Full disclosure: I am married to Cheryl Marcum, a candidate for Earthkeeper, scheduled for commissioning on August 6.
Maybe you’ve heard of Earthkeepers. They are United Methodists who discerned a call from God to a vocation of caring for God’s creation. They help us understand how caring for God’s creation is a core part of our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The first Earthkeeper in the Missouri Conference will be from the Southwest District, Stockton United Methodist Church. Cheryl Marcum will be commissioned an Earthkeeper at the commissioning ceremony at Trinity United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, upon completion of the August 1-6 Earthkeepers Training Conference at Mount Sequoyah Retreat & Conference Center in Fayetteville.
Earthkeepers is the inspiration of Rev. Pat Watkins, a recently retired missionary for God’s Creation with the General Board of Global Ministries. His successor, Rev. Jenny Phillips, will lead this new, globally-focused ministry, based at the new Global Ministries’ Center for Mission Innovation in Atlanta.
Earthkeepers can be laity or clergy. Each Earthkeeper is required to participate in four days of intense training in creation care theology, best practices in climate conversations, UMC resources for advocacy and action, and then commit to 10 hours per month of providing leadership for a community project or advocacy campaign. An Earthkeeper selects her or his own focus area, for example: creating a community garden, advocating for climate action or renewable energy policies, working for environmental justice by cleaning up toxic waste sites, or creating a green team within a church, district, or conference. These actions connect the local church directly to community concerns.
Do you have someone in your congregation who is called to to become an Earthkeeper, to serve as a caretaker of God’s good creation?
“Many people have thought of God’s creation in terms of advocacy but not as a valid mission of the church. God’s creation is as appropriate a mission field as Nigeria or the Philippines or wherever else. In order to be in mission to God’s people, we have to be in ministry to God’s creation.” – Rev. Pat Watkins
Read more at:
Innovative Program Aims to Commission 500 Earthkeepers, The Missouri Methodist, August 2017, page 9. http://www.moumethodist.org/files/tables/content/8734864/fields/files/3338dfdfe6054cf5a1600fd56200db9d/august+fk.pdf
New Earthkeepers Program Aims to Commission 500 for Creation Care Work http://www.umcmission.org/learn-about-us/news-and-stories/2016/april/0422newearthkeepers
Caretakers of God’s Creation is a grassroots community of United Methodists. https://www.umccreationcare.org/
On 02, Jun 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch
What lay members to annual conference need to know:
Each year, our bishop presides over the annual conference for worship, fellowship, and to conduct the business of the United Methodist Church in Missouri. Annual conference includes reports of ongoing ministry, future goals, programs, budgets and the ordination of clergy. Workshops, live music, training sessions and exhibits add to the experience you take back to your congregation.
An effective lay member to annual conference returns to his/her local church to inform the congregation about the decisions, news, and learning experiences. As the elected member from the congregation, it is the responsibility of the lay member to interpret the actions of annual conference to the congregation. We are a connectional church and the lay member to annual conference strengthens the connection between the local congregation and the Missouri Conference.
Talk with your pastor before annual conference
Endeavor to understand the hopes and dreams of your local church and search for ways your leadership can advance the vision for ministry. Prepare for annual conference.
- Talk to people in your congregation who have attended previous annual conference sessions.
- Take advantage of pre-conference orientation sessions and information on the annual conference website to prepare you to learn and to contribute to the life of the church.
- Familiarize yourself with the ministries and concerns of your congregation.
- Become familiar with the rules of annual conference and basic parliamentary procedure.
- Participate in pre-conference sessions that cover upcoming issues, budgetary items, and proposed resolutions.
- On Friday of the conference attend the laity session and southwest district laity breakout. This is an opportunity to meet other district lay leaders and share ministries and experiences.
As soon as practical after the close of the conference, report your experience to your church council in cooperation with your pastor. Communication truly improves connection.
Use resources available online
Read this handout to understand your role: http://www.awfumc.org/files/old_files_library/lay_member_role.pdf
Watch this video recap of annual conference 2016: https://vimeo.com/170496299
Check out this publication by Cokesbury: https://www.cokesbury.com/product/9781501829727/guidelines-for-leading-your-congregation-20172020-lay-leaderlay-member/
A great deal of info is available at the conference website: http://www.moumethodist.org/acinfo
Talk to your District Lay Leaders
District lay leaders can provide resources to point you in the right direction. Connect with your district lay leaders at annual conference – they want to help. The key responsibility of the lay member is linking the vision and resources of annual conference back to the mission of the local congregation. Ask district lay leaders, Marsha Egan and Mitch Ross, any questions you have and keep the link between annual conference and the local church strong.
Appointment season in the United Methodist Church comes around every year at this time. This June many churches will say good-bye to their current pastor as they greet a new pastor. Change, expected or not, can be stressful for congregations. But, “passing the baton,” pastor to pastor, is part of our Methodist heritage.
Here’s the good news: Change can also become an opportunity for mission focus, reevaluation of church values and growth. A change of pastor is a chance for new eyes to envision otherwise unseen possibilities. As laity, we pray for a smooth transition and that God will embolden us to support and minister alongside our pastors.
Prayer goes a long way toward calming the turmoil of change, enabling acceptance of what is new, and opening our eyes to see what God is doing in our midst.
- Pray that congregations receive pastors sent to new charges in the spirit in which they are sent.
- Pray that PPR committees provide the support and leadership that pastors and congregations need for continuity during a time of change.
- Pray that congregations partner with new pastors and encourage them to minister as John Wesley taught: “Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel.”
- Pray that we laity follow suit alongside our pastors.
If a new pastor is sent to your church, please read this excellent resource provided by the Missouri Conference: http://www.moumethodist.org/passingthebaton.
Pay attention to social media. See “Digital Transitions When Pastors Change” at: https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/digital-transitions-pastors-change/.
Look at this resource from churchleadership.com for 50 ways to welcome your new pastor: https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-welcome-a-new-pastor/.
We are an itinerant church. Wesley’s vision of itinerant ministry encourages a system of sending and sending again. But remember that as these changes occur, the mission of the church stands fast – the mission is unchanging even as leadership changes. Pray for each UMC congregation that the Holy Spirit guides and directs vital change in the local church, new pastor or not. Read more…
On 05, Apr 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch
Mid-State District is offering a great opportunity to learn from Ray Buckley, a distinguish storyteller.
“Lay Servants Tell Stories” is a course offered at the UMC Conference Center in Columbia on May 6th. The course is open to everyone and counts as an advanced course for Lay Servants.
See the flier below for more information and to complete your registration or follow this link: http://www.moumethodist.org/eventdetail/7808400
On 05, Jan 2017 | In Laity | By Mitch
Forget the New Year’s resolutions. What are your dreams for 2017?
11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” – Genesis 28:11-16 (NRSV)
In Jacob’s dream, a ladder was set up that extended from earth to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending on the ladder. More than just a dream, this gave Jacob a vision that his life was intended for something greater than he imagined – something God envisioned for his life.
In the dream, angels, God’s messengers, were ascending up to God. But, angels were also descending down from heaven. Like a biblical email system, the angels delivered messages even as God speaks directly to Jacob. Jacob has unexpectedly found a God-sized vision in his life, “the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” (verse 16).
We must dream big dreams because we worship an awesome God. Jacob’s dream teaches us that God has dreams for us, we must pay attention to recognize them. “Surely, the Lord is in this place.”
Do you find joy being part of ministry that is larger than yourself? As lay servants, we often busy ourselves with programs, events and training, ministries that are easy to scale to a size we can handle. Why not ask, “What does it take to serve the vision of God?” Are we not God’s ambassadors and agents to carry out dreams and visions? I expect the new year to bring new dreams that reveal some snippet of God’s vision for our ministries. And, I expect it to be bigger than our own self-determined plans. Where is the greater joy, in fulfilling our plans or fulfilling the vision of God?
I met a soldier who was assigned duty in Bosnia as part of the Operation Joint Endeavor – a peace keeping force. Despite the separation from family and harsh living conditions, he expressed tremendous satisfaction with his time in Bosnia. He was involved in peacekeeping operations bigger than he could accomplish on his own. He found joy doing something bigger than himself. We, too, must aim for ministries greater than ourselves.
Suggested to do list:
- Write down ministry dreams for 2017.
- Pray that we seize God-sized visions and dreams.
- Dream big in 2017!
“Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” – William Carey’s motto on a hanging in St. James Church, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire.
On 06, Nov 2016 | In Laity | By Mitch
Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” Twain had a sarcastic side with a twist on the truth.
So, where do you get your information? Specifically, where do you get your information about church life? Are you uninformed, misinformed or overwhelmed? What do you read?
First, we read the scriptures. No other source can provide the benefits and blessings of God’s word. But, most Christians I know also have favorite authors and websites that keep them abreast of the latest church ideas and trends. Below are a few of my favorite web resources.
Ministry Matters (http://www.ministrymatters.com/) is a good resource with free content. If you want access to premium material a paid subscription is required. With a free account you can create bins to hold your favorite articles and subscribe to various weekly feeds.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership (https://www.churchleadership.com/) is another place to mine information about church leadership, ministry and reaching out to different demographics. Check out their “50 Ways” suggestions under the Resources tab.
To keep up with current events in the United Methodist Church, go to www.umc.org and click on the News & Media tab.
To stay connected to all the latest happenings in the Missouri Conference, check out the Stay Connected page here: http://www.moumethodist.org/stayconnected. You can subscribe to Net News, Mission Cast, Justice Ministries or Shared Prayers and other subscriptions from the Missouri Conference.
If you tweet, follow the Missouri Conference on Twitter, https://twitter.com/moumethodist
Finally, one of my favorites is I Am Second (http://www.iamsecond.com/). The site offers several innovative videos on many hot button topics. The short videos are good for sermons, small group topics or just to start a conversation.
What is your favorite resource?
On 10, Oct 2016 | In Laity | By Mitch
Laity Sunday has been a Methodist tradition since 1929. It’s the Sunday we observe and recognize the role of laity in the life of the church. John Wesley’s reforming movement that came to be called Methodist was marked by the strength of lay leadership. That was a departure from his Anglican roots.
Laity Sunday calls the Church to celebrate the ministry of all lay Christians as their lives are empowered for ministry by the Holy Spirit. I always look forward to that celebration and I trust you will also. There is much to celebrate, for we have been empowered by God’s own Holy Spirit to express “the mind and mission of Christ” in our respective communities of Christ followers. Unfortunately, this tradition celebrating the laity is largely ignored in most churches. Use this occasion to lift up the laity and their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness in your church.
How are you celebrating Laity Sunday? Please read the notice from Net News below to find more information and resources about Laity Sunday.
From Net News:
Laity Sunday: Tips for Involving Members
United Methodists observe Laity Sunday on Oct. 16 as a day to include church members in the planning and execution of the worship service, but other days can be chosen as well. Darby Jones offers seven tips for including members in the service, and Discipleship Ministries has resources for observing Laity Sunday. Read the story at http://www.umcom.org/learn/7-ways-to-worship-from-the-grassroots. Worship resources are available at http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/laity-sunday-2016-living-vital-worship.
On 19, Sep 2016 | In Laity | By Mitch
Inevitably, when I talked to church members about the mission of the local church, someone feels the burden of what must be done to actually be the church and in a wave of inadequacy they exclaim, “…but I am only laity.” In this context, “only laity” implies amateur, non-professional, unskilled, unworthy or incapable. It’s self- deprecating – and it’s a myth.
The laity must not feel apologetic or inadequate. They are not always well equipped, but are always Christ’s ambassadors. Fueled by the Holy Spirit, just as they are, and without apology, the laity witness, obey, love, lead and reach-out to one another with the full measure of Christ’s empowerment.
I credit Pastor Eugene Peterson for planting this thinking in me. He says it bluntly: “Where do all these Christians, who by definition are ‘new creatures in Christ’ … pick up this deprecating self-understanding? They certainly don’t get it from the Bible or the gospel. And certainly not from Jesus. They get it from the culture, both secular and ecclesial.” The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson, p. 13.
No laity doubt or challenge the role of clergy, those blessed men and women who answer the call to full time service to the church. In partnership, laity share common ground with clergy. We are baptized to the same salvation. Together we form the priesthood of all believers, kingdom of priests and saints. These biblical phrases are not arrogant scriptural claims but are confessions of our mutual commitment to the Kingdom of God.
When Jeremiah complained to God, “…but I am only a boy” God’s response (paraphrased but still accurate) set him right, “Don’t say that. Do what I tell you. I am with you.” What more can we ask for? We laity should hear the same words from the same God when we exclaim, “I am only laity.”
Methodist teaching is plain, “The witness of the laity, their Christ-like examples of everyday living as well as sharing their own faith experiences of the gospel, is the primary evangelistic ministry through which all people will come to know Christ and The United Methodist Church will fulfill its mission.” – UMC Book of Discipline, ¶127
We laity are the Church, the body of Christ, empowered to carry on the business of our heavenly Father and live lives as directed by the Holy Spirit without excuses for our sufficiency. Christ says we are up to it. Why second guess him? You go laity!