In the District
Dear NC District Pastors and Leaders,
Dear NC Pastors and Leaders,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness, did not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
One of the significant experiences that I brought with me from my time as one of the pastors at First UMC, Lakeland, was the Christmas Eve service. It was my assignment each year to read the John 1: 1-14 passage at the beginning of each of the 4 services. The worship space would be darkened and silent. As the words broke into the silent darkness, the acolyte would enter from the back bearing the one single light. Each time it was breathtaking for me as I watched the light make its way toward the altar and disperse the darkness.
This Advent season, leading up to the high moment of the celebration of God entering our world in Jesus, the darkness has settled heavily upon us. There is so much that is concerning and seems beyond our control. As I’m sure you have, I’ve reflected on that first Christmas event when so much seemed the same for Mary and Joseph as they made that journey to Bethlehem—much to be concerned about, much beyond their control. But into the silence, into the darkness of the world, God came. Thanks be to God!
Athanasius, in his treatise “On the Incarnation” writes, “He became what we are so that he might make us what he is.” Into the silence and the darkness, the Word came, the Word became, so that we might become. He became life and light so that we, in turn, would share that life and light into all the days of eternity.
Now more than ever, my prayer is that we as the Church, the body of Christ, will be bearers of the life and light in our world in this time, at this moment, which is all that Christmas calls us to be.
My fervent prayers for your health, safety and spirit remain with you in these days.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does NOT overcome it!
May the Blessings of Advent be your encouragement!
FRESH EXPRESSION NEWS!
Is your church struggling to connect with new people, in new places, and in new ways? Did you see a decrease in baptisms and "professions of faith" this year?
If so... get together a small team of people and join us in a free Studio!
FX Studios are incubators of collaborative missional mess making and a community of support for your team as we travel uncharted territories together.
Rev’d. Dr. Michael Moynagh will be leading us through our first Studio gatherings. Dr. Moynagh is a minister in the Church of England and is based at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He has authored many books on the missional church, including our new book The 21st Century Christian: Following Jesus Where Life Happens.
Watch this interview with Dr. Moynagh to learn more about the Studio and what you need to do get ready! https://youtu.be/G5jTwQwk4Q0
The Studio is a yearlong journey, in which your team will meet together two times:
- Studio Gathering 1: All teams will meet together to describe where they are in the ‘loving-first cycle,’ learn from each other, and plan out next steps.
- Studio Gathering 2: All teams will come back together six months later to again share learnings and collaborate.
In between Studio 1, Studio 2, your team will be supported through: 1. A shared focus 2. The free app, FX: Godsend or the book 21st Century Christian 3. A community of peer learners, 4. Support via social media, and 5. Skype/Zoom-based coaching with the FX team.
Studio 1: Saturday January 30th 9am-12pm (Zoom).
Studio 2: Saturday July 17 9am-12pm (Zoom).
Please click here to REGISTER.
If you have any questions, please contact Michael Beck:
Fresh Water from The Oasis
After being in lock down since March 15, Lowell Correctional Institution has finally re-opened its' doors to volunteers on a limited schedule. On Thursday Nov. 19, Pastor Kris Schonewolf, the appointed pastor of The Oasis, resumed ministry with the women of Lowell. In the next few weeks, she will begin serving in an additional capacity as a volunteer chaplain 2-3 days a week, as the Lowell chaplain has transferred to another prison.
Even during the lockdown, The Oasis has continued to operate HOPE Letters, a correspondence mentoring ministry with 90 of the women at LCI. This meant that even though in-person contact was not allowed, the love and hope found in Jesus Christ continued to flow in behind bars through the U.S. mail. We are currently needing more mentors, as this ministry continues to grow as more women find out that they, too, can have a loving mentor who will write to them, encourage them, and pray for them. To learn more about becoming a mentor, contact Pastor Kris at PastorKrisLCI@comcast.net.
Do you need vacation coverage or just a Sunday off preaching? Pastor Kris is available to come to your church on Sunday and share a sermon that blends the work she does at Lowell with the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. She is also available to do a "mission spotlight" if that is preferred. To schedule, please contact her at PastorKrisLCI@comast.net.
Rev. Kris Schonewolf
Rural Church Ministries
The North Central District launched its Rural Church Ministries focus on November 10th and 12th with Dr. Jonathan LeMaster-Smith’s Preparing for Hope: Rural Ministry During Advent and Christmas webinar. Dr. LeMaster-Smith provided excellent information about our district’s rural context. Also, he gave practical tips on how our rural churches can prepare for the Advent and Christmas seasons during this time of pandemic. We are very pleased that 45 people participated in our first Rural Church Ministries webinar. Additionally, Dr. Le-Master Smith has offered free coaching for up to ten rural churches. Space is still available. If you would like free of charge coaching about how to minister most effectively within your church’s rural context, please email me, email@example.com, and I will coordinate the coaching sessions with your church and Dr. Le-Master Smith.
In the coming year, additional webinars are planned. Allen Stanton, Director of the Turner Center at Martin College, will offer a webinar based upon his soon to be released book, Reclaiming Rural: Building Thriving Rural Congregations. Also, Tex Sample, a nationally known author, speaker, professor, and United Methodist pastor, will offer a webinar on rural church ministry based upon his many books and years of experience pastoring rural churches. Stay tuned for the registration opportunities for these webinars. Each webinar will be free of charge.
Beginning January 26th at 6:30pm, I will facilitate a Rural Church Ministries book club via Zoom. This will be a time for those of us in rural church ministry to read, ask questions, and have discussions on topics that impact our rural church ministries in the North Central District. Our first book will be Allen Stanton’s Reclaiming Rural. Stay tuned for the registration link.
Members of our Rural Church Ministries Team, Rev. Stacey Spence, Rev. Sharon Surrency, Rev. Terry Robertson, and Tyger Dupre, will be contacting each of our rural church pastors to ask about their most pressing needs as they serve in a rural context.
I am looking forward to serving with our wonderful rural churches during 2021.
Rev. Sarah Campbell
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: https://www.flumc.org/newsdetail/2020-advent-wreath-and-readings-14451121. 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: facebook.com/SingingMarysSong/
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:
- A 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 Cookman.edu or facebook.com/bethunecookmanuniv.
- A 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: https://upperroombooks.com/book/the-upper-room-disciplines-2021/, 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.”
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
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.
2021 Connectional Giving
The apportionments for 2021 are now available on the conference website. To access your 2021 apportionment information:
- 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 https://pages.paychex.com/wespath 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.
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.
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 North Central DCOM Dates
- Tuesday, February 23 (due January 26) Local Pastor License Renewals
- Tuesday, May 4 (due April 6) 1st Provisional/LP/Cert
- Tuesday, August 24 (due July 27) 2nd Provisional/LP/Cert
- Tuesday, Dec 7 (due Nov 9) LP/Cert/Recerts
DCOM Chair: Rev. Elizabeth "Beth" Snarr - firstname.lastname@example.org
DCOM Registrar: Elizabeth Flynn email@example.com
DCOM Meeting Location: District Office, Ocala FL
For information how to begin the Candidacy process, Click HERE.
Update to 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 March, April, & May 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 Belinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calendar of Events
December 24 - Christmas Eve
December 25 - Christmas Day