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.

They’re Just Words – Or Are They?

They’re Just Words – Or Are They?

letters

By Gary E. Mueller

Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference

It seems that almost every United Methodist meeting I attend these days includes the following words and phrases: liminal, asynchronous, actionable, emotional intelligence, nimble, new normal, transparent, and adaptive. In fact, I even use them myself. And while they can be helpful in describing the world in which the church finds itself, I am increasingly convinced we also need to employ the language of faith. The reason is simple. How we talk about something goes a long way in determining what we actually do about it.  

I believe it is time for those who love Jesus as Savior and Lord, those of us who seek to live as his disciples, and those of us who long for God’s will to be just as real on earth as it already is in heaven to inject the language of faith into our lives far more intentionally. I also understand this is a challenge for many of us because we tend to shy away from using faith language, often for very appropriate reasons.   

But if we don’t use the language of faith, we will soon discover our lives being shaped primarily by things other than faith. That’s because faith impacts every single part of our lives all day long. How often we talk about Jesus as Lord and Savior, mention the Kingdom of God, speak about the fullness of grace, or share our commitment to growing deeper in discipleship and living out that discipleship speaks volumes. Quite simply, if these things are an important part of our lives, they should be expressed in the words we use.

There’s one place, in particular, I am convinced using the language of faith will make a significant difference: our quest for racial justice.

Last year, we introduced the phrase, “Dismantling Racism – Building Reconciliation” to describe our work in addressing racism. I was convinced it was clear, to the point, and indicated the work ahead of us. What is more, it focused on more than merely eradicating something horrible. It also talked about replacing it with something good. 

But along the way, I realized some people aren’t interested in addressing racism because they don’t think it’s an issue, at least their issue, or they simply don’t know what to do. As I struggled to deal with this reality, I realized something was missing that is absolutely essential if we are truly serious about addressing racial justice: our Christian faith. So in recent months, I have started talking about our work in a new way, “Dismantling the Sin of Racism – Building God’s Reconciliation.” These additional words that talk about sin and God’s reconciliation dramatically change how we understand what we are facing and give a clearer direction about our ultimate goal. Racism is a sin and the Christian faith offers a way to address that sin. True reconciliation is rooted in Jesus’ ultimate reconciliation through the cross. It is my hope and prayer that being intentional about using our faith vocabulary will help us address racism far more quickly and powerfully than we otherwise would. 

We always walk a fine line as Jesus’ disciples when it comes to employing the language of faith. We never want to be arrogant and we certainly don’t want to act disrespectfully towards others. But we need to include the language of faith in the totality of our lives because we live most fully into our true identity when we acknowledge Whose we are and who we are. That’s why the words we choose every day are so important. Perhaps now more than ever. May we choose words that remind us and others of what we believe about life – both now and for eternity to come. 

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.

Camp Tanako Is a Blessing to Children’s Ministry

Camp Tanako Is a Blessing to Children’s Ministry

camp tanako

By Melinda Shunk

Children's Ministry Coordinator

Where did Jesus teach his disciples? The majority of Jesus’ teachings were outside. Along the lake, on a hilltop, on a dirt trail were the locations of ministry that Jesus chose. Still today, the Holy Spirit works best outside and in nature. Camping ministry is the corner foundation for faith formation in children. It allows a child to be away from the everyday life distractions and places them in peaceful locations surrounded by new friends, beautiful worship, silly songs, caring young adults, outdoor adventures, Bible study, and a small taste of independence.

Camp Tanako is a blessing to the Children’s Ministry in Arkansas because they specialize in elementary-age camping ministry most of the summer. Don’t get me wrong, they have some excellent MAD camp, junior high and high school theme weeks for older kids, but most weeks are designed with your child in mind. The camp also has a short three-night Discovery Camp for first-time kids that are not sure they are ready for a whole week away from home. Tanako is nestled right in Hot Springs, which has plenty of fun things for parents to do if they stay in town while their children try out the three-night option.

tanako overnight

Kayla Hardage is the new camp director, and “Thanks to COVID-19,” she has had an entire year to plan and prepare for your child to come for a week of camp. There are new boats in the lake, 9 square, GaGa ball pits, a renewed mini-golf course, great creative art spaces, mountain bike trails, a well-staffed swimming pool, and a ropes course for those up for a sky-high adventure. There is also a new education director, Matthew Gwinner, who has years of camping ministry experience to share around a s’mores-filled campfire. Kayla and Matthew will be training their staff not only for their summer ministry positions but also for controlling the spread of COVID-19. They have several layers of precautions in place, including mask-wearing and spaced-out bunk beds in large cabins. They will follow all CDC guidelines for a safe summer camping experience.

It is not too late to plan a fun-filled faith formation week for your child. Click on the link to check out their new, updated website and the weeks of camps available. Please also check with your church administration; many times, funds are left by members to finance a child’s experience at camp. If your church doesn’t have a camping scholarship fund, talk to Kayla today, by emailing her at kayla.hardage@tanako.org, on the ways you can quickly create a camping scholarship fund.

I Am A Man

I Am A Man

i am a man

By Rev. Rashim Merriwether

Special Assistant to the Bishop on Ethnic Concerns and Initiatives

“We can disagree and still love each other…unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist”

-James Baldwin

On February 12, 1968, 1,300 black sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike regarding sub-standard working conditions and higher pay. On March 29 of that same year, thousands of people marched in a protest led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, carrying signs which simply read…” I AM A MAN.” Although the context and issue of this strike have been generalized as “union talk,” the placards worn by the countless men of the Memphis sanitation community speak to some deeper foundational inequalities, and disparities that existed then and still exist today. 

Since March 29, 2021, I have watched the court proceedings unfold in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the officer charged in the death of George Floyd. I have watched this process reopen a box filled with pain, anger, anxiety, expectation, and frustration which many of us people of color have been burdened with carrying for so long. With each new event, each new death, each un-inclusive act, the weight of that box gets heavier and heavier to carry. Sadly, like most issues of injustice, the burden has been placed unfairly on the backs of the victim to carry.

As I process and reflect on what my eyes have seen, and my ears have heard, I find that same box getting heavier. As the witnesses testify, the jurors listen, the news agencies report, and people debate on technicalities, I am reminded of the black and white picture, which sits on the window sill of my office. It is there as a reminder to look deeper, understand deeper, know deeper, what are the real issues that exist. Just like the man in the photo, taken during that March 29, 1968 sanitation worker’s protest, there are deeper issues here, written in large, plain, clearly legible words…I AM A MAN.  

As emotions run high, and communities embrace a verdict, understand that there are deeper issues that are represented in this trial. James Baldwin wrote, “We can disagree and still love each other…unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” Regardless of the verdict the deeper issue remains and will continue to exist, as long as people refuse to go deeper. So, I will continue looking at the picture on my window sill, keeping my reality in check, I would only amend the placard to read…I AM HUMAN.

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