Our thanks to Chrissy and Josh for helping lift the Parlor furniture onto the stage and roll up the carpet temporarily so the we could work on the floors.
Our thanks to Chrissy and Josh for helping lift the Parlor furniture onto the stage and roll up the carpet temporarily so the we could work on the floors.
About 1,500 United Methodist clergy and elected lay members gathered at Grove City College June 11-14 for the 2015 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference session, which was focused on the theme Reaching Higher, both spiritually and as church leaders.
From Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton’s opening worship message emphasizing the need to lead from within, through celebrations of the ministry of 21 clergy who retired, to the commissioning of four younger clergy as provisional members and the ordination of four new elders, the emphasis was on excellence in leadership.
Four new elders were received into membership and ordained at a service of Reafffirmation of Baptism, Ordination, and Holy Communion. They are: Alison M. Berkey, Gary L. Hilton, Anthony R.C. Hita, and Scott Shaffer. Recognized as an Associate Member was Wade S. Barto.
Four new provisional members –Jack L. Tickle III, Benjamin Phipps, John D. Mize, and Andrew Bell Jr. were commissioned.
Imagine No Malaria
At the opening worship Thursday afternoon, conference members brought forward $91,059.53 in offerings from individuals and churches for the Imagine No Malaria campaign to end deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Bishop Bickerton leads the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria effort, which has reached 88 percent of its $75 million fundraising goal.
State of the Church Report
In his State of the Church address, Bickerton outlined what he described as hills and valleys Western Pennsylvania United Methodist churches and people have been through over the past few years.
Assisted by the Rev. Greg Cox, director of connectional ministries, he highlighted the work of the cabinet and conference staff in evaluating the current situation using a book by Bishop Robert Schnase, then developing some short-term goals and creating a list to “Key Performance Indicators” or KPI’s to hold themselves accountable and make an impact on ministry with the Conference.
Among the examples:
General/Jurisdictional Conference elections
Throughout the conference, members cast ballots to elect clergy and lay delegates for the denomination’s 2016 General Conference and the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Balloting continued until 24 delegates and 12 alternates were selected.
In legislative action, conference members approved a shared ministry budget of $9.7 million; increased the basic cash compensation for clergy by 3 percent to $40,334 for elders serving full time; approved three general evangelists—Christine Rogan, John Zimmerman and Luella Krieger; and set policies and practices for Conference mission partnerships. In addition, after debate, the conference members approved forming a task force to research companies that may be contributing to the occupation of Palestine and whether divestment of these companies would be advisable. The task force would formulate recommendations to the 2016 annual conference regarding possible divestment from Conference portfolios.
Conference members also accepted a petition of Roulette: Riverside and Fishing Creek United Methodist Churchess, in the Kane District, just east of Port Allegany, to become part of the Western PA Conference. Pastor Randy Headley of the Port Allegany Charge has been providing pastoral care and oversight of the two churches since July 2014 and both congregations voted by a two-thirds majority to join WPAUMC.
General Conference Petitions
Also approved was a petition to the General Conference to change the Book of Disciple to set term limits for bishops. The petition, approved on the consent calendar, would elminate life terms for bishops elected in U.S. Jurisdictions and replace it with an initial eight year terms with the possibility of re-election quadrennially. It would not apply to incumbent bishops.
Petitions growing out of recommendations made in Judicial Council rulings (Decision 1230) involving complaints and administrative actions brought against East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula were approved and will be sent to the General Conference. One notes that the appeal process in administrative matters is not clearly delineated and proposes several changes to the Book of Discipline to provide clarity by creating an administrative review process.
Another petition would change P.50 of the Constitution to give the Council of Bishops the authority to hold its individual members accountable for the work. In addition changes are proposed to Disciplinary paragraphs dealing with the Episcopal complaint process that would “enhance the accountability of bishops and increase consistency by lodging the accountability function in the global church.” Some of the proposed changes are designed to ensure that complainants receive fair hearing in proceedings.
Other petitions to the General Conference that were approved, called for the denomination to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights; to change language of Paragraph 161J of The Book of Discipline regarding the sanctity of life and abortion. The petitioners said the current wording “has been used by some United Methodists as a means for one-sidely advocating for public policies advancing elective abortion.” Their proposed amendments “would more clearly align our church with biblical, historic Christian teaching that defends unborn children and their mothers from abortion.”
During the annual conference, members volunteered to pack meals for Stop Hunger Now and completed 50,000. Many also filled a large truck with used shoes to be reclaimed or recycled by Funds2org, which, in turn, gives money to the Erie UM Alliance for ministries to the homeless and to All God’s Children ministry to those with disabilities. Members also brought UMCOR kits and material, which were collected by volunteers from the Eastbrook Mission Barn, an UMCOR Depot.
New Church Starts
Amy Wagner, director of Congregational Development and Revitalization, gave a history of new church starts that occurred during the 1700s and 1800s. She explained that never in our history has there been more than four years without starting a new church. Currently, there are several new worshipping communities supported in part by our annual conference: The Heights Faith Community, Allegheny River Valley, Roots of Faith, Faith Acts, Faith on 68 (formerly Zion UMC) (Rochester), Connect Church (Blairsville), Charter Oak Crossroads Campus, Point Marion Fijian Language Community, and Laketon Heights.
See archived videos, photos, the Daily Proceedings, a narrative budget, the text of Bishop Bickerton’s messages, and more at wpaumc.org/ACLive.
It would not be a long visit. Dad was in the hospital. The cancer had come back, and the outlook was bleak. “I know you’re busy Richard, the holidays and all,” Mom had said, “But I think Dad would like to see you.” She didn’t have to finish the sentence. She never did anyway. I knew. I was on the next plane.
You’re never quite prepared to see you father in the hospital. You’d rather be bowling, or golfing, or working in the gardens together — anywhere else. That was in the past now. He smiled when I came into the room. “I’m glad you came, Son.” I leaned over his bed and gave him a hug, careful not to hurt him. We had never been hugging men; but that, too, was in the past now. “I’m glad I’m here.”
We talked nonstop. It was unusual for us. In the past we could spend hours side by side, and just a few words would suffice. In the season that we had grown apart we didn’t talk at all. Now the shared memories came spilling out as we put the finishing touches on our relationship. There was a procession of visitors — neighbors, friends, his pastor, even one of my old girl friends. Every one had a story, and it surprised me how much laughter and how little sadness was in the room.
The two days went quickly, too quickly. I stopped in at the hospital on the morning of the last day before heading to the airport. We were quieter. The words weren’t necessary for what we had begun to feel. “I’ll have to be going in a little while.”
“I know. It’s OK, Son. It was good to see you.”
“Can I do anything for you before I go, Dad?”
He hesitated, then said: “Yes, would you be willing to give me a shave? I haven’t had a good shave since I got to the hospital.”
I was stunned. As a child I loved to watch my daddy shave. We’d stand in the bathroom in our underwear. He’d lather up and then soap my face just like his. And while he shaved, I pretended. It was a silly, sacred ritual — a bonding that I had all but forgotten. Now he was asking me for a shave.
I found his old razor and the tube of shaving creme in the kit he had brought with him — they were so familiar even after all these years. I filled a bowl with hot water and found a face cloth. With the bed raised, the pillow fluffed and a towel spread under his chin to keep him dry, I began the ritual. First the face cloth, warmed with the hot water, wrung out and held gently to his face to soften the whiskers. Then a little bit of water on the face to receive the cream. When I opened the tube, it was the same aroma I remembered as a child. Dad’s eyes were closed but he was clearly enjoying this. I spread the creme and prepared the razor. I was so afraid that I would cut him. He was so trusting. Dip the razor in the water, shave a few strokes. Dip, shave. Dip, shave. It didn’t take that long. When we finished shaving, I got some clean hot water and washed his face. He put his hand up and felt his face and smiled. I handed him the mirror and he took a long, satisfied look. “Son, that’s the best shave ever. Thanks!
Soon it was time to go. We hugged, gently. “I love you, Dad.” “I love you too, Son.” We had only lately learned to say that. It felt good. What felt better was the trust that had finally established itself between us — a trust that had made it possible for a son to give his father the best shave ever. It is a holy remembrance, sacramental even. Love is like that — born in due season of common things made holy by the amazing grace and surprising Presence of God.
The Rev. Richard Garland is a retired United Methodist elder who currently lives in Rhode Island. You may read more of the Rev. Garland’s essays on his web page “From Where I Sit.” He is also a composer, and a number of his works are on the Discipleship Ministries worship website.
Our thanks to Barb, and Dave & Shirley for helping clear out the tables and chairs at the beginning of the multi-day process, and to Harriet & Chrissy for helping repopulate the Fellowship Hall once the refinishing was completed.
Be sure to wear your sunglasses the next time you go to the Fellowship Hall to avoid permanent damage to your retinas!
On the one hand, change is exciting. New pastors mean new ideas. New churches mean new people to develop relationships and share ministry with.
On the other hand, change is really hard. Some pastors are leaving great churches filled with many close friends – friends who have shared life’s ups and downs. Some churches are losing pastors who have meant a great deal to them – pastors who have shared life’s ups and downs in a variety of ways.
Central Church will not experience a change in pastors until July 1, 2016 when Pastor Wayne retires. Although pastors are frequently moved between local Churches by the Conferences in the United Methodist Church, the transitions are not without a tinge of pain and sadness.
Knowing in advance that we must say goodbye to our pastor in just 12 months makes us more mindful than in most years to what many congregations – and their pastors – are experiencing with pastoral transitions this year, and we share this prayer written by Bgosden for all pastors and churches who are experiencing transition.
We give you thanks for you constant presence. Through seasons of constancy and even change, you are with us – calling us into deeper waters, calling us together in your spirit of unity, calling us out of ourselves into the world to serve others.
Grant that those pastors bring called into new waters might hold fast to unending love and mercy as a buoy – a love that promised to hold onto us even as we go where your Spirit leads us. May the Churches that receive them be communities of mercy and grace.
May the Churches experiencing loss and change hold fast to the promise that your mission is bigger than any single pastor, local Church, or annual conference. Grant that such a promise would bring both comfort and discomfort – comfort in a season of change and discomfort as it drives us all to love you and each other more.
Strengthen us to be your Church in all times and seasons of life – a place where all are truly welcomed and embraced in your love (even new pastors and Church members); a place where we find ways you are active among us and calling us to join in your saving work (even in communities that weren’t our top choice to move to); a place where the story of your love and grace and mercy are embodied (even if it comes in shapes and sizes and languages that are new to us).
We offer our prayers in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christianity Today reports today on a disturbing game currently circulating.
The game starts with: “Charlie, Charlie, are you here? Charlie, Charlie, can you play?”
Players recite these words sitting around table with two pencils, one carefully balanced on top of the other. Underneath the pencils is a sheet of white paper marked with “yes” and “no” in cross-shaped grid. After the invocation, if the top pencil mysteriously swings to ‘yes,’ the players start asking Charlie questions just as is done with the Ouija board.
In April and May, American teens embraced the game and spread it quickly through social media and online video, receiving millions of views on YouTube. It has also gone viral through the hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge, receiving more than 1.6 million tweets in recent weeks. This prompted religious leaders from the Vatican, the Bahamas to the Virginia Beach studios of 700 Club televangelist Pat Robertson to condemn the game as a “demonic” summoning of spirits.
“Demons are real. They are not playthings and they are certainly not parlor games. For any little kids to begin to play these games and think it’s cool, it’s not,” Robertson said. “I know what the Bible says about it, but I am just telling you what I am saying about it—they are real. They desire to destroy human beings.”
Roman Catholic experts in demonology are also sounding the alarm. “Some spirits who are at the root of that practice will harass some of those who play the game,” said José Antonio Fortea, a Madrid-based and Vatican-approved exorcist for the Catholic Church. Demon possession is unlikely, he said, but participation in the game “will result in other spirits beginning to enter into even more frequent communication. Then the person really can suffer much worse consequences from the demons.”
The Catholic News Agency reported:
Catholic experts have noted that occult activity and the resulting need for exorcisms has reached a critical level worldwide. The International Association of Exorcists (AIE) met for their 12th annual conference in Rome last October. According to AIE spokesperson Dr. Valter Cascioli, an increasing number of bishops and cardinals asked to participate in the conference due to an increase in demonic activity. “It’s becoming a pastoral emergency,” Cascioli told CNA. “At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise.”
Skeptics of the #CharlieCharlieChallenge are doubtful of demonic activity. They say an internet hoax, a clever marketing scheme, and gravity are more likely explanations. Some news media report that the game is a marketing campaign for The Gallows, a “found footage” genre horror film due for release in July that is centered around the accidental death a boy named Charlie.
Snopes, the website famed for exposing internet fraud and hoaxes, said:
It seems fairly evident that the connection between the social-media-driven “Charlie Charlie challenge” and the upcoming film The Gallows emerged well after the former had come and gone from Internet “trending” lists.
Others said gravity explained the pencil’s movement. “What’s actually moving the pencils? Gravity, and the awkward positioning of some pencils. They just wouldn’t sit still even if you wanted them to,” according to a report in The Independent.
These explanations have done little to calm reaction in the Christian community in some parts of the world. In the Bahamas, a high school guidance counselor sent a letter to local pastors asking them to visit campus and pray for students who were summoning “a Mexican demon.”
A Washington Post columnist wrote that a Dominican Republic television news report about a “Satanic game” overtaking local schools in April likely triggered the social media virus, which then easily crossed over from Spanish into English. A traditional Spanish “school-yard game” Lapicera, called the poor man’s Ouija board, is its likely origin.
In Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, schools, many primary school children became so frightened over the game that teachers forbid students to play it or even discuss it.
One prominent Baptist pastor issued a warning about the game on Twitter.
“Christians should run — not walk away from any attempt to contact or harness demonic powers through @CharlieCharlie,” warned Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.