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Weekly Digest - December 18, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Dec. 14–18. 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

Words of wisdom from mother Mary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — In accepting her role as Jesus’ mother, Mary potentially was putting her life on the line. As the Gospels show, Mary did far more than sit silently in a peaceful Nativity tableau. She defied the social expectations of her day. Heather Hahn reports on the lessons she offers today’s Christians.
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Lessons from Joseph

Many voices back historic climate accord

PARIS (UMNS) — The river in central Liberia where Jefferson Knight used to play and fish as a child has completely dried up due to serious drought. Knight joined other United Methodists and Methodists in Paris to press for action at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — popularly known as COP21 — where a historic accord was signed Dec. 12. Linda Bloom reports.
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Filipino kids mobilize for climate justice
Church leaders welcome landmark agreement

When book signings become book singings

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. James Howell, a prolific author as well as pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, is out with an Advent book grounded in Christmas carol texts. And when he does book signings, he sometimes sits down at the piano as well, and leads the crowd in caroling. Sam Hodges reports.
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Christmas carols: ‘Above all sing spiritually’

News poll: Racism voted top 2015 story

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The continuing struggle against racism in the United States — which occupied United Methodists in protests, prayer and peacebuilding — was the biggest story in the denomination in 2015, according to a United Methodist News Service poll of communicators. Vicki Brown has the story.
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2015: Notable United Methodists remembered

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The bishop who popularized John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules,” a former U.S. Speaker of the House, and scholars who influenced generations of pastors were among the widely known United Methodists who died in 2015. United Methodist News Service offers 13 short remembrances.
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Boy’s pillows comfort children, thrill adults

KITTY HAWK, N.C. (UMNS) — Kingston Haynes, 7, designs his own line of comfort pillows for kids in need. He got the idea for Kingston's Kreatures during vacation Bible school at Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church, and some 250 of them have been made by his family so far. Sam Hodges reports.
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New Jersey church embraces Syrian family

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (UMNS) — Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church did what it always does when deciding to help a family in need. But the congregation’s act of compassion toward a Syrian refugee family has gotten widespread attention. “We had a Jewish boy give money to a Christian church to help a Muslim family,” said one church member. Jeff Wolfe reports.
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Interfaith welcome in Indiana for Syrian refugees

INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) — More than 200 Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered to welcome three new Syrian refugee families to Indianapolis during an interfaith rally and candlelight prayer vigil at Epworth United Methodist Church. Among those speaking at the Dec.11 rally were Ed and Paula Kassig, members of Epworth Church whose son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, was murdered by ISIS one year ago. Dan Gangler reports.
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Winter help for refugees in Iran

Charles Wesley’s gift of music

MADISON, N.J. ( — Happy birthday, Charles Wesley. Born on Dec. 18, 1707, Wesley became famous for hymns such as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” This video celebrates “the poet laureate” of Methodism and his continuing impact on our Christian walk.
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Liberians launch commercial building project

MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church in Liberia, through the Liberia United Methodist Empowerment Foundation, broke ground for construction of a three-story commercial building. The $2 million project, with anticipated completion in two years, is the first capital investment by the church in two decades. Julu Swen has the story.
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District builds 153 handicap ramps

MANORVILLE, Pa. (UMNS) — Since 2011, four teams in the Indiana District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference have built 153 ramps for the elderly and people with handicapping conditions. The United Methodist ramp ministry received a $2,500 grant from the Committee on Older Adult Ministries of Discipleship Ministries. Rich Peck has the story.
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Church family fears deportation

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Susana Ponce faces the second Christmas without her son at home. Her biggest fear is that she will never see him again. Annette Spence of the Holston Conference recounts the harrowing experiences of the Ponce family.
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No more surgery by candlelight

KAMINA, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMCom) — The Solar Suitcase is one way technology is changing the game for doctors and patients alike. Before the Solar Suitcase and portable solar lights, physicians at Shungu Clinic often found themselves performing high-risk surgeries or trying to resuscitate patients guided only by handheld flashlights, kerosene lanterns or candlelight. Susan Passi-Klaus and Laurens Glass report on this ICT4D initiative.
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Test your knowledge of the season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — The Advent Quiz will continue through Dec. 24.
To take the quiz

This is the last UMNS Weekly Digest of 2015. It will return Friday, Jan. 8. We wish you and your loved ones a joyous Christmas and happy 2016.

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