Women Have Shaped My Life

Women Have Shaped My Life

mother child

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

This month, people from all over the world are celebrating the many inspirational and powerful women who have shaped their lives.

March is Women’s History Month, and just like Black History Month before it, we shouldn’t only celebrate it once a year. However, it is certainly nice to have a whole month dedicated to groups that don’t always receive the attention they undoubtedly deserve.

The first Women’s History event happened in 1982 as Women’s History Week. It later expanded to include the entire month of March in 1987 after the United States Congress passed a resolution declaring it a national month-long celebration.

If many of us sit and think about it, it’s easy to recall names of women who have impacted our lives in profound and immeasurable ways. It could be a famous “first,” like the first woman in space, the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize or the first woman Vice President of the United States. It could also be someone much closer to our hearts, like our mother, grandmother, aunt, or guardian.

As I think about the women who have impacted and shaped my own life, I realize that the women I admire the most come from both historical figures and the women closest to me in my family.

I think about my grandmothers, on both sides of the family, who have taught me about the importance of having a strong and steady faith, as well as the value of being an independent thinker.

I think about my mother, who always encouraged me to pursue the things that made me happy and recognized early on that writing was not only something I was good at but something I could turn into a fulfilling career as well.

Powerful women throughout history also come to mind, like Ida B. Wells, a journalist and civil rights activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through the power of pen and paper, she exposed the horrors of Jim Crow-era lynchings across the American South, and went on to be one of the co-founders of the NAACP in 1909. Her investigative journalism work inspires me to always seek out the truth, even if that truth makes some people uncomfortable.

I also think of Christian writers, like Rachel Held Evans, whose raw and vulnerable accounts of her faith transformation have taught me to explore my faith in new and different ways. Evans tragically died in 2019, but her books are ones that I’m sure I will return to time and time again throughout my life.

And I of course cannot ignore the impact of seeing Vice President Kamala Harris become the first female vice president in U.S. history, and knowing that many little girls will grow up understanding that it’s possible — and not only that, necessary — for them to do great things as well.

Women’s History Month is about celebrating powerful, courageous women who have impacted not only our lives but the lives of countless people across the globe.

Remember to celebrate the important women in your life, not just in March, but every day of the year.

Following in Your Children’s FootstepsDeLano family pursues pastoring from different pathways

Following in Your Children’s Footsteps
DeLano family pursues pastoring from different pathways

kris, lauren, steve

Left to right: Kris, Lauren and Steve DeLano at Lauren’s ordination in 2016.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Legacy clergy families are something that we’re quite used to in the church. There are countless examples of the children of clergy, or their children’s children, deciding to enter into the family trade and become the pastor of a church, just like generations of family members before them.

It’s not often that you hear about the parent of a clergy member deciding to follow in the footsteps of their child, but for Steve and Lauren DeLano, that’s exactly what happened.

The Rev. Lauren DeLano has been a pastor in the Arkansas Conference since 2016, serving her first appointment as the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church Conway, before moving to a senior pastor appointment in the summer of 2020 at Vilonia United Methodist Church.

“I grew up going to Central United Methodist in Fayetteville and I was always looking for opportunities to be in leadership and serve. So as soon as I could be a Vacation Bible School leader in middle school, I was doing that. That later led me to lead a small group of 7th-grade girls when I was a senior in high school,” Lauren said.

Lauren said she never thought about life as a pastor leading a church until she attended her higher education at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. There, she met two people who influenced her life and led her on the path to becoming an ordained elder in the church.

“I met Rev. J.J. Whitney and Rev. Wayne Clark, who were the associate chaplain and chaplain at the time. I was at Hendrix, and we were having a lot of conversations about vocation and calling,” Lauren said. “It had never occurred to me to think about being a pastor or how people became pastors. I’d never seen a female pastor in leadership in the church until J.J., so she was super influential in my call story.”

Conversations with Whitney lead Lauren to answer a call to ministry and attend her seminary education at Boston University, where she graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2016.

Lauren said she originally went to seminary to become a youth pastor but decided quickly to change that path when she realized she didn’t have the patience for youth ministry.

“So I moved beyond being a youth pastor and began to love sacraments and love serving people of all ages. And my ministry wouldn’t be as full as it was without people of all ages.”

lauren delano

Like most seminary educations, Lauren’s studies at Boston University involved numerous research projects and papers, and she found herself turning to the best editor she’s ever had to proofread her papers, her father.

“I was really proud when I found out that Lauren wanted to pursue ministry. I remember being very humbled because God was calling my daughter to serve Him,” Steve said. “And then when she started asking me to help her proofread her papers, that’s where my interest in ministry really grew.”

Steve and Lauren said that through Lauren’s seminary work, they were able to have conversations on theological and social justice issues that they had never discussed in detail before then.

“And then my son, Matt DeLano, ended up deciding to go to seminary as well and is now a pastor in the Church of Christ church. So I had something like six straight years of having a child in divinity school and assisting them in their work how I could,” Steve said.

Steve said that his wife, Kris, sometimes looks like the odd one out in the family now, since she’s the only one in the DeLano family he hasn’t pursued a career in ministry.

“But a big part of this story is her mother — and my wife, Kris — who has been an encourager and supporter of all of us throughout.”

steve delano

Lauren said that by having her father proofread her papers, she was able to see new perspectives and ideas that she wouldn’t have otherwise considered. And now, as a pastor, Lauren continues to have her dad proofread her work, but this time it’s for Sunday morning sermons.

“That, I think, has been really helpful because he and I vary on our beliefs theologically, socially, and politically. And so it’s helpful for me to have a different lens reading my sermon so that when I’m preaching to my congregation, who’s not all like me, who might be more like my dad, that I get a different perspective. He’ll point out things like ‘you know, you said this thing here, but that might not be true for all people or some people might hear that in a way you’re not intending.’ And so it’s really helpful to have his lens, to give me more to think about and to challenge me when I’m preaching,” Lauren said.

Steve’s journey to the pulpit happened not only because of his conversations with his daughter and his son but through circumstances in his line of work that were outside of his control

Steve and his wife, Kris, moved from Arkansas to Wisconsin in 2015. The company that Steve worked for provided a great opportunity for him in the Midwest and Steve said he couldn’t turn down the offer.

However, in 2019, Steve’s position was eliminated at his job, and it appeared he was at a crossroads in life.

“I took that as a sign that it was time to move on and pursue a career of discernment, whatever that meant, and it eventually led me to pursue a career in serving others and God. It led me to be a licensed local pastor,” Steve said.

lauren steve football

Lauren and Steve attending a college football game together.

The Rev. Steve DeLano became a licensed local pastor in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and currently serves as the pastor at Mayville UMC in Mayville, Wisconsin, where he was appointed in July 2020.

Steve said that all the years of reading Lauren’s papers and sermons really helped him to strengthen his theology and sort of get a head start when it came to receiving his local pastor license.

He also credits Lauren’s sermons as a reason that his perspective on certain issues has changed, specifically when it came to social justice issues.

“Probably the biggest impact that Lauren has made on me, though, is really on social justice issues, because I grew up as a conservative Kansan, and now I’m much more moderate in my thinking. She’s been able to share experiences with me that I haven’t had, and that’s really been able to shape me,” Steve said. “And it’s really fun to be able to look to her as my friend and colleague, not just my daughter because usually, it’s the other way around where you’re calling up your parents for advice.”

Steve said that although he really loves being a pastor at his church, he doesn’t think full-time ministry as an elder is in the future for him. He eventually wants to be able to retire with his wife, and settle someplace warm, like Arkansas or Texas.

Lauren, on the other hand, is now approaching her first year as the senior pastor at Vilonia UMC. There are many more years ahead for her career as a pastor, but she’s certain that she’ll continue to reach out to her dad for advice on a new sermon she’s writing or to get a new perspective on an idea that’s floating around in her head.

“I don’t think we’re really that different from each other. Ultimately, our goal is the same: finding the best way to love and care for people.”

Hot Springs First Opens Gym for People Seeking Shelter from Cold

Hot Springs First Opens Gym for People Seeking Shelter from Cold

gym

The gym inside Hot Spring First’s Christian Life Center has been setup as a temporary refuge for those seeking shelter from the frigid temperatures this week. Photo courtesy of Cindy English and Hot Springs First UMC.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Arkansas is experiencing the biggest winter weather event in years, with snow accumulations topping 12 inches in some areas, and temperatures dropping into the negative digits. With the harsh winter weather comes an increased risk for people without a home or without a sufficient way to warm their homes, but Hot Springs First United Methodist Church has opened up a warming center to make sure those who need hot food and a warm shelter are taken care of this week.

The Rev. Bill Sardin, associate pastor at Hot Springs First, said that his church was contacted by the American Red Cross of Hot Springs early last week about opening up their church building to shelter people from the frigid weather.

The gym in the church’s Christian Life Center is functioning as the temporary shelter and warming center.

The Rev. JJ Galloway, senior pastor at Hot Springs First, said that the Red Cross is providing much of the supplies needed.

“The Red Cross provides cots, blankets, food and water, crates for small animals, wonderful volunteers to stay with the guests, along with security for the church,” Galloway said.

Hot meals at breakfast and dinner time have been offered to guests, and volunteers from both Hot Springs First UMC and St. James Episcopal Church are working to make sure guests are fed and clothed.

Additionally, shower facilities and snacks are available to everyone. Sardin said that guests are welcome to come and go as they please, and many choose to leave during the day and come back at night.

They’ve also found time to make the shelter not just a safe place for people, but an inviting and comfortable environment as well.

“In the evening time, we turn on the projectors and play movies to provide some entertainment,” Sardin said.

On Sunday, Feb. 14, the church also had the opportunity to share their worship service with the people gathered in the gym.

“Our guests were invited to stay for the livestream broadcast of our contemporary worship service which is held in our Christian Life Center each Sunday at 10:45 a.m. All guests stayed, some reclining on their cots, and others intently listening,” Galloway said.

“Not long into the service, the WiFi went out, but Rev. Bill Sardin continued to preach and interact with our guests, along with our ConneXion Praise and Worship Band. At the end of the service, Holy Communion was offered to each person. Several special prayers were shared with our guests, including a prayer for the Red Cross team. It was truly a holy morning in an ordinary worship setting that turned out to be anything but ordinary.”

Sardin said they plan on continuing to provide a place for people to stay until the weather warms up above freezing temperature, which according to local weather reports, may not happen until the weekend on Feb. 20 or 21.

“The first two general rules are: Do no harm and Do all the good you can whenever and wherever you can. We have a facility that can offer warmth and safety. If we did not offer this shelter not only would we be failing to do good but we would also be doing harm,” Sardin said.

Rev. Galloway added that the church’s prime location, at the intersection of Grand and Central Avenues, makes it vital for them to continue this mission during the frigid weather.

“In opening our Christian Life Center this week to our friends and neighbors, we open our hands to be the hands of Christ during this dangerous time of sub-zero temperatures. First United Methodist Church is truly blessed to be a blessing and we look forward to living out that blessing in our community now and in the years to come,” Galloway said.

If you are seeking shelter from the cold weather this week, Hot Springs First UMC is located at 2350 Central Ave in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Churches Move Ash Wednesday Services OnlineAsh Packs and Lent Kits are the norm in ongoing pandemic

Churches Move Ash Wednesday Services Online
Ash Packs and Lent Kits are the norm in ongoing pandemic

lent kit

Lent Kit from Elm Springs UMC.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Ash Wednesday is the annual day of remembrance that kicks off the Lenten season, and while many churches are celebrating the traditional imposition of ashes differently this year, churches around the Arkansas Conference have not slowed down their commitment to recognizing this important day.

Traditionally, Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent and the six weeks before Easter. It’s a time of repentance and moderation.

According to UMC.org, Ash Wednesday asks Christians to reflect on two themes, “our sinfulness before God and our human mortality,” and the way that Christ has conquered both for us through his death and resurrection.

Churches from every corner of the Arkansas Conference are taking more precautions this year in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, while still emphasizing the importance of this centuries-old day of self-reflection.

“Normally, an Ash Wednesday service is conducted in which participants receive the ashes. However, in the interest of safety, we opted to prepare ashes to be provided to families on Sunday, the 14th, just ahead of Ash Wednesday,” said the Rev. Jemmie Reynolds, senior pastor at Mayflower UMC.

Mayflower is including a daily devotional book called “The Sanctuary for Lent 2021” in their take-home kits, as well as instructions and information on the Lenten season.

At Elm Springs UMC, the Rev. Jennie Williams is taking a similar approach with her church’s own take-home Lent Kit.

The kits will include ashes for self-imposition (the traditional placing of ashes on the forehead), as well as a weekly devotional book, “Lent in Plain Sight” by Jill Duffield.

“In light of COVID, we are taking the first rule of Methodism, Do No Harm, very seriously, so we have chosen to alter our Ash Wednesday plans to make a way to observe the beginning of Lent in a safe and meaningful way,” Williams said.

They will also have a virtual service on their Facebook Page at 7 a.m. on Facebook and YouTube.

devotional guide

A devotional guide from Mayflower UMC, part of their Lent Kit.

Reynolds said the decision to move Mayflower’s Ash Wednesday service to a safe, at-home experience was made for the wellbeing of the congregation.

“I have personally conducted one funeral for a dear friend who was infected. The threat is very real. Members and families of members have been affected … There are so just too many unanswered questions to ignore the situation. In the words of a wise man, ‘Do no harm. Do good. And stay in love with God.’”

The Center for Disease Control and Arkansas Conference guidelines for COVID-19 have led churches to conduct alternative worship services throughout the pandemic, with many choosing virtual or parking lot worship services instead of in-person gatherings. But for a service that requires more physical contact and close proximity than guidelines allow, churches needed to shift to a more individualized approach to Ash Wednesday.

St. Jame United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff decided to create take-home kits as well, but have also made the decision to take their service virtual this year.

“Rev. Samantha Meadors and I wanted to create a service that would be meaningful and contemplative,” said the Rev. Natasha Murray, senior pastor at St. James. “We will gather for our Ash Wednesday observance on Zoom that evening and go through the items that create a kind of sensory station that will connect us during our time together as we contemplate the meaning of Lent.”

St. James’s Ash Wednesday boxes will include a burlap cross that participants will use as a reminder of their journey during the 40 days of Lent. It will also contain crackers, a nail, and ashes mixed with oil for them to place on themselves and their loved ones in their bubble. Clay and frankincense resin that congregants can burn are also included in the boxes.

The Rev. Russell Hull, senior pastor at Star City First UMC, is also conducting a virtual service on Ash Wednesday, but will also have a variety of events to serve every comfort level.

“At 6 a.m. I will lead a Facebook Live option. People can either make their own ashes or pick up an ash-pack at Worship on Sunday morning or at the office Monday or Tuesday. From 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. we will offer a drive-through option at the church. The ash-packs will be available but will include a printed devotion. And at 6 p.m. we will offer a more traditional style in-person gathering. The ash-packs will be used here as well, with self-imposition of ashes,” Hull said.

burlap cross

A burlap cross, one of the items included in St. James UMC Pine Bluff’s Ash Wednesday box.

For each of these pastors, reflection and repentance, as well as the hope for a better future, is at the forefront of their minds.

“Lent, and Ash Wednesday in particular, is an opportunity for each of us to confront our own mortality and brokenness, while still remembering that we bear the Imago Dei, the image of God,” said Williams. “My prayer is that we spend this Lent in self-denial and in reflection on the journey of Christ to the cross, and on our own journeys of faith.”

Reynolds said that he has seen the challenges of the pandemic firsthand, but also knows that there is a lot to learn from the struggles.

“This pandemic has created challenges to normal in house worship. But isolation has also pushed families together … The Lord has always had a way of using the most difficult situations to create new life. We are beginning to see how risk may have opened a window for revival. We are praying for revival.”

Ash Wednesday is Feb. 17, and the Arkansas Conference is also offering a virtual worship service for any clergy member that wants to join. Bishop Gary Mueller will lead the service on Facebook, starting at 8 a.m. More details can be found on our Facebook Page. 

Simple + Sweet Creamery Fights Childhood Hunger With Handmade Artisan Ice Cream

Simple + Sweet Creamery Fights Childhood Hunger With Handmade Artisan Ice Cream

simple and sweet creamery

Left to right, Coleman Warren and Tanner Green of Simple + Sweet Creamery, an artisanal ice cream business in Northwest Arkansas seeking to end childhood hunger.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

What if an ice cream shop could also serve as a way to feed hungry and food-insecure children in Arkansas? That’s the driving force behind Northwest Arkansas’ newest artisanal ice cream shop, Simple + Sweet Creamery.

In 2019, Coleman Warren, Simple + Sweet’s co-founder, was serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Omaha, Nebraska. Warren and his girlfriend, Bailee King, were helping to serve upwards of 600 kids a day at a large food bank in the Omaha area called the Food Bank for the Heartland. Warren’s role was to not only serve the kids food but get them engaged in extracurricular, fun activities as well. It’s an experience that he says totally changed his life.

“I remember very specific instances where I just had this wave of realization about how privileged I am. And how privileged a lot of people that I surround myself with are,” Warren said. “And so when I got back to Arkansas, I was so inspired. I wanted to start a nonprofit. I wanted to contribute somehow to these efforts to feed kids.”

Warren knew he wanted to contribute to feeding hungry children in his home state, but hadn’t yet figured out how to do it. But then he remembered something that he experienced in Omaha that he had never had in his native Northwest Arkansas: really, really good artisanal ice cream.

“Where I’m from, we have some ice cream places, sure, but they are nothing like these places in Omaha. They were different somehow. And I just got the idea to do that in Arkansas,” Warren said.

Ice cream couldn’t be the only reason to start a business, however.

“I thought, ‘what’s the point in starting this ice cream business if it had no purpose?’ And so, I was in one of my statistics class at the University of Arkansas where I go to school, and I had the thought ‘what if the ice cream store was an economic engine for this nonprofit that helps fight food insecurity?’”

Warren, who is a 20-year-old junior studying industrial engineering and political science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, partnered up with his childhood friend Tanner Green, as well as King, and found a way to jump into a brand new food business with a nonprofit mission.

Green is the chief operating officer for Simple + Sweet. King is the creative director and is responsible for building the messaging and imagery associated with the company.

Simple + Sweet currently sells 11 main flavors, with more flavors coming soon. Each flavor is handcrafted using natural ingredients that are locally sourced. Whenever someone buys a pint of ice cream from Simple + Sweet, more than 50% of the price of the pint goes toward fighting hunger in Arkansas. The money is donated to nonprofits in the area, like the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.

They’ve also used money from pint sales to donate to food pantries run by school districts in the area, like the Farmington School District.

“The role that food and food scarcity plays in a child’s life is enormous, very impactful, and can make all the difference in a healthy childhood,” King said. “Simple + Sweet wants to find a way, a system, that will allow the community around us to buy an amazing product and be able to help someone in need, in return.”

honey bun ice cream

Honey + Butter ice cream from Simple + Sweet Creamery. 

Warren said the team had help from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center to craft a viable business plan, and managed to snag some ice cream making know-how from an ice cream shop in Mammoth Springs called The Spring Dipper.

“The owner of the shop, Neil McWilliams, taught us how to make just, I mean, just amazing ice cream. I don’t know how else to say it, you just have to try it. It is just so good,” Warren said.

After crafting a few flavors, Warren sampled the ice cream out to probably the best testing group you could get for ice cream: college students. But just when they were getting started with testing and feedback, COVID hit in March 2020.

Not deterred by the shutdown, Warren and his team decided to take a chance and sell the ice cream they had made with The Spring Dipper online to see what would happen. Within 24 hours of putting it up on the internet, they sold out.

“After that, I was like, ‘Okay, how do we keep this going?’ I remember in July, I thought that we just weren’t going to do it. I was like, OK, this just isn’t happening, we don’t have the equipment to do it,’” Warren said. “And I was talking on the phone with Neil at Spring Dipper about finding equipment and how expensive it was, and right when I got off the phone, I saw an ice cream machine listed on eBay for an amazing deal, and I bought it right then. It’s one of those things that has to be a God thing. It just felt like a sign.”

Warren’s connection to the church is also a big motivation for Simple + Sweet’s mission to continue in Arkansas.

“My family has been attending the Farmington United Methodist Church for as long as I can remember,” Warren said. “I got the chance to start playing drums for worship when I was only 7 years old, and then in 2020, I got the opportunity to lead the worship team at Farmington.

“It’s such an amazing congregation there, and they really show that they care about you and want to see you grow as an individual.”

honey lavender

Honey + Lavender ice cream from Simple + Sweet Creamery.

The Rev. Charles “Dee” Harper is the senior pastor at Farmington UMC and said that he has really loved getting to know not only Coleman but Bailee as well.

“Coleman is someone who I am blessed to work with. He is mature beyond his age, spiritually growing, caring of others, and he has a drive and energy that I admire greatly,” Harper said. “We are so blessed as a church to have these two young people in our congregation. I am excited about how God will use both of them in the future.”

Warren said that if it wasn’t for the influence of his church and the leaders in it who shaped his worldview, Simple + Sweet might never have happened.

“I’ve always been taught to contribute to whatever you’re a part of and contribute to a high level. Farmington UMC taught me what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be Christ-like. And that’s caring for your neighbor. That’s having a sense of community. And that’s giving yourself to something bigger than yourself,” Warren said.

Harper said that he thinks the future for Simple + Sweet is bright, and the work they are doing is vital to the life of the church.

“I believe not only our future but our present will be shaped by businesses, nonprofits, and churches who champion interactive and new ways of building relationships and support in their communities. I think Simple + Sweet has the potential to be one of those types of organizations. They make a delicious product, are building a supportive online community around it, and they are working to help fight hunger,” Harper said.

Warren and his team are currently working on new seasonal flavors, as well as a low sugar option and a dairy-free option. One of their upcoming flavors for Valentine’s Day is a chocolate-covered strawberry ice cream.

For more information on Simple + Sweet, and to try some of their artisanal ice creams, visit https://simple-sweet.com/. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram at @simplesweetcreamery.