Geyer Springs UMC Honored at 2021 Empty Bowls Event

Geyer Springs UMC Honored at 2021 Empty Bowls Event

geyer springs umc

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

As the pandemic raged on in 2020, United Methodist Churches across our conference stepped up to fill the gaps in food security that families and individuals were experiencing in Arkansas. Because of Geyer Springs United Methodist Church’s strong commitment to fighting food insecurity last year, they will be honored at this year’s Empty Bowls event.

Empty Bowls is an annual fundraising event put on by the Arkansas Foodbank. It’s currently in its 19th year, and each year, honorees who have shown initiative and commitment to helping end hunger in Arkansas are honored at the in-person celebration.

Typically, plates of food are prepared by Little Rock’s finest restaurants and chefs and sold to attendees at a sitdown event to raise money for the Foodbank, but because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will be a drive-thru experience.

According to the Arkansas Foodbank, 40 million pounds of food were distributed across its 33-county region in Arkansas in 2020. 

Connie Bledsoe, Agency Relations Director at the Arkansas Foodbank, said Geyer Springs UMC played a big role in that distribution number, and the church found success largely by employing the help of youth volunteers from their Southwest Little Rock community.

“At the onset of COVID-19, many of the pantry volunteers at Geyer Springs UMC were seniors categorized as a vulnerable population. In an effort to keep their elderly members safe, the church engaged its youth membership to take on leading the pantry. The pantry would have had to close down if it hadn’t been for the young people in the congregation to keep the pantry going. They serve almost 200 families a month.”

To put it simply, according to the Foodbank, Geyer Springs UMC never stopped serving during COVID.

empty bowls logo

The Rev. Danita Waller-Paige leads Geyer Springs UMC as part of the Southwest Little Rock Ministry Partnership, which also includes Saint Andrew UMC. Her congregation is situated in a diverse neighborhood and brings together people from all walks of life; young, old, male, female, Black, white, and Latinx.

Waller-Paige said she was amazed at the way her church stepped up during the pandemic to help feed not only her community but other communities around the Conference.

“We have touched people’s hearts by letting them become aware of our community’s great need during the pandemic. They responded by sending donations like I have never seen before. So we have been able to give food to 30% more people than usual,” Waller-Paige said.

The Geyer Springs UMC food pantry is open from 12 – 2 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month. Waller-Paige said they received grants from many different organizations last year that helped keep the pantry going, including Walmart, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the AR Hunger Alliance, the AR Foodbank, the Central District of the AR Methodist Conference, and The Little Rock Meet and Greet Club.

“Pastor Waller-Paige is an amazing pastor and leader,” Bledsoe said. “She leads two congregations in Southwest Little Rock both of which host regular food pantries.”

Waller-Paige said she is grateful for the award from the Arkansas Foodbank and is happy that the pantry has been such a blessing to not only her community but the people who volunteer to serve their community, too.

“We are humbled and appreciative of this extreme honor. It was unexpected but we all are honored!” Waller-Paige said.

Empty Bowls will take place from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m on May 7 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. Attendees will be able to pick up takeout containers of food from their car. Live entertainment will also be on display for people to enjoy from the comfort of their cars.

To purchase tickets, visit the Empty Bowls website. A virtual auction will also take place here.

There Is No Planet BNet-Zero Emissions Is Admirable, but More Can Be Done

There Is No Planet B
Net-Zero Emissions Is Admirable, but More Can Be Done

one world

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

In a recent statement, 11 General Agencies of The United Methodist Church pledged to achieve net-zero emissions across ministries, facilities, operations, and investments by the year 2050.

The pledge, “Our Climate Commitment to Net-Zero Emissions,” is signed by General Secretaries for each of the 11 Agencies. Two of the Agencies, The General Commission on Religion & Race and The United Methodist Publishing House, have not yet signed on to the pledge, but a press release stated that other Agencies were actively considering endorsing the statement.

The press release for this pledge was sent out on Earth Day, April 22, no doubt chosen as a symbolic date where people across the globe pledge to be better stewards of the Earth in various ways, such as recycling, reducing waste, planting trees, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and, yes, achieving a net-zero emissions goal.

You might be wondering what net-zero emissions means, and how it fits into the global fight against climate change. To put it simply, countries and organizations that pledge net-zero emissions will attempt to balance the number of greenhouse gases released by the amount taken out, therefore adding no additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The signees cite strong Biblical reasoning for why all of us should be good stewards of our planet — “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.” Genesis 2:15 — as well as Charles and John Wesley’s own words on the sacredness of nature and God’s creation.

United Methodists know the importance of taking care of our planet. In 2009, the Council of Bishops released a challenge for our Church, called God’s Renewed Creation: A Call to Hope and Action, that urged all United Methodists to seek ways in which we can care for God’s creation in a more sustainable and Holy way.

I applaud these General Agencies for taking a firm stance on protecting the planet from the greenhouse gases and carbon emissions that have rapidly warmed our planet to its hottest temperatures in history and caused massive climate change disasters around the world.

These climate events, caused in large part by human activity, have been identified by world leaders and climate scientists around the world as the biggest threat our planet has ever faced. It’s why nations all over the world, including the United States, have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with some countries going even further to achieve this by 2030.

In our Conference office, we have taken small steps to reduce our waste and impact on the environment as well, with cardboard, plastic, and aluminum recycling bins available for people to reduce and reuse their waste.

But I know, as do many others, that it’s still not enough. More needs to be done, and I hope that we see new policies implemented in our Conference office and in churches across our connection, to reduce the harmful impact of human waste on our environment.

Despite this historic pledge by our General Agencies and nations across the globe, I also know that many scientists and climate activists have warned that achieving net-zero emissions does not yet go far enough to save our planet from an impending climate emergency. It’s not enough simply to offset greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere; there must also be pledges to reduce and remove the harmful gases that are already destroying our planet.

Planting more trees, switching to renewable energy sources, recycling and reusing our waste, reducing meat and dairy consumption, investing in new ways to plant and harvest produce, and keeping our waterways, forests and the air clear of pollutants are just a few of the ways we can reduce the harm to our planet and invest in our future.

But I have faith that with more world leaders, businesses, and individuals taking action to reduce our human impact on the planet, we will very soon be able to say that we saved our sacred planet from a climate disaster. As I’ve heard it said many times before, there is no “Planet B.” We have one shot to save the planet that God gave us. Let’s do it together.

2021 Arkansas Conference Ordinands and Provisional Members

2021 Arkansas Conference Ordinands and Provisional Members

The 2021 Ordinands and Provisional Members will be ordained and commissioned at this year’s Annual Conference. Read about this year’s candidates below, and make plans to attend this year’s Ordination Service, either in-person or online, at the 2021 Arkansas Annual Conference, June 2-4 in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

2021 Ordinands

Elder, Full Membership

Judy Hall

Judy Casbeer Hall

Elder Track

Hometown:
New Blaine, Arkansas

Education:
Speech Communication/Journalism, University of Houston

Master of Divinity, Phillips Theological Seminary

Current Appointment:
Paris/Magazine/Waveland UMCs

Roy Elizabeth Kelley

Elder Track

Hometown:
Russellville, Arkansas

Education:
B.A. in English, Arkansas Tech University

Juris Doctorate, University of Arkansas School of Law

Master of Divinity, United Theological Seminary

Current Appointment:
Fort Smith First UMC

Future Appointment:
Lakewood UMC

roy beth kelley
andrew suite

Andrew James Suite

Elder Track

Hometown:
Montpelier, Indiana

Education:
Bachelor’s, Ball State University

Master of Divinity, Asbury Theological Seminary

Current Appointment:
Salem UMC, Conway

Melanie Laureen Tubbs

Elder Track

Hometown:
Russellville, Arkansas

Education:
Bachelor of Arts, Arkansas Tech University

Master of Liberal Arts, Arkansas Tech University

Master of Divinity, Iliff School of Theology

Current Appointment:
Augusta/Bald Knob UMCs

melanie tubbs

Deacon, Full Membership

george hull

George Hull

Deacon Track

Hometown:
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Education:
Dip. Th. from the Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Th.M. from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Current Appointment:
Penney Memorial Church and Penney Retirement Community, Penney Farms, Florida

2021 Provisional/Commissioned

Commissioned Elder

walt garrett

Walt Garrett

Elder Track

Hometown:
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Education:
Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science from U.S. Air Force Academy

Master of Divinity, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Current Appointment:
Associate Pastor, FUMC Benton

Hyeong Kwon Jung (Paul)

Elder Track

Hometown:
Hwasun, South Korea

Education:
Bachelor of Theology, Mokwon University

Master of Theology, Mokwon University

Master of Practical Theology, Oral Roberts University

Doctor of Ministry, Oral Roberts University

Current Appointment:
Arkansas Korean Mission UMC

paul

Ryan Spurlock

Elder Track

Hometown:
Woodlawn, Arkansas

Education:
Bachelor of Arts in English, University of Arkansas at Monticello

Master of Divinity, Memphis Theological Seminary

Current Appointment:
Osceola United Methodist Church

Commissioned Deacon

Lindsey Nicole Russell

Deacon Track

Hometown:
Springdale, Arkansas

Education:
Bachelor of Art in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology with minor in Religious Studies, The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Graduating May 22, 2021 with M.A. Intercultural Studies with emphasis in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary 

Current Appointment:
Central UMC – Rogers

lindsey russell
Native American Ministries Sunday Is An Opportunity To Right Past Wrongs

Native American Ministries Sunday Is An Opportunity To Right Past Wrongs

native american

By Rev. Angie Gage

Cherokee, Chairperson of the Arkansas CONAM

The history of the Indigenous Peoples in our United States began long before the settlers first arrived. In 1988, the United Methodist Church realized the importance of remembering the history and presence of Native Americans, as well as the support that is needed within our Native American congregations and ministries throughout the U.S. At the General Conference in 1988, a new Special Sunday was added. That Special Sunday was and still is Native American Ministries Sunday. It is usually celebrated on the third Sunday of Easter but congregations are given the freedom to change that as needed.

People may not understand the importance of this Sunday to those of us who are Native American which includes the Native Hawaiians and Native Alaskans. However, the recognition of our existence is significant to us. It is an acknowledgment of our presence and our contributions, not only to our country but to God through the United Methodist Church.

Many from my family arrived in Arkansas ahead of the forced evacuation referred to as the Trail of Tears. My ancestors, known as the Old Settlers, were promised fertile land in this area as an act of trade and good faith, the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The land was not fertile. However, my ancestors made the most of a bad situation and began the long history of hiding behind the “farmer’s tan” look to not be known as Cherokee. It would become second nature in my family to know who we were but claim to be something other than Cherokee. I come from a long line of proud Cherokee people, including a Peace Chief who died on a tragic mission into Mexico. Along the Trail of Tears, I find parts of my family history in names on signs and stops some would have made.

My family was some of the lucky ones. Families forced to move in 1838 experienced loss that was unbelievable. The acts against Native Americans did not end there. In fact, they continued into the 20th Century, which is surprising to many. Children were being taken away from Native families and forced to be enculturated into a “white way” of life. Children were told that their language was evil, their worship was evil, and their traditions were evil. They were taken from their families, all too often, by a church group. Many atrocities continued against the Native People. The Indian Health Services which was a U.S. Government program, performed sterilizations on Native women to reduce the population. In 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act passed at the close of The 95th United States Congress. Today, there are still cases of forced child removals ending up in court cases.

As one who has had to regain her identity, it is helpful to know that within my faith tradition, we are proud to claim that the 5.2 million Native Americans in the United States are not to be hidden and discarded. I am proud to know that our church recognizes that we are here and wants to contribute to the continuance of Native American churches.

Through giving on Native American Ministries Sunday, our local churches help to provide scholarships to Native American students for their seminary education. The giving supports vital ministries and churches in the Native American communities. Giving on Native American Ministries Sunday gives hope to children and youth, hope for a brighter future in impoverished communities, and a voice to those who have felt voiceless for years. Native American Ministries Sunday gives us an opportunity as the children of God to show that reconciliation for wrongs that happened in the past can happen. Half of the gifts given on Native American Ministries Sunday stays right here in our Conference for the work of the Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM). While the last year has slowed down the work of all aspects of the church, we are still here and working on continued educational opportunities in our Conference and a resource to be published by 2022. We thank you for your continued support of our Native American Christians throughout Arkansas and the United States. If you want to know more about how you can help beyond this Special Sunday, please feel free to contact me at angie.gage@arumc.org.

The Finish Line Is In ViewPandemic Easter Round Two

The Finish Line Is In View
Pandemic Easter Round Two

runner

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

We all remember Easter 2020. Only a month after the first confirmed case of COVID was found in Arkansas, many of our churches were wondering how in the world they were going to be able to safely have their annual Easter celebrations.

We were told various things in those first few weeks of the pandemic: everything is under control, we are beating this virus, we’ll all be able to gather again by the time Easter Sunday comes around.

Unfortunately, most of those early statements were tragically misinformed and naive. Now, one year later, we realize that the pandemic was much bigger than any of us expected it to be.

And yet, our churches did find ways to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in 2020. Some churches had the infrastructure already in place to pivot to virtual worship services; others had to figure it out from scratch. Some churches figured out how to take their worship services outside, or in the parking lot, with cars tuned to specific radio stations to hear the pastor’s message; others gathered outside in small groups to have Bible study.

As Bishop Mueller has mentioned before, and coming from a member of the Conference Center for Communication team, we are so very proud of the way churches stepped out and made sure that Easter wasn’t canceled, but instead, celebrated in a safe and, still, deeply meaningful way.

Now, it’s almost Easter once again. But this year, things are different. This year, we are better prepared for the reality of a scaled-back Easter service. We’re better prepared for live streaming, recorded services, and virtual small group discussions.

This year, we have a vaccine that is stopping the virus from spreading and keeping our friends and loved ones safe from hospitalizations and even death. The sense of relief that another tool to fight the virus brings to every one of us cannot be overstated. It’s like finally seeing the finish line after running the most drawn-out marathon in history.

On the day that this column publishes, it will be Maundy Thursday. As anyone who has celebrated Holy Week can tell you, Maundy Thursday is a day where we remember the Last Supper in Luke chapter 22, when Jesus gathered the disciples together to break bread and drink wine, and give them a final lesson before his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

I can imagine many of the disciples were frightened and uncertain about the future of the world that night. Not only did Jesus let them know that this was his last night with them, but he had also just told them that one of them at the table would betray him that night. Talk about creating an uncomfortable family dinner conversation!

But the story of Holy Week, thankfully, does not end on Maundy Thursday. Just as Jesus and his disciples faced a dark and uncertain future before his crucifixion, we also continue to face a dark and uncertain future when it comes to the pandemic.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can see the finish line — this time, we can be more certain of it — and it’s not too far ahead of us now. Easter follows Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and that should give us all hope in the coming year. I pray that we remember that hope as we finish another unusual, but powerful and inspiring, Easter Sunday.