In the March WVUM, we preview General Conference, the United Methodist Church’s governing body which meets next month in Tampa, Florida.
By far, the the Call to Action and the legislation that has come about because of it has received the most attention. An end to job guarantees for elders in good standing is controversial. The creation of a “set-aside” bishop has some worried about a shift in power toward the top in the denomination. There’s also legislation on the table that will greatly restructure the general boards and agencies of the general church.
There are several resources available for churches, pastors, and laity to study and keep up with the issues that the General Conference will deal with:
There’s also a Call to Action study guide that outlines the CTA and related legislation in more detail. You can also listen to audio of Bishop Grove’s March 10 presentation to the Covenant Council of the West Virginia Conference regarding the Call to Action, by clicking the play button below:
Speaking of Bishop Grove, we came across this archive photo from 1985, taken in the Moorefield, W.Va. after a 100 year flood devastated a wide swath of West Virginia.
I was a senior in high school when the flood got to the bottom of the top step in our basement in Clarksburg, W.Va. I remember days with no showers (tough for a teenage girl) and the smell of that flood will be with me for the rest of my life.
Bishop Grove shared his experience from that time in this piece of audio.
We also feature several twitter posts that led to local church stories in the Conference in this newspaper. Oh – and we are posting fresh stories several times a week in our website newsfeed. Check out wvumc.org/news to keep up, or subscribe to our RSS feed.
We love to hear your questions and feedback! Leave a comment below or email us a tip.
Thanks for reading, watching, and listening!
WVUMC Editor/Dir. of Communications
Top stories of 2011
It’s been quite a year. The nation’s economy continues to sputter along in the wake of the Great Recession. It was a year of horrific natural disasters that included an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, destructive tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, and devastating floods in New England. The UMC has been there, through the relief efforts of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Check out this story about 10-year-old Gwyneth Cartwright’s pop-tab bracelets. Gwyenth attends St. Andrew’s UMC in St. Albans, WV. Sales from the bracelets have raised more than $300 for UMCOR.
Below are the major stories that shaped the life of our Annual Conference this year.
Bishop Lyght’s Episcopacy and Retirement
In the United Methodist system, we’re used to clergy moving from church to church. Itineracy is something even our bishops experience. So, we knew we’d say goodbye to Bishop Lyght soon…just not quite this soon.
Lyght announced his plans to retire early due to health concerns a few months ago. “It has been an immense privilege and an awesome opportunity to serve as a bishop in the United Methodist Church since 1996,” said the Bishop. He said that while he has enjoyed his years in the West Virginia Conference, he’s “never developed a taste for ramps.” That’s o.k. Bishop, not all of us like them either. Read the Bishop’s complete farewell letter, and listen to our mini audio series “Conversations with Bishop Lyght.”
The Conference will host a farewell service and reception for Bishop Lyght January 7, 2012 at Morris Memorial United Methodist Church in Charleston. The offering taken during the service will help fund the Bishop Ernest S. Lyght scholarship at Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, where the bishop serves on the Board of Directors. The Bishop’s Cabinet gave $1000 toward the fund this month.
Bishop William Boyd Grove will begin serving the West Virginia Annual Conference on January 1, 2012.
Community of Grace
For the first time in 20-plus years, the West Virginia Annual Conference welcomed a new church into the fold. Read past blog posts about Community of Grace’s journey, and check out the front page story from the December West Virginia United Methodist.
Commission Possible II
The church must shift its focus away from institutional survival and move toward an out-of-the-walls approach to ministry. That was the message of Ambassadors for Christ: Commission Possible 2 (CP2), the second major evangelism event sponsored by the Annual Conference in April 2011.
250 years ago, a small log cabin was built so that a community of believers could gather and worship God. They were pioneers in the land, and of a new branch of the Christian faith called Methodism. “Old Rehoboth” stands today as a testament to the fortitude of those early believers. You can revisit the Rehoboth Celebration, which included preaching by Bishop Francis Asbury (courtesy of Rev. Joe Kenaston) via this Flickr slideshow and via a blog post written in June.
Spring Heights attendance up…way up in 2011
311 campers made Spring Heights their camp destination last summer. That’s about 62% higher than 2010’s attendance of 193. The camp added horseback riding to its list of activities, and campers enjoyed a revamped ropes course and digglers as well.
You can support camping ministry by making a contribution to the Spring Heights camper-ship fund, which helps ensure that any kid can go to camp, regardless of ability to pay. Send checks to the United Methodist Foundation, please write “Spring Heights Campership” in the memo line.
We can’t finish out the year without saying “Thanks” from the communications team. The conference’s presence in digital media continues to grow and be effective in sharing the story of Christ. Our work with social media, specifically Twitter, was recognized in this resource from United Methodist Communications. Thanks for being an engaged, thoughtful, (and social) audience. We couldn’t do it without you.
That’ll preach! Another dose of inspiration from Community of Grace. Check out the remarks from Marsha Murray and John VanHorn from the Community of Grace chartering service last month.
One of the best stories we’ve covered in the past four years is the evolution of Community of Grace (COG) United Methodist Church in Huntington – and we’re not the only ones who think so.
“Nothing gives me greater joy as a bishop than what I am doing today,” said Bishop Lyght, as he began the chartering liturgy at a special service November 13. COG’s story is featured in the December edition of the West Virginia United Methodist.
We caught with the Rev. Mark Connor (western district superintendent) to get his perspective COG’s journey via an email interview.
LHA: What do you believe other congregations can learn from COG?
MC: While a formal re-start may not be the path many of our congregations can take, the work shared by Spiritual Leadership Inc. (SLI) can be important and helpful to every congregation. The particular circumstances for Faith, Southside and Highlawn congregations were unique. Other institutions were interested in purchasing the Faith and Southside properties. That allowed the three congregations to begin this journey with a different sense of possibilities.
SLI began by working with the pastors and a “restart team.” Through scripture study and prayer they began to learn more about discipleship and developing a mission for these congregations. It was difficult to “let go” of the way things had always been done. Work began with a season of prayer seeking God’s direction and mission for this new possibility. Congregational meetings/open discussions were held often so that everyone who was interested could know what was going on. The three congregations met for fellowship times. Getting to know and trust one another was important.
Before and after the vote to restart, there was repeated teaching that the church isn’t simply about caring for us and our needs. (Yes, we need opportunities for nurturing our discipleship.) Our task is to share Christ with others not to maintain our buildings and enjoy ourselves. That was/is not easily or quickly learned. Discipleship is the key. That discipleship comes through intentional covenant groups, mission service, and reaching out into the community.
Every congregation can use these teachings from SLI to help “re-focus” on what is most important.
LHA: What was it like to be part of this process for you?
MC: I think Marsha Murray and John Van Horn described the congregation well as they shared in the chartering service. This is a changed group of disciples who know that their relationship with Christ is the beginning of a life-long journey of sharing and showing Christ’s kingdom way. The call and challenge is to reach beyond the walls of a building to share with others the life-changing love of Christ.
It is wonderful to see and feel the excitement of service that happens when the community gathers for worship. There is a real sense of the power of prayer alive and at work. People openly share about the importance of their covenant groups for helping them stay grounded and growing in their faith. People are reaching out in mission and service in their immediate community and globally. They are working day by day to live out their mission statement.
In our last conversation, I asked Bishop Lyght to share examples of people he has learned from. Bishop Neil Irons “taught me to never stop growing or changing,” he said. When he talked about the guy his father used to call on to lead the pastoral prayer in church, it was a lovely moment. Check out the tape:
Mr. Fisher and the pastoral prayer
I will be posting short pieces like this on the blog several times in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Your stories and memories of Bishop Lyght are also welcome, please feel free to share them via a comment, below. Or, drop me an email or give me a call with your story.
Mark your calendars now for a special service and reception honoring Bishop Lyght and his wife, Eleanor, at Morris Memorial UMC in Charleston on January 7, 2012. We hope to see you there!
By now, you’ve probably heard that Bishop Lyght is retiring from the active episcopacy on December 31, 2011, and that William Boyd Grove will be the interim bishop for the West Virginia Conference. You can read more about the relationship between these two bishops here.
We’ve had a couple of chances in the weeks since the bishop’s announcement to talk with him about his life and ministry. You might be surprised to learn that Bishop Lyght was arrested in 1963 while a student at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He joined with about 300 students to demonstrate at the Northwood Theater, which was segregated at the time.
In this audio segment, Bishop Lyght recalls growing up during a time when the racial segregation landscape in the country was shifting.
Lyght recalls growing up:
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be catching up with Bishop Lyght to talk about his life and legacy in the United Methodist Church, so stay tuned. And, the Conference will get a chance to say goodbye to Bishop Lyght and his wife, Eleanor, on January 7, 2012 at Morris Memorial UMC in Charleston. More details on that here.
At this year’s Annual Conference in June, I heard about “Mountains to Mountains”, a ministry that began in the Ronceverte Charge (Greenbrier District) about 9 years ago. Several churches now work with with MTM, including Community of Grace (Huntington, Western District), and Peterstown UMC (Greenbrier District).
In July, I met with Rev. Michael Estep and handed him an audio recorder to take with him to Haiti. He recorded some great stuff – which resulted in this little audio postcard. You’ll hear children in the village of Mizak welcome the team back and sounds from a feeding ministry in Port-Au-Prince that is the only meal of the day for many of the children served.
I had to ask Mike about his connection with Haiti – here’s what he had to say:
Read Mike’s reflection in this month’s West Virginia United Methodist; and I hope you enjoy the audio pieces as well! This is the first multi-media package (print, audio, photos) entirely gathered by a local church. Let me or Adam know if you have an interest in multi-media story-telling at your church or ministry, and we’ll be glad to help you get started.