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Daily Digest: September 2, 2014

“I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a menu at the doctor’s office telling me what they are going to charge.” – Valarie Willis, member of the finance agency’s board.

Changes planned for agency retiree benefits
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — For retirees of United Methodist agencies, going to the doctor or pharmacy this year often has seemed like investing in a bear market — unpredictable and extremely costly. The plan is for that to change next year, but retiree benefits remain a challenge throughout the denomination.

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Mission concerns for those in Iraq
NEW YORK (UMNS) — Alleviation of human suffering and advocacy for justice and peace — two goals of United Methodist mission — dramatically come together in church responses to thousands of people being displaced and slaughtered by civil conflict in Iraq. Writing for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, Elliott Wright offers some details of the “highly complex situation.”

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RIP, average attendance
DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — Average weekly worship attendance is less reliable today as a measure of church vitality, argues David L. Odom, executive director of leadership education at United Methodist-related Duke Divinity School. He explains why and what he thinks are the implications. Faith & Leadership shares his commentary.

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Historic Methodist camp is ‘God’s Square Mile’
OCEAN GROVE, N.J. (UMNS) – It’s one of United Methodism’s best-kept secrets. When organizers scouted in 1869 for a permanent camp meeting, a place where visitors focused on spiritual growth and holiness, they chose Ocean Grove, New Jersey, an idyllic setting that came to be called “God’s Square Mile.” At its peak, 660 tents stood on the grounds. That number is closer to 118 now, but the meeting’s mission remains robust: to revive people so they go back to their home churches with new excitement for the Lord. In this UMTV video, locals give a tour of this unique piece of church history.

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Young clergy grant helps expand campus presence
DETROIT (UMNS) — A $64,000 grant to the Kalamazoo Wesley Foundation will expand its congregational internship program, called EncounterMICall, to 30 interns at campus ministries across Michigan. That is one of 75 Young Clergy Initiative grants, totalling about $5.5 million, awarded by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The Detroit Annual (regional) Conference reports on plans.

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Africa University student interns in West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (UMNS) — Ngaatendwe Murimba, a 24-year-old Africa University student, spent his summer observing farms in West Virginia. A crop production student, Murimba toured a diverse group of farms including beef, vegetable and dairy operations. The West Virginia Annual (regional) Conference reports on Murimba’s internship.

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History of Hymns: ‘Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life’
DALLAS (UMNS) — Frank Mason North’s composition was one of the first social gospel hymns devoted to the special needs of the increasing urban reality. A Methodist pastor, North also was a co-writer of The Methodist Social Creed, among other contributions to the Methodist movement. C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology shares the story of North’s work and the broader social gospel.

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