Partnership Offers 2018 Advent Devotional



United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Germany have completed their 2018 Advent Devotional in English and German, which can be downloaded and copied.  Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.

The entries for each day contain scripture and the devotional thoughts in both English and German. On even dates (Dec. 2,4,6 etc.) the selection is in English first, followed by the German, On odd dates, the German writings are first and the English translation follows. 

The partnership, formed in 1988 before the fall of the Berlin Wall, has been producing the Advent devotional annually since the late '90's,  said the Rev. Joe Stains, who co-chaired the partnership group for many years. It offers daily devotionals for the beginning of Advent through New Year's Day that are written by laity and clergy members of the two conferences. Each is available for reading in both English and German.

"The devotional is a great resource for settling our hearts in preparation for Christmas, and for doing so in tandem with United Methodist Christians in a different, yet kindred part of our world," Stains said. ​"We have worked to make it more accessible over the years, so that now it can be downloaded for printing in local churches, or simply accessed by individuals for their personal devotions."

The partnership between the United Methodist Church’s Western PA Conference and the Eastern Germany Conference was formed by Bishops George Bashore, now retired, and the late Ruediger Minor  and has resulted in numerous exchange visits by musical groups, work teams, youth and local church members, as well as formation of joint Volunteers in Mission teams that have traveled to Russia and Latin America to do projects. A joint team returned from working on reforestation project in Nicaragua in mid-November, 2017.  In addition to the Conference to Conference Partnership, Mt. Lebanon UMC has a sister relationship  with the Evangelical United Methodist Church in Zwickau.
Stains said that in the early years of the partnership members relied on a few letters between church leaders because letters had to be sent through security.
Schmetterlinge Walk the Labyrinth at UM Center

“There was no e-mail, scarcely any chance to talk by phone,” he said. “Only prayers were instant in reaching their destinations. We did not know what God wanted to do with our fledgling partnership--intended at first to give moral support and mission outreach to Christians living behind that wall." When the Berlin Wall was opened, he added, it suddenly seemed as if all the rules would change and they waited for God to teach them what the new ways were.

Today email and social media provide regular means of communication and joint mission trips offer opportunities to strengthen relationships.

In 2015, during what was called one the greatest humanitarian crises of our times, emails between Mary Garber, a long-time Partnership leader from Mt. Lebanon UMC, and Rev. Lutz Bruckner, pastor in Zwickau, enabled WPAUMC congregations to contribute to ministry with the thousands of refugees flooding into East German communities. 

The WPAUMC Partnership encouraged individuals and congregations to receive a special Advent offering or find other ways to provide financial support to East German partners ministering to thousands of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in their towns.  More than $17,000 was donated to the efforts.

In February of 2016, Grace Killian, a Mt. Lebanon member who had just finished two years of service as a UMC Global Mission Fellow in Israel/Palestian and worked for a time with Syrian refugees in Jordan, went to Eastern Germany to help in the ministry to refugees for a few months. Grace had been involved with the Partnership at Mt. Lebanon since she was a child. 

In October 2017, a group of 50 East German children and youth choir members and their leaders toured in Western Pennsylvania. The Schmetterlinge visited churches and offered concerts in Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Indiana and Erie areas, as well as the Conference Center.  Read more about their visit and see photos.