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Weekly Digest - December 11, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Dec. 7–11. It includes summaries of United Methodist News Service stories and additional briefs from around the United Methodist connection. Full versions of the stories with photographs and related features can be found at

Top Stories

Congo churches help survivors of rape

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — Rape happens in every country and corner in the world, but it is particularly perverse and rabid in eastern Congo. The United Nations has called the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo the most dangerous place on earth for women. Many women find help from their pastors and churches such as Office United Methodist Church. Kathy L. Gilbert and Mike DuBose have the story and photos in the first installment of their reports on the church’s newest episcopal area. Watch for more stories in January.
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Looking ‘Beyond Bethlehem’ to aid refugees

BEIRUT, Lebanon (UMNS) — Fatmeh Sh, a teacher in a refugee camp in Lebanon, is careful not to speak too loudly to the 3- to 5-year-olds in her kindergarten class. “Even if I raise my voice a little bit, I see a lot of fear,” she said about the children in the kindergarten funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. The “Beyond Bethlehem” project of UMCOR, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio addresses the needs of refugees. Linda Bloom reports.
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United Methodist bishop shares stories of Syrian refugees

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — In the midst of calls to cast out refugees, United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck traveled to Capitol Hill to add her voice to those of other national faith leaders and three U.S. senators calling for lawmakers to show mercy. Kathy Gilbert and Linda Bloom report on the press conference and other efforts in the denomination to help Syrian refugees.
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Refugees await fresh start in Germany
Café offers refugees respite and welcome

How thick is the stained-glass ceiling?

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — A woman’s place can be behind the wheel of racecars, at the front of corporate boardrooms and along the U.S. presidential campaign trail. But, for many U.S. congregations, a woman still has no place in the pulpit. That’s the finding of a new analysis of Duke University’s National Congregations Study, which shows women leading only 11 percent of U.S. faith communities. Heather Hahn reports.
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Sewing group comforts thousands with cloth

POETRY, Texas (UMNS) — The Women’s Fellowship of Poetry United Methodist Church is into sewing, not poetry. But what the members do is epic. Since 2001, they’ve made some 30,000 items — both useful and comfortable— and distributed them to children’s hospital wards, nursing homes, assisted living homes, hospice groups, U.S. military bases and other places of  need. Sam Hodges reports.
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Filipino church leaders call for end to HIV stigma

CABANATUAN, Philippines (UMNS) — The Philippines United Methodist Church lit candles on World AIDS Day to signify an outcry and commitment to end the stigma of HIV and AIDS. Gladys Mangiduyos and S.J. Earl Canlas report.
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A moving prayer vigil after mass shooting

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (UMNS) — St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s pastor, the Rev. David McGlocklin, opened the prayer vigil in a dimly lit sanctuary with a tolling of the church bell to remember those whose lives were lost. The vigil brought together people to mourn and reflect after the Dec. 2 mass shooting, which claimed 14 lives. The Rev. Karen Ristine and James J. Kang have the story for the California-Pacific Conference.
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King James Bible first edition found at Drew

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — A graduate student has discovered a treasure in the collections of United Methodist-related Drew University: a first edition of the King James Bible. The 1611 Bible, which surfaced in late October, is a so-called “He Bible,” named for a typographical error in the Book of Ruth that was corrected in the middle of the first printing. Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times has the story.
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‘Signs of hope’ with Paris agreement

PARIS (UMNS) — Faith groups at the Paris climate summit were evaluating an updated draft agreement over the weekend, says John Hill, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, in a video report. “Our first read is that there are signs of hope and there is still work to be done,” he says. Some United Methodists have sent individual climate change pledges to the social action agency.
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‘Visionary leadership’ encouraged in Paris
Prayer, advocacy are daily tasks at climate summit

Keeping the holiday season holy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — Most of us strive to “keep Christ in Christmas,” but busyness has a way of encroaching upon our joy and worship. Joe Iovino writes about making time for important activities like worship and devotion while preparing for Christmas.
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Angels: God’s heavenly messengers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — Angels seem to be everywhere, and growing in popularity. Collectible and decorative angel figurines line store shelves. Angel characters appear in television shows, novels, and movies. Joe Iovino explores what we really know about angels.
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Michigan ministry about the people

DANSVILLE, Mich. (UMNS) — In the Lansing District, United Methodists are living the lyrics of the hymn “We Are the Church.” When the Rev. Jeremy Wicks was appointed to Dansville United Methodist Church in 2011, he began working with the superintendent on a cooperative parish. Now, the parish involves three healthy congregations: Millville, Webberville and Williamston Crossroads. Along the way, the Dansville church agreed to merge with Millville with the condition that their building be kept for community use. Kay DeMoss reports for the Michigan Conference.
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General Conference prayer observance starts Jan. 1

OCEAN, N.J. (UMNS) — The Council of Bishops has invited each conference to host a 24-hour prayer vigil on a specific date, leading up to the meeting of the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly in 2016. The Greater New Jersey Conference will begin the effort on Jan. 1. General Conference will meet May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon.
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#GivingTuesday gifts to Advance increase

NEW YORK (UMNS) — On Dec. 1, nearly 6,000 donors from 27 countries contributed $2.8 million through The Advance of the United Methodist Church on #GivingTuesday, up from $2.5 million last year.
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Church reopens with Bible-reading marathon

PITTSBURGH (UMNS) — Hill Top United Methodist Church, severely damaged by fire more than a year ago, reopened with a Bible-reading marathon. It took up to four people reading different chapters simultaneously in the last days, but members and supporters of the church managed to read aloud the entire Bible in the week leading up to the Sunday service celebrating the reopening of their worship space. Jackie Campbell reports for the Western Pennsylvania Conference.
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Suggestions for Christmas Sunday worship

SAVANNAH, Ga. (UMNS) — So it’s the first Sunday of Christmas (Dec. 27 this year), and many church leaders have already spent their creative resources on Advent and Christmas Eve. What should a worship leader do? The Rev. Ben Gosden of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah offers some inexpensive and simple ideas for meaningful worship.
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When churches love schools

ALCOA, Tenn. (UMNS) — All over Holston Conference, churches are discovering that a practical way to reach out to local children in poverty is to develop partnerships with nearby schools. The conference’s Annette Spence offers 10 tips for great partnerships.
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Making the leap to large Western Jurisdiction churches

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (UMNS) — “What does it take to dream bigger?” Some 62 United Methodist pastors pondered that question during a training event aimed at cultivating leaders of large churches in the Western Jurisdiction. Larry R. Hygh Jr. reports for the California-Nevada Conference.
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Bishop blesses home rebuilt after Sandy

LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. (UMNS) — Greater New Jersey Bishop John Schol blessed the home of Mary and Jim Murphy in a celebration held by A Future With Hope and the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group. Schol and the Greater New Jersey cabinet and connectional ministries team spent a week working on the home, which was flooded after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Carolyn Conover has the story for the conference.
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How well do you know Christmas?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Fruitcake has been a Christmas tradition in many homes for a long time. Many writers have mentioned fruitcake in their work during the holiday season. In which historical period(s) did those writers mention fruitcakes?
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Looking ahead

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

Sundays, Dec. 13 and 20
Day1 features the Rev. Michael Brown, senior minister of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City — Brown, a North Carolina native who has served several United Methodist churches, is the featured preacher with host Peter Wallace, the nationally broadcast ecumenical radio program also accessible online at

Thursday, Dec. 24
Christmas Eve — Worship resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

Thursday, Dec. 31
New Year's Eve/ Watch Night — Worship resources, including for covenant renewal and baptism reaffirmation, are available from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

You can see more educational opportunities and other upcoming events in the life of the church here.