As we celebrate the birth of Christ and the beginning of a new year, the Western PA United Methodist Conference Center will be closed Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. The e-news will resume on Jan. 8, 2020. We wish you a blessed Christmas!
A Christmas Message from the Council of Bishops explores what it means for followers of Jesus in the United Methodist Church to walk together in the light of the Lord. Read the letter.
Olmsted Christmas Album: See the photos of the rooms at Olmsted Manor Retreat Center that were decorated by churches of the Kane District. Most are by the Rev. Lea Guiney, an Olmsted Board member. Learn more.
Sugarcreek Celebrates 120! Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi participated in a service Monday evening at Sugarcreek UMC to celebrate 120 years as a congregation and 10 years in their current building. It’s now part of the Sugarcreek Charge in the Franklin District.
Healthy Village Challenge: Health Village Learning Institute, one of our camping and retreat ministries, can receive a matching grant of $5000 from a donor if they can raise an equal amount. To help or learn more about how HVLI makes a difference in the lives of youth and the McKeesport community, visit hvliweb.org.
Camping Campaign Coordinator: The Conference is advertising for a part-time coordinator for the Camping and Retreat Ministries capital campaign. Get details at wpaumc.org/classifieds.
Alyce and the Grinch: Parts 2 & 3 of Rev. Alyce Weaver-Dunn’s blog series on why she loves The Grinch have been posted. See all the segments of The Redemption of the Grinch on WPAUMC’s Facebook notes.
Feeding Hungry People in NWPA: In an Erie Times-News podcast, Zachary Webb, development director for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, talks about hunger in the 11-county region the agency serves, programs they offer and how to help. The interview was keyed to an “Old Newsboys” effort to support Second Harvest. Listen
Fight Hunger in Appalachia: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow described the poverty of his Ohio hometown during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. Since then, the Athens County Food Pantry, serving has received a flood of donations from around the U.S. Read more
R.I.P. Medical Debt: About 66% of American bankruptcies result from medical debt. Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership website has a feature about churches working in partnership and raising funds to erase $5 million in crushing medical debt for individuals in their area. Read more and consider possibilities
Top UMC News: For the second year in a row, The United Methodist Church's struggle to stay together despite a longstanding division over homosexuality was the denomination's top news story of 2019 — in particular, the results of a special General Conference. Linda Bloom reports on the year's Top 5 news stories, as voted on by church communicators and UM News staff. Read story
Registered Your Youth for SPARK yet? The deadline is Jan. 6! Details at wpaumc.org/spark
Connecting Faith and Justice: The General Board of Church and Society has created a year-long curriculum resource for youth that’s received good reviews. It starts with Advent and is keyed to the current year’s lectionary so you can start anytime. See Connecting Faith and Justice.
UMC Student Loans: Loan applications for the January to May 2020 period is open until May 5. Students are eligible to apply for up to $10,000 per calendar year from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Click here for eligibility and application information.
UMC Scholarships: The application period for the Fall 2020 semester will open Jan. 3, 2020, with a deadline of March 5. Get details at gbhem.org/loans-scholarships/scholarships/
College Students Home for Winter Break? If they might consider serving the church as a pastor, youth leader, mission worker, academic, musician, let them know that summer Ministry Discernment Internships are available to help them explore options. They’re open to any student at least one year post-high school. Applications are due by January 31. Get details and applications at wpaumc.org/internships.
Thrive in Changing Times: How can churches and related organizations thrive in a time of rapid cultural change and deteriorating institutional structures? In a Leading Ideas Talks podcast, David McAllister-Wilson, President of Wesley Theological Seminary, talks about new models of church, new ways of preparing people for ministry, and the importance of a renewed vision that engages nontraditional leaders. Listen
Spiritual Practices for Small Group Leaders: Deliberately engaging in spiritual practices that open us to God’s Spirit places small group leaders --and anyone else – in the best posture to grow in God’s grace. Scott Hughes of Discipleship Ministries writes that John Wesley’s guidance to the early Methodist class meetings might help guide the words and actions of today’s church leaders. Read more.
Creative Icebreakers: If you’re starting a new group after the first of the year or planning event and looking for a way for folks to get to know each other, consider these 7 Creative Icebreakers for all ages.
A Christmas Welcome: What should it look like? Read more
Christian Hospitality can’t be reduced to welcoming -- a well-stocked coffee bar, professional-looking greeter nametags or welcome baskets for first-time visitors. All are ways a church can express a spirit of hospitality, but where does that spirit come from? Read more.
Watch Night Services offer a spiritual way to bring in the New Year. Methodism founder John Wesley originated Watch Night services in the mid-18th century, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal services. The original services were spontaneous prayer services designed to deepen the spiritual life of Methodists. Read more
Martin Luther King Weekend: Reaffirm equality, justice and racial reconciliation and celebrate the Civil Rights Movement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20. Explore a list of ideas for church activities, worship services and events to help make the holiday is meaningful for your community. Read more
Have You Heard God Lately? Rev. Howard Greenfield will lead a spiritual formation retreat for church leaders who may have difficulty hearing God after listening to many voices of church members experiencing crises or demanding to be heard. The retreat is Jan. 26-28 at Olmsted Manor. Get details