Church spends a Sunday serving neighbors

Members of Greenwood United Methodist Church were blessed with a bright, sunny Sabbath on April 23 as they gathered for their second annual Arms Around Greenwood day of service. More than 200 met at the Ed Wilkinson Pavilion in Greenwood’s Bell Park, sharing a meal before the Rev. John Embrey delivered the day’s message from the fifth chapter of Luke. Just as Christ sent forth his disciples to be fishers of people, Embrey challenged Greenwood UMC members to make Greenwood their mission field with small acts of kindness through personal relationships. Smiling faces and eager spirits were abundant as GUMC began its day of service, which included: Delivering handcrafted lap throws and quilts to nursing home residents Performing household chores for the elderly and homebound Assembling packages of needed personal items and small blankets for new foster parents and children new to foster care Mowing and trimming the lawn at the Old Jail Museum and some neighbors’ homes, cleaning and landscaping at the church’s historic Harper House and clearing trails at Greenwood Lake Giving the church’s neighbors gifts of potted plants with invitations to worship Placing appreciation signs in schoolteachers’ yards Offering free car washes on Greenwood’s main thoroughfare (pictured above) “Paying it forward” by placing quarters in laundry washing machines, buying lunches at fast food restaurants, loading groceries for people in store parking lots and paying for gasoline at service stations Assembling boxes of homemade cookies for city Street Department employees and police officers, as well as Sebastian County Sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical first responders Filling “birthday bags” with items needed to celebrate a birthday to be distributed to Greenwood UMC Food Bank recipients Rebuilding a rock wall at a local cemetery Collecting dog toys for the Humane Society and a local veterinarian’s practice. After completing their acts of service, participants returned to the pavilion to enjoy faith-based films and fellowship, along with popcorn and drinks. Event leaders were amazed by the enthusiasm displayed as Greenwood UMC carried out its mission to love God, love others and to make a difference. —submitted by Jan...

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‘Holy Hikers’ group explores northwest Arkansas with a spiritual focus

By Amy Forbus Editor Round Top Mountain in Jasper. Eden’s Falls and Hide-Out Hollow along the Buffalo National River. Hawksbill Crag, Kings River Falls, Lake Leatherwood, Glory Hole, White Rock, Triple Falls. The Swinging Bridge near Oark. The Holy Hikers of First United Methodist Church Eureka Springs have visited them all, exploring Creation and deepening their walk with God as they walk the trails on monthly hikes. A time of table fellowship at a restaurant near the day’s chosen hike caps off each excursion. “Holy Hikers does entail a tad bit of holiness and a great deal of adventure and fellowship; for some reason they just can’t get used to my offensive driving I learned in Iraq, but it’s fun to watch the older crowd squeal in delight as we bound over bumps in the road looking for the next trail,” said the Rev. Blake Lasater, a former military chaplain and current pastor of First UMC Eureka Springs. “We usually take 15 to 20 folks, and many outside the church are now joining us,” he said. “They range in age from 8 to 83.” One recent highlight: the group hiked to Kings River Falls for the baptism of Tom Marler, a 70-year-old U.S. Army veteran “with a new heart—spiritually and physically,” Lasater said. Palm Sunday’s hike featured Hawksbill Crag as the destination, and incorporated the Stations of the Cross as drawn from a Celtic ritual Lasater discovered during a visit to Scotland. As the weather gets warmer, the Holy Hikers plan to continue their monthly outings, but perhaps with a new activity, Lasater said. “We are going to switch to kayaking in the spring and see where all that takes...

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UMC Council of Bishops calls Special Session of General Conference for 2019

The Council of Bishops (COB) has called a Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held Feb. 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. In announcing the call, COB president Bishop Bruce R. Ough said the Special Session will be held in accordance with Division Two, Section II, Article II of the church’s constitution, as recorded in Paragraph 14 of The Book of Discipline (2016). The purpose of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference will be “limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.” The 32-member commission was appointed by the COB to assist the bishops in their charge to lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality. The commission’s task includes examining paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and exploring options to strengthen the unity of the church. Per the Constitution of the Church, the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference shall be composed of the delegates to the 2016 General Conference or their legal successors or alternates, except when a particular annual conference or missionary conference shall prefer to have a new election. The secretary of the General Conference will communicate with annual conference secretaries regarding updated delegate information, seating of reserve delegates, and the issuance of new certificates of election for annual conferences choosing to hold new elections. The Commission on the General Conference and the business manager of the General Conference will develop and forward additional information regarding the logistics of the special session of General Conference at the appropriate time. “The Council of Bishops encourages the entire church to continue in deep, unceasing prayer for Holy Spirit breakthroughs for the Commission on a Way Forward and the Special Session of General Conference,” Ough...

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Bishop Vashti McKenzie in Little Rock for Raney Preaching Series

Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church’s T.J. and Inez Raney Preaching Series in early April welcomed Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie as its 2017 guest. McKenzie serves as the presiding prelate of the 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church; in 2000, she became the first woman to be elected and consecrated as bishop in that denomination. Her latest book, The Big Deal of Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God, will be available this month. McKenzie preached the evening of April 1 on speaking truth to power, with 1 Corinthians 14:8 as her guiding Scripture. During 11:00 worship the next day, after reading from Mark 5:21-34 and 1 Peter 4:12-13, she preached on God’s power to create sudden and powerful change. Like the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, we all have hope for a divinely driven turnaround. “No matter how deep the water or the depth of the muck and mire of politics, no matter, there is nothing impossible with God,” she said. “No matter how tense the environment, there is nothing impossible with God. No matter how crazy the situation in our digital landscape that steals more of our personal privacy every day, there is nothing impossible with God.” McKenzie pointed out that we should never give up hope for an answer or solution from God. “This woman demonstrates to us that we should never give up too soon,” she said. “That’s what 1 Peter tells us: Don’t jump to conclusions that Jesus is too busy to come see about you, or that you can’t ever reach out to the Lord. Isn’t that what Peter said, friends, when life gets difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Don’t be fooled. God is still at work. You may not be able to see it, but God is working behind the scenes of your life with glory just around the corner. Maybe, just maybe, what you can’t change is really meant to change you.… Maybe you’re waiting on God, but maybe God is waiting on...

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UMFA sponsors pre-retirement seminar for clergy

Nearly four dozen pastors age 58 or over, as well as some of their spouses, on April 3 and 4 participated in a pre-retirement seminar sponsored by the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA). “As people retire, they have many productive years left,” said the Rev. Mackey Yokem, UMFA grants administrator who also works on leadership development ministries for the foundation. “Our goal with the seminar was to help pastors and their spouses determine how best to apply their time, wisdom, and creative ideas to the 15 to 20 years after retirement. The foundation’s desire is to help clergy be effective leaders throughout their life, and this seminar brought ideas about how best to apply their passions after the appointment process is over.” Both clergy members and spouses responded positively to the seminar. “I do so want to thank the foundation for its investment in this well-thought-out session,” wrote the Rev. Maxine Allen of Little Rock. “You know that I go to a lot of meetings, and it was well worth the time and effort of attendance.” Keith Lawrence, a nationally recognized retirement authority and author of Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement, provided timely and easy-to-use hints about how to deal with retirement even before it starts. Judy Mattox of Rogers, wife of the Rev. Dr. Michael Mattox, characterized the presentation as surprisingly enlightening, entertaining, and dynamic. “I particularly enjoyed Keith’s idea that couples should write their separate bucket lists and then get together for a combined bucket list,” she said. “Michael and I were working on ours before we got home from the meeting.” Another speaker at the seminar was Bob Christophel of WesPath (formerly the UMC General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits) who presented retirement facts and figures and demonstrated how to complete necessary forms for retirement benefits. He was available for private consultation so participants could ask questions about their accounts. UMFA vice president for development Janet Marshall also made a presentation, speaking about the resources the foundation can provide to help with creating a will and making charitable gift decisions. Jim Argue Jr., UMFA president and CEO, said that adding Yokem, a retired pastor, to the UMFA staff this past year has brought a new perspective to UMFA. “Mackey’s years as a pastor in the Arkansas Conference have allowed us to develop new relationships, expand possibilities and add opportunities for outreach, taking grant-making and leadership development to a new level,” he said. UMFA manages $145 million in endowment funds and other charitable assets that benefit local churches and other United Methodist ministries. Founded in 1963 and now one of the largest United Methodist foundations in the country, UMFA is responsible for more than 750 funds that support United Methodist...

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