Recent UMFA grants support preaching, feeding, camping

Eleven Arkansas college students and three leaders attended the Young Preachers Festival July 16-17 at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., thanks to grant funding from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA).

The festival is designed to help young adults discern their calling and inspire them to follow it. Attendees learned from and networked with leading preachers from across the denomination.

“It set a great foundation for my future in preaching—how I want to preach, and what is important in preaching,” said Emily Autry, one of the attendees and a recent high school graduate. “It was also great to get to learn from some of the best preachers of the day. They taught us what it takes to build a great congregation by what we preach.”

The grant covered transportation, lodging and registration for all Arkansans who attended the festival.

“By making an investment in them today, we are creating leaders for our church tomorrow,” said the Rev. Dede Roberts, director of the Arkansas Conference Center for Vitality and one of the pastors who accompanied the young adults to the event.

“This grant request fits right into our emphasis on leadership development,” said Jim Argue Jr., president and CEO of UMFA. “Our Grants Committee is happy to make it possible for college students to explore their calling before they end their undergraduate education.”

Preaching cohort

UMFA also is supporting a second group of pastors from Arkansas in the Preaching Excellence program, a partnership with Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

“UMFA’s support of the Preaching Excellence program is critical and much appreciated as we continue to support pastoral leaders who are ready to learn new skills for communicating the gospel in a rapidly changing culture,” Roberts said.

One cohort of Arkansas preachers already participates in the program, with the Rev. Phil Hathcock as facilitator. The new group will be facilitated by the Rev. Beth Waldrup. The participating preachers have shown effectiveness and commitment to continuing to develop their preaching skills.

This second group includes United Methodist pastors the Revs. Candace Barron, John Embrey, Angie Gage, J.J. Galloway, Michelle Morris and Natasha Murray-Norman, as well as the Revs. Gregory C. Nettles and Alvin Smith of the AME Church.

Mobile food pantry

UMFA awarded a $40,000 grant to fund the purchase of a vehicle for a new mobile food pantry ministry serving students at ASU Beebe, ASU Marked Tree and ASU Newport, along with supplementing a backpack food program for elementary and middle school students in Harrisburg.

This ministry began as a conversation between the Rev. Clark Atkins of First UMC Harrisburg and the Rev. Samantha Meadors of the Arkansas State University Wesley Foundation, about the need for such outreach. Students at two-year colleges are often non-traditional in age and sometimes hold down two or three jobs while they attend school.

“Many of them are just getting by,” Atkins said. “The mobile food pantry can be the initial connection with these students and help foster deeper relationships. We are grateful to UMFA for the grant that will make it possible to transport food to the campuses.”

Pastors at local churches near each of the two-year colleges will be involved, and student volunteers will operate the mobile food pantry. The Northeast District is helping with costs for the first semester of operation.

Aldersgate activities

A $50,000 grant from UMFA is being used to help Camp Aldersgate set up a fund to maintain its soon-to-be-built activity center, where campers can play indoors during rainy or hot weather.

The activity center is being built with a $1 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The camp is halfway toward its goal of $250,000 for the fund to support and maintain the center. “The income from this fund will allow us to maintain the building, purchase equipment and art supplies, as well as help pay salaries for recreational staff,” said CEO Sarah Wacaster.

As one of the largest United Methodist foundations in the country, UMFA manages $135 million in endowment funds and other charitable assets that benefit local churches and other United Methodist ministries.