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Weekly Digest - September 5, 2014

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Sept.1-5. 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 umc.org/news.

Top Stories
Special coverage: Game Changers Summit
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — More than 240 participants from nine countries gathered in Nashville to hear from experts in the fields of solar power, Internet technology, global health, and economic empowerment at Game Changers Summit 2014 hosted by United Methodist Communications.

See complete coverage and presentations


Text messaging can be life-saving
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — If you have been without water for three days, a text message from a United Methodist pastor that the church has safe water is lifesaving. That is just one example Priscilla Muzerengwa gave of how she has used Frontline SMS, a free texting program, in Zimbabwe. She spoke at the Game Changers Summit 2014 hosted by United Methodist Communications.

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Judicial Council plans hearing for Schaefer appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS) - Judicial Council, the United Methodist Church's top court, will hold an oral hearing as it considers the appeal of the decision to reinstate the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a Pennsylvania pastor who had lost his ministerial credentials after performing a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son. The case is one of 21 docket items for the council's fall meeting Oct. 22-25.

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Median age of elders climbs to 56
DALLAS (UMNS) — The median age of United Methodist elders has hit 56 — a new high — and the percentage of older clergy continues to rise, according to an annual study by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. But the study also found that the denomination has seen modest growth in the percentage of clergy under age 35.

Read story on survey

Read Q&A on Texas Conference’s strategy for supporting young clergy


Pastors recall circuit riding on bicycles
HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) - A bicycle was the only way they had to travel from one United Methodist congregation to another in 1977, recalled two pastors who found much to celebrate at the largest United Methodist Church convention ever held in Zimbabwe. Eveline Chikwanah, a communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual (regional) Conference, interviewed the Revs. Jairos Mafondokoto and Kelvin Mwandira  about how things have changed.

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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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Quarantined Liberians reject government offer
MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — The Rev. Agrippa Nyentee, a United Methodist pastor trapped in the quarantined slum community of West Point, discusses the complaints of residents there about government actions in a phone interview with E. Julu Swen.

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Read full coverage of the church’s response to Ebola


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.

See video


What not to say when someone has lost a job
MONUMENT, Colo. (UMNS) — No matter how you put it — downsized, let go, terminated, eliminated, pink-slipped — hearing from a friend who lost a job means a difficult day. It’s in our United Methodist DNA to want to help, but you may worry about saying the wrong thing. Joe Iovino, a freelance writer and blogger who is associate pastor of Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church, has some tips on what NOT to say to someone who is unemployed.

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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.

Read commentary


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

Deadline to register for six online courses from United Methodist Communications, Tuesday, Sept. 9 — United Methodist Communications will offer the following courses Sept. 10-Oct. 22.“Communicating Faith in the 21st Century,” “Connectional Giving,” “Moodle 100: Basic Training,” “Tools for Increasing Your Church’s Vitality,” “Web Ministry 100: What is Web Ministry?” and “Welcoming Ministry 100.” Costs vary. Connectional Giving is free. Details.

GO On Tour, Saturday, Sept. 13-Saturday, Nov.15 — A worship concert featuring Christian hip-hop artist Tedashii and speakers from next year’s national United Methodist youth event YOUTH 2015, will visit each of The United Methodist Church’s five U.S. jurisdictions this fall. Tickets are $15. Details of 10-city tour.

One Board Model Seminar, Sunday, Sept. 142 p.m. CT. The Rev. Bob Farr, director of congregational excellence for the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference, will lead training for churches to implement a one-board model at The Connection, 6701 Virginia Ave., St. Louis. Details on PDF.

Worship Design Studio Planning Retreat, Sunday-Wednesday, Sept. 14-17 — At Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, the Rev. Marcia McFee will guide participants through the entire liturgical year (starting with Advent) in order to map out worship themes and general plans for each season. Details.

Free webinar “Children and Sacrament” Monday, Sept. 15 10 a.m. CT, United Methodist Board of Discipleship staff will answer questions on involving children in sacraments. Details.

Catapult Conference, Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 15-17 — Conference on “launching leaders into kingdom mission” will be at Cornerstone Church, a United Methodist congregation, 2125 Hamilton Road, Auburn, Alabama. Details.

Hispanic/Latino/a Heritage Month, Monday, Sept. 15–Wednesday, Oct. 15 — The United Methodist Board of Discipleship shares worship resources.

Free webinar “Becoming a Praying Congregation” Tuesday, Sept. 16 6:30 p.m. CT, Event includes examples and ideas for the community, for small groups, for individuals and families to have a deeper connection with God. Details.

Webinar “In-Person Hybrid Learning in Congregational Faith Formation,” Thursday, Sept. 187-8 p.m. ET, The Rev. Kyle Matthew Oliver will lead a discussion on how digital tools can make faith formation more accessible to congregation, including a hybrid approach that combines small groups and online activities. $10. Details.

How to Reach New People workshop by Jim Griffith, Friday-Saturday, Sept. 19-20 — Union United Methodist Church, 3543 Watson Road, St. Louis, will host event for pastors and church leaders. $25 per person or $75 per team of five (teams are encouraged). Details on PDF.

World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, Sunday-Saturday, Sept. 21-27 — Organized by the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum and sponsored by the World Council of Churches. Resources.

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Leadership Institute, Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 24-26 — Church is in Leawood, Kansas. The keynote speaker is Len Sweet, United Methodist scholar and best-selling author. Details.

Rich Church / Poor Church: Keys to Effective Financial Ministry, Wednesday, Sept. 24 and again Tuesday, Oct. 14 — Both seminars will be from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT and feature United Methodist author and fundraiser, J. Clif Christopher. The Sept. 24 session will be Platte Woods United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Oct. 14 session will be at Manchester United Methodist Church in St. Louis. $25. Details.

Workshop “Get Their Names,” Saturday, Sept. 279:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET at Woodbury United Methodist Church, 577 Woodbury Road, Woodbury, New York. The Rev. Bob Farr of the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference will lead the seminar on sharing the Christian faith without anxiety. $20 per person for United Methodists. Details.

Deadline to apply for two discernment events for Deaconesses and Home Missioner Ministry, Wednesday, Oct. 1 — Events are Friday-Sunday, Nov. 7-9, in St. Louis and Friday-Sunday, Nov. 21-23, in Tempe, Ariz. A discernment event is an opportunity to explore a sense of call to lay ministry with a group of fellow discerners. Details.

Spaghetti dinner, Unity Run/Walk and Indian Mission Homecoming Service, Friday-Sunday, Oct. 3-5 — Spaghetti dinner is at 5-7 p.m. ET Friday, Oct. 3, the Unity Run/Walk starts at 8:45 a.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 4, and the homecoming service is at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 5. Both the dinner and run are at Nanticoke Indian Center, and the service is at Indian Mission United Methodist Church. Details.

World Communion Sunday, Oct. 5 — United Methodists observe World Communion Sunday by celebrating communion with other Christians around the world on this special Sunday. Churches are also encouraged to receive a special offering to support ethnic undergraduate and graduate students, which often enables first-generation students to attend college. To download the World Communion Sunday pastors and leaders kit .World Communion envelopes.

Early-bird registration deadline for Reach New Disciples Conference: “Taking Church to the Community,” Monday, Oct. 6 — Lewis Center for Church Leadership Conference is 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 1 at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington. $40. Details.

Laity Sunday, Oct. 19 — The United Methodist Board of Discipleship has worship resources.

“Advocacy 201” Workshop on Advocacy, Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 11-13 — Sponsored by Associates in Advocacy at the O’Hare Super 8 Motel, Elk Grove Village, Ill. The training is for anyone asked to be an advocate for a pastor or lay person facing complaints.  To learn more and register, email the Rev. Jerry Eckert at aj_eckert@hotmail.com/.