Rev. Troy Conrad Speaks on Racism Through History

The Malvern Historical Society, with a grant from the state of Arkansas, recently presented a forum about racism through history. The forum was held on the 100th-anniversary date of the lynching of Malvern resident John Henry Harrison in 1922. Harrison, a black man, was killed by a mob of 200 people on the courthouse steps. The mob was described in the newspapers as “orderly and quiet.”

During the forum, many other examples of lynchings in Arkansas were discussed and the chilling effects they had on black families in the state. Many psychological effects and generational poverty still exist today because of the fear they instilled.

Presenters at the forum included Tom Dillard, a historian specializing in Arkansas History. Mr. Dillard was the Director of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas and continues to write a weekly column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He has been president of both the Arkansas Historical Association and the Arkansas Museums Association.

Dr. Guy Lancaster serves as the editor of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. He is the author of several books on racial violence in Arkansas including, “American Atrocity: the Types of Violence in Lynching.”

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch is the James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Professor of History and Dean of the Graduate School at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She is the author of many articles and books including, “Crossing the Line: Women and Interracial Activism.”

Nathaniel Mitchell is a lifelong resident of Malvern and an expert in African American history in Hot Spring County. His latest project was compiling a digital collection of obituaries for African American people for the last 100 years.

Dr. Michael Washington is the Founder and Director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Washington has led many workshops and seminars all over the world to help dismantle racism.

Rev. Troy Conrad is an elder in the United Methodist Church and an author for the Conference curriculum, “Having the Conversation.” He is currently finishing his doctorate degree.

Nearly 200 people attended the forum, including many history students at Malvern High School. Participants heard both presentations and held a question and answer session with the panel. For more information about how to get the Bible Study curriculum “Having the Conversation” here.

Bryan Diffee’s Puppet Ministry

Bryan Diffee’s Puppet Ministry

Diane Wright

contributing writer

What began as an elementary school passion has morphed into a ministry for Rev. Bryan Diffee, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Monticello.

“I first became interested in puppetry and ventriloquism at the age of 8 when I would watch Edgar Bergen, Willie Tyler, and Jay Johnson doing ventriloquial routines on television. My parents purchased me a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll from the Sears catalog and I have been hooked ever since,” Diffee said.

From age 8 until high school, Diffee did ventriloquism but put the hobby aside during high school and college. It was after he attended the annual Vent Haven International Ventriloquist’s Convention in Kentucky in 2017 that he became passionate about the art form. According to Diffee, that conference helped him grow in both confidence and performance skills.

Now, Diffee considers ventriloquism a ministry at the church he serves. “As a United Methodist pastor who moves around, ventriloquism has given me a different kind of connection than I would normally have with a community or a particular congregation,” Diffee said. “Ventriloquism has allowed me to connect with people in nursing homes, preschools, libraries, and community events in a way I would not be able to in just my traditional clergy role. I see it as an extension of my pastoral ministry.”

Diffee primarily uses two puppets in church: Eugene, an older man that enjoys life and is most often dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, yellow shorts, and his signature duck slippers. The second most used puppet, and the favorite of all the children, is Ferd the Bird. “He made his first appearance at Vacation Bible School last summer, and now all the children want to know when he is going to fly to church again.”

Brenda Wright, Children’s Minister at FUMC Monticello, says Diffee’s puppets offer a different kind of connection with the church. “The children clearly are invested in this ministry by their keen interest and attentiveness,” she said. “They seem to hold onto every word Bro. Bryan and his puppets say. Parents have shared with us that the children love to talk about what the puppets say to them.”

Although the puppets are primarily for the children, Wright says the puppet ministry brings joy to the children and to the adults. “Joy and laughter bring such hope!”

Diffee agrees. “All adults are just children at heart and laughter is great medicine for the ailments and stressors of life. Proverbs 17:22 says, ‘A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.’ I love the way that God has used this simple art form to connect with, and bring smiles to children, youth, and adults.”

Rogers FUMC Celebrates National Pet Month

Rogers FUMC Celebrates National Pet Month

Caroline Ezell

contributing writer

In honor of National Pet Month, First United Methodist Church of Rogers hosted a ribbon-cutting for the city’s Little Free Pet Pantry.

“The celebration of the little free pet pantry was a delightful surprise movement from the Spirit,” said Reverend Kjorlaug of the First United Methodist Church.

Pet lovers of all walks gathered in Downtown Rogers to celebrate the opening earlier this month. The pet pantry, located in the church’s parking lot, contains free pet food and supplies donated by the community.

The event on May 2 was an opportunity to collect contributions for the pantry and to acknowledge the local Girl Scouts who envisioned the project. The Humane Society was invited to host an adoption pop-up booth at the event. Participating animals included dogs, cats, a lizard, and a chicken.

“It was a great way to engage our community, uplift another non-profit that’s trying to make a difference in the community, and it was a fun occasion to highlight the joy that animals bring into our lives,” Kjorlaug added.

Blessings were offered to all pets in attendance, including the Humane Society’s adoptees, by Reverend Kjorlaug. “Our pets bring so much love and joy into our daily lives, to share in a time of blessing them gives us a great opportunity to celebrate and thank our animals for all they add to our lives,” said Kjorlaug.

Something in Common

I get out around a lot. Thankfully, the pace is picking up again. Not quite to pre-Covid levels, but it’s getting closer. When I’m out and about, I observe people. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, clothing combinations and personalities. But all of them share something in common. They are created in God’s image, they need Jesus and God has some kind of special Kingdom work for them to do. Maybe they know this. Maybe they don’t. But whether they do or not, you do. And maybe God needs you to let someone know it today.

A Sunday Prayer

Lord,

We live in a broken world filled with tortured souls and, too often, seem to be hanging on by a thread. This is reality. And it’s hard. And we despair about it.

But we know this painful reality is only the first word, not the last. There is hope because You love us before we ever know it and keep loving us regardless of what we do. There is hope because You do not ask us to prove our worth, but to trust in Christ for our salvation. There is hope because Your love transforms us from the inside out so that we might grow perfect hearts of love.

May this hope that You offer be our hope. May it overshadow all the brokenness in our lives and our world. May it bring us the abundant life You promise in Jesus.

We pray this in his strong name.

Amen.