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ECD December 2020 Newsletter

In the District

Greetings from the District Superintendent

The Message of Advent in these Tough Times

Dr. Bob Bushong

First, the message of Advent brings encouragement in our tough times. 
The Psalmist writes, “The Lord is near to those who are discouraged” (34:18). The author of John’s Gospel says that the Spirit of Christ has entered into our human experience (1:14).  God’s ultimate way of encouraging us is to say, “I am with you always.”

God never leaves us. God encourages us in difficult and disappointing times by reminding us that we never go through anything alone. God is always with us, and it is in the darkest part of the night that God’s light shines the brightest. 

Second, the message of Advent strengthens us in our tough times.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” writes Paul (Philippians 4:13). The Message translation interprets that verse this way: “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Perhaps you’ve been in a time in life when you didn’t know how you would get through the tough experience that you were facing. I’ve been there. There was a point at which I had some Sundays in the local church I was serving when I didn’t know how I’d be able to navigate the day, much less get up and preach to a crowd of people.   

There are times when the Spirit of Christ will bring us strength beyond ourselves to get us through what we know we couldn’t get through on our own.

Third, the message of Advent will transform us in our tough times.
God’s intent through Christ is to change us – to transform us. God’s intent is to move within us in ways that enable us to learn new attitudes, to focus on new thoughts, to gain new approaches to life, to make new choices. God’s intent is not just to keep us going in the darkness, but to move with us through it with the guidance of the light of Christ.   

The season of Advent is a great time to wrestle with the question of how we are responding to the choice that God has placed before us.  Will we choose to live in the light? Will we choose to allow God to light the darkness that at times might overwhelm us? Will we choose the encouragement, the strength, the transformation that God offers to us through a relationship with Jesus Christ? 

We’re not talking here about religion. Religion is a system of beliefs, a structure, a set of dogmatics. We’re not talking about rules and ritual and tradition. We’re talking about a relationship with the person who made us – a relationship with the God of the Universe who entered into the world as a human being. 

That’s what this season is all about. 

Grace and Peace,


Bob Bushong
District Superintendent
East Central District

East Central District Office

I am available Mon-Fri 8:30am - 4:30pm and can be reached at 321-295-8801 and
Claudia Sava
Administrative Assistant

A Message from Kim & Melanie Lee, District Lay Leader

Mary’s Yes Is Our Example

 Melanie & Kim Lee

We know the story.  Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married.  The future looked bright for the couple.  I would say, “young” couple, but reports vary on that one.  We know that Mary was young, perhaps only 14.  Speculation puts Joseph at a much older age.  Anyway, they were planning to build a family together, within the well-known customs and social boundaries of their Nazareth community.

Then the conflict begins.  Mary, going about her mundane routine, has an extraordinary and life-changing conversation with an angel.  The angel tells her that she is a chosen one, very special to God.  She will become the mother of the savior of the world.  The Son of God will be born to her.

After the initial shock of encountering an angel, we could imagine her response.  “Wow!  That’s fabulous!  How exciting!  I can’t believe God chose me!  Hey, wait a minute.  I’m a virgin.  I’m engaged to be married.  What will Joseph think?  You know he could have me stoned.  What on earth?  How is this a blessing to me?”

Many women throughout history have imagined themselves in Mary’s position.  She had a choice, didn’t she?  What would we have said, have decided, if we had been confronted with this choice?

When we know God’s will, when we see it clearly, do we have a choice?  Can we really say, “No, I don’t think that’s a good decision for me at this time in my life.”?  We have many examples of men who have hemmed and hawed when given marching orders from God.  Moses comes to mind.  “Hey, no, thanks for asking, but I really don’t speak well.  You should send Aaron instead.”

We’ve seen the results of these arguments.  God wins, always.

In Mary’s case, however, there’s very little push back.  She wonders how she can birth the Savior of the World when she’s a virgin.  That’s a legitimate question.  The angel assures her that it’s possible.  After that, she’s all in.  It seemed incredible to me the first time I read her response, as it does now.  What enormous faith!  What an example of  obedience!   

Luke 1  Instead, after the angel says to her, “37 For no word from God will ever fail,” Mary says, 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” . . . “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

This Christmas season, may we have Mary’s faith to do God’s will in whatever way God asks us.  We may be destined to save the world!

Loving the Laity,

Melanie & Kim Lee 

Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) Training
Thursday, December 10 7:00pm via ZOOM

The Annual East Central District Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) training event will provide you with the effective tools needed in your responsibilities. Dr. Bob Bushong our District Superintendent will facilitate. 

Cokesbury offers guidelines for leading your congregation. Click HERE to see the various committee specific resources. 

Pastors, SPRC Chairpersons and Committee Members, and Lay Leaders are encouraged to attend this important training event. Invite those who will be joining the team on January 1, 2021. Click HERE to register.


I have the privilege of working with Pastors Aldo Martin, Rusty Belcher, and Alberto Buster on the Florida/Cuba Initiative called Methodists United in Prayer.  Each year we work to raise the Salary Sustenance Support of over 90 pastors in both the Las Tunas and Holguin Central Districts in Cuba. For $300.00 USD a year, we can double the pastor’s monthly salary.

You think this global pandemic has been hard on our families and churches? You can’t be able to imagine how hard things have been on the Cuban people.  It’s been hardest on the pastors, as they are having to scrounge for many of the daily necessities that we have at our fingertips, or in our refrigerators and kitchen cupboards.   

Despite the current Covid reality, God is growing the Methodist Church in Cuba. We are blessed to be involved in this ministry. We are making arrangements now to get the Salary Sustenance Support to our Sister District Offices.  We thank you for supporting the church, pastor, and family in eastern Cuba.

If you can, please send in your 2021 Salary Sustenance Support by December 10th, so that we can get it to Cuba in January.  Please make out checks to “UCUMC,” clearly mark them “Cuba,” and send to:

University Carillon United Methodist Church
Attn: Cuba Pastor Support
1395 Campus View Court
Oviedo FL 32765

Thank you for joining God where God is at work.
Rev. Chris Akers

Celebrate Advent 2020 with Us!

November 28, 2020

Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,

Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent. As we enter into this season, here are some Advent resources for you to consider using personally or within your church.  
We hope you will read scripture and pray each day. You can access daily Advent Scripture Readings from Rev. Lisa Degrenia, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Sarasota: Each week of advent includes an advent wreath reading, a daily scripture reading with a sentence prayer, and a weekly Christmas carol.  

Additionally, each week you are invited to join in Singing Mary’s Song, a four-week Advent video series journeying through the Magnificat. Join four women with different backgrounds, different points of view, different experiences and ages as they share together in reading Mary’s song from their point of view. Contributors include Rev. René August -- from The Warehouse in Cape Town, South Africa, Rev. Michelle Shrader -- from Good Samaritan UMC in Tallahassee, FL, Rev. Esther Rodríguez -- from Spring of Life UMC in Orlando, FL and Rev. Dr. Latricia Edwards Scriven -- from New Life UMC & FAMU Wesley in Tallahassee, FL. Videos will premiere Monday at 9 am. To join the Facebook page and access the content click here:
The holidays this year are uniquely stressful in a season of multiple pandemics.  We are offering a Webinar for clergy about Navigating Conflict through the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Holidays with Bob Bordone, Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School, on Wednesday December 9 at 2 p.m. Click here to read more information and register. 

As we are on a journey toward antiracism and as we seek to move beyond the polarization of the Election season, we invite you to a prayer call with Bishop Adam Richardson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Join Bishop Richardson and me for this advent time of prayer on Monday, December 14 at noon. We will share call-in information on the Florida Conference website when it becomes available.
And as you seek resources for worship, we extend an invitation to three services: 

  • virtual Service of Lessons and Carols from Florida Southern College.  Join me, Dr. Waite Willis, President Ann Kerr of FSC and others for their virtual service of lessons and carols filmed from the historic Annie Pfeiffer Chapel.  In what looks to be a very non-traditional Advent Season, this will be a wonderful tradition to share with your family and friends.  Links for the service will be available on the Florida Southern College and Florida Conference website next week.   
  • A virtual Blue Christmas Service is being offered by Bethune-Cookman University in collaboration with Howard University, Wiley College and Tuskegee University.  I was honored to offer a greeting in this service, which can be viewed on December 1 at 8 p.m. EST at or
  • virtual post-Christmas service from our Campus Ministry directors. Join our campus ministry directors for this virtual service that will help connect you to the power of the incarnation.  Local churches offering online worship the Sunday after Christmas may choose to share this as their worship service and to lift up our campus ministries and their importance in the lives of students. Links for the service will be available through the Florida Conference website later in December.  

As we look to the new calendar year, 2021, I commend the Upper Room Disciplines as a daily guide to prayer and scripture reading. I was honored to contribute this year, as was Jim Harnish, a clergy member of our annual conference. You can order a copy of the Disciplines here:, or through other booksellers.
Although we may not be physically present in our sanctuaries to light candles of hope, peace, joy, love and light, I pray for these gifts in our lives. Right now, I invite you to ask God, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, for these gifts. And what if you made this request of God each day and imagined that God is always more ready to give than we are to receive?

This Advent, I invite you to light a candle, speak the words of hope, peace, joy, love and light, say a prayer and share it on social media.

My Christmas message will be shared with clergy and lay leaders and local churches of the Florida Conference later in December.
May we draw strength and assurance from the words of Charles Wesley’s Advent Hymn:
"Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free; 
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.”
+Ken Carter
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church

Celebrating the Season Women's Virtual Retreat
Sunday, December 6 1:30pm - 6:00pm

Co-sponsored by the Florida United Methodist Women and Christ Church, this virtual Zoom workshop is for clergy and lay women. Hands-on workshops and worship to help you prepare your heart and home for the Christmas season. Click HERE for details and registration.

Deacon and Extension Minister Annual Reports
Due December 31

Clergy serving as Deacons in a local church or community setting continue to be linked to the annual conference though a number of means.  Each Deacon is directly related to a charge conference and may fulfill certain roles in that context.  And, each Deacon gives an annual account of their ministry. Click HERE to go to the Office of Clergy Excellence page for the Deacon Annual Report. 

Extension Ministry Clergy
Clergy serving in appointments beyond the local church continue to be linked to the annual conference though a number of means.  Each extension ministry clergy is directly related to a charge conference and may fulfill certain ministerial roles in that context.  And, each clergy in an extension ministry appointment gives an annual account of his/her ministry. Click HERE to to go the Office of Clergy Excellence page for the Extension Ministry Annual Report.

Craig Smelser recommended to be next Florida Conference Treasurer

 Craig Smelser

The Council on Finance and Administration unanimously recommended Craig Smelser as the Interim Conference Treasurer, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

In June 2021, the Annual Conference will vote on Smelser's recommendation to become the next Conference Treasurer/Director of Administrative Services. 

The announcement followed an extensive national search by the search committee that included reviewing more than 35 resumes. After conducting multiple interviews, committee members felt it was clear that Smelser was the top candidate.

The committee sent its unanimous recommendation to the CF&A, which wholeheartedly agreed with the choice.

This vital position oversees all financial aspects of the Florida Conference. The role is also responsible for overseeing the administrative functions, including Human Resources and Benefits, Facilities Management, Information Technology, and Risk Management. 

Click HERE for complete article.

East Central District Lay Servant Ministries

We are excited to announce there is a Lay Servant Training planned via ZOOM in 2021. This will be a first for us! This will be a FREE event. Everyone will be responsible to purchase their own book. We will meet together and then we will split into our class. Both classes will be taught in English. You will need to attend the entire schedule below. Certification requires ten hours of class time.

Friday, January 29, 2021 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Saturday, January 30, 2021 9:00am - 1:00pm
Friday, February 5, 2021 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Saturday, February 6, 2021 9:00am - 1:00pm

The Basic LSM course is required before taking an advanced course.

  • Basic LSM will be taught by Lynn Campbell and Randy Nunley. Discover the many ways lay servants are called to be in ministry through leading, teaching, serving, proclaiming the gospel, disciple-making, storytelling, and spiritual growth.
  • Advanced LSM will be taught by Jim Boesch. Discover Your Servant Profile this Spiritual Gifts, Personal Style and Ministry Passion Assessment course is designed to get the right people, in the right places, for the right reasons, at the right time in our local churches to help maximize their kingdom-building and serving potential.

Classes are limited to the first 30 people registered for each class.

Books may be purchased at Click on the book below to order your book.

 Basic LSM book
SKU: 9780881776263
$8.49 at Cokesbury
      Advanced LSM book
     SKU: 9780310257950
     $8.99 at Cokesbury

Questions? Contact Randy Nunley 407-595-2648 or Jim Boesch

Church and Pastor Annual Profiles
Due by January 31

Church Profile – reviewed and updated annually. 

These forms are to be reviewed and updated annually by all church SPR Committees and all clergy in the Florida Conference. All church SPR Committees must update online annually and may begin after December 1. The Church Profile deadline requires it be completed online no later than one week prior to the pastor’s DS consultation, if having. The final date to update the Church Profile is January 31, 2021. 

Pastor Profile – reviewed and updated annually.
All pastors must update online annually and may begin after December 1, 2020. The Pastor Profile deadline requires it to be completed online no later than one week prior to the DS consultation. Though you may not anticipate a move, it is important that both the Pastor Profile and Church Profile be current and up to date at the first appointment-making session of the Cabinet. The reports should be an honest reflection of the pastoral ministry and the profile of the church. The final date to update the Pastor Profile is January 31, 2021. 

Click HERE for the detailed instructions for accessing both the Church and Pastor Profiles. Follow the step by step instructions to access the appropriate profile. The final date to update Profiles is January 31, 2021.

Candidacy Retreats

January 8 and 9, 2021 - Deadline  WAS December 1, 2020
July 8 and 10, 2021 - Deadline June 1, 2021

Please see the Candidacy Retreat Checklist to ensure all necessary items are completed. The checklist outlines all the steps need for Candidacy.

2021 East Central DCOM Dates

Meeting Due Date Purpose
Thursday, March 18 February 18 LPRs
Thursday, April 15 March 4 Recerts/LPs
Thursday, May 6 April 8 Provisional/Certs
Thursday, August 19 July 22 Provisional follow-ups
Thursday, November 18 October 21 Certifications

DCOM Chair: Rev. Chris Jones
DCOM Vice Chair: Rev. Jenn Stiles-Williams
DCOM Registrar: Elizabeth Flynn
DCOM Meeting Location: Asbury UMC, Maitland 

For information how to begin the Candidacy process, Click HERE.

2021 Connectional Giving

The apportionments for 2021 are now available on the conference website. To access your 2021 apportionment information:

  • Go to the conference homepage:
  • Click on the "Monthly Billing Reports" at the bottom right of the page.
  • Click on the first link on the page, "Click here to download monthly reports."
  • When you choose a Report, there will be a report on the drop-down menu called Apportionments Report 2021. This link will take you to your 2021 apportionments. You will need to know your GCFA Number to pull your report.

Paychex—Payroll-Processing and Tax-Compliance Solutions

Since June 2018, Wespath has partnered with Paychex to help provide an option for our churches who might be looking to move payroll-processing and tax-compliance solutions to an outside vendor.

  • Paychex knows how to suppress the Medicare and Social Security taxes for the employer’s portion
  • Paychex knows how to complete the W2 for the clergy appropriately.
  • Paychex understands the clergy housing allowance, housing exclusion, healthcare stipends, taxable earnings, non-taxable earnings, deductions as pre-tax, after-tax or Roth deductions for the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan. 
  • Paychex will automatically send your UMPIP deductions each pay period to Wespath for you.

Paychex has more than 45 years of experience, and currently serves more than 1,000 United Methodist Church ministries. The company has expertise managing withholdings, payroll via direct deposit or check, tax compliance, and timely deposits and filings, in addition to providing custom reports for financial review and facilitating UMPIP contributions. Plus, UMC organizations receive a discount of 35% on Paychex services!

Paychex invites you to visit their virtual booth to learn more about the services they offer.

Click here to view a video featuring Jeff Kohl, the head of the partnership with Wespath, explaining what services are available from Paychex.

How to Get Started Saving 35% on Paychex Services

  • Online—go to and fill out the contact form.
  • By phone—Call the UMC's Account Supervisor, Jeff Kohl, at 1-800-313-0767 and provide code 5704 for a 35% discount.

If your organization is already using Paychex but has not completed a benefits integration with Wespath, complete and return the Addendum.

Festival of HOMILETICS
"Preaching for the Future Church"
May 17-21, 2021 Virtually

The church is in decline. We need to adapt to survive.

Can the church recapture what it was in the first century -- a distinctive community willing to stand against the status quo, to confront the ways of empire, and to embody the gospel?

Together, we'll explore how the promise of the gospel gives hope and shapes ministry for the church now and in the future. 

There are two ways to participate:

  1. Watch for free: Four to five prerecorded video sessions will be available each day-no cost required.
  2. Purchase a recording package: Gain full access to bonus material and watch sessions at a later time. Bonus materials include additional speaker presentations, live workshops, learning opportunities, and exclusive vendor connections. Receive CEU credit.

Click HERE to register.

Modified Missional Vital Signs Reporting

While churches are not meeting in person due to COVID-19, The Florida Conference will use a Modified MVS reporting model. Click HERE for instructions and to report MVS.

If you have data not entered for February or before, please complete the Monthly Data Gathering Chart for each of those months and email it to Claudia Sava at

General Conference 2020 - August 29-September 7, 2021

Should General Conference go virtual?