News & Views

The Florida Conference is dedicated to bringing you news stories about United Methodists here and beyond. Whether the news is about the global church or the church on the corner, look for it here. You’ll also find thought-provoking commentaries and opportunities for education and fellowship.

In addition, News & Views is pleased to bring you an interactive Bible crossword puzzle, with new puzzles available weekly. Click here to access this week's crossword puzzle. Have a story to share? Email or click here to use our convenient “Submit a story” form.

Image courtesy of Copyright © by Cliff Leitch.

March 21, 2018

Miracle Village story takes center stage off-Broadway

For nearly four weeks, New York theater-goers received an intimate look at life in Pahokee, thanks to an off-Broadway play, "America is Hard to See." A talented cast portrayed the heart and soul of Miracle Village, a place where many of its residents are convicted sex offenders.

March 13, 2018

Parkland tragedy, heart for change inspires '5000 Letters'

Calling the Parkland tragedy a "burning bush moment," Bishop Ken Carter and Florida Conference churches went beyond prayers and vigils and formed a letter-writing campaign to federal and state lawmakers. The 5,000 Letters initiative achieved its goal, but many consider it just the beginning for needed change.

March 07, 2018

Prison ministries offer unconditional love, spiritual freedom

For the pastor of a church in Oviedo, it started with a simple letter to a prison inmate. When her words were returned with a heartfelt reply, both lives were changed. Prison ministries throughout the Florida Conference offer unconditional love and support. One volunteer calls it a "ringside seat to miracles."

February 28, 2018

Author Brian McLaren helps Collective with 'spiritual migration'

The author of 15 books advocating "a new kind of Christianity," Brian McLaren attended a weekend conference late last fall at The Collective in DeLand. Rev. Ben Collins, calling McLaren an "itinerant inspirer," sparked discussion about relationships between the institutional and the emerging Church.

February 26, 2018

Igniting Men roundtable discusses need for racial unity

In an effort to find solutions to end racism, a roundtable discussion was held at a recent Igniting Men conference at Mandarin UMC. Christian leaders addressed a need for racial unity and focused on building relationships that model the love of Jesus.

February 22, 2018

Parkland tragedy leads pastors to address brokenness

Among stories of deep pain and loss following the recent school shooting in Parkland, United Methodist pastors in Broward County offer "a ministry of presence." For Rev. Vance Rains of Coral Springs UMC, this meant driving to a park to comfort distraught parents on the night of the shooting.

February 20, 2018

New Life founders see new horizons in Zambia

For Rev. Delbert Groves and his wife Sandy, founders of the New Life Center in Kitwe, Zambia 18 years ago, there is still much work to be done in this Central African country. Saying they can't think of "anyplace they'd rather be," planning has begun to build a New Life Center in Livingstone.

February 15, 2018

Camping Sunday celebrates 70 years at Warren Willis

Camping Sunday is Feb. 25th. It was 70 years ago when Warren Willis Camp first became a summer "sacred space" for hundreds of youth. It's a time to reflect on an age when scrapbooks filled with black and white memories.

February 07, 2018

Trudy Novicki shares Florida Impact’s vision and mission

The Florida Conference hosted a Lakeland “friend raiser” for Florida Impact, the 30 plus year-old organization that is dedicated to securing economic justice in our state by reducing hunger and poverty.

January 30, 2018

NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dungy reflects on All Pro Dad

For Tony Dungy, the former NFL player and coach who won two Super Bowls, wins are more about time spent with family. Today, the All Pro Dad program that he helped originate is a vital part of some Florida Conference churches and the lives of fathers and their children.

January 16, 2018

Florida Impact's Novicki faces stark reality

After one year on the job, Florida Impact President and CEO Trudy Novicki faced the stark reality that there are too many hungry children in the state's welfare system. The former state prosecutor is a leading advocate for those in need.

January 04, 2018

Puerto Rican relief receives help from Holston Conference

With many displaced Puerto Rican families coming to Orange and Osceola Counties following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a district disaster coordinator from the Holston Conference drove 600 miles to deliver school kits and supplies to First Kissimmee UMC.

January 03, 2018

Retreat changes world 'one conversation at a time'

Thirty-five students from different races and backgrounds recently came together at an event called the Converge Retreat, an idea formed by three Wesley Foundation campus ministers. Held at Riverside Camp and Retreat, the session's subject was racial reconciliation.

December 21, 2017

Florida Advocacy Days giving voice Jan. 21-23

Florida Advocacy Days registration is still open for those looking to join the march in Tallahassee, Jan. 21-23. The 2018 gathering will include a focus on social justice, fairness and defending rights of the poor and needy.

December 19, 2017

YAMM workshop addresses racism, power dynamics

In order to fix a problem, you have to talk about it first. This was the premise behind a recent day-long workshop addressing racism held at Warren Willis Camp. Nearly 50 missionaries and staff members from the Young Adult Missional Movement participated.

December 13, 2017

Conference shines light on homeless families

The Florida Conference hosted a special showing of "The Florida Project" film on Dec. 8 at the historic Polk Theatre in Lakeland. The night included a panel discussion about the plight of homeless families in Florida.

December 12, 2017

Lilly Endowment grant awarded to Gator Wesley

Heather and Joel Pancoast, co-directors of the Gator Wesley Foundation, successfully applied for a $50,000 Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant. The funds will help sustain work enabling students to explore future vocations.

December 07, 2017

Connect's social media raises funds for hurricane relief

Nearly 700 young people came together at this fall's Connect retreats at Warren Willis Camp. Demonstrating that social media can be a force for good, students raised more than $14,000 for hurricane relief.

December 05, 2017

'Florida Project' film assisted by Florida clergy

The Community Hope Center, also known as Hope 192, in Kissimmee is more than inspiration for the recent film release, "The Florida Project." For Rev. Mary Downey, the center represents a lifeline to homeless families facing tough challenges in Central Florida.

November 29, 2017

'The Florida Project': movie about our 'hidden homeless'

Few realize there's a hidden world where homeless families live along U.S. 192 near Disney World. With help from Rev. Mary Downey, executive director of the Community Hope Center in Kissimmee, the film, "The Florida Project," is raising awareness to a complex issue.

November 22, 2017

Prayer feathers, ancient flute, carry voices of Native Americans

November is Native American Heritage Month, and for Dock Green Silverhawk, it's a time to celebrate the past and embrace his own heritage following heart surgery and nearly losing his life. Through the melodies of an ancient flute and a prayer feather, Green and others give thanks to being Native American.

November 21, 2017

Man Cave Renovation Retreat ignites spiritual growth

After 69 years of men's retreats in Leesburg, the Florida Conference recently brought welcome change with a "Man Cave Renovation" gathering Oct. 13-14 at the Life Enrichment Center. A 26 percent increase in attendance over the previous year was reported.

November 20, 2017

Florida holds first Spanish ERT workshop

As the Florida Conference continues to reach out to those facing recovery from the devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria, an Early Response Training (ERT) for Spanish-speaking volunteers was held recently at FUMC Kissimmee.

November 08, 2017

From ships to desert cold, military chaplains serve 24/7

They serve in desert cold and on ships, often in foreign countries. Military chaplains are in ministry with their parish 24/7. In the words of one chaplain, "we go when and where it matters most."

November 01, 2017

Haitian-born Global Mission Fellows head for Motor City

For recently appointed Global Mission Fellows Lynda Sylvain and Grace Okerson, experiencing Detroit's winter is only one of many challenges they'll face during the next two years.

October 24, 2017

Out of Africa: Mulemena finds mission in Amazon

Travelling 5,000 miles from his home in Zambia, Africa, Charles Mulemena found his life as a missionary serving the people of Belem, Brazil. The area is often referred to as the gateway to the Amazon rainforest.

October 23, 2017

East Central District leads Puerto Rico ministry for Florida

It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 Puerto Ricans will relocate in Central Florida in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The East Central District is leading a conference-wide ministry to provide school supplies and meet basic needs.

October 18, 2017

Delivering 1300 pounds of medicine, supplies to Angola

The Rev. Armando Rodriquez Jr. and his wife, Icel Rodriguez, director of Global Missions, recently delivered 1300 pounds of much needed medicine and supplies to East Angola. Transported with carry-on luggage, the Florida Conference team provided mosquito netting and anti-malaria drugs.

October 12, 2017

She walks in Jesus' footsteps every day

For United Methodist missionary, Rev. Kristen Brown, walking in the footsteps of Jesus is an everyday occurrence. As Methodist Liaison to Israel-Palestine, Brown visits biblical sites and crosses through checkpoints. She prepares Christian leaders to serve churches and society in the Holy Land.

October 10, 2017

'Homeless Jesus' sculpture unveiled at First Miami

A life-sized sculpture was unveiled in a special ceremony held October 1 at FUMC Miami. Titled "Homeless Jesus," the bronze artwork was created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz depicting Christ wrapped in a blanket and lying on a bench. The church also began its new mobile shower ministry for the homeless.

October 04, 2017

Florida JFON advocates for least, last, lost

For those seeking asylum in Miami's backlogged immigration courtrooms, the wait can last for five to six years. Rev. Janet Horman, director of Florida's Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), calls it a legal battle worth fighting.

October 03, 2017

Working for peace and justice in Northern Ireland

Assigned by the General Board of Global Ministries to work at East Belfast Mission, Alison Gilmore returned to her home country of Northern Ireland in 2011. As a mental health counselor, she describes the inner struggle faced by so many to make peace with their past.

September 28, 2017

Shaping the Bright Future of America

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate a unique melting pot of cultures and diversity within the Florida Conference. Hispanic and Latino Americans describe the challenge of creating unity within traditional churches without losing the rich diversity of different regions.

September 21, 2017

Florida needs volunteers now!

Volunteers will be needed for team coordination, logistics, call center, work teams and in their local communities connecting to survivors.

September 20, 2017

LEC, Warren Willis house power crews during Irma

It began the Thursday before Hurricane Irma made landfall. Power trucks from as far away as North Carolina rolled into the Life Enrichment Center and Warren Willis Camp as they opened their doors with hospitality. The facility housed up to 800 linemen in the days after the storm hit.

September 19, 2017

Claim form online; Irma information and resources available

New this year, the Florida Conference churches can report Irma damages using an online claim form.

September 19, 2017

Foster Family Event fills backpacks, raises awareness

Eight churches in Brevard County, including three United Methodist congregations, recently participated in the annual Foster Family Event at New Covenant Fellowship Church. Along with filling backpacks for children starting a new school year, this year's gathering helped raise awareness to the needs of foster families.

September 13, 2017

Cleaning up after Irma: steeples, trees, flooding

Editor's Note: Donate here to the Florida Conference Hurricane Irma Fund to help churches and the ...

August 29, 2017

'Feed my sheep' with 16 gallons of soup, sandwiches

At the Kitchen of Clay County near Jacksonville, volunteers from three church denominations feed the hungry Saturday lunch with 12 to 16 gallons of homemade soup, sandwiches and cakes. It's a ministry that began in 2009.

August 24, 2017

Holy grounds connect neighbors through gardens

Churches are connecting with their neighbors with the help of mushroom compost, collard greens, tomatoes and a lot of green thumbs. Whatever the season, community gardens are becoming a hot trend across the Florida Conference.

August 22, 2017

Mobile showers ministry aims to restore dignity

Methodist churches located in urban areas, such as downtown Miami, have recently embraced a new kind of street ministry: mobile showers for the homeless. Pulled with a truck, it's a trend quickly taking hold across South Florida.

August 16, 2017

Stirring in soul: Retired teacher reaches out in Volusia County

Retired teacher Mica Roughton's life changed the moment she reached out to help children and families living in poverty. She's now the volunteer coordinator of a ministry called Food Brings Hope, a program at FUMC of Ormond Beach giving families in a local elementary school physical and spiritual nourishment.

August 11, 2017

Legislator: 'I believe God placed me here to help' fight trafficking

"I believe God placed me here to help," says State Representative Ross Spano, R-Riverview. He is working to toughen laws against human traffickers in Florida. This is the final story in a three-part series on human trafficking.

August 08, 2017

Trafficking: It's 'right here in our backyard'

Deltona artist Jennifer Houdeshell reveals the seamy side of trafficking in Florida that tourists rarely see. She uses her art to raise awareness of the crime: "I wanted to put a face to human trafficking."

August 04, 2017

Back-to-School Blessing

With each new school year comes the excitement and anticipation of a new beginning, a new journey, a new chapter. This video meditation features an empowering blessing, written by the Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton, for individuals or groups to use to lift up those involved in all walks of education. You can share or download this video to use in Sunday school classes, before or during worship or in your home.

August 03, 2017

Grassroots faith-based efforts combat human trafficking

An ordained elder and missionary with The United Methodist Church and members of Sun City Center UMC are working to fight a transnational crime. Florida ranks third in the nation for calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

July 31, 2017

Science Mike brings religion, science together

Science Mike, aka Mike McHargue, of Good Samaritan UMC in Tallahassee, has become a major phenomenon on the internet. Taking questions on science, faith and life, his iTunes "Top 20" podcast receives 6,500 downloads a day.

July 26, 2017

Summer BreakSpot sites feeding body and soul

Florida Conference churches and schools have stepped up throughout the summer to meet the needs of hungry children. Many have become hosting sites for the Florida Department of Agriculture's Summer BreakSpot program.

July 19, 2017

'Feet to the faith' impacts hearts, minds, social justice

From climate change to violent crimes, poverty and social injustice, most of us would agree the world needs positive change. Can our churches make positive differences in their communities? For the 11 million helped by Florida Conference community ministries since 2009, the answer would be yes!

July 17, 2017

First, Port St. Lucie, battles summer reading slump

In the first of a monthly series about School-Church Partnerships, read about volunteers at FUMC in Port St. Lucie who recently collected 1,005 books for children at an area elementary school.

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