Feature Stories

The stories below are highlights from the Peace community of faith newsletter.  Each month a guest writer shares their story as they live out the Peace "Explore, Engage, Serve" journey.

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COSROW Retreat

posted Nov 5, 2018, 8:53 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Nov 5, 2018, 8:56 AM ]

Thank you to the Peace Church community for the abundant donations to Emma Norton Residence and Emma's Place.  Sixteen women from Peace Church enjoyed a retreat at Koinonia last weekend, listened to Emma Norton's Executive Director Tonya Brownlow talk about their ministry with homeless and disabled women, and packed up 10 bins with the donated supplies.  That was as many as we could fit in Tonya's van!  We had another car full of things that wouldn't fit, which we delivered later.  Tonya was overwhelmed with your generosity.  Thank you from the 2018 COSROW retreatants.

Pastor Gary joins 21 other clergy as part of Shmita Year Program

posted Jun 5, 2018, 6:55 PM by Penny Skildum

by: Christa Meland

Rev. Heather Klason has been a pastor in Minnesota since 1998, and for the past two years, she’s been bivocational—spending three-fourths of her time leading St. Charles and Dover UMCs and one-fourth as a hospice chaplain.

It’s rewarding but exhausting work, and in the busyness of ministry and life, it’s hard to be intentional about taking time away to practice self-care and reflect on her calling.
Klason is one of 22 Minnesota clergy participating in the inaugural “Shmita” process through the Minnesota Conference. The idea is that every seventh year of their ministry, clergy have an intentional time of learning, reflection, and recharging. Shmita gives clergy time and resources to take an in-depth look at their health and well-being and discern where God is calling them during their next seven years. The clergy participating in the inaugural Shmita year, which kicked off with a retreat in January, have all been in their current appointments for seven years or more.
“It is important to embrace the whole person that we’ve been created to be, and when we’re fully embracing that, it influences the impact our spirit can have through the work we can do,” said Klason. “You can’t give out of a dry well.”
In the Hebrew tradition, there’s the concept of a sabbatical year called “Shmita,” meaning “release.” It’s known as the jubilee year where land is left fallow, debts are released, and the perennial harvest is redistributed and accessible for all.
In the Minnesota Conference, the Shmita year combines two denominational requirements for clergy—boundary and ethics training, and a comprehensive assessment outlined in the 2016 Book of Discipline that clergy must go through every eight years.
But Rev. Cindy Gregorson, director of ministries for the conference, noted that the new process was designed not simply to fulfill requirements but to invest in clergy and help them prepare to lead effectively in their next chapter.
“It’s easy to get worn down by ministry, and we want people to stay passionately engaged in what their calling is and how to live that out,” she said. “We want clergy to be able to step out of ‘here’s what I’ve always done’ and think about how they can use their gifts in this next season of life and what God’s calling them to do so they stay energized and passionate.”

For Minnesota clergy, the Shmita year begins with a three-day total well-being retreat led by coaching and consulting firm LeaderWise. Prior to attending the retreat, participating clergy complete an emotional intelligence survey that includes insights from colleagues and provides a benchmark of strength areas and growth areas. Clergy also journal on a series of reflection questions about their calling and ministry over the past seven years.
The retreat itself is focused on spiritual practices and stress-management skills, an opportunity for clergy to identify their core strengths and creative, constructive ways to leverage them; strengthening relationships with fellow clergy; and developing a personalized well-being plan to practice at home.
Throughout the Shmita year, clergy read several books on boundaries and pastoral excellence and meet with others in the Shmita process to discuss them. They also take a two-week paid sabbatical to tend to their souls, listen to God, and reflect on what’s next in their lives and ministry.
“It was a gift to have that time that I’m not always intentional about taking,” said Klason, who recently completed her sabbatical. “I want to be able to offer my best self to the congregations I’m leading and model for them the importance of taking Sabbath time.”
Each clergy designs a personalized plan for the next season of their ministry and cultivates practices of resilience so they can lead out of a place of health and strength. Throughout the Shmita year, clergy begin to pursue their plan of development, whether that means seeking out a new peer learning experience, spiritual direction, coaching, or other avenues to attend to their well-being and grow in pastoral excellence. 

Klason is still developing her plan, but it will likely include being trained as a clergy coach. She also wants to be intentional about increasing her listening skills. “I tend to be an ideation person,” she said. “I want to work on stepping back and doing a little less directing and a little more listening.”

At the end of the Shmita year, participants attend a jubilee party to share their learnings and celebrate with colleagues.

“Our hope is that when clergy come to the jubilee party, they are thankful for this experience and it has had a positive impact in their life and ministry,” said Gregorson.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

A simple introduction

posted Feb 28, 2018, 7:56 PM by Penny Skildum

by Vee Blomgren

My new loving community, I would like to give you a brief introduction of myself.  My name is Vianney but  please call me Vee.  I was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at the age of six.  I was raised in Bronx NY until the age of 12 and then moved to Brooklyn NY, which should answer all questions about my accent, lol.  After the 9-11 attack in NYC I joined the United States Navy and have been serving my country ever since.   

I am married with four children.  My husband’s name is Josh; he separated from the Navy back in 2012 after being injured during a deployment, became a pilot and is now attending the University of St. Thomas to become a mechanical engineer.  Our two older daughters joined the Army right after high school and served one term and are currently trying to figure out their lives. I ask for prayers as they figure out their discernment.  Last but not least, we have two grand-daughters and one grandson on the way. 

You all have probably seen our two younger kids Josh Jr., which I call Flaco, 13, and he wants to play for the NBA one day.  Our youngest is JoJo, she recently turned nine, and is in the Junior Olympics for gymnastics on level 4.  Her dream is to go to the Olympics .  As for myself, I am currently in the midst of graduating from Luther Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in Justice and Reconciliation.  I am in the process of both my ELCA candidacy as well as military chaplaincy candidacy.  My hope is to become a military Chaplain for the Army (reserve).  My calling is to serve others as Jesus served us. 

My Vision for our Youth: Matthew 18:1-7 

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

We live in a world filled with confusion.  As adults we tend to get so caught up in life that we unintentionally neglect, or fail to see, how life is affecting our youth:  The unpredictable harsh world of trials and tribulations that our own children are facing in today’s society.  We have more “ism’s” than ever before (sexism, racism, prejudism, even stupidism).  My desire is to walk with our youth and build their own self-esteem; to guide them into asking the right questions, to acknowledge the greatness in themselves and develop a sense of humility so they can use their gifts to blossom into the beautiful human beings God intentionally created them to be and to show them how to utilize limitless grace with all, even those that may oppose them. 

I specially want to focus on the intentionality of God when they were created (Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” )  There is no mistake in who they are today and no mistake in who they will be tomorrow.  However, we live in a world of confusion and corruption which will create spaces for them to doubt themselves and their greatness and to that I say “I rebuke all that is not of God!” I want the youth to feel free to worship God in the manner they see fit for themselves.  To feel free to question their doubts and seek answers. More than anything else I want them to see God is in all they do and see how valuable they are simply for being who they are. 

Lenten Study

posted Jan 30, 2018, 7:37 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jan 30, 2018, 8:17 AM ]

Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today

Featuring Walter Brueggemann  

“Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today” is a DVD formatted study which confronts participants with the comparison of the enslavement of the Hebrew people in Egypt to the enslavement of Americans struggling with the unending demands of the consumer society that defines us. Preacher-professor-prophet Walter Brueggemann in “Countering Pharaoh” handles a difficult subject gracefully and brings insights to the story of the Exodus that transforms its well-worn story elements into a demanding call on the lives of 21st century people of faith. 

Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today "is a journey from slavery to covenant that we keep making repeatedly... [because] Pharaoh has immense power always to draw us back into slavery."Walter Brueggemann 

Walter Brueggemann is an American Old Testament scholar and theologian who is widely considered one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades. He is an important figure in modern progressive Christianity whose work often focuses on the Hebrew prophetic tradition and sociopolitical imagination of the Church. He argues that the Church must provide a counter-narrative to the dominant forces of consumerism, militarism, and nationalism. 

Everyone Welcome

Sunday sessions 8:30 – 9:30 am

Monday Sessions 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Sunday, February 18 or Monday, February 19            The Way Out

Sunday, February 25 or Monday, Februar                  The Ten Commandments

Sunday, March 4 or Monday, March 5                            Countering Caesar

Sunday, March 11 or Monday, March 12                        An Act of Imagination

Sunday, March 18 or Mon                                         On Not Doing God Any Favors

Monday, March 26 - 7 pm                                                     Passover Celebration Meal 

Commission on a Way Forward - Council of Bishops

posted Jan 15, 2018, 8:32 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jan 15, 2018, 8:32 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Rev. Elaine L. Shelby

At the May  2016 international Methodist General Conference, the delegates found that they deadlocked on many significant issues. As a result, the Council of Bishops proposed, and the General Conference approved the Commission on a Way Forward to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline, bylaws of the United Methodist Church, concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. This spring the commission will present its report to the Council of Bishops.
Reconciling Ministries has been a part of Peace for many years. When I started going to Peace in 2001 it was already many years since the decision was made to be a Reconciling Community.  Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is our national organization which seeks to forward our agenda within the national United Methodist Church.  As many of you know within the United Methodist Church there is a deep divide between those who stand on the side of the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Gendered, and Queer (GLBTQ) communities and those who believe we do not deserve the right to choose whom to love.  This long-standing divide may end in the splitting our denomination.
A little history is needed to understand how serious this divide is: In 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church, split over the issue of where people could sit in the congregation, and in 1861 they split again over slavery.  In 1930 we joined together as the Methodist Church and became the United Methodist Church in 1972, joining with the Evangelical United Brethren.  This joining makes us stronger!  We are more together than we are apart. Being part of a larger religious organization like the United Methodist Church makes us a force for good in the world, because our dollars go farther and do more.
So, what does RMN do? It mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. It is the primary national United Methodist advocay group with which Peace is aligned. In a recent email RMN stated: “Here are a few things you can count on. RMN is committed to the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, in both policy and in practice, throughout the whole of our beloved United Methodist Church. Period. No exceptions. You can count on that.”
You will be hearing more about the Commission on a Way Forward and the Reconciling Ministries Network for the next year and a half leading up to a special 2019 General Conference whose sole agenda will be to move on, discuss and vote on the commission’s recommendations. Reconciling Ministries Network is also looking as far ahead as General Conference 2020, while also focusing intently on each important milestone and opportunity to effect change between now and then. Below are the important milestones.

The diagram shows how, if we aggregate our funds, we can do more to help the process, with our support of the Reconciling Ministries Network, we can participate in the process of transforming the United Methodist Church by the power of God’s love as it moves toward the Special General Conference in 2019 and the upcoming General Conference in 2020, which will be here in Minneapolis, to make this newly shaped Church emerge.  Gary has given, as a church we give, and I have given.
Please look at the chart below and consider giving something, through the Reconciling Ministries Network, towards the United Methodist Church’s wholeness and peace as seeks to end this continuous wrangling. 

For more information on the Reconciling Ministries Network click here::


Property Rental/Development Brainstorming Sessions

posted Dec 1, 2017, 4:59 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Dec 1, 2017, 4:59 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Sadie Hawkins

A group of Peace Community of Faith members attended a series of meetings intended to explore the rental and/or development of property at Peace Community of Faith. A previous commission spent a great deal of time to determine that staying in our current facility would be imperative so as not to fracture the congregation. The possibilities seemed intriguing ranging from creating affordable senior housing to a coffee house on our grounds (no pun intended).
First, I’ll start off with a brief history. Our facility is, or has been, home to several entities including Boy Scout troops, pre-school, Teens driver’s education, Montessori School (current), Weight Watchers, Northern Lights Community Chorale, Moundsview High’s bi annual talent show, Twin Cities Bronze Hand Bells and yoga class.
Second, we created a Leadership Council action item to establish a Rental Task Group with the authority to research, assess and promote rental at Peace Facilities to business and community groups. The Council reserves the right to approve all rental agreements. The task force may ask the council to approve expenditures needed for its work and will always first seek resources within the congregation and associated networks.
Third, after our discussions it was determined based on our 2 ¾ acre property, it would not be financially advantageous to attempt to redevelop our property. Further, our community presence would be lost in any redevelopment and would likely result in the fracturing of our congregation
Joy Alizadeh, Sadie Hawkins, Lucy Meyer, Dave Tidball, and Pastor Gary Walpole have been a part of this initial task force. One or two of us outside of the staff members are willing to continue into the next phase pending Leadership Council approval. We will be asking a few others to participate as well. Thank you to all who have put their time and energy into our congregational concerns.

When your heart is heavy

posted Nov 27, 2017, 4:05 PM by Sue Fried   [ updated Nov 27, 2017, 4:05 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Rev. Cindy Gregorson

This has been a season when my heart has been heavy. I know where it comes from. I have a niece who is dealing with a life-threatening disease at too young an age. I have friends and colleagues who are walking in the muck of their own illnesses, trauma, and challenging situations. I feel the weight of what they are going through, and my heart is heavy with sorrow for what they are experiencing.

And then there is the daily news, and the unrelenting wave upon wave of human suffering: hurricanes that have left communities devastated and, on Oct. 2, a mass shooting where a simple concert outing became 10 minutes of terror and a life-and-death event. How does one hold the pain of the world without either becoming callous to it or being overwhelmed by it?

And if that were not enough, all this is occurring in the context of the free-floating anxiety that is our country and denomination right now. What will become of us? In the midst of division and debate and dueling blogs and tweets, it is easy to be caught up in the drama. We don’t know what the future will bring, and it is hard to plan and prepare when the ground is so uncertain and unpredictable.

So let me take a brief detour. One of the things I have noticed in my own life is that when I am sleep-deprived, I am more emotional, more impatient, and have less capacity to deal with challenging situations. It has occurred to me that our current times cause me to feel like I am living in a constant sleep-deprived state. How much can we bear? And without rest and respite, our resilience is depleted. And therefore, when I am dealing with the things that come along in life, like loss and illness and grief, my heavy heart is even heavier. And my cry becomes: How long, O Lord, how long?

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –John 14 (NIV)

These words are familiar—often read at funerals. They sound nice, don’t they? But is Jesus really suggesting that we never have a heavy heart? I believe there is a fundamental difference between a heavy heart and a troubled heart. Sadness is a normal part of human existence. When we open our heart to people and the world, we make our heart vulnerable. It can get broken. It will feel the weight of grief. It will also experience the leaps of joy, and burst with love. This is what makes us human and connected and caring. It is how we find our way forward together, when we are willing to open our hearts to one another. A heavy heart is one that is willing to go to the depths and trust that God will be there in the midst of it.

A troubled heart is one that can’t ever seem to find joy or hope and is stuck in despair. It leads us to a place of fear where we are unwilling to open ourselves to the messy emotions of life, to reach out to another person, or to take risks. A troubled heart is one that no longer has any sense that God is present and can no longer see that things will ever be different than they are right now.

So what do I do when my heart is heavy and I feel like it is moving to that place where it is becoming troubled and I desperately need to connect to the peace that Jesus promises? I take a walk, preferably in the woods or by water. When I walk, I can breathe. I open my eyes to the beauty that is around me. I get connected to the long arc of God’s creation, and I remember that this—whatever this I am experiencing—is momentary and not all of the story. There is more. Way more.

Mary Oliver’s poem “When I Am Among the Trees” has become my poem.

Listen to it here:  When I Am Among the Trees https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s44u65AxMoE

It speaks to my life. We have come into the world to do this: to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine. So, my friends, in this season of heavy hearts, go easy. Be kind to yourself and one another. Go for a walk where you can be filled with the fundamental goodness of creation and life. And in the midst of incomprehensible tragedy, do not give into the darkness. Dare to shine.

Recently, when I could not bear to listen to the news anymore, felt my heart becoming overwhelmed, and felt helpless not knowing what to do that would make a difference, I packed up a blanket knitted by some faithful United Methodists who believe in God and the power of prayer and mailed it off to my niece. One small, simple thing. It may not be much, but I needed to do something. And this was the one thing I could do in that moment.

I believe this is how we shine—when we don’t give up or give in, when we do what we can do however big or small. And in so doing, our heart gets a little bit lighter, and perhaps, just perhaps, we lighten the heart of another person along the way. And we taste once again the kind peace that we know comes from God. May it be so.

Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Service Sunday October 8: 10 am – 12 pm

posted Oct 1, 2017, 6:08 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Oct 1, 2017, 6:08 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

As Peace was developing ways to implement our Healthy Church Initiative in cooperation with the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, our Faith and Spirituality Team explored ways to become involved in the local community. The result of that effort is a partnership with Northeast Youth and Family Services.

On Sunday, October 8th from 10 am to noon Peace will be partnering with Northeast Youth and Family Services to rake and bag leaves, pick up debris, sweep sidewalks and put away lawn furniture for area seniors who are no longer able to complete these tasks for themselves. Everyone should bring a favorite rake and work gloves. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather and to do a service project. At 10 am we will have a short worship time to send us out in service, around 10:15 we will leave to do service projects as families or in groups of 5 or 6 people. Debbi Wells, Senior Chore & Volunteer Coordinator of Northeast Youth and Family Service, will be with us for the morning and have a list of projects for us along with google maps showing us how to get to the homes of people who need our help with fall clean-up. Once you are done with the service project each team will have a brief time to share and provide feedback for possible future Service Sundays. 

Members of the Peace Community of Faith who are unable physically or for some other reason are unable to participate in the service projects will be able to visit with Debbie Wells once the service teams have left and hear about Northeast Youth and Family Service.

Come and enjoy the fun of helping others!
It will be a new and exciting experience for the Peace Community of Faith!

Travel Journal- Storm Mountain Work Trip

posted Sep 5, 2017, 7:43 PM by Melissa Navratil   [ updated Sep 5, 2017, 7:43 PM ]

by Pastor Gary Walpole (with an assist from Becky Walpole)

Sunday, July 30

11:20 am
Seven of us jumped in two cars to begin the long trip to Storm Mountain Center in the South Dakota Black Hills. Spirits are high and snacks are plentiful, electronic devices are fully charged and turned on with entertainment and games. I gave the crew some interesting things to read along the way about the native peoples of the Midwest.

statue entitled "Dignity"
6:10 pm
We stopped at the Interstate 90 rest area overlooking the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. New for this trip is a 50 foot statue of a Native American woman wearing a shawl entitled Dignity. Awesome! After the rest area, we all ate supper at Pizza Hut in Chamberlain. We decide their stuffed crust pizza wasn’t all that delicious.

9:30 pm
We arrived at Storm Mountain in the dark just in time to move into our rooms, get settled in and go to bed.

Monday, July 31
Breakfast at 8 am. Storm Mountain is beautiful in the daylight! Our first work project is along the road into Storm Mountain clearing small pine trees, which grow like weeds here. Each of us worked individually to pull them out. They are very stubborn and do not want to leave the ground. After lunch, we discovered that working in pairs, one using a shovel and another pulling meant we could get twice as many cleared with half the effort in the same amount of time. Team work!

The guys tried to convince me they saw a rattle snake. They were very convincing. While pulling trees, the group began sharing tricky riddles. Fred and George were on the floor surrounded by water and glass. How did they die? Who can go through the green glass door? Matthew, our Storm Mountain supervisor, took us on a hike to the for-real gold mine along the creek. After supper Scott Jensen, director of Storm Mountain, shared his own riddle game with us. He did finally tell us how it’s done. But I’m not telling. Scott will be retiring at the end of August.

After supper, we played games and went to bed.

lowering the cross with ropes
Tuesday, August 1
After a delicious breakfast  (the camp food is really good) we began to tackle THE BIG PROJECT for the week. A church had donated a LARGE metal cross to the camp and it needed to be repainted. It is on a hill with a really steep slope. Scott and Matt thought we should use ladders to paint the cross. I vetoed that plan because I did not think it was safe. The team huddled, shared ideas and came up with a great plan;  use ropes to lower the cross and paint it. It took some doing but we got it to work. What a team! We got it down, scraped it and got the first coat of paint on it before lunch. Great job!

After lunch, we headed to Badlands National Park. It was HOT, when we got out of the cars. We were hot and paint-y. We hiked for a while and had supper in the shade. We saw antelope and prairie dogs, but the best time was playing “Hey, cow!”

I’m really tired, good night.

painting the cross

Wednesday, August 2
Today was much cooler. We got the second coat of paint on and the cross is looking really good. We finished with our work by 11 am so we were able to play games and relax. After lunch, we shared the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. We went into Keystone for a treat and headed to Custer State Park to find the buffalo, or maybe they’re called bison. Our search was successful. They were right next to the car by the side of the road! I was so excited and scared I forgot to take any pictures.

We stopped at a picnic area by a stream. It was gorgeous. Dinner was a picnic of hot dogs, fresh fruit and veggies. We played catch, frisbee and just ran around. We got back in time to play games before going to bed. I hope we all sleep well tonight.

the painted cross is back in place
Thursday, August 3
Time to put the cross back up. I had some concerns that we would be able to do it, but it went as smooth as silk. “Team work makes the dream work,” as our team motto goes. It felt like a great accomplishment. Scott allowed us to paint a Peace sign on the back of it and we left our mark. After lunch a few of us went into Rapid City to a water park and the more adventurous hiked Storm Mountain.

Midafternoon we headed to Crazy Horse Monument. We saw some seriously awesome Native American hoop dancers. The temp reached the mid-60s.  A big difference from our time in the Badlands!

We went back into Keystone and had pizza for supper.  What a treat! We headed back to Storm Mountain in time to play a few games and begin packing up to leave in the morning.

Friday, August 4
We had breakfast at 8 am and were in the cars by 8:40 ready to hit the road. Grateful good byes were said to Matthew and Scott and the rest of the Storm Mountain staff. It was a long ride back but we were all glad to be home again.

“Team work makes the dream work!” Thanks to team members Summer Armstrong, Quintin Longe, Ava Longe, Joe Navratil, Melissa Navratil and Becky Walpole. It was a joy and a blessing to be with you.

the Storm Mountain mission team

Delegate Reflections on the 2017 Minnesota Annual Conference

posted Jul 31, 2017, 8:28 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jul 31, 2017, 8:28 AM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Pam Jacobson and Jean Leatherman

Thank you to the Peace Community of Faith for allowing us to be your lay representatives at the 2017 Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church which was held in St Cloud in June. The theme was “Encounter the Spirit--Live Expectantly!" As representatives, we can see how the UMC operates as a connectional church throughout the world which is supported by our apportionments.

After the opening worship and meal on Tuesday, the laity and clergy broke out into separate groups. The presenter for the laity was Chuck Bell, a music & worship consultant for the United Methodist Church. Try googling him. Highlights of his presentation on worship planning included:
  • use the instruments in worship in different ways & combinations with other instruments
  • the worship committee members can be thought of as “ritual artists”-changing & thinking out of the box
  • think of worship series where the entire service connects to the whole experience
  • transitions are important to push into the next moment rather than leaving a gap
  • leaders should be over communicating
  • worship participants need to PRACTICE before the service-this includes ushers, greeters, readers, musicians etc. to keep the flow
The reassuring thing about his presentation was that Dave Tidball and Pastor Gary were already doing many of the suggestions. 

There are speakers to energize us, lead us in worship and introduce innovative ways to reach out to everyone to share how our faith traditions spread the love of God. This year there was an opportunity to attend a camp revival in the park with Rev. Junius B. Dotson and pack birthing packs to send to Africa. The packs included a plastic sheet, 2 small blankets, gloves, razor blade & string (to tie off/cut the cord) and soap. The goal was 1000 packs which was met. People in the community who were enjoying the park were invited to participate in the service and project.

Throughout the conference there are break out sessions such as “Palestine & Israel--Exploding the Myth” presented by Rev. David Schneider. The main tidbit for us was to learn that for thousands of years people in the Middle East lived side by side practicing their faiths with minimal conflict. In recent history, since 1948, the conflicts have escalated. We have more information on this topic if you are interested in it.  Another favorite session was on Native American Art & Spirituality presented by a Lakota artist. He presented a very good explanation of why the recent gallows exhibit at the Walker was offensive to native people and provided insight into native spirituality.

We also picked up 30+ information cards by general Board of Church and Society on a wide range of topics from health care, domestic violence, food justice &non-proliferation to name a few.  Faith and facts are listed on each card including what do the facts say?  what do you say (how to get involved), what does the Bible say? & what does the UMC say? We’ll be setting these out for you to review.

Lastly, we get to meet all of Gary’s minister friends & former parishioners. This leads to new Gary stories!
Check out the video below for more highlights:  https://vimeo.com/222710571

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