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Opportunities — Dec. 6, 2006 {0582}

Opportunities — Dec. 6, 2006 {0582}

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Opportunities — Dec. 6, 2006

ec. 6, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0582}

An e-Review News Item

This series includes:

n Communications agency offers basics of United Methodism online, for free;
n UMCOR asks for help providing relief following Typhoon Durian;
n Alternative gift suggestions offered;
n Alternative Christmas card program feeds spiritual, physical hungers;
n Congregations invited to learn how to 'grow a healthy church';
n Tapestry II conference addresses challenges for ministry to those over 50;
n Conference offers new online Bible study course;
n 2007 women’s retreat weekends begin in January;
n Orders, donations being accepted for prayer guide focusing on people with serious illnesses;
n Florida bishop speaks at SEJ conference on immigration;
n United Methodist youth challenged to ‘stir it up’;
n US-2 program helps put faith into action.

Communications agency offers basics of United Methodism online, for free
By Barbara Nissen**

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — All United Methodists are invited to join the next session of UM101 for free, a $12 savings.

UM101 is an online (Internet) interactive, multi-media course about the basics of The United Methodist Church.

Registration for the next session begins Dec. 6. Participants can access the class any time between Dec. 15 and Feb. 15 on their own time schedule. The course can be completed in three hours, but most participants prefer to take more time in order to participate in activities and discussion board.

Interested individuals may find more information and register at UM101 is offered by United Methodist Communications.

UMCOR asks for help providing relief following Typhoon Durian

By Linda Beher**

NEW YORK — The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with partners in the Philippines to provide immediate assistance following Typhoon Durian, which struck the Central Philippines Dec. 1, triggering mudslides. Approximately 450 people have been reported killed and another 600 are missing following the storm and subsequent landslides that buried villages on the slopes of Mount Mayon, 200 miles south of Manila. 

The Rev. Paul Dirdak, deputy general secretary of UMCOR, is in contact with the bishop in the affected region to provide needed support. “We want to assure the churches in the Philippines of our prayers and support,” Dirdak says.

UMCOR has already sent an emergency grant toward relief and expects to send two more in the coming days. In the last typhoon of this magnitude churches in this region provided shelter for survivors of other storms. Now, these church members are in need of shelter themselves.

Churches and Individuals can help by continuing to pray for the survivors as they take their first fragile steps toward recovery. Cash gifts will help UMCOR continue to support the immediate relief and long-term recovery of those affected by the Typhoon Durian. Checks can be mailed to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. “UMCOR Advance #240235, Philippines Emergency, Typhoon Durian” should be written with on the memo line. One hundred percent of every donation to any appeal goes to support recovery efforts in the disaster-stricken regions.

Alternative gift suggestions offered

By the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin**

LAKELAND — With the Advent season in full swing, congregations have greater options for alternative gift giving though The United Methodist Church’s mission agencies and local church missions.

n A list of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) advance specials that support children in Sudan and other locations is found at Any amount is acceptable through the advance special number.

n The mission magazine “New World Outlook” offers its own list of gift ideas at to various ministries across the world, including Heifer Project, SEERV and Equal Exchange coffees, teas and chocolates, which raise funds for UMCOR. 
n Churches and individuals can also give to Florida Conference mission initiatives, such as the East Angola/Florida Partnership. Gifts of $25 per quarter will feed and educate a child in a United Methodist-sponsored school provided by the East Angola Conference of The United Methodist Church. This ministry responds to the priorities expressed by East Angola Conference leadership to help children recover from the country’s recent 27-year civil war and bring their families into a faith with Jesus Christ. A gift of $5 will purchase a brick and its labor to help reconstruct Quéssua Theological College, which was destroyed during the war. Local pastors are being trained, but the instruction is limited until the East Angola Conference can provide a theological learning center for pastors and lay leaders. The goal is to train local and ordained pastors and lay leaders in order to re-supply the rapidly growing church in Angola.
Gifts to The Haiti/Florida Covenant of $25 per quarter will feed and educate a child in a Methodist Church of Haiti school provided by the Methodist Church in Haiti District and the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas. This ministry responds to the priorities expressed by Methodist Church in Haiti District leadership to help children recover from pervasive poverty and the political upheavals in Haiti. The Methodist Church in Haiti runs more than 100 elementary schools.
A gift of $10 to Florida Conference Refugee and Immigrant Ministries provides one hour of help by an immigration lawyer in a Florida Conference-sponsored immigration counseling center. This ministry responds to the overwhelming need to help thousands of people in Florida whose immigration status is not defined. The Florida Conference Refugee and Immigration Ministry supports two immigration centers and is planning a third. The Orlando center has been operating for two years, the Tampa center will open in less than a month, and a third will open in Ft. Pearce. The aim of the centers is to provide professional and paraprofessional legal services through a national missionary, an immigration lawyer, for people seeking legal status in the United States. Church and community volunteers assist the lawyer at the immigration counseling centers.
A gift of $30 will sponsor an at-risk child at a summer day camp for a week at one of 10 outreach ministries across the Florida Conference. The outreach ministries receive a small portion of the conference’s connectional giving dollars to support ministries to the “least of these” in Florida. Children make up more than half of the state’s population living in poverty. Most of the outreach ministries sponsor summer day camps for local children in their respective areas. The children receive religious instruction, while playing and learning in a Christian environment.

More details on ways congregations can be involved in missions are available on the Florida Conference Web site at and by clicking on the “Pathways to Mission manual” link or going directly to UMCOR gift suggestions can be found at

More information can also be obtained by contacting Rankin at 800-282-88011, extension 131, or

Alternative Christmas card program feeds spiritual, physical hungers

By Carol A. Breitinger**

BIG ISLAND, Va. — The peace of God is the theme for SoSA’s Christmas card gift donation program. The exclusively designed Christmas card conveys the message of God’s peace, while the gift donation helps provide fresh food for the millions of Americans who don’t get enough to eat.

When individuals make a Christmas gift card donation in someone’s honor SoSA will send this year’s custom-designed Christmas card to honorees, announcing their “gift.” Each $10 gift donation will help feed about 750 hungry people.

The card, the 12th in a series, was designed for SoSA through the donation of Annis McCabe, a prominent Virginia liturgical artist. The full-color, 5" x 7" card features original art and scripture about God’s peace. The card also announces the name of the person who made the honorary donation. Those who participate in the Christmas card gift donation program also receive the card confirming the number of people they honored.

Orders can be placed by phone at 800-333-4597 or fax at 434-299-5949 or online via or the Web site at Mail orders may be sent to 3383 Sweet Hollow Road, Big Island, VA 24526. The minimum gift donation for each card is $10.

More information about SoSA and its hunger-relief programs is available online at or

Congregations invited to learn how to 'grow a healthy church'

By the Rev. Dr. Larrry Rankin

LAKELAND — The sixth session of the Florida Conference's Health Church Academy course HCA 101, “Growing a Healthy Church,” is Jan. 4-5 and 19-20 at Asbury Seminary.

HCA 101 is a four-day, 32-contact hour course earning three continuing education units. Learners will meet at Asbury Theological Seminary's Orlando campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the two-weekend course.

With this sixth session the HCA 101 curriculum has undergone a “make-over” that enables the material to flow in a natural process, facilitating more effective learning.

HCA 101 presents the “DNA” of a healthy congregation to learners. It is designed for clergy and laity who will guide their churches toward health and transformation, regardless of the size of the congregation. It provides the theological and Biblical foundations for being the church, practical tools to develop or reclaim a vision and mission as a church, and tips on communicating and integrating healthy church strategies into the life of a church and its community. Learners may also register and take other HCA courses prior to HCA 101.

The sessions at Asbury Theological Seminary are sponsored by Asbury Seminary. The faculty includes the Revs. Jeff Stiggins, Mont Duncan, Linda Mobley, Joanem Floreal and Larry Rankin.
The cost of the four-day course is $240, including instruction, learning materials, daily lunch and refreshments. Details regarding on-line and mail-in registration are available at by selecting the “Registration” link on the left-hand menu bar. Recommended lodging at special prices can be found by selecting “Lodging,” then HCA 101.

HCA is sponsored by the Florida Conference’s offices of New Church Development, Congregational Transformation and Connectional Ministries.

Tapestry II conference addresses challenges for ministry to those over 50

By Caryl Kelley**

LAKELAND — It is a changing world with changing needs demanding new, creative ministries.

No time in human history has there been a predominance of those older than 50 as will be experienced in the next 15 years. It will be imperative for healthy churches to foster the full involvement of adults beyond 50 as vital disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as develop creative ministries for the evolving needs of those who will live past 100.

The Florida Conference’s Beyond 50 Ministries task team is providing a conference called Tapestry II at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando March 6-8. The theme is “Making everything new!” based on Revelation 21:5.

Through keynote speakers, workshops and worship experiences, Tapestry II is designed to equip laity and clergy to lead their faith communities into 21st century ministry to those over age 60, the fastest growing segment of the adult population. Tapestry will not only identify the human and spiritual needs that must be addressed with this aging revolution, but equip participants with the tools to address them.

A brochure can be viewed and downloaded from the Florida Conference Web site at

The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sapp, professor and chairperson of the department of religious studies at the University of Miami. He lectures nationally and internationally on a variety of aging and bioethical issues.

Workshops include “Team Building,” “Concept to Concrete,” “Passion Building,” “Resource Building” and “Boomer Spirituality.” Participants select two workshops.

The registration fee includes three meals, snacks and the event. The fee is $130 if paid by Dec. 15 and $140 if paid by Jan. 15.

Lodging is through several local hotels. Lodging information is included in the brochure, which also provides a map and directions to the church.

More information may be obtained by contacting Nancy Metz at 239-945-6707 or

Conference offers new online Bible study course

By Tita Parham

ORLANDO — The Florida Conference has just launched the latest installment of its e-learning online courses. It’s called “Where Is the Fruit?”

This Bible study is based on scriptural passages focused on the watering, tending, pruning and fruit-bearing characteristics of the vine. Through guided reflection the scripture passages are related to each participant's personal life of prayer and fruit bearing, as well as his or her congregational life.

This course is designed for all laity and clergy, but may be of special interest to individuals responsible for Christian education, spiritual formation, evangelism or outreach. Its focus and structure are different from the e-learning courses offered to date. After participants have completed the study they are asked to post comments about the usefulness of this type of course.

The goal of the conference’s online learning ministry is to give leaders in local congregations opportunities to gain information and knowledge in an easily accessible and convenient way. Coordinators also hope the ministry will provide learning resources to a greater number of people. The online courses are an option for church members who can’t attend or wait for similar training offered in their districts or around the conference. The courses also help reduce travel time and costs.
The training modules are designed for novice computer users, as well as those who have more experience using the latest technology, and the site provides an online tutorial to help participants get started.

Courses currently available include training for members of church Staff Parish Relations and trustees committees and members involved in dealing with church finances, including stewardship and connectional giving. All courses can be accessed through the Florida Conference Web site at

Future courses will focus on teacher training, leader development and responsibilities of membership secretaries and lay leaders, among other topics.

Interested individuals my obtain more information about the courses or provide feedback on the process or suggestions for courses by contacting the Rev. Carol Sue Hutchinson, director of the Connectional Ministries office’s Congregational Life Ministries, at or 800-282-8011, extension 140.

2007 women’s retreat weekends begin in January

By Caryl Kelley

LAKELAND — The 23rd annual Leesburg Women’s Retreats January through March are themed “Living on the Vine” and a designed to help participants learn that by following Christ and having a right relationship with him, lives can be changed.

Participants are invited to enjoy three days at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park meeting women from around the state. The weekends are built around the same schedule and feature a keynote speaker, Bible study, music, enrichment classes and devotion leaders.

Each weekend begins with registration at 3 p.m. Friday and ends at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Registration information is available in a downloadable brochure at

The first weekend is Jan. 19-21 and features the Rev. Geraldine McClellan, keynote speaker; Higher Ground, music leader; Marianne Scholer, Bible study leader; and Carol Denney and Joanne Ritz, devotional leaders. Enrichments are led by Amazzing Steel Drums, Kwabea Reed, Tamara Isidora and Sue Sommer. Cortney Williams offers the “Make It Take It” class.

Weekend two is Feb. 2-4 and features the Rev. Deborah McLeod, keynote speaker; Lisa Kemp, music leader; the Rev. Robin Hager, Bible study leader; and Mary Smither and Mary Ashcraft, devotional leaders. Enrichments are led by 99 for One, Susan Wade, Jane Richardson and Nancy Mabrey. Teri Mallette leads the “Make It Take It” class.

The third weekend is Feb. 16-18 and features the Rev. Jackie McMillan, keynote speaker; Sue Sommer, music leader; the Rev. Sheryl Marks-Williams, Bible study leader; and Vicki Turner and JoEllen Chandler, devotional leaders. Enrichments are led by ACAPELLA Praise, Gloria Whilby, Rev. Alexis Talbott and Rev. Julie Stephens. Kit Taylor leads “Make It Take It.”

Weekend four is March 2-4 and features Maisie Hartsfield, keynote speaker; Maureen Still, music leader; Peggy Ingram, Bible study leader; and Jeanne Icenhour and Karen Sutherland, devotional leaders. Enrichments are led by The Garretts, Bobbi Smith, Pat Waytovich and Due Sommer. “Make It Take It” is led by Kathy Hubbs.

John and Margaret Anderson will lead each weekend’s hymn sings.

The cost for the weekend, including program fees, options for five meals and two nights’ housing, is $132 at the Life Enrichment Center, $114 at the Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp and $100 at the Family Camp Ground (participant provides own RV/camper). The commuter cost for lunch and dinner on Saturday is $52. Several other options are included on the registration form in the brochure.

Interested individuals may obtain more information by contacting Carol Sue Hutchinson at

Orders, donations being accepted for prayer guide focusing on people with serious illnesses

By Kathy L. Gilbert**

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “The cry of my heart is a cure for HIV and AIDS worldwide.”

Those are the words of Mathabo L. of South Africa, one of the writers living with HIV/AIDS who has contributed to a special prayer book for people suffering with serious diseases.

“Prayers for Encouragement: Hope for Persons Living with HIV & AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Other Serious Diseases” is being printed by Upper Room Ministries in partnership with the Africa Upper Room Office.

The English edition became available Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day. Editions in French, Portuguese, Kiswahili, IsiZulu and other languages will be available in early 2007.

The idea for the prayer book was born when the Rev. Don Messer, executive director of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS, discovered copies of the “Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide” in the waiting room of Maua Methodist Hospital in Kenya.

There is a large population of Methodists and a “raging epidemic of HIV/AIDS” in the Meru area of Kenya, according to Messer. Many people come to the hospital to be tested, get counseling and be treated with anti-retroviral drugs. “It’s a pretty stressful time when people come to be tested and face these issues,” he said. 

Seeing the battered, 10-year-old copies of the devotional guide prompted Messer to contact Upper Room Ministries about publishing a special collection of prayers for people suffering with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

He realized that people sitting in the waiting room “must have been worrying and thinking and praying, and they’d turned to these ‘Upper Room’ magazines for guidance and support,” he said.

“Where there is human suffering and crisis, Upper Room Ministries wants to provide openings to God’s healing and reconciling grace,” said the Rev. Stephen D. Bryant, editor and publisher of “The Upper Room Devotional Guide.” “When Dr. Don Messer contacted us, we knew this was consistent with who God has called us to be.”

Since 1981, the U.S. AIDS epidemic has been steadily growing, and by the beginning of 2005, more than 1 million people were estimated to be living with HIV and approximately 415,000 were living with AIDS. AIDS is believed to have killed more than half a million Americans, nearly 10 times the number killed in the Vietnam War.

On the African continent, 25 million adults and children - most of them in sub-Saharan countries — are living with HIV/AIDS. Every week, nearly 40,000 Africans die of the disease. 

“Governments can bring and must bring needed medicines and programs and the church can participate in those, but the church has a special role in providing spiritual comfort and strength and prayers for encouragement to people in need,” Messer said.

The meditations in “Prayers for Encouragement” represent the faith journeys of people who live with HIV/AIDS and those involved in HIV/AIDS-related services. Two United Methodist bishops, along with well-known medical and church leaders, are among the writers.

Though this is the first time Upper Room Ministries has specifically published a resource for HIV/AIDS, it has provided booklets of meditations and prayer to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families, people in the path of the Asian tsunami, and churches affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. 

Upper Room Ministries, part of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, compiled the booklet in conjunction with the Center for the Church and Global AIDS. The project is being funded by friends and supporters of Upper Room Ministries and the center.

The booklet will be distributed through Upper Room Ministries’ global editorial and distribution network; United Methodist leaders, clergy and lay people who are in ministry with those affected by HIV/AIDS; and community, national and international health and service organizations. It is being printed in Cape Town, South Africa, and copies are expected in the United States in mid-December. The booklet is not yet available on Upper Room’s Web site, but interested individuals may order now by phoning toll-free 800-972-0433. Copies will be sold in packages of 20 for $10, plus postage. The order number for this new resource is UR9912.

Donors of both Upper Room Ministries and the Center for the Church and Global AIDS have provided the bulk of funding to underwrite production and distribution costs of “Prayers for Encouragement” outside the United States. Individuals interested in making a donation to this project may do so at

More information about the resource is available at

Florida bishop speaks at SEJ conference on immigration

Rev. Clayton Childers**

WASHINGTON — How should the church respond to the challenge of immigration? This is one of the questions to be addressed during a three-day conference focusing on the issue of Immigration from a Biblical perspective.

The Southeastern Jurisdiction and the General Board of Church and Society are organizing “Our Call to Hospitality: A Biblical Response to the Challenge of Immigration” conference Feb. 1-3 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Keynote addresses will be provided by Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker; Northern Illinois Conference Bishop Hee-Soo Jung; Dr. Joan M. Meruskin, Church World Service Immigration and Refugee  Program and author of “The Bible as an Immigration Handbook”; Dr. Francisco Canas, executive director, National Plan for Hispanic Ministries; and the Rev. Clark Jenkins, pastor, St. Andrew-by-the-Sea United Methodist Church in Hilton Head, S.C. There will also be a number of workshops to promote understanding and a Christian response to the issue.

“Immigration is a critical issue right now in the United States and other countries as well. The church must be one place where the issue can be addressed, especially from a faith perspective,” said Bill Mefford, director of civil and human rights at the General Board of Church and Society. “What does our Christian call to hospitality teach us about the way we respond to the sojourner, the alien, the stranger, the outcast? This is the piece of the immigration debate that we believe has been missing.”

“The Southeastern Jurisdiction and Lake Junaluska want to do our part in assisting the church in understanding its role in the debate and future action related to the many immigrants who are around us everyday,” Southeastern Jurisdiction Executive Director Jimmy L. Carr said. “We hope leaders from around the church will participate in this very important event.”

A registration form and more information about the event can be found at More information can also be obtained by contacting Garey Eakes at or Carl Arrington at

United Methodist youth challenged to ‘stir it up’
By Dianne Lewis**

Columbia, S.C. — In 2006 United Methodist youth groups raised nearly $765,000 for charities throughout the country and around the world through Souper Bowl of Caring.

More than 2,300 United Methodist groups have already registered to participate in the 2007 Souper Bowl of Caring Feb. 4.

“We’re asking United Methodist youth to ‘Stir it Up’ and raise $1.4 million for charity through the Souper Bowl of Caring 2007,” said Jay Clark, Young People’s Ministry, United Methodist Church. “To meet the goal we need 4,400 United Methodist churches to register and participate.”

The Souper Bowl of Caring has set a nationwide goal of $8 million for 2007. To be counted in the national totals each group must register its participation at

“Souper Bowl of Caring is something any youth group can do,” Clark said. “Souper Bowl of Caring provides that unique missional opportunity for your youth group to choose exactly where each dollar goes. One hundred percent of the money raised can stay in your community, or you can send it elsewhere — the important thing is that you are providing resources to those in need. You are serving a call to help extinguish the injustice of hunger.”

Asking for only $1 on one day, America’s teens are transforming Super Bowl weekend into the nation’s largest youth-led day of giving. Standing at church doors with soup pots young people in all 50 states receive donations. Almost $5 million was generated in Souper Bowl of Caring 2006, bringing the total to $33 million since the effort began 16 years ago.

Churches can register to participate at Each registrant receives a free resource kit with all the materials needed to plan and promote the event. Groups are asked to report collection totals to the Souper Bowl of Caring following the event so the nationwide impact of youth helping hungry neighbors can be announced and celebrated.

US-2 program helps put faith into action
By Linda Bloom**

NEW YORK — For Emily Harris, social activism has often been a part of her involvement with The United Methodist Church.

So it wasn’t a stretch when she joined the US-2 program of the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries to explore the calling she felt.

”It always made sense to put my faith in action for economic justice,” she said.

Harris, from the church’s Virginia Conference, is one of seven US-2s who this summer finished their two-year term of missionary service. They shared some of their experiences during a June 22 briefing at the board’s New York headquarters.

The US-2 program offers leadership development through peace and justice ministries at U.S.-based community organizations. It is open to young adults aged 20 to 30 years.

Harris was assigned to the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice in Chicago. The organization’s goal is to “educate, organize and mobilize the religious community in the U.S. on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits and working conditions for workers, especially low-wage workers,” according to the Web site.

Rachel Harvey plans to return to South Dakota for a year, where she has served as the director of Coffee Loft, an ecumenical ministry for the University of South Dakota community sponsored by Vermillion First United Methodist Church. Programs there have included “hookers for Jesus” — a knitting and crocheting group composed mostly of young men.

The US-2 experience has led Harvey to be more assertive. “I’m a lot more confident in myself,” she said.

Amy Brown, who worked for the N.O.A.H. Project, a resource center for the homeless sponsored by Central United Methodist Church and Family Service Inc., in Detroit, wasn’t often able to follow up on her clients. “A lot of people we don’t always see again,” she explained.

But Brown, from the North Alabama Conference, did take a life lesson from Robert, a man who used the center’s phones to call employment agencies. Although he was “scammed” by a phony agency that never paid him for his work — money he was counting on for a security deposit on an apartment — Robert was not bitter over the experience, she recalled.

Other US-2s focused on children’s health; hunger issues; nutrition, exercise and reducing childhood obesity; after-school programs; and other emphases.

The application deadline for future US-2 classes is Feb. 1 each year. Information and application forms are available at

US-2s are not asked to raise monetary support during their time as missionaries, but United Methodists can support the program through the Advance for Christ and His Church.

Checks may be written to Advance GCFA and earmarked for US-2 Program, No. 982874, and dropped in church collection plates or mailed directly to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit card donations may be made by calling 888-252-6174. Online donations can be made at


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nissen is director Untied Methodist Communications’ Conference Resourcing Team. Beher is communications director for UMCOR. Rankin is director of the Florida Conference Global Mission and Justice Ministries and dean of Healthy Church Academy (HCA). Breitinger is national Society of St. Andrew Communications Director, Big Island, VA. Kelley is subscription manager, photographer and contributing writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service. Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Childers is annual conference relations director for General Board of Church and Society. Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York. Lewis is on staff with Souper Bowl of Caring.