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GCD May 2020 Newsletter



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From the District Superintendent

Our Journey to Pentecost

This month I have been surprised by how late I stay up working, creating a new home project or binge watching a cooking show. I’ve also planted a garden and completed my first fictional audiobook. I’m not surprised that I am still a few minutes late to my first ZOOM meeting even though my work commute is now from the kitchen to the home office. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted my normal schedule, routines, rituals and orientation. Walter Bruggeman in his book Spirituality of the Psalms explains how we can navigate our seasons of orientation and disorientation as we await a new orientation to emerge.

A season of Disorientation is described as “much more than circumstantial discomfort. It is an inner, personal awareness, and recognition that something is changing, a profound shift is taking place. One does not know what is ending or what is beginning.” During a season of disorientation we learn to manage the things we can control. We also learn to surrender and trust God with the many things beyond our control. What are you experiencing in this season of disorientation?  What are you learning about God, yourself and others?

We are so proud of our Gulf Central Pastors, staff, leaders and volunteers.  Over the last eleven weeks, even though their previous orientation has been disrupted, our churches have been open and offering an online only worship experience. It’s been amazing to see and hear the stories of new innovative ministries happening in the midst of this disorienting pandemic and sheltering in place.  Now most meetings, Bible studies, children and youth ministries, Sunday school and small groups have shifted to various digital platforms because we want to keep people safe. Many churches continue in mission and ministry in their communities offering “to go” meals for our homeless friends and collecting food to feed families in need.

I imagine the disciples might have felt disoriented as they journeyed to the first experience we would later call Pentecost. The life and orientation they knew was disrupted by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Before Jesus’ Ascension he instructed the disciples to go to Jerusalem and “wait” until they received “power” from on high.

In a few weeks our churches will celebrate Pentecost Sunday, May 31st 2020 online.  I am praying that God continue to pour out the Holy Spirit upon us in fresh, new, powerful ways.  We desire the Holy Spirit to renew and revive us for the days ahead.  We desire divine wisdom and insight as we develop reopening plans for churches.  We want to see Pastors refreshed and renewed for this next season of life and ministry!!!  Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on Us!

We are on Mission Together,

Candace M Lewis


We say farewell as they leave Gulf Central:

Steve Ezra - First, Zephyrhills

Victoria Guthrie  - First Lake Alfred

Daphne Johnson – Trinity Bradenton

Rick Cabot - Retiring

Esther Robinson - First, Lake Wales/Indian Lake Estates

John Griswold - Zellwood

Peggy Moss - First, Avon Park/Sun Ray, Frostproof

 Debbie Casanzio -Lady Lake

Mary Ashcraft - Community Marathon

Kathi Sheehan - Family Leave

Tamara Isidore - Faith, Bradenton

Katie Sirmons Family Leave

Drew Dancey Leave of Absence

We welcome to their new appointment in Gulf Central

Aldersgate, Seminole  Ben Stilwell-Hernandez

First, Clearwater         Matt Wallis

First, Lutz                    Chris Kirk

First, Pinellas Park      Chuck Smith

Keystone, Odessa      Ricc Conner

Limona Village Chapel,           Garrett Rocha

New Hope, Brandon   Riley Short interim

Pasadena Community, associate       Nicole Logan

St. Andrew’s, Brandon co-pastors      Gary and Jayne Rideout

Sylvan Abbey, Clearwater      Dario Perez

UM Temple, Lakeland             Nikki Taylor

First Seffner - Brian Brink

Forest Hills - Zulma Soba

Crystal Lake - Terry Knight


ONLINE Basic Lay Servant Course Available!

Discipleship Ministries is piloting an Online Basic Lay Servant course to run May 26 – June 15.

This is the gateway course to all other Lay Servant certifications such as: Certified Lay Servant, Certified Lay Speaker, and Certified Lay Minister.

Please communicate this information to any and all interested parties.

Gregory S. Uchimura

Director of Lay Servant Ministries

Gulf Central District

Florida Conference

United Methodist Church

P - 813-394-6980


Clergy meeting info

Have you heard Gulf Central Clergy talking about the April Clergy Meeting?  You can hear and see it all!   Materials are available on our Conference District page (  Not only are all the slides from the meeting available (Bishop’s, Alex’s and Adam Hamilton’s), you will find the video of the session (including Adam Hamilton-about 30 minutes into the session).  AND, Debi Nixon from COR has just forwarded us a timely piece on counting virtual attendance.  In this piece you will find great info, for example,

  • count attendance ½ way into your worship service for best attendance estimate
  • if you don’t have polling information on who is watching with whom, use a 1.8 multiplier
  • Our next Clergy Meeting will be September 22 - stay tuned for details

YMI Online

It is with great joy that I announce to you that today is the day that Youth Ministry Institute Online officially launches! To celebrate and continue our support of you (our heroes), we are offering a completely FREE course.

The courses we offer will be challenging, practical, and affordable. Since 2005, we have led the way in providing training for youth, children, and family ministers. YMI Online uses our time-tested and proven curriculum through an interactive online learning platform.

Friends, I believe these courses can help you develop into the full potential you have as a leader.

If you haven't already, I would love it if you would like our Facebook page and share this announcement with others that would benefit from these online courses.

As always, rooting for you!

Brian Lawson
Dir. of Student Development

The Mission Continues - Coffee for Sale to support The Portico

Our May sales goal will remain the same: 250 bags. We realize that our #CoffeeOnAMission initiative needs to evolve.  In order to help The Portico Cafe meet our sales goal we need to reach more people.

We now offer shipping to ANYWHERE in the U.S. coast to coast.*

Now many more may enjoy our delicious, locally-roasted Portico Blend and Don Carlos Espresso!

Support our Coffee on a Mission initiative:

Buy a Bag of Coffee
Give a Bag or Gift Card

Donate to The Portico Café

*Free Deliveries available in Hillsborough County

Delivery Schedule: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon. Weds. & Fri.

Pick-up Schedule: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon. Weds. & Fri. at The Portico Cafe.

*Shipping rates may vary

Thank you so much for sticking with us. We look forward to supporting each other during these challenging times.  The Portico Cafe will re-open on May 18 following Social-distancing and sanitation guidelines.

The takeout window will open 8 a.m - 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Our baristas will serve up some of our specialties:

*             Bacon Egg and Cheese
*             Morning Cuban
*             Lunch Cuban
*             Turkey
*             Spicy Italian
*             Avocado Toast
*             Muffins and Cookies
*             All Coffees
*             Teas and Iced Tea
*             Smoothies

Check out to see our latest cafe offerings and promotions.


Latest Upper Room issue available for free download

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Since churches are unable to meet and gather safely in their buildings during the coronavirus pandemic, The Upper Room is offering the May/June 2020 issue, both in English and Spanish, as a free, downloadable PDF. The Upper Room also has created a web page featuring resources to help create and maintain spiritual wellness during anxious times.
Download issue
View resources


Cornerstone Ministries

we want to invite churches and families to join us on Fridays at 10am for virtual Chapel.  Below is the verbiage we use to promote this opportunity along with this youtube video -  

 Join Mrs. Cindy live every FRIDAY at 10am for virtual Chapel. 

Please join Mrs. Cindy LIVE from your computer, tablet or smartphone:

 You can also dial in using your phone. 

United States: +1 (669) 224-3318 

Access Code: 612-615-517

 Adjustments to our Wonder Walk events due to COVID-19. You may use the following content blurb as you see fit:

The COVID19 pandemic hit during one of the most crucial fundraising times of the year for Cornerstone Family Ministries. As a result, Cornerstone is encouraging supporters to host virtual walks and submit their donations by April 30, 2020. There is still time to support this ministry, as they need our support now more than ever before. For more information contact Jeanette Hordge-Smith at


Road to Re-Opening the UMC

 Wednesday May 13 at 2PM CST a panel discussion webinar on how to prepare for regathering in person  Courtesy of Share Church Click here for the link 


Annual Conference 2020 Update

We will have a virtual clergy session on Saturday, June 6 beginning at 9:00am. Bishop Carter will make and fix the appointments at the end of the virtual clergy session. Clergy will be emailed a link to join this virtual meeting.

Our Annual Conference event will take place on Saturday, September 19 from 10:00am to 5:00pm. This will be a one day annual conference and the agenda will consist of:

a. Voting on essential items (budget, election of leadership, election of lay leader, etc.)

b. Retirement recognition

c. Service of Remembrance

d. Service of Commissioning and Ordination

We invite all lay and clergy members of the annual conference to plan to attend this one day event. We understand that some may not feel comfortable gathering in large settings at that time.  The details, including the location for our September event are being finalized.

Virtual Pre-Annual Conference Orientation

Virtual Pre-Annual Conference Orientation sessions will be held as follows to help prepare attendees for this year’s session:

Atlantic Central + East Central + South East Districts: Tuesday, August 18, 7 pm

Gulf Central + South West Districts: Thursday, August 20, 6 pm

North Central + North East + North West: Monday, August 17, 6 pm

Information about how to join the virtual orientations will be posted later.

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. Church admin please join the conversation “Coffee with Maggie” on Wednesdays at 10:30 AM. Send an email to to join the conversation.


Covid update email from the Conference May 13, 2020 

click here



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

Calendar of Events

June 6 Virtual Clergy Session – more info will be sent to clergy

 August 20 6 PM Annual Conference Orientation – this will be a virtual format – more detail to come soon

September 19th in Lakeland Annual Conference

September 22 Clergy Meeting – More info to follow

October 11 at 3 pm Church Conference Team East Hillsborough

October 18 at 3 pm Church Conference Team South Pinellas

October 25 at 3 pm Church Conference Team Tampa

November 1 at 3 pm Church Conference Team North Pinellas and Hillsborough and South Pasco

November 8 at 3 pm Church Conference Team West Pinellas

November 15 at 3 pm Church Conference Team Lakeland