Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019

Dear Reader,

Ten years ago today I watched my brother coach his high school soccer team to their first-ever state championship in Montana. Last night the Nationals won their first-ever World Series.

I don't know what it is about some sports and watching a team clench a hard-sought victory that makes me so teary-eyed. I'm NOT a big sports person. But perhaps it's seeing humanity played out in front of us that appeals to me and my faith.

In just a few hours' time, we see strength, weakness, loss, humiliation, grace and triumph play out in front of us on a field, court, pitch, etc.

It's not so much about who wins and who loses to me. It's about the effort, the art, and the moments of grace between those who triumph (at least this time) and those who fall just a little bit short of their goals.

I see God in all of those moments -- in the face of the victor and the defeated, in the jubilee and in the resolve to get it "next time." I can't stop watching.

Whatever team you're with, whoever you're cheering for in this season of life, my prayer this week is that you see God's love shining brightly.

With grace and gratitude,
Kristen Caldwell
interim director of communications


Letting go of old tradition leads to new connections and growth at Oak Grove UMC 

A little more than three years ago the volunteers for Oak Grove United Methodist Church’s summer picnic were tired, the food was getting expensive, and there were only a few community members engaged, so they held what would be their last summer picnic in 2016.
But Rev. Heather Riggs said she and church members weren’t ready to give up on the idea of connecting with the community.

Read more of this story on the Conference website.

Enrollment now open for HealthFlex Plans

For HealthFlex participants It is time to make benefit selections for the 2020 calendar year.  Annual enrollment began Wednesday and ends on Thursday, Nov. 14 at midnight, central time.

Beginning on October 30 you can make elections and review details through your WebMD account (For login help, call WebMD at 1-866-302-5742)

The annual enrollment contact number for Wespath is 1 (844) 688-1375. Representatives are available Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., central time. You may also contact Meg Kau, human resources director for the Conference at  or (503) 802-9224 if you have any questions.

Learn more by visiting


Inspiring Generosity: ROI, don't fear the numbers

On Halloween, there's a lot of frightening things to think about.

But as Cesie Delve-Scheuermann discusses in this week's blog, numbers -- more specifically data -- doesn't have to be feared when donors are asking for information regarding their Return on Investment (ROI).

"I have been a part of many church meetings where we discussed the need to collect data – and I have felt the resistance. But I’m here to say (shockingly from someone who is afflicted with numerophobia), that collecting data can be a positive and good thing:
How many families were provided shelter through your involvement with Family Promise? How many hours did volunteers give to Habitat for Humanity? How many tons of food were collected for the local food pantry?"

Read more of Cesie's blog on the Conference website.

Voices Project: System is not a relationship

In this week's Voices Project blog. Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber and Rev. Jess Bielman examine the way systems create relationships that exude power that excludes the voices of the marginalized. They use the TV Show "Survivor" as an example.

"In 'Survivor', betrayal and backstabbing are forgiven and elevated because “this is the way you win the game.” All parties have agreed that it is correct within the system to act within each person’s own best interest. Relationships are negotiated within the structures of tribes, tribal council, and immunity idols. In essence, the players relate to the game before they relate to the other people."

Read more of this blog on the Voices Project website.

Alaska Conference: One Church, Many Doors: The "Sanctuary Doors" at Birchwood Camp

Birchwood Camp’s mission is to build community on common ground. We strive to offer hospitality to all, and we open our doors to groups both religious and secular. Guests are invited to retreat to a place of tranquility, a place apart from the everyday world to experience renewal and inspiration.

A year-round camp and retreat center in Chugiak, nestled between the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet just 30 minutes north of Anchorage, the camp has been in operation since 1961. Guests and campers enjoy scenic views, beautiful Psalm lake, idyllic log cabins, multi-purpose meeting spaces, hiking trails & outdoor spaces, opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, & team building, and much more on the 160 acre property.

The serene setting invites guests to take a break, to let go of the stress and chaos of everyday life and retreat to a place of peace, tranquility, personal growth, and learning. We offer rental and program opportunities for community groups, schools, churches, businesses, and private events.Read more about Birchwood Camp on the Alaska Conference blog.

Greater NW Pride: Microaggressions in the UMC

What are microaggressions? Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell explains in his blog this week that it has to do with the ways in which we, perhaps unintentionally, re-inforce racism, sexism, able-ism and more through phrases such as "I don't see you as black" or "you don't act gay."

But a new video from the Greater New Jersey Conference highlighting some of the hurtful things that are said to LGBTQ+ people in the life of the church has him thinking we need to do some education across our denomination and in other communities of faith.

"And the change begins with each of us, patiently asking the person who expresses such comments, 'Why did you say that?' and entering into a teachable moment."

Read more of this blog on the Conference website.


New Jersey Conference charts ‘way forward’ with LGBTQ+ people

By an overwhelming majority, the Greater New Jersey Conference in a special session voted to allow United Methodist churches to decide how to include and affirm LGBTQ people in every aspect of ministry while still allowing congregations the right to agree to disagree.

Churches can also create covenants about other mission priorities, or choose not to have a covenant at all.
The vote on the 10-point proposal, by a show of voice and hands, came just eight months after a special General Conference passed legislation affirming the church’s current bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage and strengthening penalties for violations. Conference officials estimated 80 percent of those present at the special annual conference voted for the proposal, which came from the report submitted by the conference’s Way Forward Team.

Read more of this story from United Methodist News Service.

Africa University ‘prunes and grows’ to stay afloat 

United Methodist Africa University has managed to survive the economic challenges facing the country by cutting back, adapting to the changing fiscal environment and remaining in good standing with suppliers of goods and services.

The prices for fuel, basic supplies and services in Zimbabwe are rising every week and some products are difficult to find. Electricity is unavailable at times for up to 18 hours a day, resulting in the nation resorting to alternative sources of power, such as solar systems and petrol or diesel generators.

“The principle that we use is, we prune and grow,” said Africa University vice chancellor Munashe Furusa. “We recognize there are areas we can do without for this year, and we cut down on those areas.

Read more of this story from United Methodist News Service.

Bishop reflects on journey to GC2020 

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter has held multiple roles during a time of great stress in The United Methodist Church.

The Florida Conference bishop was one of three moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward, the 32-member panel charged with finding ways through the denomination’s deep divide on homosexuality.

Since May 2018, he has been president of the Council of Bishops. In that role, he saw the special General Conference adopt, by a 438-384 vote, the Traditional Plan that reinforces policies against “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings. A majority of bishops had backed the One Church Plan, another plan to emerge from the commission’s work that would have left questions of ordination up to conferences and weddings up to individual clergy and congregations.

Read more of this story from United Methodist News Service.

Top court looking at church disaffiliation rules 

The United Methodist Judicial Council is likely to consider the effects of improper voting on legislation that allows churches to leave the denomination.

An amended request from the Council of Bishops now asks the denomination’s top court to consider the implications of the General Conference Commission’s finding that four ineligible voters cast a ballot during votes on that disaffiliation legislation. 

That request is part of the 18-item docket the Judicial Council is reviewing while it meets through Friday in Evanston, Illinois.

Read more of this story from United Methodist News Service.


UMHEF Scholars: We Want to Hear from YOU!

Are you one of the 1000+ United Methodist students who received a scholarship from the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation for this school year? If so, we want to hear from you! Help us tell your story. 

Please take a moment to send an email to UMHEF's Development Officer, Melissa Houck TODAY and help us tell your story in the coming months. Here are some things we'd love to hear from you:

How is your school year is going? How has your UMHEF scholarship has made a difference in your life or your family's life?

  • Notable accomplishments or goals you have achieved recently
  • A note of thanks for UMHEF donors/supporters
  • A recent, good-quality photograph of yourself that you don't mind us sharing 

Your story will inspire countless others to continue to make it financially possible for qualified United Methodist students to attend UM-related institutions of higher education. Thank you!

Visit United Methodist Higher Education Foundation's website for more information.


Rivalry or reconciliation

by Nancy Tam Davis

" ... When faced with a loss, or even the fear of loss, we make a choice. Sometimes that choice is conscious; often, it is not. The loss can be something I would consider trivial, like losing a game of checkers. Other losses can be life-threatening. What is a substantial loss for me may be insignificant to you. The issue is that we reach a point of choice, a decision to enter into rivalry, or we find a way to reconcile the loss ..."


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