Message from the District Superintendent
Dear North East District Family,
For the past five months, Memorial UMC in Fernandina Beach had the Rev. Riley Short serve as its interim senior pastor. Some of you know Pastor Riley. He’s a retired elder in our conference (83 years young and has way more energy than I do). He has served both First UMC of Lakeland and First UMC of Coral Gables. Riley was my preaching professor at Asbury Seminary. He’s mentored many clergy in our Conference, and he is an excellent preacher and storyteller.
I had lunch with Riley a couple of weeks ago before he went home to Lakeland. As I had lunch with my mentor and friend, as usual there were lessons that he taught me. Three of those lessons I want to share with you. He shared them in the context of clergy, but in reality, they pertain to all of us in our daily lives. Clergy, laity, anyone…could benefit from putting these nuggets of wisdom into practice.
First, we work for the church; the church doesn’t work for us. In other words, we’re called to be servants. For clergy, the lesson is that we exist for the church, the Bride of Christ. We’re called to serve Jesus and help lead His church to be the agent of His kingdom as we make disciples and transform our communities. The church doesn’t exist to serve us. If the church exists for our benefit, then we’re doing it wrong! We don’t have to be licensed or ordained, however, for this lesson to pertain to us. We’re all called to be servants. Humility is foundational for followers of Jesus. We should consider others better than ourselves all the while resting in the fact that we are precious to God. As we put others before ourselves, we show God’s love to others and also know that if others are putting us before themselves, we’re all mutually depending on one another. Christians are interdependent humble servants.
Second, we should visit our people once in a while. Clergy, part of our job is visiting our people. Visitation was of prime importance to John Wesley. After all, when we’re ordained and asked Wesley’s historic questions, we’re asked if we’ll visit from house to house. When I was in the local church, I was fortunate enough to have a visitation pastor who did the bulk of our visiting, but I still visited folks. I drove to the home of every first time guest on Sunday afternoon, dropped off a coffee mug, and let them know how much we appreciated their visit. I also visited people in the hospital with whom I had a special relationship or if someone was seriously ill or in the process of dying. We also used many Stephen ministers – lay persons trained in congregational care – to do visiting. I don’t think it matters who does the visiting (clergy shouldn’t do all of it; it should be a shared ministry), but it does matter that our people are getting visited. I’m on record challenging our faith communities to be externally focused, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of those who are part of our church already. Laity, let me employ you to see visitation as your ministry, too! In Acts you can read all about how the early church used laity to visit and care for people. Insisting that a visit from the pastor is the only visit that counts is wrong. It’s a rewarding ministry of which everyone can be a part.
Third, when people get upset, listen to them. We don’t have to agree with one another, or even like what the other says, but we do have to love each other. We grow to love each other by listening to one another. I think our communities desperately need to see this lesson lived out. At present our society is so polarized. We cannot disagree without being disagreeable! This is not how Christians should act. Honest and sincere Christians can arrive at different viewpoints on matters – especially when it comes to politics. We can still listen to one another, disagree, and be in fellowship at the end of the day. If you feel that disagreeing with someone means you can’t be in fellowship with them, then you’re doing it wrong. I promise this is hard for me, too. Sometimes I read something someone posted on social media and I want to post a response that would peel the paint off the walls. Usually the Holy Spirit gets my attention and reminds me of the lesson Riley was sharing. In Romans 12, Paul calls on us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to renew our minds and be transformed. It’s time for us as followers of Jesus to reclaim the public discourse. We, including me at the top of the list, have got to get better at listening and then disagreeing without being disagreeable.
I invite you to think about these three simple, yet profound lessons. I’m still reflecting on them. I hope I’m living them out as well. God bless you!
All God’s love,
July 1 Transitions
We had a very large number of appointment changes this year. We are blessed to have so many gifted clergy in our district that transitioned churches within the district and we also welcome those clergy to our district from other districts and conferences.
Lakewood UMC - Don Thompson, senior pastor; Eric Williams from part-time to full-time associate pastor.
St. Paul UMC - Steve Souders, senior pastor.
First UMC, St. Augustine - Juana Jordan, senior pastor.
Memorial UMC - Charlie Charles, senior pastor.
Mandarin UMC - Gewanda Parker, associate pastor.
First UMC, Callahan - Dan Search, senior pastor.
Asbury UMC - Chris Sanders, senior pastor.
First UMC, Macclenny - David Lumberry, senior pastor.
Shores UMC - Carolyn Westlake, senior pastor.
Calvary UMC - Greg Grant, senior pastor.
River of Life UMC - Jim Walker, senior pastor.
First UMC, Jacksonville - Tiffany McCall, senior pastor.
First UMC, Baldwin - John Frank, senior pastor.
Grace UMC, Lawtey - Sheron Willson, senior pastor.
Pierson UMC - Wayne Burt, senior pastor.
Riverdale UMC - Mike Groos, senior pastor.
Wesley Fellowship UMC - Maggie McDuffie, senior pastor.
Trinity UMC, Fernandina Beach - Granardo Felix, senior pastor.
Emmanual UMC - Susan Bailey, senior pastor.
Ebenezer UMC - Debra Thompson, from part-time to full-time senior pastor.
Beach UMC - Carey Sumner, associate pastor officially appointed as a local pastor.
If you get a chance, reach out to these folks; but most importantly pray for their ministries.
Clergy Assessments - Schedule for 2019
We had a large number of churches/clergy submit the clergy assessments late and incomplete this year. Because of this, we encourage you to set a date for the 2019 clergy assessments that will be due on May 31, 2019. The documents are the same from year to year. And if you have a form that works for your church already, you can use that form.
We want to remind you that this is an important process that needs to be completed on time. We unfortunately had to spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down the assessments from churches/clergy this year.
Just a reminder that all clergy appointed to the local church, no matter their status (i.e. full elder, deacon, supply pastor) need to have an assessment done. Even if your pastor is moving, the assessment still needs to be completed so it can be shared with their new district superintendent. The only time an assessment does not have to be done is if the clergy is retiring or leaving the ministry setting.
District Office Update
We are back in the office full-time but still finishing up a punch list with the contractor. In addition, our fax line is not operational and our phone system stills says press "0" for Ashleigh. We are working on these little things but as always, they take time.
We are still planning on a date for an open house and it looks like it may be sometime in August. We will keep you posted.
IMPORTANT UPDATE ABOUT MOVING EXPENSES: They are taxable!
One of the changes mandated in the new 2018 tax laws concerns moving expenses. It’s important that everyone understand and plan for the impact of all the financial implications to the clergy and the church:
- Moving expenses are now taxable income to both clergy and laity. Whether the church pays a moving company directly or reimburses the clergy for the moving expense, it is taxable income.
- If the church pays a moving company directly, that amount is considered “imputed” income for the clergy’s payroll and they are taxed on that amount.
- Moving expenses, since now are considered taxable income, are now included as part of the pension eligible earnings and the church will be billed during year. Only General Conference can change the calculation.
- The health insurance stipend remains pension ineligible.
Be sure to submit your completed form with the moving costs to the District Office by the end of July. NOTE - for those clergy that are moving in 2018 only.
Renfro Trust Fund Grant
The Renfro Trust Fund awards annual bricks-and-mortar grants to small rural United Methodist congregations in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
Renfro Trust Funds are available for award with a deadline for application of September 1 of the year in which the application is made. Please note: Applications will only be accepted when submitted through the Conference Secretary for Global Ministries of the Conference in which you are located.
For more information and to apply, please visit their website. Please note that this application requires a signature from the Director of Connectional Ministries. Please be sure to allow enough time for the signature to be obtained and for the application to be submitted by the September 1 deadline.
Memorial UMC is Hiring a Part-time Bookkeeper Memorial is seeking a high-energy, self-motivated person with a strong Christian faith for a part-time Bookkeeper position. The candidate must have a strong commitment to confidentiality, a great attention to detail, and understand church non-profit accounting. Candidate must be proficient in ACS OnDemand Church Management software. Position will likely require 3-5 hours a week or more. Submit resume to: Monica at Memorial, 601 Centre Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
August 22 - DCOM - Provisional (retrys only) Please contact Elizabeth Flynn for more information - email@example.com.
August 29 - Equip Master Class Series - Sermon Delivery, 11:30 a.m. @ Fleming Island UMC. Bring a brown-bagged lunch.
September 14-15, 2018 - District Lay Servant Ministry Training @ Ortega UMC, Jacksonville
October 20, 2018 - Super-Charged Conference @ CrossRoad UMC, Jacksonville
October 22, 2018 - District Dashboard Update Day
October 24, 2018 - Equip Master Class Series - Worship Design Team, 11:30 a.m. @ Fleming Island UMC. Bring a brown-bagged lunch.
November 14 , 2018 - Equip Master Class Series - Special Services, 11:30 a.m. @ Fleming Island UMC. Bring a brown-bagged lunch.
December 12 - Recerts/Certs/LP - Please contact Elizabeth Flynn for more information - firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 10, 2019 - District Leadership Event @ CrossRoad UMC - Save the Date!