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Weekly Digest - December 19, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Dec. 15-19. 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

News Service poll: Ebola voted top story of 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The worst Ebola outbreak in history — along with The United Methodist Church’s mobilization to ease suffering and fight the spread of the deadly virus — was the biggest story of 2014, according to a United Methodist News Service poll of communicators. Vicki Brown has the story.

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2014: United Methodists of note remembered
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — In 2014, United Methodists marked the passing of leaders who made significant contributions in their ministry. They included pioneering leaders of United Methodist Women, a champion of United Methodist Men and a poet who preached to presidents. Here are 16 remembrances, listed by date of death. Heather Hahn reports.

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10 years later, pointing to a good tsunami recovery
NEW YORK (UMNS) — In the decade following the devastating Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami, The United Methodist Church has participated in major rebuilding, community development and livelihood projects in Indonesia and Sri Lanka — thanks to a generous response by church members. Linda Bloom has the story.

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Ecumenical applause for new U.S-Cuba relations
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Both the National Council of Churches and Church World Service applauded the new diplomatic agreement between the United States and Cuba and the return of Alan Gross, imprisoned for five years in Cuba. The Rev. John McCullough, a United Methodist pastor and CWS top executive, led a delegation of U.S. faith-based advocates to Cuba in early November to support the release of Gross.

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Read CWS story

Agency cheers move on U.S.-Cuba relations

Swift evacuations show lessons learned from Haiyan

BAYBAY, Philippines (UMNS) — One legacy of a deadly 2013 typhoon that killed more than 7,000 in the Philippines was that it helped residents prepare for a similar storm this year. Many credited the low Typhoon Hagupit death toll of 27 to the successful evacuations of about 1 million Filipinos to safer areas. Gladys P. Mangiduyos reports.

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United Methodists share stories of beloved Nativity scenes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Christians cherish and adore Nativity sets made from the likes of olive wood, felt, clay, paper-mâché, porcelain, plastic and carved stone in a variety of shapes and sizes. The United Methodist Church’s official Facebook page asked readers to send in stories and photos of their favorite crèche scenes. Crystal Caviness shares some of the highlights.

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Food arrives by Christmas in Ebola-ravaged village
MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — A $15,000 Ebola response grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief has made Christmas a lot brighter for 350 families in the Topoe Village, outside of Monrovia, with the distribution of much needed food. Julu Swen reports.

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Commentary: Artists join Ebola fight in Liberia

How can churches minister to students home at Christmas?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — College students home for Christmas break often long to reconnect with old friends, their old youth leaders, and others in the church who were an important part of their faith development. After years of being active in church they are no longer part of the youth ministry, and not ready for adult ministries yet. So how can churches minister to their students when they are home for break? The Rev. Joe Iovino has some suggestions.

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Advice for coping with holiday blues

History of Hymns: ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’
DALLAS (UMNS) — Charles Wesley’s most famous contribution to Christmas music went through a number of editorial changes before becoming the beloved carol congregations sing today. C. Michael Hawn traces the evolution of the hymn, a meditation on the angels’ proclamation in Luke 2:14, and explains what Wesley meant by its original title, “Hark how all the welkin rings!”

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‘Pie Girl’ uses pastries to fund missions
OCEAN CITY, N.J. (UMNS) — Behind the cute nickname and sweet pastries that Cat Gleason makes and sells is a commitment to the ministry of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. So far, she has raised more than $20,000 for the church’s missions. Jeff Wolfe has the story for the Greater New Jersey Conference.

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Artist and his dog inspire church’s new ministry
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — After a neighbor committed suicide, artist Craig Nelsen concluded that loneliness can kill. He started an effort to encourage human contact. Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church has embraced his vision. Erik Alsgaard has the story for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

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Courageous women honored at Scarritt Bennett dinner
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño received the Ann L. Reskovac Courage Award from Scarritt Bennett Center on Dec. 6 in recognition for her work as an immigration activist.

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George Whitefield: Friend to Methodism
SUGAR LAND, Texas (UMNS) — This week marks the 300th anniversary of George Whitefield's birth. The Rev. C. Chappell Temple, lead pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, shares the story of this evangelical leader who was a friend of the Wesley brothers and inspiration to Benjamin Franklin.

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More on Whitefield from Religion News Service

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.

Wednesday, Jan. 7
Free webinar "Local Church Lay Leaders/ Lay Members to Annual Conference: What's My Job?" — 6:30 p.m. CST. Local Church Lay Leaders and Lay Members to Annual Conference have a responsibility to promote the role of laity in fulfilling the denomination's mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Jodi Cataldo, the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries director of laity in leadership, will lead discussion around this ministry. Details.

Thursday, Jan. 8
Free webinar "Stewardship and Finance: Getting it Right at the Starting Line" — 6:30 p.m. CST. This webinar focuses on the new member of the Stewardship Team, Finance Committee or Church Council — those who are looking to get started on the right foot. Details.

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

Merry Christmas!
United Methodist News Service will not publish a Weekly Digest Dec. 26 or Jan. 2. The Weekly Digest will return on Friday, Jan. 9. The staff at United Methodist News Service wishes you a blessed Christmas season.