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UMsConnected looks to expand community beyond church walls

UMsConnected looks to expand community beyond church walls

Annual Conference 2022 Missions and Outreach


Just a couple of weeks before the start of Annual Conference in June, retired Elder Steve Harper noticed the name on his caller ID. It was Bishop Kenneth Carter.

He wanted Harper to think about new ways to engage people, not just because of the ongoing split in the United Methodist Conference.

Oh, and could he have it ready to present to the AC delegates when they gathered in Lakeland?

“If a friend of mine had just come up with this, I’d have said there is a lot of stuff like that out there already,” Harper said.
“But when your Bishop calls and says, “Steve, you’ve spent your life teaching spiritual development in the Wesleyan tradition, would you be willing to think of something that can give the homeless a home,' you do it."

By the time delegates gathered for the first face-to-face Annual Conference in three years, the framework for UMsConnected had been created. It’s a website, podcast, and newsletter that aims to be a resource for bringing people together in a time of too much separation.

Harper said the aim is not to supersede many other worthy outlets for connection but rather to allow people to leave their silos and widen their communities.

“It was a tight timeline, so I put my pedal to the medal, shared what I came up with Bishop Carter, and he said great, use it.

“One of the things UMsConnected is going to do is point out that there are other good places to go,” Harper said. 

It’s not a connection strictly for United Methodists, either. UMsConnected recognizes that church today can happen anywhere—in homes, bowling alleys, back yards, or, especially, online.
 

Retired Elder Steve Harper

UMsConnected doesn’t have members, Harper stressed. It has participants.

“We’re using the word movement intentionally,” he said. “It’s a movement, like the early Methodist Church.”

The website says, “UMsConnected exists to unite those of us scattered here and there in ways that are helpful and do good.

“UMsConnected is not a substitute for the larger Church, just as early Methodism was not. Rather, we exist for those who (for various reasons) have no current affiliation with a United Methodist congregation…and…for those who do have a “church home” but desire an additional means for growing in personal and social holiness.” 

UMsConnected doesn’t have members, it has participants.

That’s what it’s about. It’s more about the future than lamenting the current disaffiliations of multiple churches. It’s an attempt to be proactive about the future church rather than reactive.

The news is spreading. The UMC Western Carolina Conference has already launched a website, and Harper said he has heard from other conferences eager to learn more.

For more information, follow this link.

There also is a Facebook page.

“People wonder what the new United Methodist Church is going to be. I told everyone I hoped it would not be a reaction to the disaffiliations, for people whose church left and now need a United Methodist church,” Harper said.

“I would rather describe the ministry as reaching out to multiple audiences. UMsConnected is a metaverse ministry aimed to reach and resource people who feel disconnected, dislocated, and discouraged.”

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org


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