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Biweekly Digest

Biweekly Digest

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Biweekly Digest

Feb. 27, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   Orlando  {0031}

Feb. 16 - 27, 2004
Biweekly Digest PDF version click here

NOMADS helps churches make repairs
[Feb. 19, 2004 {0026}]

MIMS - The amount of work that needed to be done at Mims United Methodist Church was absolutely daunting for the congregation, but the pastor had an idea. The Rev. David Harris applied last year for volunteers from Nomads On A Mission of Divine Service (NOMADS) to visit the church and work their magic. NOMADS is a mission outreach ministry of the United Methodist Church through the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program area of the General Board of Global Ministries. The group is jokingly referred to as "Normal Old Methodists Avoiding Deep Snow" since many of the volunteers are retirees from the north who work at churches in the south in the winter. NOMADS provides volunteer labor and tools for projects involving remodeling, repair or construction to church related camps, youth centers and other agencies. "It's just been incredible," Harris said. "I think in labor alone the work they did would have cost between $5,000 and $6,000. It is absolutely incredible, there's no way to describe the amount of work they do. They have been a tremendous blessing to the church." Barbara Hinegardner said NOMADS has been a blessing to thousands of United Methodist congregations throughout the country. She serves on the NOMADS board of directors and agency selection committee and is a NOMADS volunteer to the Southeastern Jurisdiction. "NOMADS are great for churches with older congregations," Hinegardner said. "Many times older members of the church will come work along us and realize they are able to do the work that they thought they couldn't do. I guess we're kind of a spark that gets things going." full story

Church moves to new location in same city
[Feb. 20, 2004 {0027}]

ORLANDO - Arriving at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in June 2003 was bittersweet for the Rev. Margaret Kartwe-Bradley. She was excited about jump-starting the ministry at the only African-American United Methodist Church in Orlando, but she was disappointed at the church's cramped quarters. Additionally, most of the residents in the neighborhood surrounding the church were already members of other area churches. Things began to change last fall when church members began talking about adding on to the church and looking into grants and other ways to fund the project. "We continued to pray about the church and after charge conference, the district superintendent [Rev. Dr. Jeffery Stiggins] asked me to go to lunch, then he asked me to go for a ride," Kartwe-Bradley said. It was a ride that would take Ebenezer United Methodist Church into the future and to a vacant United Methodist Church in the Holden Heights area of Orlando. That site became the church's new home, and the first worship service was held there Feb. 1. Long-time church member Willie Scott said the new location is less about the church physically moving and more about spiritually helping people in the new area. "We're in a community where we feel needed. People are unchurched...We're doing the right thing," he said.  "At our dedication three people joined the church and two people were baptized. It was the greatest worship experience I've ever had. It's God's blessing. I feel really, really good about where we are." full story

Conference Table hears, discusses two restructure proposals
[Feb. 25, 2004 {0028}]

WINTER HAVEN - Restating the affirmation of John Wesley that the world is our parish, the Rev. Jeff Stiggins, Orlando District superintendent, said many Florida Conference church members consider the parish their world and the conference needs to restructure in a way to help churches have healthy and health-giving relationships with each other. Stiggins was one member of the Florida Conference Cabinet who presented "Connecting for Transformation," the cabinet's restructuring proposal, at the latest gathering of the Florida Conference's Conference Table Jan. 30 at St. John's United Methodist Church here. The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of connectional ministries, also presented a proposal to eliminate the Conference Council on Ministries (CCOM) and replace it with a new Conference Equipping Network. Both proposals must be presented to the Florida Annual Conference for approval. The cabinet's 13-page proposal would reduce the number of districts from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster and change the responsibilities of the district superintendents. The second proposal would eliminate the CCOM and replace it with a structure called the Conference Equipping Network. Its core would be the Leadership Connection, a team of no more than 15 laity and clergy responsible for setting the vision for and identifying ministry needs. It would serve as coordinator for all conference leadership, boards and agencies and assist in cross-disciplinary discussions and decisions. Members would be elected by the annual conference. The Leadership Connection would create focused task teams as it identifies ministry needs and visions. The task teams would be "called together because of the passion of individuals, needs of the structure or mandates from the [United Methodist Book of] Discipline," Burkholder said. full story

UMCM transforms lives, churches through preschool, English for refugees ministries
[Feb. 26, 2004 {0029}]

ST. PETERSBURG - Sitting at their classroom tables, eagerly awaiting lunch, the children in Peggy Chlapowski's class offer a prayer in words and sign language: "Thank you for the sun, Thank you for the moon, Thank you for my family, Thank you for my friends, Amen." The prayer respects the diversity of students and staff at Children of the World Preschool, a unique preschool in St. Petersburg open to children and families of refugees and immigrants from all over the world. The preschool is a program of United Methodist Cooperative Ministries/Suncoast, an outreach ministry of the Florida Conference and one of the conference's Advance Specials. It began in 1988 when it opened as the Southeast Asian Preschool and was jointly sponsored by United Methodist Cooperative Ministries/Suncoast and Lakewood United Methodist Church here. It started with one room and eight children. The following year it had 15 children and a waiting list. After more than a decade at Lakewood, the preschool moved to its present home, Hope Lutheran Church here, providing enough space to go from half-day to full-day sessions, a location closer to where refugees live and the ability to serve more children-up to 34. The name change reflects the program's expansion to admit any child who needs to learn English, as well as changing world politics and refugee situations. The preschool is a bridge between many St. Petersburg communities. Its staff includes Laotian, Vietnamese and Venezuelan teachers and aides. The children come from Catholic, Methodist, Buddhist and Baptist homes. "We offer not just support for kids, but support for the families, too," said Marylina Carbungco, UMCM's director of refugee and immigrant support services. "If someone was laid off, we offer employment assistance. If they need help with transportation, we can offer bus passes. If they need to learn English, we match them with a volunteer tutor." full story

Bikers ride with Jesus at Orlando church
[Feb. 27, 2004 {0030}]

ORLANDO - Rick Blubaugh eyes you rather suspiciously when you ask him what kind of motorcycle he rides. "Harley Davidson Road King," he answers. "What else is there?" There were hundreds of choices in the parking lot of Peace United Methodist Church here Feb. 15 as the church observed its annual "Biker Sunday." Five hundred people attended the afternoon event, with many attending one of four preceding morning worship services. There were free hot dogs, hamburgers, beverages and desserts. Team X-Treem Sportbike Freestyle performed motorcycle stunts, and there were motorcycle games for attendees, as well. "This is my first time here, and I love it," said John Parker, who lives in St. Cloud and is a member of Cornerstone Cruiser Motorcycle Club. "It's more bikes here than I've ever seen in one place. I guess it's sort of like 'Bike Week' without the drunken violence. I would come again next week because I feel like I'm part of something and not all alone." That's the idea, according to event organizer and Peace church member Mitch Edwards. He said he has seen people give their life to the Lord at the Biker Sunday events in previous years. "I wanted to bring them here and have them not feel threatened," he said. BeBee Jenkins is one of those people. The Lake Wales resident said she and her husband, Buck, enjoyed being at the church because it's family oriented. "You have fathers, sons and grandchildren here," said Jenkins, who rides a Honda Magna. "What's not to like? This is my first time here. It's a very clean affair. I'm amazed, excited and delighted. I'll be back next year." full story

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*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.