some minimal bed space and a meal, for the traveling preacher. What might a simple solution look like today for a circuit rider in any conference? Here in the US that tends to mean hotel stays. I can see where that is sometimes advantageous or perhaps the only option. But I wonder if a mission guy like me might get a better sense of the church and community if I spent a day, or better yet days, in the locale. It's interesting to pursue this thought and consider some options. What better way to know if a church is prepared to host as an emergency shelter than to spend the night, cook in the kitchen, and use their shower?! I recall one church in Romania that had a few rooms over the fellowship hall to accommodate traveling preachers or missionaries. I've suggested to my wife that perhaps we/I need a used Class B or C camper that could stay at a distant part of the conference, but could also be moved in case of disaster response where a small team might need to be self sufficient and rotate in different people. What have you seen that works well? What are your thoughts as you think of regional mission and ministry?

Welcome to a journey to various frontiers where I hope to plunge deeper into the life of church in community. Your ideas and dialogue will be an important part of this as together we explore what it means to be a strong Methodist Christian witness today in communities from North Georgia to locations all over the world. As shared above, do note that traveling preachers ALWAYS need lots of help and a large team to be effective!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Chapter of Work in Mission

During the last seven years I've served in my role as a mission pastor in a large UMC, but also tried to become more useful as clergy by wearing my conference and general church hats as well. All clergy in the UMC should be available and useful in the congregation, district, conference, and UMC at large. I realized that for too long I had merely pursued ministry in the congregation and needed to become more useful and say "yes" to some other UMC ministry and work that into the schedule. This connectional ministry experience has helped me better follow Christ and become more useful and effective in my witness for Christ. Serving on a conference Board of Ordained Ministry makes you study more, pray more, discern more deeply, and work with others in ways that I found transformational. In similar fashion, as I took on more responsibility with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, and the North Georgia United Methodist Conference Bridges, I found myself stretched, improved, and going on to perfection in ways that could only be described in lengthy conversation and are best personally experienced. 

In retrospect this isn't a new path, but is a thread which seems consistent throughout my life as the intersection of faith and action in the world have always been a priority and calling for me. 

Next Wednesday I start a new adventure and will work to help churches and Methodist Christians in North Georgia and around the world. I will help North GA UMC's claim a Bridge and become more effective in mission in God's kingdom by serving as a mission strategist/consultant/resourcer. A congregation can pray, study, go, fund, or participate in some way which will be mutually beneficial on both sides of the Bridge. I'm looking for at least 50 churches on every Bridge and need all the help I can get as we team up in the most effective, transformational ways. We are using "best practices" of mission which UMVIM and GBGM teach as part of the current mission movement. 50/50 partnership covenants are already finding tremendous application both "here" and "there." If you haven't had mission training in your church or district in the last 3 years it would be worth your time to be in conversation with me.  I can offer anything from entry level mission to more advanced issues of your choosing. There is a fresh, new mission movement which you want to be a partner in as it could have great impact in your own community as it has around the world.

I'll also work with UMC Global Ministries with focus on Mission Celebrations as a tool for a congregation, district, or conference to give thanks for what God has done through the team in the past year, and to launch into a new year of relationship and work in God's mission as we follow the way of Christ. While this concept has been around for many years, and used by many mission sending groups, too many churches and clergy have lost this as a powerful element of congregational life. Now, and understand this clearly, this isn't a simple sales job touting a program. What I've experienced, and would encourage you in, is an event which personally engages your congregation or ministry in the next steps you might take in the Kingdom of God. I can help your ministry develop a comprehensive mission plan that creates a strong connection between the congregation and community (or world!), and a Mission Celebration which expresses worship, discipleship/training, prayer, and action. We've got the models, the resources, the inspiring speakers, and the teachers available to help you become more effective in your context and calling.  

This bold, innovative 60/40 partnership of time between NGUMC & GBGM is very exciting to me and I trust will be useful and effective to many UMC ministries. Do call on me by phone, e-mail, Facebook, or in person as we work together in God's Kingdom.   

Oh, and here's the official news about my next step in case you missed it earlier this month:

Trinity on the Hill UMC announcement

Methodist Clothing & Character

I've been reading from Indiana Circuit Rider Days and found pages 75-76 interesting to compare to our time. I'm retaining the spelling as found online, but trust you will get the gist of it:

The preachers with fev/ exceptions, came to the con- 
ference cloathed in home-spun, and all of them except 
a few who lived along the Ohio river came to the con- 
ference on horse back, and most of them were seedy 
when they arrived. ''Many had come from a month's 
tussle with the ague, and some of them kept up the 
shake habit every other day during conference." Dur- 
ing the latter part of the conference session a resolu- 
tion was introduced requesting that the preachers re- 
turn to the original plainness of dress, and that they 
be requested to wear either the round breasted or plain 
frock coats. The reason for this resolution, was the 
fact that John S. Bayless having married a well-to-do 
woman of Vincennes, had come to conference wearing 
his wedding suit, which was tailor made and in the 
height of fashion; the pants tight with narrow falls; 
the coat was "pigeon tailed" and the hat a stove-pipe, 
the whole giving the wearer a unique appearance in a 
Methodist conference of that period in Indiana.^""' But 
more and more after this conference the preachers 
dressed as they pleased, though this motion was passed 
without a dissenting vote, and a few years later a 
similar resolution was introduced, and passed. 

One of the important parts of a Methodist confer- 
ence's business is the examination of character. Not 
only were those just entering the conference examined, 
in this regard, but each year the characters of every 
member of the conference had to be "passed." Espe- 
cially were those, who were up for admission into full 
connection, given a careful examination. One case 
which came before the conference of 1839 was espe- 
cially interesting. The young man under considera- 
tion was William J. Forbes, who was just closing his 
second year as a probationer, and therefore if he was 

found deserving he might be admitted. The committee 
on his studies gave a very complimentary report. He 
was good on everything, and very good on several. 
Finally the Presiding Elder, under whom he had been 
traveling, reported that this young man was a very 
good preacher, and the people liked to hear him. He 
also reported that he read a great deal and understood 
what he read, but he said, no one is converted under 
his preaching. At this juncture up jumped James 
Havens, and asked, "Does he make anybody mad?" To 
this the Elder replied, "O no ! He is a sweet tempered 
man, everybody loves him." "Then Fm opposed to 
him," said Havens. "A man under whose preaching 
nobody is converted and nobody made mad is not fit for 
a Methodist preacher." In spite, however, of James 
Havens' opposition Forbes was admitted, for, said the 
Bishop, "A young man that reads a great deal and 
understands what he reads and preaches well, and that 
everybody loves, is a safe case."''*' 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chapters of Faith & Vocation

What do you see when you look back on your life and career?

For me the majority of my time and energy has been serving in congregations in mission and ministry.  In particular, I've served Trinity on the Hill UMC twice during my career.  That, in and of itself, is something that is rather unusual for clergy.  For me it has been a great honor as I have been allowed to serve a dynamic congregation, sink roots deep into community life, and see the "ebb and flow" of life in church and community.    

From 1994-2000 I had the privilege of serving with David Jones and company as program director at TOTH.  Since 2007 I've served Trinity again with primary emphasis in mission, and then "utility player" that I am, with secondary emphasis changing over the years.  I've been part time Wesley Foundation director at Augusta State University from 2007- February 2011 which was then shifted with funding and staff changes at Trinity to evangelism through March of this year, and then to adult discipleship most recently in April.  All along the way I enjoyed pulling in as many people as possible to do what I could never do by myself.  I've always needed a strong team, and many laity, to love God and love neighbor and attempt all sorts of crazy and exciting things as we seek to live in the Kingdom.  I imagine the next few weeks will find me reminiscing and swapping stories as we celebrate what has happened, and what will yet occur, as we follow in the way of Jesus.      

During my "second tour" at Trinity I've more intentionally worked to wear my UMC clergy hat so that I serve congregation, conference, and Church.  Over the years that has meant serving on the conference Board of Ordained Ministry.  In the last couple of years that has had me serving as conference coordinator with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), and then rather naturally by extension of this position with NGUMC Bridges as our conference churches partner together with each other to be of greater service to our Methodist and United Methodist family in a few specific countries.

Sometimes it is a very subtle, and somewhat easy thing, to turn a page and realize you've moved from one chapter into another.  Of course, while the act itself is small and simple there can still be plenty of emotion and plot in the story!

So, after 13 years, and 2 tours of service, I'll soon move into a new ministry field doing what I've done for years though in different locations and contexts.

This church announcement was shared with my congregation yesterday.  Look for more news and story swapping in the day and days ahead.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 1 in Moscow

 Russell Davis and I made the trip fine to Moscow.  Of course, that means little to no sleep on the red eye flight from JFK to Moscow.  The 8 hour time difference does make the 10:30am arrival feel like a middle of the night dream. But everything was smooth in all respects.

Wednesday we travel most of the day by bus to Veronezh to the festival at Camp Crystal.  I will post from there if I have wifi acess.  Here's a photo taken at my seminary dorm room today that has Russian flair.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Celebrating Methodism in Russia

This next week will offer some great stories and photos, but I'm not sure if I'll have WiFi access.  Stay tuned as there may be updates through the week or check back the following week for information from a historic gathering of United Methodists in Russia.

Find news of the event at Festival Celebrates 125 years of Methodism in Russia and Eurasia.

To learn more about United Methodism in Russia this link gives a good overview with accompanying sites with more details.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fort Frederica Visit

The annual Georgia Pastors' School for United Methodist clergy is always a highlight of the year for me and for my family.  In addition to the event and seeing clergy from North GA and South GA it also allows time to soak in the location, the wonder of nature, and the incredible history of the region.

This year I found myself in Darien one day at Fort King George and another afternoon at Christ Church and Fort Frederica.

Here are a couple of photos from Fort Frederica that got my attention:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Action Ministries "Smart Lunch, Smart Kid"

And, then after VBS in the morning, and Basketball Camp in the afternoon, we had a group packing 225 lunch bags & making ham and cheese sandwiches for Smart Lunch, Smart Kid!

Basketball Camp 2014

Our church has a tradition of offering VBS in the middle of July in the morning hours, and then offering a basketball camp each afternoon.  My youngest child LOVES this week and looks forward to it as a participant with hopes of being a helper in just a few more years.

Vacation Bible School 2014

Of Neglected Blogs & Busy Days

Where has the time gone?

Recent months have seen too much going on in church work, in personal life, and in United Methodist happenings, so I've let go of the updates for some time.

It's funny for me to look back over the number of UM thoughts and draft blogs that I wrote, and saved without publishing, as I supposed there were already too many words.  It seemed to me, or is it seems to me, that there are some other missing ingredients to the struggles of life in a family, in community, and in covenant which a blog just doesn't always help so well.  Often a blog or social media seems to foster one level of communication, yet just doesn't feel right with the timing, the challenges of life and faith, and the struggles which living presents us.  The status updates and media feed sometimes becomes an oppressive beast which doesn't enhance breathing, thinking, praying, living.  But, I've got to return in sharing updates as there are incredible things happening every day in the work of the Kingdom of God that I experience.  Hopefully this small sharing will point firmly to a way of following Christ which makes sense and is "doable", will encourage you in life and faith, and will pull you into exciting everyday missions for God.

Here's to grace,
and to peace,
and to life lived in family and community and church
through all the challenges and opportunities of these days.
May we experience the Living God in ways that might transform us and transform those around us.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tea Rooms for Missions?!

Here's something for the Idea Bank-- use your church location and provide a service as an element of big community events!  While a Tea Room might not work in your city or community there's likely some area event where you can find your role and create your own tradition.

What new opportunity is brewing for you and your community?
I just read an interesting article that is a great match for adults during Lent.  I love that God can get our attention whether we are Chuck Colson or Mike McCurry.  I'll resist the temptation at this point to make a joke about politicians of every stripe needing redemption!  Read about McCurry's ongoing discovery and openness to faith even as he continues to look at the social and political implications of faith.  Neither a Colson or McCurry can erase their background, their world view, their perspectives and life experiences.  Yet they can grapple with who Jesus is and what it means for them to follow Him.  Don't get too drawn into politics if you are a diehard Republican or Democrat, but read here and think about your own adult journey in faith.  I guess the challenge is what do we with our faith, how do we express such a relationship and faith, and what good does it do to us or the world?

There is so much to enjoy about this article in terms of adult faith, vocation, and our ongoing discipleship.  I find many questions spin out of McCurry's experience and statements that most teens and adults can appreciate and pose more personally.

  •  How important is it for children to have a church experience that might continue to have impact upon them in adult life no matter what happens over the years?  
  • How do we compartmentalize our faith and separate an hour or two on Sunday from our vocation?
  • Or is it that we separate our work from our faith and continue to seek our calling?
  • How might our church experience grow to be more than an hour escape from reality, but become an every day reality that frames our work and our world? 
  • How might we, as adults, remain sensitive to God's work and calling in our life and continue to follow in dynamic, perhaps unexpected ways?  
  • How are we continuing to grow in our understanding- speaking vocabulary and practical experience- & everyday relationship with God?
God continues to seek us, and the Kingdom continues to seek to be a reality here on earth.  But it's certainly not the typical political kingdom we'd imagine.  It's more personal, more challenging, and more transformational.  What parts of your life is God asking you to open up to the Kingdom way during this Lent? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Denominational Divorce: Who Gets the Property?

I had forgotten about this.  After all, it's been 7 or 8 years.  That's a long time to be caught up in a custody battle.

Remember the Episcopal Church rift which ended with some congregations and clergy breaking away from their denomination while trying to hold on to their property?  The dispute over who gets the building has been snarled in the legal system all this time.  Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.  Find the story of the Episcopal Church property dispute for the whole story to refresh your memory.

The United Methodist Church should read this closely as we head down the path of ready soap boxes and hot rhetoric, challenges to justice and covenant, folk calling for divorce, and all of us struggling toward the next General Conference.  I won't list all the ironies in this EC saga compared to our own UMC drama because they seem so obvious.  Our UMC tendency (is this true for all religious loyalists who love their denomination?), for most everyone involved, is to talk past each other as we enjoy our party platform and our coalition of true believers and reinforce each other in a holy war.  This pits US regions against each other, divides various theological and hermeneutic camps within US conferences, and exposes some of the generational and political differences within every US annual conference.  #DreamUMC can easily begin to sound like #NightmareUMC as we don't easily find a way beyond the impasse. In too many ways we begin to sound like the politicians in DC that are set up in deadlock and are bound to see it through to stalemate.

As we tussle in holy battle over the denominational kingdom the churches continue to struggle and dwindle, our communities continue with their own issues often so different than the church fight, and we continue to expend energy and resources in an unending battle with each other.  While a little relational tension is good we're all too likely headed down the EC path if we aren't careful.   

I'm rather certain that both sides have it all wrong in our zeal to be right!  And, of course, there is the vast Methodist Middle, and UM conferences and Christians all over the world, and all the property, that's caught in between on this US social issue.  Is there some other creative, fresh way through this which would allow us to move forward?  I wonder if Jesus is still seeking to show all of us a better way.

Perhaps like disciples of old we still expect Jesus to do what we ask rather than being available to do what he is asking of us.  Recall those early leaders who told Jesus "we want you to do whatever we ask you."  Are we asking or telling God on some of these matters that are taking center stage in national/international UMC life?!  That passage in Mark 10 goes on to say that when the other disciples heard what had happened they were angry.  I've always wondered what emotions the two would be leaders expressed.  The teaching of Jesus to the 12 to be slave of all shows the way of being a religious leader in the way of Christ.  Then, to add insult to injury, the contrast of the blind disciples with the healing of Blind Bartimaeus puts an exclamation point on the Jesus way of leading, healing, and following.  These are the sorts of Methodist Christian distinctives that I hope we can reclaim in our words and actions.  That is often easier to do on the local scene than it is in national or international conversation or in social media.   

Lent is a time for individuals (and maybe even churches and denominations) to lay aside our need to be right, to build kingdoms, to pursue our personal agendas.  It's a time to personally follow Jesus who is often very tough to follow.  Repentance, forgiveness, and new creation are the themes I'm once again becoming aware of and challenged by during Lent 2014.  That's calling for habits of deeper prayer, study, and service.  It's difficult to lay aside my experience, my interpretations, my opinions, and my power and yield to following God in new and fresh ways.  Yet it is possible.  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me/us!  

It's time for some significant personal and denominational changes.  Otherwise, if we continue to follow the course we've set, the best we might do is prepare for the inevitable ugly divorce.  But, then again, maybe that's part of the ebb and flow of denominations over the centuries as God's Kingdom moves on using those who are most available.  Or maybe it's our choice which way this plays out.      

My hope and prayer is we find a better way than divorce.  Perhaps if we make ourselves available to God and to one another... maybe this Lenten season we will fall more deeply in love with God, with one another, and with our work as we live in the way of Christ.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ice Storms & Earthquakes Revisited

We had an ice storm last Wednesday-Thursday.  That's a big deal in the Augusta, Georgia area.  That it was a one inch ice storm is really beyond our understanding.  That cracking of icy limbs and explosion of transformers throughout the long, cold night were unfamiliar noises to southern ears.  The angry ice monster tore the pine trees to pieces, while we couldn't see during the dark of night, so that our yards were full of huge limbs the next day.  Power was out from a day to 4 days for most of the area. and it wreaked havoc on us in ways that most folk just weren't prepared for.

You can heat us up with a month or two of 100 degree weather and we're fine, but cold and ice is a totally different story.  Even the Eisenhower Tree, the famous 125 year old loblolly pine on the 17th hole at the Augusta National finally, fell and gave in to the President's request as a result of this bizarre, damaging middle Georgia ice storm.

Since last week everyone has been doing clean-up, swapping stories of the ice storm and the subsequent earthquakes (Really!  The first was a 4.1 Friday night at 10:23PM & then a 3.2 Sunday afternoon), and trying to get back into a routine.

Tuesday & Wednesday I was spending time in different neighborhoods in Augusta checking in on folk and looking to see what church workers might do to help the community.  Tuesday afternoon I saw one of our homeless friends sitting outside in his usual place downtown.  He's well known as a "regular" with one of our church partner ministries.  He's an Irish Traveler from across the river and has lived on Augusta streets for a long time.  We talked a little while and then I asked him what he did during the ice storm.

Old Sherlock pointed to his usual door stoop, laughed loudly, and said he slept where he usually sleeps.

Now, he's afraid of the evil sometimes in himself.  And he's afraid of demons.  But Old Sherlock isn't afraid of big ice storms or earthquakes!

If you want to do an interesting Bible study check out how many times "fear" is a theme.  You'll find it mentioned in 50 books of the Bible.  We are taught to fear God, but not to fear so many of the things that cause us worry.  This is tough!  I'm thinking of people in tough neighborhoods or countries where the battle rages.  I'm thinking of violent homes and neighborhoods.  I'm thinking about most of our worries about fitting in, and money, and job, and home, and food, and security.

I'm thinking about Sherlock laughing about my fears, and God exposing my fears, and ice storms and earthquakes in the dark!

Psalm 91:1-6 says,
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ice Storm Home Reconstruction Projects March 2-8

I hope you've held up to the ice storm, loss of power, & all the challenges of the last week.  As you survey the damage in your ministry area keep an eye open for possible mission opportunities with your church members, neighbors and community.  Most of what I have been seeing is less formal and relational disaster response as family, friends, and neighbors take care of each other.  Know that there are other volunteers and tools available from the NGUMC, from Trinity on the Hill, Wesley, and other area churches as we respond together to the many needs.  There are currently a number of chain saw and debris removal teams in the area (Southern Baptists, Rubicon, Samaritan’s Purse) that you might join and can find through emergency management officials in your county and through local media.  

Trinity on the Hill & Wesley UMC had planned to send another disaster reconstruction team to Mississippi, but with our ice storm have changed plans.  These are very experienced missioners who do roofing, use pneumatic air guns, etc.  Rather than go to MS our partner churches will gather in Augusta for March 2-8 to assist with projects here.  If you become aware of someone in your church or community in the Richmond or Columbia County area who owns their home and lacks insurance/funds/skills to rebuild we'll be looking for a number of projects for the week to keep this experienced team busy.  Or if you've always wanted to be part of a disaster reconstruction team and have some time and availability we'd be glad to add you to the group as we need workers (experienced and inexperienced), cooks, photographers, gophers, etc.  Please contact Rev. Scott Parrish at 706-738-8822 (church office) or 706-993-6967 (cell).  You may send full details of the proposed project to and be sure to include your name and contact info, the address of the proposed project, & the best phone number for the homeowner.  With the short week and quick notice it’s best if these are storm related problems and not pre-existing conditions.  If you can describe what is needed and share one best photo that will also help as we develop a priority list.  We need to quickly compile a list and visit the potential sites, order materials, and have everything pulled together prior to March 2.      

Ice Storm & Earthquake

Since last Wednesday my Augusta, Georgia area has been the home of a major ice storm and some earthquake rumbles.  It's certainly not business as usual around here.  An ice storm is about as common as an earthquake for us.  The storm had broad impact and took out many old trees and limbs off of almost every tree.  Ice claimed the Eisenhower Tree on the 17th hole at Augusta National.  Across the region a half million people lost power.  The power lineman crews have worked day and night, and today are down to the last hundreds that need electricity returned.  Recent days have been a time to figure out how to stay warm and take care of daily concerns we usually don't think twice about.  Now we clean up, check in on neighbors, and come together as a community to return to normal.  After all, the world comes to town for the first full week of April for the Masters Tournament. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Community Approach to Mission

UMC Global Ministries showcases some great community ministry resources in the latest edition of New World Outlook.  This is THE way to revitalize churches as we reconnect to our communities!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Preaching About Mission and Outreach

Dr. Mike Cash, our senior pastor at Trinity on the Hill UMC, did an excellent job of sharing the mission challenge with our congregation during a 3 sermon series that culminated in our big mission Sunday this past weekend.  Sometimes a congregation can do a mission Sunday and it can be awkwardly positioned in the worship and preaching schedule in ways that kill momentum- both for mission & the full life of the church- rather than build and encourage.  The response this year has been enthusiastic as Mike helped us build up to the big Sunday where we ask for the congregation to commit to another year of mission service in praying, participating, and funding outreach in substantive ways locally, nationally, and internationally.  This is a healthy model for the church and the Christian that connects worship, study, prayer, and service together as the expected way of life for a person and a people who follow the way of Christ.  And this year the mission emphasis will lead further into outreach and witness with a focus on evangelism.

Check out some great sermons that spoke to me and to our congregation in helpful, transformational ways:  

Mercy & Justice

Swerving or Serving

Mission Transmission

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Church Confronting Tough Topics

We've got workshops this Saturday on some tough topics that could transform lives, families, and communities. 

Here's one example:  "How Do I Help Someone With a Drinking Problem?"

Art Mellor will be leading one of the sessions at Trinity on the Hill UMC.  Join the conversation as we become better helpers in the community and better friends in transformational relationships.

Here's more info about our Community Ministries Training.