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2007 Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference

June 13-15, 2007, Philadelphia

The conference conducted its 221st session under the theme "Living Connected as God's People: Nurturing the Connection."

Clergy and laity sessions took place on the opening morning. Mary White, conference lay leader, welcomed new and veteran lay members. Sandy Zeigler Jackson, director of lay leadership development for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, offered six tools for effective leadership: spiritual preparation, study and renewal, servant leadership, mission and vision, worshipping together and leading meaningful meetings.

In opening worship, Philadelphia Area Bishop Marcus Matthews celebrated the spiritual nourishment of the church in which he grew up, including Sunday school teachers, pastors and other "saints." He emphasized how the United Methodist connection transforms lives and nurtures people in extraordinary ways. The assembly received an offering of $4,238 for scholarships for undergraduate students in the conference.

A Celebration of Ministries included presentation of awards. The Denman Evangelism Award was presented to the Rev. Jackie Ann Stewart, pastor of Bickley's New Beginnings United Methodist Church, a new church start. The Kim Jefferson Award for effective urban ministry was presented to El Redentor United Methodist Church. Healing the Wounds of Racism Transformation Awards were given to the Rev. Michael Roberts, pastor of Tioga United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, and Rick Hellberg, member of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Bryn Mawr, Pa., for creating "Beloved Community." Lynda and Anthony Commale and daughter, Katherine, 6, received a standing ovation for raising $27,000 for Nothing But Nets.

The Rev. Tom Albin, dean of the Upper Room Chapel, spoke on "Living as Christian Disciples: The Means of Grace and the Ordinances of God." He said, "God, who is love, is the center of the universe. As we are moving toward God, we are also moving toward one another."

The Rev. Mary Ann Moman, an executive with the Division of Ordained Ministry of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, led two Bible studies. She compared efforts by Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the people of God as they returned from exile with our task to rebuild the kingdom of God. She encouraged the assembly to keep stories of faith alive and to find ways to bring us away from culture and back home to God and the saving story of Jesus Christ.

Sixteen retirees, representing 423 years of ministry, were recognized in a worship service. The Rev. Scott McDermott, pastor of Washington's Crossing United Methodist Church, preached. He recalled how Moses passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Symbolically, the Rev. Ron Bickhart, a retiring pastor, passed the mantle of leadership to the Rev. Shawn Wilson, an ordinand.

The conference welcomed home Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, resident bishop of the Iowa Area. His message at a memorial service observed that we are never alone (Hebrews 12: 1-2 and John 14). He encouraged members to remember the saints who came before us and with whom we will someday "join in the house of many rooms" that Jesus has prepared for us.

The conference affirmed its partnership with Nigeria Annual Conference in providing 31 dental units to dental schools in Northern Nigeria, and in continuing work in physical, dental and behavioral health in the area. Nurture Ministries celebrated ministry with older adults, Christian education, young people and the camping and retreat program, which had more than 5,000 participants last year.

Four churches received Hope for the Children Awards to support children's ministry: Ross Street United Methodist Church in Lancaster, $10,000; Eastwick United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, St. John's United Methodist Church in Tremont, and First United Methodist Church of Bristol, $5,000 each.

"The most radical act of our lives is that we presented ourselves or someone presented us for baptism," Bishop Palmer preached during the ordination service. "Everything else is an add-on!"

One person was ordained deacon, six were ordained elders, the orders of one elder were recognized, nine were commissioned toward elder's orders, and one was commissioned toward deacon's orders. The conference received $77,661 for the Youth Service Fund and the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal.

In business, the conference:

  • Approved a budget of more than $3.8 million for conference ministries and more than $2.8 million for the general church and World Service, totaling $6.7 million; it approved transfer of $30,000 from program ministry funds to new church starts;
  • Approved 15 resolutions, including two designating Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia and First United Methodist Church in Lancaster as historical sites;
  • Approved 14 Conference Advance Specials for second-mile giving; and
  • Gave $11,891, received from the United Methodist Publishing House, to the Central Conference Pension Fund.

Lay delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Mary White of Rosemont; Lenora Thompson of Philadelphia; George J. Hollich of Palmyra; Thomas D. Gibson of Allentown; Ruth Daugherty of Lancaster; and Judith Ehninger of Macungie.

Clergy delegates elected to General Conference are: Charles Yrigoyen Jr. of Willow Street; Dorothy Watson Tatem of Philadelphia; Alfred Maloney of Middleton, Del.; Larry D. Leister of Lancaster; Michele Wright Bartlow of Philadelphia; and Rene Perez Avalos of Lancaster.

Lay delegates elected to the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Candace Carter of Trevose; Robert Ladd of Lebanon; Verna Colliver of Lansdale; Marcus Simmons of Philadelphia; Rebecca Parsons of Henryville; Elizabeth Fisher of Schuylkill Haven; Mary Ann Repsher of Bangor (alt.); Debbie Wilcock Kenworthy of Perkasie (alt.); and Brenda Tildon of Bear, Del. (alt.).

Clergy delegates elected to Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Melinda McKonly of Allentown; William Gary George of Philadelphia; Rodney Shearer of Allentown; James Todd of Lititz; Joseph DiPaolo of Radnor; Christopher Kurien of Orwigsburg; Robin Hynicka of Philadelphia (alt.); Susan May of West Chester (alt.); and Alfred T. Day III of Jenkintown (alt.).

Membership stands at 124,814, down 1,088 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 47,953, down 2,810. Church school attendance stands at 32,509, up 3,030.

- Suzy Keenan