East Central District clergy take time out to focus on ‘salty service’

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

East Central District clergy take time out to focus on ‘salty service’

By Erik J. Alsgaard | Nov. 5, 2009 {1100}

ORLANDO — Nearly 100 clergy from the East Central District gathered in Orlando Sept. 24 to focus on one aspect of The Methodist Way — salty service.

East Central District clergy gather for opening worship during time set aside specifically to focus on salty service. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #09-1337.

They were huddled in a small room at Destiny Foundation of Central Florida, a large nonprofit that, until days before, had provided services to the working poor and needy throughout Orlando. The organization acted as host of the event, despite closing its doors days earlier due to lack of funds.

Scott George, the foundation’s president, said he started the organization after the suburban church he attended moved downtown. As soon the church began its ministry there, he said, it was clear the church didn’t know how to respond to people in need.

“We couldn’t just hand out clichés, so we decided to try and solve some issues,” George said.

The church started a food panty Sept. 1, 2001. And before closing in September, Destiny Foundation was providing food assistance, crisis care and employment services to 10,000 families each month.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, superintendent, challenged the clergy to look at ways they are being sacrificial servant leaders.

Scott George shares with clergy the work Destiny Foundation had been doing in Central Florida. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #09-1338.

“When does serving the Lord really infringe on our time and space,” Wiatt asked. “Are you giving your life for the sake of the Kingdom?”

Opportunities to serve

“Salty service makes a difference in people’s lives — both those being served and those serving,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Stiggins in an interview with e-Review.

Stiggins is executive director of the Florida Conference Office of Congregational Transformation. His office is in charge of providing resources and training on the five practices of The Methodist Way — salty service, extravagant generosity, intentional discipling, passionate worship and radical hospitality.

Salty service makes us “doers and not hearers only,” said Stiggins, referencing James 1:27. It connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world, he said, and restores credibility to people who would share a gospel of love to a doubting world.

During the event, the clergy heard about the numerous ways they and their congregations can be doers.

Wayne Strickland, senior director of program development at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise, and Tony Manzillilo, foster care coordinator for the home’s Orlando office, spoke to the group about the foster care and adoption ministry at the Children’s Home.

Since 2006, the Children’s Home has offered foster care and adoption services within the East Central District. During that time, Strickland said, 80 children have been placed in about 70 foster homes. Because of the need, a second foster care office recently opened at Reeves Memorial United Methodist Church.

Manzillilo said a growing priority is helping siblings in foster care stay together. “When you separate kids, it doesn’t work as well,” he said. “We have to try to do a better job of keeping siblings together.”

Strickland said salty service at the Children’s Home runs the gamut, from churches recruiting foster parents to donating items families need. First United Methodist Church in Deland supplies diapers every month, he said.

The Rev. Bill Barnes, senior pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, spoke about the Florida Conference’s ongoing “Together!” capital campaign. The full rollout will be introduced to local churches next year, he said, providing churches yet another opportunity for salty service.

“The first ‘ask’ is for some need in your own local church,” Barnes said. “The second ‘ask’ will be for the campaign.”

The capital campaign’s fund-raising goal is $30 million. “Currently, we have raised more than $8.5 million, which already exceeds any capital campaign we’ve ever done,” Barnes said.

The capital objective is $14 million, funding ministries with children, youth and families. Targeted goals include enhancing facilities at the conference’s Warren W. Willis Camp, Life Enrichment Center, Riverside Retreat and Lake Asbury Retreat Center; construction of two residential cottages at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home; and hiring an executive director for Wesley Group Home Ministries Inc. and establishing two new group homes.

The campaign’s endowment objective of $16 million will also support ministries with children, youth and families, as well as assist the conference’s New Church Development and Congregational Transformation offices in establishing new churches and helping existing congregations recover their missional effectiveness. Funds will also help the conference’s Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry develop the campus ministry program, Ministerial Scholarship Fund and the Student Scholarship Endowment.

Other salty service opportunities exist at Halifax Urban Ministries in Volusia County. The Rev. Troy Ray, executive director, said the organization’s ministry is to partner with local churches to serve people in need.

“The most common denominator of homelessness is poverty,” Ray said. “We work with local churches to try and prevent homelessness. We offer meals, showers, laundry facilities and more to try and help.”

Halifax Urban Ministries is an outreach ministry of the Florida Conference, with offices in four communities in Flagler and Volusia counties and a staff of 12.  Ray said the work is really made possible by more than 400 volunteers.

The Rev. Troy Ray, executive director of Halifax Urban Ministries, shares the salty service opportunities his organization offers. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #09-1339.

“We’re always looking for more help,” he said. “Our job is to find where the pain is and make it go away. When you do that, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will sell itself.”

Looking beyond the conference, the Rev. Greg Jenks, an elder in the North Carolina Conference, challenged the clergy to meet the needs of orphaned children in Africa. Jenks is founder and executive director of ZOE Ministry, whose primary focus is addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Rwanda through the “Giving Hope Empowerment Project.”

Every 14 seconds the pandemic leaves new orphans in Africa, Jenks said, overwhelming those left to care for them. The ministry provides the oldest children in each orphaned family with the resources and encouragement they need to care for their younger siblings.
In the first year of assistance, the children generally achieve food security, Jenks said. Within three years, they learn life skills to sustain their families and those around them.

Wiatt said the district’s mission trip next year will include homebuilding projects and extensive visitation with the Rwandan orphans. “We will learn how ZOE Ministry enables children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa to achieve independence and self sufficiency,” he said.
The trip is July 7-17, and the cost to each team member is $3,000, including round trip airfare, lodging, food and travel while in Rwanda. Interested clergy and laity are invited to e-mail Wiatt at

Finally, the clergy heard from the Rev. Marilyn Beecher, a missionary with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries serving as a Church and Community Worker in the East Central District. Beecher works with the district’s church and community connection coordinating outreach efforts and the Florida Conference’s Justice for Our Neighbors immigration legal clinics.

“I think we live in an increasingly cynical world, where if people think of (Christians) at all, it has nothing to do with our community,” she said.

Urging each other to be in salty service, Beecher said it is only when Christians are “out there” doing what we’re supposed to be doing that they win the right to tell the story of Jesus.

“You don’t have to be the one to build a whole new structure,” she said. “Open your ears; open your eyes. God will show us what to do. Put your faith into action.”

The Rev. Eliantus Valmyr drops a stone into a bucket during the closing communion service . All worshipers were encouraged to do so to symbolize acts of salty service they had performed the previous week. Photo by Erik J. Alsgaard. Photo #09-1340.

Clergy and laity will still be able to put their faith into action through Destiny Foundation, despite its closing. George announced Sept. 29 that the foundation is partnering with a large nonprofit organization from Vero Beach and reopening as Community Food and Outreach Center. Its food pantry resumed operations Oct. 1, local news reports said.

Related stories

Church-run courses help families overcome financial stress

Groups work to keep foster siblings together

Churches, outreach ministries expand food programs during recession

Foundation helps churches navigate tough economic times

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*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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