Statement by Bishop Gary E. Mueller Regarding Churches Being Classified as “Essential”

A little less than an hour ago, President Trump declared that he deems churches and houses of worship ‘essential’. He called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend. The President’s statement changes nothing about the guidance I have offered up to this point. We are in the process of reopening, but must do it carefully and in stages so no more lives are lost.

I have provided a timeline of dates that I highly urge you to follow, especially since we have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in Arkansas in the past week. I also have indicated that I expect all United Methodist Churches to treat Governor Hutchinson’s excellent guidance that he issued on May 4 as a directive. This means that any churches opening at any time must be able to fully comply with this guidance. If they cannot do so, it is not time to open yet. If someone tests positive for COVID and has attended any event in any church, that congregation needs to cease in-person activities until it can safely do so again.

The Arkansas Annual Conference has excellent resources available on the Conference Website at arumc.org/covid19. It provides new updates and webinars on a weekly basis. What is more, in partnership with the Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, the Conference is making PPE masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant available to every church early in June. It is a difficult time. But I have great hope for the future because Arkansan United Methodists are people of deep faith, who will continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

Every Day Signs of Hope

There’s a lot of bad news these days. But if you take the time to look, you will see multiple signs of everyday hope. Churches that move their feeding ministries outside so they can keep serving those in need. People confronting those who refuse to wear PPE masks. Congregations that embrace technology to keep in touch with members and engage new people with the Gospel. Medical personnel who risk their lives on the front lines to care for those who are hurting, those who keep the supply chain working and grocery store employees who work long hours so people have food. Parents who work, homeschool and keep their kids healthy. Yes, you can see lots of signs of everyday hope all around you. And if you look closely enough, you’ll also see God in every single one of them. 

Methodist Foundation, Arkansas Methodists Announce PPE Grant PartnershipNearly $60,000 Will Be Used To Keep Congregations Safe When Gathered

Methodist Foundation, Arkansas Methodists Announce PPE Grant Partnership
Nearly $60,000 Will Be Used To Keep Congregations Safe When Gathered

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (May 20, 2020) – Standing in front of a large shipment of newly purchased personal protective equipment, Bishop Gary Mueller and Methodist Foundation for Arkansas President and CEO J. Wayne Clark announced a grant that will allow all 635 churches across the Arkansas Conference to gather together safely once again.

This is the first grant that the Methodist Foundation has ever presented that affects every local church in the Conference.

Rev. J. Wayne Clark, President and CEO of the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas

Rev. Wayne Clark shared, “I am grateful the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas can help every United Methodist church in Arkansas get back to a healthy environment to worship. With the standards in place for every church to provide facemasks and hand sanitizer before they open for in-person worship, finding these supplies can be challenging,” stated Rev. WayClark.

Clark added, “A special thank you goes out to the Arkansas Conference who will purchase and distribute these supplies to all the churches. Our Methodist forefathers and foremothers who deeply loved the church, have made it possible for the Foundation to ‘pay it forward.’”

This grant will provide local churches with the necessary equipment to keep everyone safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and face masks will be distributed to all 635 United Methodist Churches in Arkansas over the next few weeks.

Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference 

Bishop Gary Mueller, who is on the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force shared how thankful he is for these grants.

“We are doing everything we can do to equip our local churches to open their doors for in-person events when the timing is right. We have provided our own guidance tools that reflect the guidelines from the CDC, Governor Hutchinson’s office and the Arkansas Department for Health. Without this grant from the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas, many of our churches would not be able to secure the appropriate supplies needed to open their doors. We are extremely grateful.”

200,000 Reasons Receives $10,000 Grant 

In addition, the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas has announced the awarding of a $10,000 grant to 200,000 Reasons, the Arkansas Conference initiative to end childhood hunger in the state.

Through this grant, 200,000 Reasons is offering grants of up to $1,000 for food and meal distribution ministries that are finding a greater demand for food during the pandemic. In addition, the grant award can be used to provide safety items to clients of a UMC feeding ministry, including masks, supplies to make masks, hand sanitizer, and/or other disinfectant items as well as print resources about COVID-19 and safety measures.

To apply for the grant, visit https://arumc.wufoo.com/forms/feeding-ministries-response-to-covid19-grants/. The deadline for grant applications is May 31. Additional questions can be sent to Mary Lewis Dassinger, Project Coordinator of 200,000 Reasons at mdassinger@arumc.org.

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The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is one of the 54 annual conferences that make up the United Methodist Church in the United States. Founded in 2003, the Conference, as part of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, is responsible for coordinating more than 600 United Methodist churches and over 300 clergy throughout Arkansas to fulfill its trajectory “to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.” The Conference also supports a number of United Methodist-affiliated ministries in the state of Arkansas. For more information, visit arumc.org.

Fox & Foal Draw on Methodist Roots for Folk-Inspired WorshipBrook Hobbs and Dave Williams are ready to share their songs with the world

Fox & Foal Draw on Methodist Roots for Folk-Inspired Worship
Brook Hobbs and Dave Williams are ready to share their songs with the world

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a struggle for everyone. The entire world, every industry, has been touched by this highly contagious, unseen enemy.

It’s not just pastors and churches that have struggled to find ways to connect to their once bustling and vibrant communities; musicians have really taken a hit as well.

But that hasn’t stopped Brooke Hobbs and David Williams from doing what makes them happy. Through their folk-inspired worship band Fox & Foal, the two young musicians are taking what they’ve learned from growing up in Arkansas United Methodist Churches and applying the message of the Gospel to the uplifting music they create.

“It’s been very tricky, especially for new artists like us. A lot of our gigs have been canceled, which we’re grateful for and appreciate. We totally support the idea to ‘Do no harm,’” said Hobbs, vocalist for Fox & Foal. “But we know that, like, every season. God is with us even in this hard time. And so we’re just trying to be faithful.”

Faith has been a big part of the duo’s lives, going back all the way to their time spent in youth groups.

Hobbs attended Mountainside UMC in Hot Springs Village and said that she was really active in the Arkansas Conference growing up, participating in CCYM meetings and activities almost every year of high school. She also had the opportunity to travel as a delegate to the Global Young People’s Convocation for two years, at their meeting in Manila, Philippines in 2014 and Johannesburg, South Africa in 2018.

“I really want to thank the Arkansas Conference for equipping young people and really nurturing ACCYM. I think that being a part of ACCYM really set the tone for my entire faith walk.”

Williams, vocalist and guitarist for the band, said he grew up as a youth kid at Central UMC – Fayetteville and spent a lot of time playing worship music in the youth worship teams all the way through high school.

That foundation of faith led the two to become involved at their college’s Wesley Foundation at The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

In 2015, Williams was leading worship at the U of A Wesley College Ministry. Hobbs, a sophomore at the time, was a vocalist on the worship team as well. Their time spent playing music together lead to a growing friendship and partnership.

After the 2015 – 16 school year, Williams got a job leading worship at Genesis Church, a ministry of Central, and brought Hobbs on with him to help lead worship. Soon, the two began writing their own songs together.

The name Fox & Foal comes from an origin of faith as well, according to Williams.

“The fox represents human nature, and how we’re prone to wander away from Christ. While the foal represents Christ himself and His desire to meet with us. And so the fox and foal is the union of the people of God with the presence of God, which is the goal when we lead worship,” Williams explained.

Their hobby quickly turned into something much bigger when they attended a conference in the summer of 2019 in Nashville hosted by the Gospel Music Association. The GMA is most well-known for hosting the annual Dove Awards; basically, the Grammy Awards of the Christian music world.

The conference offered a chance for up-and-coming musicians to submit a music demo to their Demo Derby. Hobbs said their song “What Other Love” was pulled out of the demo submissions and was played before a panel of judges.

“We thought it was going to be a really intense moment where they were going to critique us really hard, but they played our demo in front of this panel and they really loved it. And that was really encouraging for us,” Hobbs said.

The two said after the conference, they were able to connect with a few people from the panel. One of them was John J. Thompson, a Nashville music producer who has worked with faith-based musicians and artists all over the world.

Thompson connected them with Stephen Leiweke of Yackland Recording Studio as a co-producer. Leiweke has worked with an array of big-name artists, including Jars of Clay, Lauren Daigle, Ingrid Michaelson, Chris Tomlin, and Michael W. Smith.

Through working with Thompson and Leiweke, Fox & Foal recorded and released three singles, with two more songs planned for release this summer. All of their music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube.

Although the pandemic has limited the way that Fox & Foal are able to share their music, they have been able to stay connected with people through their YouTube channel and through worship livestreaming events that they’re grateful to have been a part of.

“We put out a couple of worship sets on Facebook to our fans, and we did a virtual worship with First UMC in Fort Smith. We’ve tried to put some videos out as well to just kind of encourage people day-to-day,” Williams said. “For me personally, I wake up one day and feel great and feel encouraged. And then the next day, you know, I feel like the exact opposite, almost. So I know it’s good to have that daily encouragement or a weekly encouragement. So, we’re finding ways, like almost any artist now. But it’s definitely tough.”

To help churches with their worship services during the pandemic, Fox & Foal have offered churches the opportunity to use any of their songs, free of charge, during their services. Hobbs said they want to help smaller churches — who might not have the resources to have a live worship band or pay copyright fees for songs — have the opportunity to play worship music if they choose to do so.

For any church interested, visit www.foxandfoalmusic.com/resources for videos of their songs, as well as chord charts for musicians.

Although the future of the world might seem uncertain right now, Hobbs and Williams aren’t letting that slow down their plans, even if they can’t yet see what’s in store for Fox & Foal.

“I can’t visibly see the future. And that’s kind of a hard thing for me to do because I’m a major planner, but I’m just trying to take every part of this process in. And I know that even though we’re kind of in a hard spot right now, God is still working through us, and I just don’t want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit and the plan that God has for us,” Hobbs said.

“And so we just want to be faithful in the moment of where we are and be present to this entire process.”

To hear more from Fox & Foal and to stay connected with what they’re currently working on, visit www.foxandfoalmusic.com. You can also follow them on social media, @foxandfoalmusic.

God Unsticks Your Sticky Past

It’s a brand new day. But you’re still the same old you. What is more, you bring all the pain and uncertainty of the Covid experience with you. Try as you might, you often get so weary carrying this past that you don’t make it very far on the journey to your new future. That’s because the past can be like cat hair. It sticks to you, and you just can’t shake it off. But God can through God’s healing love. Sure, you’ll have to deal with memories and, perhaps, consequences of the past. But when God says it’s over, it’s really over. So if you’re ready to experience what God can do today – even in the midst of Covid-19 – all you have to do is stick yourself to God who will unstick you from your past.