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GCD April 2020 Newsletter

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From the District Superintendent

An Unforgettable Lenten Season 2020

As we enter Holy Week 2020, I must say this has been an unforgettable Lenten Season.  By the second week of March 2020, it was clear that the COVID 19 virus was becoming a global pandemic introducing us immediately to new terms like “social distancing” “flattening the curve” “masks” “sheltering in place” and “Dr. Fauci”.  This is now our fourth week of working remotely, only essential stores and services are open and listening to daily Coronavirus news updates. 

Lent 2020 has been unforgettable.  We all gave up sports, eating out, shopping, onsite meetings, gathering in schools, colleges and universities and churches.  We also gave up handshakes and hugs.   I expected Lent to include reflection and repentance yet this year Lent included isolation, unexpected losses and grief that we are still seeking words to describe.  Palm Sunday was the first time I cried because I missed being “at the church” to celebrate Communion and the procession of the Palms. It was refreshing to own my sadness and release my tears in prayer to our God.

After crying about the temporary “loss” of onsite community and connection, the Holy Spirit nudged me to call my brothers and sisters and invite them to a time of Family Communion.  I immediately sent the text and we agreed to be on a call at 12:30pm for online Family Communion.  Just before 12:30pm the texts started coming in, “ready in Atlanta, ready in Jacksonville, ready in Ocala and I was ready in Clearwater” to connect with my family.  When we all arrived on Facetime, we laughed seeing each other.  We sang old church songs, read scripture, had announcements and prayed.  I blessed the elements and we experienced communion together.  It was a beautiful experience.  One of the unforgettable gifts of this Lenten season. 

I’ve also experienced the gift of journeying closely with the Gulf Central District Staff and Pastors each week of this COVID-19 Crisis.  We’ve been together on ZOOM, conference calls, one to one calls and Facebook.  It’s been a joy to watch these incredible leaders shift from being “at church” pastors to creating meaningful digital worship gatherings in a matter of days.  This has been an unforgettable Lenten Season. 

I pray as you journey towards Resurrection Sunday that you continue to maintain social distance, shelter in place, continue to listen Dr. Fauci and the news reports including COVID-19 updates.  Know that God is with us through this crisis and will see us through.  Pray you continue to acknowledge your grief and personal pains and celebrate the unexpected joys of this Unforgettable Lenten Season. 

On Mission Together,

Candace M Lewis



From The Bishop's office

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

General Conference 2020

Here is the link for the Pre General Conference Talk that Alex Shanks gave on March 31
Any questions, directly contact


Families First Coronavirus Response Act Notice Requirement

Employers are required to provide a notice of Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as soon as possible. The Department of Labor has provided the following information related to the notice:

  • The notice must be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises.  In response to the question related to teleworking employees, an employer may satisfy the requirement by emailing or direct mailing the notice to employees or posting the notice on an employee information internal or external website.
  • Employers are not required to post the notice in multiple languages.
  • The notice does not have to be provided to recently laid-off individuals or new job applicants, but the notice must be communicated to new hires either by email, direct mail, or by posting the notice at the premises or on an employee information internal or external website.
  • Employers must post the notice even if their state provides greater protections, as the employer must comply with both federal and state law.
  • If employees report to a main office and then go off to work in another location, the notice must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees can see it.  If that is at the main office, then it does not need to be displayed at other worksite locations.  However, if employees report directly to work in separate buildings, the employer must post the notice in each building, even if the buildings are located in the same general vicinity.
  • Notices must be displayed and cannot be part of a binder with other notices.
  • Employers can post the notice in a lunchroom if all employees regularly visit the lunchroom.  In that case, it does not need to be posted in separate break rooms on each floor.



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

  • 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.
    1. 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.
  1. Reaching Out: Please share with us one or two narratives -
    1. How are you reaching out to your church family?
    2. How is your church reaching out to the community?


We have extended the deadline for the March 31st reports to May 31st. Thank you to everyone who has already sent them in! Feel free to send them in before May 31st. We just don't want you stressing about these reports at this time.

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 Maggie Corrigan at

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, or are retiring 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.


 Youth, Children, and Family Ministry Ideas, Resourcing, and Networking.


1. Our conference has a partnership with the Youth Ministry Institute (YMI). 

            They have spent the past month blogging, posting, and reimagining youth ministry in our current context and into the future.

            A direct link to these resources can be found at, and

            Youth Ministry Institute is willing to provide a free consulting session to churches who need to talk through options, strategy, and effectiveness. To set up a phone call, churches should contact 

            Brian Lawson at or Kirsten Knox at 

            YMI has hosted a few digital hangouts with Youth, Children, and Family Pastors from around the nation to compare, to share, and to pray for one another. 

            I will be sending out e-mail blasts this week on when they will be hosting more of these in the coming weeks.

2. Annette Johnson and I (Joel Pancoast) are your conference liaisons to Youth, Children, and Family Ministry.

            If you need us to join any of your district pastor’s on a Zoom Call or hangout session, please don’t hesitate to ask. 

            Brian Lawson or Kirsten Knox would also be willing to jump into any of these video conferences if you would like them to offer up resourcing sources, ideas, etc…

Our Conference Tables are still planning to host our annual Rooted Training Event at the Warren Willis Camp on September 21 and 22. We understand that this in-person training event may need to shift and change depending on the needs of our local churches and the context of our state at that time. We are already looking into ways to make some of the content of this event available on-line. One of the big pushes for this event was scheduled to focus on ways to reimagine our ministries and think creatively about engaging students and families in our different contexts. Our Rooted Website is




If so, please share with these young adults about our 2020 Summer Pastoral Ministry Internship Program opportunity and encourage them to apply, or consider sponsoring a Summer Pastoral Intern for 2020!

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)
Hours:  30 hours/week as scheduled with Supervising Pastor
Housing:  Provided in a congregant's home, if needed
Transportation: Preferred
Salary:  $3,500.00 ($1,500 host site, $1,500 Office of Clergy Excellence, plus an additional $500 if the Intern attends both the Orientation and Reflection Day)

If your church is interested in sponsoring an intern, please email or mail an Intern Job Description to

If someone wishes to apply, please have them register at

For more information please visit our website

If you have any questions, please contact Holly Finley at or Sara McKinley at or by phone at 863-688-5563, ext 134.


UMCOR – Mission Trips

As we work through this time of social distancing please contact Bruce if you are interested or want more info on UMCOR and mission trips.
Bruce Anderson
Ph. #918-341-7276
P.O. Box 40838
St. Petersburg. FL 33743


Apply Now for UMC FCU Scholarships for College Bound Students

Our $1000.00 College Scholarship is now opened!  Would you be so kind and include this information in your

  • March and April newsletters
  • Church Bulletins
  • Forward this email to your contacts
  • Post on all your social media platforms
  • Place the Scholarship Applications in your offices
  • Tell every student, 17-35 years old within the United Methodist Florida, South Georgia, North Georgia, and Alabama-West Florida UM Conferences (Church Members, Church Staff, UMC Organization Staff, Family Members of Current UMC FCU Members, UMC Camps). Encourage them to apply. 

Most scholarships aren’t applied for because either the student doesn’t know about it or they don’t think they have a chance at winning.  Your help in spreading the news could make a big difference for them. 

They can also apply online. APPLY

There will be one winner from each Conference.


Maggie, touching base

As I am writing this I am about to begin my 19th year as the admin in (what is now) the Gulf Central District.  I believe God wants us to celebrate more than we do, so even during this time I ask you to join me in Celebrating.

My how things have changed over these years.  Shelter at home, working from home, would have been so much more difficult then – but look at us doing it now.  That is something to celebrate, can you imagine having zoom meetings on a dialup modem? This is a wonderful ministry for me and I do celebrate! Thank you for the opportunity to be your District Admin – God Bless, do your part to flatten the curve and find a way to celebrate today.

Now more than ever please make sure that your leaders are up-to-date on the Church Dashboard and that your information is accurate on the Conference “Find a Church” tab – click here

I thought this phrase was interesting

“Rahm Emmanuel, former Obama presidency chief of staff and Chicago mayor from 2011 to 2019, was perhaps most famous for this quote: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.” The present crisis is going to change us all. We are just beginning months of unprecedented suffering and turmoil. American life will be shifted permanently in unpredictable ways. Ministry, too, will change.”


Beth, touching base

13 District churches have been awarded Florida Conference mini-technology grants to help them in creating digital worship, fellowship, discipleship and outreach to their communities:  Alturas, Lake Gibson, Limona Village, Shepherd’s Community, Allendale, McCabe, First Pinellas Park, First New Port Richey, Mt. Zion, First Land ‘O Lakes and St. Mark.  Recognizing the amazing work that each of our local churches is doing in this extraordinary time AND simultaneously knowing that funds for many of you are becoming a significant issue in pursuing technology solutions, your District Team worked to extend more dollars.  We are happy to announce that in re-allocating some of the District funds, we are able to offer an additional 7 mini-grants.  These awardees are Faith Primera, Grace Community, Seminole Heights, First Dunedin, Keystone, Springhead, Hope.  Bravo Gulf Central Churches—every one of you—for the perseverance, passion and creativity to live into the motto:  CHURCH IS NOT CLOSED!

Share Your Church’s Good News on the District Facebook Page

We know that you are busy doing great things-bringing Light to your communities-during this difficult time.  Your Gulf Central District Facebook page is a great place to share your stories.  It’s a great place for you to get new ideas that you can do for your church.  We invite all Laity and Church Leaders to post pictures, videos, stories.  We want to hear and see you!!!  @

Preaching to an Empty Room

How can preachers maintain a sense of presence and engage their audience when COVID-19 has their congregants viewing worship via livestream? Read these tips on preaching to an empty room by Alyce McKenzie, Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of the Center for Preaching Excellence at Perkins School of Theology.


District Office Update

Just an FYI that Maggie is working from home and the office phone is being monitored. She is checking the office phone so leave a message and she will call you back. She will be retrieving mail at the office 1-2 times per week. As always, you can reach her via email at If you want to do a video call with her just let her know and one can be set up.


Armando Rodriguez Jr. is looking for UMC Hymnals (in good/great condition).  If you have some available please contact Armando via email.


Calendar of Events

As of now through the end of April, every in-person meeting has been cancelled. We will post some informative webinars on a district page soon. We will keep you posted on May and June events. Stay home and stay safe.


April 10 Good Friday

May 25 Memorial Day

July 4 Independence Day Observed July 3

September 7 Labor Day

November 11 Veteran’s Day

November 26 Thanksgiving

November 27 Day after Thanksgiving

December 24 Christmas Eve

December 25 Christmas Day


April 23 – 10:30-1PM Clergy Meeting – Virtual (including working virtual lunch) more information soon

Annual Conference Orientation – this will be changed to a virtual format – more detail to come soon

 June 6, 2020  Annual Conference, Virtual information and details to come soon

 September 19th in Lakeland to recognize our retiring clergy, share in our memorial service, and celebrate commissioning and ordinations.