In the District
Greetings from the District Superintendent
|Dr. Bob Bushong|
One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a powerful study of the human condition, of relationships, of good and evil, of life in the face of adversity, of the testing of the human spirit, of faith and hope.
Tim Robbins is the main character in the film, a quiet banker named Andy Dufrensene who is convicted of two murders that he did not commit and condemned to a separate life sentence for each murder. For twenty years, Andy works toward his day of escape from bondage. Through all the trauma of his experience he has never given up hope. Then comes the day he’s been waiting for.
It’s a powerful scene as Andy makes his way through the bowels of the prison, literally swimming through the stench of human waste carried through the sewer pipes. He moves through five hundred yards of sewage – five football fields length of pipe – in order to make his way to freedom.
As Andy slides from the sewer pipe into the cleansing refreshment of the summer rain, his experience is one of coming to new life from an experience of death – as he rips off the shroud of his years of trauma, as he is washed and made clean, as he grabs hold of the freedom inherent in new life, in a fresh start, in the transformation of the past.
In a very real way, Andy experiences resurrection. He slides from the darkness of his life of only moments before into the bright dawn of a new day, a new reality, a new future. He is freed from captivity. He is released from that which has kept him from an experience of the fullness of life. He is redeemed.
That’s the message of Easter, my friends. Jesus, and through Jesus, we ourselves, slide into the bright dawn of a new day, a new reality, a new future. We are released from that which has kept us from the fullness of life. We are redeemed.
One of the many great lines in The Shawshank redemption is when Andy is talking to his good friend, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, about his life in prison. At one point he says, “Hope is something inside that they can’t take away.”
Reflecting on that statement later, Red says, “Hope is a good thing – maybe the best of things – and no good thing ever dies.”
My prayer for you, my friends, during this challenging time for all of us, is that your life is filled with the hope of Easter, the hope that never dies.
Grace and Peace,
East Central District
We Love our Neighbor by Flattening the Curve:
Update as Florida Stays Safer At Home (plus Annual Conference news)
Dear Florida Conference Clergy and Laity:
We are praying for each of you as we enter into the days of Holy Week and Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection.
As the Governor has issued a safer at home order for the state of Florida for the next 30 days, we offer the following updates:
• We urge all churches to not hold public worship services through the end of April. Church is not canceled, but will use virtual platforms as you have been doing. We applaud your creative efforts! We invite you to fully engage with people through technology, and the Conference has supported this work through mini-grants for this purpose and coaching to learn basic skills.
• We ask you to abide by the spirit and law of this safer at home order. Encourage people to limit all activities outside of their home to only those things that are deemed essential. We love our neighbors as we seek to model what it means to flatten the curve. We know that some of you have already lost people in your churches from this virus. We stay home with hope that it will save lives. We are praying for all our people who are on the front lines of this pandemic.
• Many of you have asked what exceptions can be made since religious services are deemed as essential in the safer at home order. We ask you to practice shared leadership and be in consultation with your local officials and your district superintendent. If a handful of people need to go to church to record/stream services, this is acceptable as long as strict social distancing is practiced. It should involve as few people as necessary and stay within the state and federal guidelines. One or two staff or volunteers may need to occasionally ensure that essential financial matters are handled. According to CDC guidelines, a small gathering of less than ten people practicing social distancing is appropriate at a graveside service. Food pantries and ministries can continue in limited safe ways. Limited childcare services that follow the guidelines are permitted. We discourage drive in worship services, as the numbers often exceed the recommendations of safety.
• Bishop Carter has recorded a sermon for Easter, entitled “Easter, COVID-19 and the Contradiction of Resurrection Faith.” It can be shared with your local church on Easter Sunday, and will be posted on the conference website that morning. To request a link to the sermon click here.
• We encourage all who are able to continue to give generously to the work of God through your local church. This is especially important during the month of April.
For a substantial list of resources related to COVID-19 and the mission of our churches, please click here.
We also wanted to give you an update on our Annual Conference meeting scheduled for June. The Cabinet and planning team have decided to make our June meeting virtual. We will share reports online and gather for a few hours virtually on Saturday morning June 6th in order to care for essential items of business (i.e. clergy session, budget, leadership nominations, etc.). Details will be forthcoming. We are also planning an in person gathering on Saturday, September 19th in Lakeland to recognize our retiring clergy, share in our memorial service, and celebrate commissioning and ordinations. The September gathering will not be required but all are welcome to attend. Please mark your calendars now for this significant event.
The epidemiological models describe this as a very difficult month for the state of Florida and the nation. We find hope, peace and reassurance in Jesus Christ. We draw strength from his presence in our lives, and in our connection with each other.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, be with you in these days.
Bishop Carter and the Florida Cabinet
Attachment: Governor's Statewide Order.pdf
East Central District Office
The District Office will be closed to help flatten the curve. Claudia will work Mon-Fri remotely and will check vm periodically. It would be best to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Message from Kim & Melanie Lee, District Lay Leaders
Now Is the Time to Spread Hope and Love!
This morning, our sermon at First UMC Orlando focused on Psalm 121. Our lead pastor, Dr. Vance Rains, reminded us that in this difficult time, we need to keep our eyes fixed on God. Take a moment to read the psalm.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Our choir sang an anthem based on this psalm not too long ago. Its words stir your soul, especially when blended with a beautiful melody. This is a lovely rendition of the anthem. https://youtu.be/r_8O_4B5kvs
Keeping focused on God will turn us toward others because that is what God’s love does for us. God uses us to love others and to spread the hope of being loved as a child of God. We all need that hope right now.
What are you doing to keep your eyes on God? How are you turning that faith that can move mountains outward to help others? It would be very easy for us all to shelter in place and cocoon ourselves away from the world right now, but God calls us to be God’s hand and feet in the world. It IS possible to stay safe and still reach out to others. Be proactive and creative.
• Call people you would normally visit.
• Make a meal and leave it at a front door. (Ring the bell!)
• Get together with a virtual face-to-face call.
• Offer to buy someone groceries, and then drop them off.
• Play a game with someone through a Zoom meeting.
• Write a letter to someone who is lonely.
We would love to hear your stories!
Loving the Laity,
Melanie & Kim Lee
The Florida United Methodist Children's Home
Did you miss the fifth Sunday offering? It's not too late to participate!
In these unprecedented and uncertain times, the church continues to offer hope that is desperately needed. Churches around the Florida Annual Conference have continued to respond to needs within their congregations and surrounding communities using various modalities and available technological resources. Despite the very real anxiety and fear that we may feel, the church has been a steadfast witness to the truth that God is always with us. At the Florida United Methodist Children's Home, a ministry of the Florida Conference, we also celebrate this truth now even more. It is the hope of Jesus that empowers everything that we do.
We just celebrated the Fifth Sunday Offering with churches around the Conference. This is a tradition well over 110 years old, and it is a vital source of funding for the Children's Home to provide the necessary care for children and families in need. If your church wasn't able to take up the Fifth Sunday Offering on March 29, that's ok - there is still time! We ask that you take up a special offering for the Children's Home on this Sunday, April 5th, using whatever format of worship your church is offering. More than ever, your support is needed to ensure that we are able to continue to provide the necessary daily care and support for children who have experienced a variety of traumatic events. This time of increased anxiety and stress will further increase the vulnerability of families already at risk for domestic violence and lack of resources, thus emphasizing the need for the Children’s Home as a sanctuary for these children.
If you are providing online or streaming worship opportunities, please share our most recent Fifth Sunday video (it can be found here: https://youtu.be/y0C1ha_MkRw). You can give through our website at www.fumch.org, or to text "spark" to 50155. Those who prefer to send donations in directly, they can absolutely do that instead. Mail checks to: The Florida United Methodist Children's Home 51 Children's Way Enterprise, FL 32725.
We are grateful for all that you do in the local church to spread the healing love of Jesus Christ. At the Children's Home, we are proud to partner with you in sharing that love to the vulnerable children and families that we serve. Thank you for your continued support!
March 31 Reports - EXTENDED TO May 31, if needed!
The deadline for March 31 Reports has been moved to May 31, if you need it. If you don't need more time, please send them in! Please submit the six reports together in one email to Claudia Sava email@example.com. Originals should remain in the church offices as the District Office shreds all documents once they are scanned. If you have any questions, please email Claudia Sava.
Note: The Disaster Recovery Resource Survey is no longer required.
Explanation of Reports and Committee Responsible
- Fiscal Responsibility & Management Policy Review & renew annually. Each year, submit a signed copy of the one page Financial Controls, Policies & Procedures and the Document Retention Policy.
- Fund Balance Report - Submit online through your Church Dashboard. Do not send a hard copy to the District.
- Clergy Employee Conduct Policy ALL appointed clergy must submit this to the District each year.
- Adoption of Employee Conduct Policy Submit this report showing that you have adopted the ECP and have a Employee Conduct Policy signed on each employee. The signed Employee Conduct Policy form must be kept in their personnel file. This does not get sent to the District office.
- Child / Youth Protection Policy Review & renew annually. Submit a signed copy of this report. Should the policy undergo major revisions, submit a complete copy. Click HERE for the Ministry Protection page.
- Annual Parsonage Report Review & renew annually. If your pastor does not live in it, we still want this completed. If you don't own a parsonage, please write N/A and submit it.
Annual Assessment of Clergy Leadership
Annual Assessment of Ministerial Effectiveness & Goal Setting. The clergy assessment process is available on the FLUMC website under Clergy Excellence. Appointed Clergy and the Staff/Pastor Parish Relations Committee should meet annually to complete this process. The report is due to the district office every year by May 31. (Continuing Education is now completed in conjunction with the Annual Assessment above.) The completed forms should be emailed to Claudia Sava firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This is required for every clergy appointed to the local church. It has been available since January and is due May 31. Even if you have a new appointment, the pastor and SPRC are expected to turn one in. This exercise will be helpful for the church and pastor as they transition.
For detailed instructions on reports, please review the Calendar of Reports.
Apply Now for UMC FCU Scholarships for College Bound Students
The Florida United Methodist Connectional FCU is once again offering scholarships to 17-35 year-old college-bound students in our connection. Four winning applicants, one from each of our four conferences - Florida, North Georgia, South Georgia, & Alabama-West Florida - will each receive a $1,000 scholarship. Click HERE for complete rules and full essay submission criteria. Click HERE for the application with all the details. Deadline for submission is April 30, 2020.
Questions? Call 866-687-2136.
Update to Missional Vital Signs Reporting
As with other times of disruption, like our Florida hurricane season, we are giving guidance with reporting Missional Vital Signs for the next 2 – 3 months. I will keep this brief.
• If you have data not entered for February or before, please email your district office
• March and April (possibly further) will have a temporary link to report only a few key data points
- This will be emailed to all active clergy appointed to a local church and the assigned Missional Vital Signs Reporter as entered on your church dashboard. Please check that the email for the MVS reporter to verify it is correct.
- Only 1 person from a church will be reporting
- The MVS page will also have directions
So much of church is in person, collecting data in areas where we are not gathering - just doesn’t make sense right now. We want to make reporting easier, not harder.
1. AWA (Average Worship Attendance): You may have data for the 2 or 3 weeks of March (5 Sundays in March), enter those numbers. Enter 0 if you did not meet or do not have the numbers. We are assuming that you are not meeting physically the last two weeks of March.
2. Online Viewing: If you are meeting virtually, enter the numbers as best you can gather. The main thing is to be consistent. Here is a link with helpful directions for collecting data for Online Viewing and Facebook Live. (Click here)
3. Giving: Use the same as what you have always counted. You may now have online giving, texting to give, or mailed in giving. While safe distancing may make this challenging, please do your best to follow the practices already in place for collecting donations and making deposits.
- This number is the total amount given to God’s church for budgeted operating and capital expenses and missional purposes in addition to or part of the budget. This includes all contributions received by pledged and unpledged giving, loose plate offerings, and funds given for capital debt, building or repairs, or special offerings to ministries beyond the church (UMCH, youth mission trip, Africa University, Habitat for Humanity, Storm Recovery or a sister congregation in Cuba or Angola).
- Excluded are interest income, memorial bequeaths, facility use fees, income from child care, adult day care ministries, thrift stores, pumpkin patches and similar fundraisers, as these do not reflect the financial generosity of the congregation.
4. Reaching Out: Please share with us one or two narratives -
- How are you reaching out to your church family?
- How is your church reaching out to the community?
2020 Summer Pastoral Ministry Internship Program
The Office of Clergy Excellence, a Connectional Ministry of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, sponsors the Summer Pastoral Ministry Internship Program. This program is for young adults, ages 18-26, who are interested in exploring ordained ministry through 10-week summer internships at United Methodist Churches and other approved extension ministry settings within the Florida Conference. These internships seek to provide a holistic, hands-on experience in pastoral ministry within a variety of areas of responsibility and under the guidance of a supervisor.
Click HERE to access the 2020 Summer Pastoral Ministry Internship Program Application.
The deadline for applications is April 30, 2020.
2020 Key Dates
•Internship Program: Monday, May 25, 2020 through Friday, July 31, 2020
•Intern Training Day: Friday, May 22, 2020 (Interns and Supervising Pastors)
•Intern Reflection Day: Monday, August 3, 2020 (Interns Only)
Additional information for Interns
Additional information for Pastors
If you have questions, please contact Holly Finley at email@example.com or Sara McKinley at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 863-688-5563, ext 134.
General Conference 2020
Postponed until 2021
General Conference 2020 Website
General Conference Update with Alex Shanks - March 31st, 2020