School helps United Methodists see beyond themselves

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

School helps United Methodists see beyond themselves

Sept. 7, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0735}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

DAYTONA BEACH — In a fast-paced, non-stop world, the Florida Conference’s School of Christian Mission is one place where people can go to be re-energized.

The Rev. Rodney Hunter, from Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va., teaches a class during the Music and Mission segment of the 2007 School of Christian Mission. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #07-0665.

That’s why the Rev. Rodney Hunter, from Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va., has taught at these schools for years.

“It keeps you focused on the events that are going on in the world,” he said between classes, sitting in a lounge on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, site of this year’s school. “This is a way where you can really study the issues and get the facts.”

For example, he said, every year the School of Christian Mission studies a geographic area. This year the focus was on Palestine and Israel.

“Most people may read some things about it, but here you can get both sides of a story,” Hunter said. “It’s really educational and needed for the church. The church needs to study the Word of God and the issues, to see what the church can do to bring healing to the world that’s fragmented. I think that nobody could do it like the church.”

The School of Christian Mission is sponsored by the Florida Conference United Methodist Women. This year’s school was held in July and attracted more than 500 people to its two tracks: a Tuesday through Friday “Week” school and a Friday afternoon through Sunday morning “Weekend” school.

School leaders look at the event as a major educational opportunity for United Methodists. In addition to the geographical study, school participants studied “Music and Mission” as their Bible study and “Globalization: Its Impact in our Lives” as their social justice study.

Hunter, who taught a section on Music and Mission, illustrated his class’ emphasis by noting some of the changes United Methodist hymnody has undergone through the years.

In one older hymn of the church, he said, the word “heathen” was in the original text. “It wasn’t seen as derogatory. You just saw non-believers as heathen,” he said. “Now, we wouldn’t use that term in a hymn to talk about other people and other nations.”

The purpose of the school is two-fold, according to Paulette Monroe, president of the conference’s United Methodist Women: training and education about the mission of the church.

“The school is not just for United Methodist Women, although the United Methodist Women host it,” Monroe said. “It is for the whole church. The training process, the leadership development process, the mission orientation, the opportunity to learn about other countries, making our people aware of globalization, fair trade, fair practice … it’s all about educating people.”

Paulette Monroe, president of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women, speaks during the 2007 School of Christian Mission at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #07-0666.

Monroe, a member of Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach, said she looks forward to the school each year for the fellowship and opportunity to put names with faces. That all helps her, she said, to gather strength for the journey.

“You know, you receive mail, e-mails and phone calls (from many people),” Monroe said. “To actually put a face with it and to know that we’re on the same wave-length and communicating the same message — when you finally see that face, you know that we’re in mission together. It’s a journey that we’re on together.”

In addition to adults, the school attracts more than 100 children and youth, from pre-kindergarten- to high school-aged. An additional contingent of young adults, ages 18-21, rounds out the student body. Each age group has its own schedule, leaders and studies.

For people who’ve never attended a School of Christian Mission, Monroe offered two reasons why they should.

“First, just the idea of learning more about the church, knowing more about the organization,” she said. “Second, it helps bring people out of their own world and into others. When you start to come and hear the experiences of others in their churches, what some other people are doing, getting ideas from other people, we can take that back to our own church.”

Monroe said that, for her, the school is often an overwhelming experience.

“I feel in my heart, that people leave here excited about the mission work that we do,” she said. “We educate our people throughout the state of Florida, come together and reach out to our neighbors. We talk about the Samaritan story, and that’s who we are: reaching out to help those who sometimes may be a little different from who we are, what we look like. We reach out and be that neighbor.”


This article relates to Missions.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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