Daily Digest – June 2, 2021Annual Conference 2021

Daily Digest – June 2, 2021
Annual Conference 2021


The Rev. Melanie Laureen Tubbs is ordained as an elder in full connection during the 2021 Arkansas Annual Conference.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

The 2021 Arkansas Annual Conference commenced its first-ever hybrid event today, June 2, 2021, with clergy and lay members from around the Conference joining together for the first time since May 2019.

The Conference was held this year as a hybrid event to better protect members and visitors from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Although many in our Conference have received vaccinations for COVID-19, Conference leadership decided it was safer to give people the option to either attend in-person at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or virtually through Zoom in the comfort of their homes or offices.

bishop mueller

Bishop Gary Mueller preaches a message during the ordination service.

Business Session

The first business session of the Conference consisted of mostly procedural votes. Members were given the opportunity to test out their voting devices both in-person and online through Zoom polling. The Annual Conference agenda, as well as the Session Rules, were voted on and both passed by wide margins. The Session Rules were written this year to account for the new hybrid model, and allow for the business of the Conference to proceed both in-person and online.

Members also voted to ratify the business of Annual Conference 2020, which took place entirely online through Zoom. That vote passed by a wide margin as well.

A video greeting from the host city’s churches was also shown, which you can view below.

Due to technical issues with the Zoom video conferencing software that was out of the Annual Conference tech team’s control, the afternoon business session was postponed to later in the week. Important agenda items, including reports from 200,000 More Reasons, Dismantling Racism, the Youth Address, and the Laity Address, will be given either Thursday, June 3 or Friday, June 4. Bishop Mueller’s Episcopal Address will be Thursday morning after morning worship.

Ordination Service

During the Ordination Service, four clergy members were ordained as full elders, and one clergy member was ordained as a deacon in full membership. the Revs. Judy Casbeer Hall, Roy Elizabeth Kelley, Andrew James Suite, and Melanie Laureen Tubbs were ordained as full elders. The Rev. George Hull was ordained as a full deacon.

ordained and commissioned members

Ordained and commissioned elders and deacons sing a hymn together during the ordination service.

Those commissioned as elders were the Revs. Walt Garrett, Hyeong Kwon Jung (Paul), and Ryan Spurlock. Lindsey Nicole Russell was commissioned as a deacon.

Morning worship will start at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. If you are watching from home, be sure to tune into the day’s events on our YouTube page.

Q&A w/ Kelly Murray-NormanSummer Intern with the Center for Communication

Q&A w/ Kelly Murray-Norman
Summer Intern with the Center for Communication

Kelly Murray-Norman

The Center for Communication at the Arkansas Conference is happy to announce our communications intern for summer 2021. Kelly Murray-Norman is currently a student at Hendrix College studying psychology and plans on graduating in 2022. She is from White Hall, Arkansas, and is the daughter of the Rev. Mark Norman and the Rev. Natasha Murray.

Check out her responses below and learn a little bit more about Kelly. Be sure to say hi to Kelly as well if you see her at Annual Conference!

What motivated you to come work at the conference office as an intern?

I was motivated to work for the conference office when I received an email about the internship opportunity. I have attended Annual Conference many times and thought it would be enthralling to work for the event rather than just being in attendance.

What are you most looking forward to working on this summer?

I am most looking forward to working on Annual Conference.

What are your plans for after you graduate?

After I graduate from Hendrix, I plan to take a gap year before attending grad school.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I am not working I like to nap or spend time with my family and friends.

Who is someone that inspires you in your daily life and why?

A person who inspires me in my daily life is Michelle Obama because of her impactful initiatives and how she carries herself as a woman.

Churches Step Up Summer Ministries for KidsFeeding and Literacy Ministries Take Priority for United Methodist Churches in Arkansas

Churches Step Up Summer Ministries for Kids
Feeding and Literacy Ministries Take Priority for United Methodist Churches in Arkansas

blytheville fumc

The Rev. Zach Roberts and a team of volunteers have been partnering with New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Blytheville to make sure kids doing school work at the local library are fed during the weekday. Pictured from left to right are Bill “Big Daddy” Kenner and Beth Roberts. Photo provided by Rev. Zach Roberts.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Summer is often one of the most challenging times for families with school-age children. Meals and learning opportunities for kids are drastically reduced during the summer months when they’re out of school. However, United Methodist Churches around the Arkansas Conference have stepped in to make sure kids of all ages are well-fed and well-read this summer.

Blytheville First UMC recently partnered with their local library in Blytheville to provide free meals to students who spend the majority of their day at the library using the computers for virtual classwork.

“These kids were showing up when the library opened in the morning, they were working and reading … using the library services until they closed, but they were not leaving all day and they were not eating,” said the Rev. Zach Roberts, senior pastor at Blytheville First UMC.

Zach said that his spouse, Beth Roberts, works at the Blytheville Public Library and sees these kids working non-stop on their assignments all day and not eating. He said that Beth was the one who told him about the need to provide food for kids in their community.

“And so what we did is we kind of recognized the cause and we put our heads together a little bit to try to solve it,” Zach said. “But the big solution was that there’s a church across town, a predominantly African-American congregation, called New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. And I was fortunate enough that one of my church members, Bill Kenner, is very connected to the community, and Bill knew about the feeding ministry that New Mount Olive already had going on.”

Zach said that New Mount Olive has an ongoing ministry where they feed the community every day, but because the church is across town from the library, there was no way kids would be able to walk that distance for a meal.

So Zach and Blytheville UMC decided to bring the food to the kids.

“What we offered to do was take the food that was already being prepared at Mount Olive and bring it to the library,” Zach said. “So that these kids have something to eat and can do it in a safe place.”

The volunteers from Blytheville FUMC show up at New Mount Olive at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. The food is bagged up and loaded into cars, and then delivered to the library for lunch.

Zach said that through this feeding partnership, he and the other volunteers at Blytheville FUMC have had good conversations with the members of New Mount Olive, and it’s not only been a way to provide for kids in the community but also to meet new friends and partner with a church that they might not have had the chance to partner with otherwise.

“For a predominantly White church and a predominantly Black church to be working together in that way across social and denominational lines is a great thing,” Zach said.

At Fairview UMC in Camden, the Rev. Kathryn Burchfield and volunteers at her church have found another interesting way to provide meals and learning for kids in their community as well.

“Our summer reading/feeding program is for kindergarten through first-graders in our school district. About 300 students will be getting a fun gift bag, with a very nice cookbook, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, and an apron. The bags will also be filled with food to cook 10 recipes from the cookbook,” Burchfield said.

Fairview UMC’s approach to feeding hungry kids this summer is a two-fold approach, combining both a need to feed them as well as a learning experience where they can have fun while learning to cook.

The cookbook contains 10 recipes and the program is meant to last 10 weeks through the summer.

“We’re going to divide up those five recipes in the first load of food and then midway through summer, give them the rest of the food. They’ll be able to watch the recipe on Google Classroom to observe how it’s done,” she said.

The bags of food and supplies will be delivered to the kindergarteners and first-graders in the last week of school, Burchfield said.

She said the cookbooks were provided to the church for free by the University of Arkansas, and contain both English and Spanish cooking instructions. The items that will be placed in the bag were paid for by a recent 200,000 More Reasons grant that the church received.

Fairview UMC is also collecting gently used books as part of the 200,000 More Reasons Giving Book for Love initiative. Burchfield said they are planning to give away donated books at their food pantry as well as during their Vacation Bible School this summer.

Mary Lewis Dassinger, Project Coordinator for 200,000 More Reasons, said she is excited about the work that both of these churches are doing in their communities.

“Both churches are very creative in combining literacy and feeding ministries, which is what we hope to see. In addition, they are ensuring kids will have healthy foods to eat over the summer when access to food is harder for families who face food insecurity,” Dassinger said.

For both Blytheville FUMC and Fairview UMC, helping kids in their community came about in different ways, but the goal of both churches remains the same: to make sure no child goes hungry or misses out on an educational opportunity.

“I think you could talk to any teacher or educator and know that a child can’t engage their mind and can’t engage with a lesson if their physical needs are not being met. We strongly feel that if they’re not being fed, if they’re not physically nourished, then they are not going to be able to nourish their minds either,” Beth Roberts said.

For more information on how your church can get involved in providing for children in your community, visit arumc.org/our-ministries/200k-more-reasons/.

Filling in the Gaps
A Few Simple Ways to Keep Kids Fed and Enriched this Summer

kid swing

By Rev. Sam Meadors

Community Coordinator, The Delta Project - 200K More Reasons

Summer. It always seems full of possibilities, especially for kids. With the school year done, students can spend time growing and learning in new ways, whether that’s in sports or camps, exploring the outdoors, or traveling. However, summer also comes with challenges for families who are income constrained.

Since 200K More Reasons began, congregations have filled in the gaps for children when school is out of session. The USDA estimates that only 15% of the children who receive free and reduced lunch during the school year receive those same high-quality meals during the summer.

Some of the struggles with feeding children during the summer have been mitigated by the changes brought about by the pandemic. Transportation to and from feeding programs has always been a hindrance for working families. Yet, waivers allow programs to serve meals where children congregate. In certain circumstances, waivers allow parents to pick up meals on their children’s behalf without children needing to be present. Children can also receive multiple meals at one time instead of coming two or three times throughout the day. These opportunities can help eliminate some of the boundaries around keeping children fed over the summer.

Still, it is not just access to food that some students are missing over the summer. Access to summer enrichment opportunities is dependent upon parents’ financial situations. For families who are income constrained, summer opportunities for their children are limited. During the summer, these children and youth have lesser gains—and in some cases losses—than their wealthier classmates. This may mean a decrease in reading aptitude, greater exposure to violence and crime, and further weight gain for those with obesity according to a study for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

Finding ways to address these inequities for children from low-income homes can seem overwhelming. However, it does not have to be. Recognizing that families with children at home during the summer have increased needs, and accommodating those needs with increased child-friendly food at your pantry or blessing box, is a helpful way to start. Providing sack lunches to places where children gather can also address the meal gap.

Schools continue to be the best way to connect to children in need. Check with your local school about their plans to provide meals this summer. See if they can use additional volunteers to help with the program. If they are not a summer meal provider, they may still be able to help connect your feeding ministry to families in need. Make sure to share the dates your pantry is open or the location of your blessing box with counselors and school administrators.

This summer brings the opportunity to do more for children and families, especially considering the challenges of serving the community last summer. Consider providing family fun packs that include books and games for families involved in your feeding ministry. Bring books and fun activities to your local park with a cookout for families and a story hour for kids. Advocate for and partner with summer programs for children in your community like the Boys and Girls Club or the local library.

Access to books is the first step in doing more to support literacy in our community. Bring your church together to construct and install a little lending library to place beside your blessing box. Offer a pop-up book giveaway at a summer festival or farmer’s market to connect to kids and families. Once you get started in literacy ministry, you will want to do more, like plan for a reading camp next summer or a tutoring program in the fall.

Summer should be a time for everyone to have fun. By engaging families with feeding and literacy opportunities, churches can make sure everyone gets to enjoy the summer months.

Southwest District Hires New District Administrator

jodie meyers

The Southwest District of the Arkansas Conference announced today that Jodie Meyers has been hired as the new District Administrator, starting at the end of June.

Meyers will take over the position from Cindy Parker, who has served as the Southwest District Administrator since 2012. Parker plans to retire as District Administrator at the end of June.

Meyers is a graduate of Henderson State University and has worked as an office manager at Arkadelphia Physical Therapy Center since 2012. She and her husband, Brandon, have been married for 20 years, and have a 10-year-old son named Blake.

In her free time, Meyers enjoys watching Blake play baseball, working in her yard, and going fishing with her family.

She will begin working in the District Office with Cindy on June 21.