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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 29, 2013


March 29, 2013

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 25 - April 1.It includes summaries of United Methodist News Service storiesand additional briefs from around the United Methodist connection. Full versions of the stories with photographs and related features can be found at

Holy Week and Easter

Mary Magdalene: Apostle or harlot?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - She remained by the cross when most of the male disciples had fled, and she was among the first to bear witness to Christ's Resurrection. But she still has a reputation as the Gospels' bad girl. Read what we know about the real Mary Magdalene. Read story and post a comment

A Lenten social experiment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Sophia Agtarap, minister of engagement for United Methodist Communications' Rethink Church, decided that one way to approach the Lenten journey was with a Bible in one hand and a smartphone in the other. The result was an online community that shared more than 19,000 images reflecting different topics of Lent including silence, help and love.

Read blog about the project
See images

Bishop Wenner's message for Good Fridayto Easter

FRANKFURT, Germany (UMNS) - Germany Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, says she likes the English phrase "Good Friday." "Because God even dies in Jesus, death is no longer an end, but a doorway to life," she says in a message that reflects on the Christian journey from the cross to the empty tomb. Read message

Butterflies, Seder meal enrich Holy Week

FRISCO, Texas (UMNS) - Look at the typical calendar of United Methodist Holy Week events, and you're likely to find worship services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and, of course, a festive Easter celebration. Grace Avenue United Methodist Church in this Dallas suburb takes things to a new level. Read story

Did Jesus descend into hell or the dead?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The long-debated phrase in the Apostles' Creed offers one possible answer to what Jesus did between Good Friday and Easter. And it tells us something about God, say church scholars. Read story

Chuck Knows Church: Easter and lilies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Does your church fill its chancel area with lilies on Easter? And what do lilies and Easter have in common? The United Methodist Board of Discipleship's "Chuck Knows Church" series has answers. Watch video

Which came first: Easter or the eggs?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - For most Christians, Easter is the most important day of the year. However, when it comes to traditions such as decorated eggs, lilies and Peter Cottontail, even the most seasoned Easter celebrants may have questions. Read story

Reveling in the Resurrection

HIGH POINT, N.C. (UMNS) - The celebration of Christ's victory over death lasts far longer than Easter lily blooms and Sunday's chocolate bunnies. The Easter season lasts for six weeks, seven Sundays on the liturgical calendar, offering time for continued wonder and celebration. To help Christians experience the Resurrection in a personal way, Interpreter OnLine reports that some churches create a "Stations of the Resurrection" experience. Read story

Ancient traditions still influence Easter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Christians journeying through Holy Week may be surprised to learn how some Easter traditions have evolved over the centuries. Find out the origins of some Easter traditions, including the holiday's name in the Western church. Read story

We shall be raised!

COLUMBIA, S.C. (UMNS) - What does it mean to say we "believe the in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting"? The death and Resurrection of Jesus laid the groundwork for current Christian beliefs about what happens to the body after death, say United Methodist scholars and theologians. Interpreter OnLine has the story. Read story

Women making history

The right rockin' Rev. Sherry Cothran

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - "When I was a child, I was either going to be a missionary in Africa, in a rock band or on Broadway," said the Rev. Sherry Cothran Woolsey. "The rock band won out." But after a hit song, years of touring and a busted record deal, this rocker went back to her childhood wish list, and it led her to seminary.

Read full story and comment
Watch video

Women making history: Lessie Vonner

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (UMNS) - "I am lucky to have grown up around so many amazing women," says Lessie Vonner, a jazz trumpeter and active church musician. "Through First United Methodist Church, Grand Prairie, I was fortunate to meet Verna Edwards, one of the first women trumpet players in the Salvation Army Band and a soloist nonetheless." Vonner is one of the women featured during Women's History Month.

Read story and post a comment
United Methodist women making history

Women making history: Eunice Musa Iliya

"A woman is dependent on how society defines her," says the Rev. Eunice Musa Iliya, a Nigerian pastor. "So as I was growing up, I didn't know who I was as a woman." Iliya is the last of the United Methodist women featured during the Women's History Month series. Read story and post a comment

Women leaders gather to learn roles, goals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Dawn Wiggins Hare, the new top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, recently led about 60 leaders from the denomination's annual (regional) conferences through some of the founders' hopes for the commission, from supporting clergywomen to broadening women's vision in local congregations to the desire to be accepted without stereotyping. Read story and post a comment

Asian clergywomen, theologians gather at Garrett-Evangelical

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) - The 28th annual Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry conference met at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary March 14-16. Of the 65 participants, 30 are United Methodist affiliated. And six of the 30 are part of the Women of Color Scholar program by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Read story and post a comment
Women of Color Scholar Program

News around conferences

The untold story of African AIDS relief

HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - In this country, publicly discussing sexual matters was previously unheard of. However, The United Methodist Church has taken a leading role in creating awareness about HIV/AIDS, supporting affected families and providing palliative care for the terminally ill. As stories of great suffering and lack of knowledge saturate media coverage, few consider how some places in Africa might serve as a case study in loving-kindness. Read story and post a comment

Bishop Trimble joins march, service to prevent gun violence

DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) - United Methodist Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble, Episcopal Bishop Alan Scarfe and nine other religious and community leaders joined in a march and prayer service to prevent gun violence March 25.

Read story
Listen to Trimble at prayer service

UMTV: Church in a Diner

LANSING, Mich. (UMNS) - With work schedules, football games and family commitments, Sunday morning is no longer always set aside for church. A worship service in a Michigan diner offers a different time and place for people to experience church and the good news of Christ. Watch video and post a comment

ChristMob surprises shelters and city streets with hope

CHICAGO (UMNS) - Much like the flash mob, Operation: ChristMob started with one person and is reaching people in unexpected ways. It's become the mission arm of Xperience Church, a new United Methodist community that does not yet have a building. Robert Dixon, a 22-year-old student at the University of Illinois Springfield and Xperience member, came up with the idea. Anne Marie Gerhardt of the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference has the story. Read story

Special session helps churches refinance mortgages

ELGIN, Ill. (UMNS) - Since the financial crisis in 2008, many banks have been unwilling to renew or refinance existing loan agreements with churches and other nonprofits. Congregations like Cornerstone United Methodist Church are dealing with highly variable, interest-only mortgages. However, the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference has found a way to help churches relieve their debt that could be a model for other conferences. Read story

Documentary tells story of bishop turned exile

BATESVILLE, Ark. (UMNS) - The Rev. Bob Hager, a retired United Methodist pastor in Arkansas, has directed the documentary "Black Marks on White Paper," which tells the story of Liberia's United Methodist Bishop Bennie Warner. He was elected Liberia's vice president in 1977, but a military coup toppled his government while he was attending the 1980 United Methodist General Conference. He was left in exile but spent the next 33 years as an effective "missionary to America." The premiere of "Black Marks on White Paper" will take place at 6 p.m. CT Friday, April 5, as a part of the Ozark Foothills Film Fest on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College of Batesville. Tickets cost $5. Learn more and see film clips

News from around the connection

Top Discipleship exec to retire after 13 years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt plans to retire after 13 years at the helm of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship and more than 30 years as a staff member with the agency. She leaves behind a general church agency devoted to helping congregations become more vital and individual United Methodists become better disciples. Read story and post a comment

African women mobilize to build peace

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - Distanced physically from the conflicts and challenges that plague their nations, United Methodist women from Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Mozambique recently explored their roles aspeace-builders. Yvette Moore, editor of United Methodist Women's response magazine, shares what these women learned. Read story and post a comment

High school senior spearheads 5K for UMCOR

URBANA, Ohio (UMNS) - Christy Finney, a busy high school senior in Urbana, is making time to organize her community for a 5K race this spring to support Hurricane Sandy survivors through the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Linda Unger has the story. Read story

Thousands of men to gather under banner of Christ

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist leaders expect 4,000 men to attend the 11th national gathering of United Methodist Men on July 12-14 at Belmont University in Nashville. The event is titled "Inside Out for the Glory of God."

Watch video
Learn more and register

Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath follows vote

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Two days after the March 14 vote by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to send legislation aimed at reducing gun violence to the Senate floor, faith groups gathered in the Washington National Cathedral for a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath to inspire Congress to take steps to stop the killing. Read story

Restoration Generation launches website

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Restoration Generation began in 2012 as a conversation among young adult leaders in the northeastern United States to discern how they could support, strengthen and empower one another in ministry. Then Hurricane Sandy struck. Now the initiative also seeks to recruit young people to help in Sandy recovery while living in intentional community. The initiative of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship has launched a new website with information about how to get involved in the ministry. Learn more

Foundation surpasses 2012 benchmarks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The board of directors of the United Methodist Church Foundation has announced that the foundation ended 2012 with strong investment performances.With the oversight of its global board of directors, the foundation has grown to almost $108 million in funds under management with 19 endowment efforts for general agency and partner ministries. Read news release

Final central conference meeting of 2012-13

WINTERTHUR, Switzerland (UMNS) - From March 13-17, 110 delegates and guests from about 20 countries gathered in Winterthur for the 17th session of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe. It was the final gathering of the jurisdictional and central conference meeting season that began in 2012. Read story

Blogs and commentaries

Blog: "Were you there then they crucified my Lord?"

NEW YORK (UMNS) - On the cross, Jesus asks, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This agonizing, very human question first appears in Scripture in Psalm 22. Glory E. Dharmaraj, the retired director of spiritual formation and mission theology for United Methodist Women, offers a meditation on this cry Christians hear every Good Friday. Read blog

Blog: The power of the silent garden

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (UMNS) - Raleigh (N.C.) Area Bishop Hope Morgan Ward writes about Wi'am Conflict Transformation Center, a mission partner of The United Methodist Church and a setting of missionary service. The center is located at the Separation Wall encircling Bethlehem. She connects the garden at the center to the garden near Christ's tomb. Read blog

Blog: Why I choose to be United Methodist

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (UMNS) - Ral Alegra, president of MARCHA, the national United Methodist caucus advocating for Hispanics/Latinos, contemplates why he is United Methodist. "My local church, El Buen Pastor, in Corpus Christi, Texas, that welcomed my family shared the story of Jesus' love for me," he writes. He is among the Connectional Table members who will share why they are part of The United Methodist Church throughout this year. Read blog and post a comment

Blog: Dean Snyder reflects on Gordon Cosby's Jesus

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The Rev. Dean Snyder , senior pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church, observed in a commentary in The Washington Post that some people have said the late Gordon Cosby had a greater impact on the Protestant church in America over the past 50 years than any other institution or movement. "Gordon just did not seem to care about credit," wrote Snyder. "His concentration was totally upon applying the truth of Christ to conquer and heal poverty, racism, addiction and disease." Cosby's memorial service will be at Foundry on April 6. Read full commentary

Looking ahead

Here are some of the activities ahead for United Methodists across the connection. If you have an item to share with others, email and put Digest in the subject line.

March 31- Easter. ABC-TV will broadcast an Easter Sunday service March 31 taped at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. Check local listings

April 1 - Deadline for seminary students to apply for two internships at Oak Forest United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Ark. Interns, who will receive a small stipend, will live and work in Barnabas House, the church's counseling and social work center. Send a letter outlining your interest in the internship, a copy of your rsum and three letters of recommendation to: Summer Internship, Oak Forest United Methodist Church, 2415 Fair Park Blvd, Little Rock, Ark., 72204. Learn more

April 1 - Deadline for nominations of the Foundation for Evangelism's Culture of Call Church award, which recognizes a United Methodist congregation that encourages young people to respond to God's call to full-time Christian service. Nomination forms.

April 2 - Deadline to register for free webinar on the intersection of maternal health and domestic violence, 3 p.m. ET, April 3, sponsored by United Methodist Women and Healthy Families, Healthy Planet. Details

April 2 - Free lecture on "Caring for our Aging Parents: Dementia and Mental Health Issues," at 7 p.m. ET, Killearn United Methodist Church, 2800 Shamrock St., Tallahassee, Fla. Details.

April 3 - Deadline to RSVP for "Rethinking the Mission: Developing a District Strategy" workshop, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. ET, April 11, Hinton Rural Life Center, Hayesville, N.C. Details

April 3-7 - "Caring for God's Creation" retreat, Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, N.C. Details

April 5 - Deadline to sign up for South Central Small Church Leadership Institute, April 14-18, Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center, Fayetteville, Ark. $199. Details

April 5-7; April 12-14; April 19-21; Nov. 8-10 - Confirmation Retreat Weekends at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. Details.

April 5-8 - Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace and Justice, supported by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Details

April 11 - Free webinar "The Pastor's Moving - the SPRC Role," 6:30 p.m. CT, tips for saying goodbye and welcoming pastors for members of staff-parish relations committees from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. To register

April 11 - Deadline to register for online course, "United Methodism 101," April 17-May 29, provided by United Methodist Communications. Cost is $9.99. Details.

April 13 - "Own Your Health Now Event" health fair, 8 a.m. to noon CT, Bonner Springs, Kan., sponsored by area United Methodist churches, Rethink Church, Own Your Health now nonprofit. Details.

April 14 - Native American Ministries Sunday, in which special offering benefits Native American outreach within annual conferences and provide seminary scholarships to Native Americans. Details and to donate.

April 16 - Free webinar "Leading Group Discussion," 6:30 p.m. CT, from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. To register.

April 18-19 - "Divine Healing," United Theological Seminary's third Annual Church Renewal Conference, Ginghamsburg Church, Tipp City, Ohio. Details.

April 19-21 - Hispanic/Latino Church Planters' Boot Camp, Northbrook (Chicago area), Ill. Designed for Hispanic church planters, churches with Hispanic ministries, and for all leaders interested in starting a ministry with their Hispanic community. Details.

April 25 - World Malaria Day. Help fight the disease at

April 26-27 - In Mission Together, part of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, will hold a 50/50 Partnership Roundtable at Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis. Tenn. The gathering is for U.S. congregations interested in partnering with United Methodist faith communities in Russia/Eurasia. Details.

April 27 - Church Growth Clinic, starts at 8:30 a.m. CT, First United Methodist Church, Sikeston, Mo. Details.

May 7-9 - RENEW retreat for United Methodist single clergy, Selah Inn at the Ranch, Mount Vernon, Texas. Details.

May 18-19 - Change the World. Join the United Methodist Rethink Church event that helps build community locally and fight malaria globally. Details.

Category: Weekly Digest
Tags: News Summaries