Blessing Box to serve Humnoke area

Rhonda Parker standing in Humnoke UMC behind the Blessing Box Ron Grigsby built and some of the donated food.

By Rev. Larry LeMasters

Humnoke United Methodist Church, under the guidance of Rhonda Parker, the church pianist, has built a “Blessing Box” that will be permanently installed on the grounds of the church as soon as weather permits.

Parker stated, “It has been too cold and rainy. Rain collects here in Humnoke, turning the soil into watery mud, so we have to wait until spring, when the soil is firm enough to hold a foundation, before erecting the box.”

Completion of the Blessing Box marks nearly a two-year mission for Parker. “We could never have completed this project,” Parker said, “without the help of Brother Ron Grigsby, who is a member of the First UMC in Bearden, and who graciously offered to build us a Blessing Box for free.” We asked God for help, and He sent us Ron. What a blessing!

Along with easy-to-open food containers and hygiene items, Bibles will be offered to anyone in need of food, cleanliness, or the Word of God. “We’re praying,” Parker added, “that our box will provide some of God’s children with hope.”

Humnoke’s goal is to have the Blessing Box in the ground and “Open for Business” by Sunday, March 14.  “We’ve already collected food, so now we need to get the box up and running,” Parker said.

Humnoke UMC is a small church, by comparison, but it strives to uplift Christian values to all of God’s children by following Jesus’ one simple command, “Feed my people.” A Blessing Box, donated food, and a leader like Rhonda Parker all help in the struggle to feed God’s children.

Rev. Dr. Andrew Zirschky, Adam Hamilton and Perkins Faculty to Lead 2019 Perkins Theological School for the Laity

DALLAS (SMU) – The 2019 Perkins Theological School for the Laity, a three-day event focusing on the Bible, theology, and spirituality is set for March 28-30 on the Southern Methodist University campus. A free evening lecture will feature the Rev. Dr. Andrew Zirschky, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Youth Ministry at Memphis Theological Seminary.

The lecture – Beyond the Moth Myth: Social Media, Youth, and Why the Church is Missing the Point – is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. Dr. Zirschky has 20 years of ministry experience as a youth and college minister at churches in Idaho, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has been named a Timothy Scholar by the United Methodist Foundation for Evangelism based upon his research emphasis in youth and young adult ministry.

“This annual event is a highlight for learning from and engaging with nationally recognized presenters from the Perkins faculty and beyond,” said Priscilla Pope-Levison, Associate Dean for External Programs at Perkins.

Bart Patton, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Education at Perkins, will lead the opening worship service at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 28. Music for the service will be under the direction of Dr. Marcell Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music degree program at Perkins.

Throughout the event, four members of the Perkins School of Theology faculty, Perkins alumnus Adam Hamilton and Dr. Zirschky will conduct full and half-day courses. They include:

  • Adam Hamilton – The Future of a Diverse Church (Thursday afternoon)
  • Dr. Evelyn Parker – Intersecting Oppressions: Race, Class, Gender, Sex, and Immigration and Statelessness (Thursday afternoon)
  • Dr. Roy Heller – Abraham’s Righteousness: Stories about What is Most Important in Religion (Friday)
  • Dr. Andrew Zirschky – Communion Beyond Connection: The Ministry of Presence in a Lonely Age (Friday)
  • Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles – The Fabric of Faith: Learning from the Women of the New Testament (Saturday)
  • Dr. Mark Stamm – Exploring God’s Call to Prayer: Scripture and Tradition, Along with Plenty of Experience and Imagination (Saturday)

Additionally, the recipient of the 2019 Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award will be recognized by Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill during the opening worship service in Perkins Chapel on Thursday, March 28. The 2019 awardee is John Esquivel, member of First United Methodist Church, Houston. Read the full release here.

More registration information for Perkins Theological School of the Laity is available online. Advanced discounted registration ends Thursday, March 21, and first-time attendees can receive a $25 discount for a full-day course by using the code NEW when registering. Also, continuing education credits will be provided for a $15 fee.


Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Pastoral Music as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Deadline Approaching for Ethnic In-Service Training Grant Proposals

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 12, 2019 — Applications are now available for the annual Ethnic In-Service Training (EIST) grants administered by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). As the leadership development agency for The United Methodist Church, GBHEM is committed to raising up new leaders from diverse backgrounds. Funds awarded through the EIST grant are an important part of that mission.

EIST grants are awarded in sums up to $10,000 and are given to programs designed to bolster recruitment, training and retention of ethnic persons for leadership positions at every level of the church and its ministry. GBHEM encourages grant proposals for partnerships and collaborative efforts in campus ministry, chaplaincy and institutions of higher education and general agencies. The agency also considers applications for innovative programs in ministry areas such as children’s homes, retirement homes, camping and retreat centers, and hospitals.

For example, past EIST grant recipients include Freedom Schools, a Virginia Annual Conference clergywomen’s retreat and a project planned by the United Methodist Native American Caucus.

Funds for the EIST grant come from a portion of the World Communion Sunday offerings allocated to GBHEM by The United Methodist Church. Application and eligibility information is available here. For additional information, contact GBHEM by email at or by phone at (615)340-7378.

The application deadline is March 8 and prospective applicants will need to create a profile to apply through the ISTS Portal. EIST recipients will receive notice and funding in June.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.


Rev. John Fleming appointed as Northeast District Superintendent, Chief Mission Strategist

Rev. John Fleming, newly appointed Northeast District Superintendent and Chief Mission Strategist

Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church announced today the appointment of the Rev. John Fleming as the Northeast District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist, effective July 1, 2019.

Announced previously, the Rev. J.J. Galloway, District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist for the Northeast District, will be appointed as the District Superintendent/Mission Strategist for the Southwest District, upon the retirement of the Rev. Rodney Steele.

“It is with great joy that we welcome John to this appointment. He will continue to use his gifts to lead God’s people toward the mission and vision of the church. I hope you will join in celebration not only for his ministry but also the vital ministries already being done in the Northeast district,” Bishop Mueller shared.

Fleming has served as the senior pastor of Paragould First United Methodist Church since 2013. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee, and his Master of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Fleming is currently serving as the Vice-Chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Chairperson of the Northeast District Leadership Team. He has also served as Chair of the Residency Committee on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and has received the Barnabas Award (given to those who encourage young pastors).

In addition, Fleming is a member of the Board of Directors at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, the Rotary Club of Paragould, and Chair of the Arkansas Methodist Medical Center Foundation.

Galloway stated, “I have known John for almost 20 years, and I am thrilled he will be the next District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist of the Northeast District. Through his work as Chair of the Northeast District Leadership Team and Vice-Chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, John is well acquainted with the churches and clergy of the district. The Northeast District will have a great leader and friend in Rev. John Fleming.”

Fleming is married to Susie Fleming, and they have two daughters, Annie Grace (17) and Julie Ann (12). He is an avid baseball fan, and his favorite team is the Atlanta Braves. John enjoys running, movies, spending time with his family and friends, serving in pastoral leadership, and traveling when possible.

Tackling Clergy Debt: Applications Open for High-Impact Clergy Scholarship

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 7, 2019 — Many people preparing for United Methodist ordination are daunted by the high price tag associated with their education, and mounting debt can be a barrier to answering God’s call to serve. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, is continuing a proven scholarship and financial literacy program that not only eases the burden of educational debt for prospective clergy, but also helps them plot a stable financial future.

Working with Wespath Benefits and Investments, United Methodist annual conferences and foundations, and the 13 United Methodist seminaries and schools of theology, GBHEM is proud to renew the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship for the third year in a row. The project is funded in part by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

The scholarship is designed to help entering United Methodist clergy avoid excessive educational loan debt, minimize financial stress and build financial acumen. In addition to receiving direct funding, scholarship awardees also must complete a financial wellness curriculum offered through EY Financial Planning Services. The training teaches long-term financial planning tactics, including ways to avoid debt and prepare for retirement.

“The financial literacy program has helped me particularly in regard to just talking about financial plans,” said Ian Bailey, a scholarship recipient and master of divinity student at Duke Divinity School. “My wife and I discuss finances frequently but getting a third party involved is always a blessing. Working with EY has helped my family to strategically construct a map for our financial goals. Just as well-thought-out travel plans aid us in enjoying ourselves in new places, the financial advisers provided for through the scholarship aid seminary students in enjoying the fruit of good stewardship.”

In a recent GBHEM study of recipients like Bailey, more than 90 percent reported that the scholarship had eased the financial burden of their educational pursuits and reduced their overall education debt. Participants’ responses indicate that collectively, they avoided $760,000 in additional debt that they would have incurred without the required financial wellness training.

These positive outcomes benefit not only individual clergy but the church as a whole. Many previous scholarship recipients reported that lowering their debt and increasing their financial literacy helped them to focus on their ministry.

GBHEM is now accepting applications for the 2019 scholarships. Applicants must be full-time master of divinity students attending one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries or schools of theology. They must also be certified candidates or pursuing certified candidacy for ministry (elder or deacon) in The United Methodist Church. Awards are based on merit, leadership capacity and financial need.

The application deadline is March 7. Individual award amounts range from $2,500 to $12,500 and recipients will be notified by July 2019. Applicants must create an account through International Tuition and Scholarship Services, Inc. Directions for account creation and application submission are available here.

For a full list of this scholarship’s funding partners, click here.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

Contact Information:
Katie Tait, Office of Marketing and Communications
Office: (615) 340-7382

Arkansas Conference clergy attend Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum in D.C.

Arkansas Conference clergy attend Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum in D.C.

Two Arkansas Annual Conference clergy members recently had the opportunity to attend the General Board of Church and Society’s Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Lauren DeLano, Conway First UMC, and the Rev. Jennie Williams, Highland Valley UMC, joined a group of 50 young clergy from around the world in a forum that helped connect clergy with the mission of GBCS and provide a gathering to share knowledge and experience across Conferences.

“We were with young UMC clergy from all over the world,” Williams said. “GBCS is the advocacy arm of the UMC and this forum gave us facts and tools for how to be pastoral and prophetic as we think about advocacy and activism.”

Left to right: Rev. Jennie Williams and Rev. Lauren DeLano stand outside of the historic United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C.

The forum, which took place Jan. 27 – 30 on Capitol Hill, hosted speakers from inside and outside the United Methodist Church, including author and activist Shane Claiborne, Director of Communications for the Council of Bishops Maidstone Mulenga, and U.S. Senate Chaplain the Rev. Brian Black.

“As we talked about the opportunities for advocacy and solidarity with those in need, I was able to reflect on the ways my local congregation cares for those in our community,” DeLano said. “And the ways we can continue to grow as we not only serve those in our community but intentionally come alongside them as they offer us resources and gifts, too.”

One of the topics of the forum was gun violence prevention. The clergy heard stories of gun violence from laity, gun violence prevention organizers and clergy. The group was then asked to “put faith into action” and were encouraged to visit the Senate Building on Capitol Hill and meet with U.S. Senators about gun violence prevention.

Williams and DeLano were able to meet with U.S. Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) legislative assistant and said the experience allowed them to have an open dialogue about how their faith informs their views on advocacy.

“As we had this conversation, I learned that being politically engaged doesn’t mean needing to have all the answers or to be an expert on a topic, it just requires the courage to have conversation, knowing that we might not all agree or change minds, but can seek to understand people of different viewpoints a little more fully,” DeLano said.

Williams and DeLano had the chance to visit with U.S. Senator John Boozman’s legislative assistant about various topics, including gun violence prevention.

The General Board of Church and Society is the advocacy arm of the United Methodist Church. Its headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., in the historic United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.

According to the 2016 Book of Discipline, the GBCS’s purpose is to “seek to bring the whole of human life, activities, possessions, use of resources, and community and world relationships into conformity with the will of God. It shall show the members of the Church and the society that the reconciliation that God effected through Christ involves personal, social, and civic righteousness.” (¶ 1002)

DeLano said the forum encouraged her to think deeply about her own experiences engaging in her local community, including her state legislature and others that who are justice-minded.

She also felt a conviction to be more courageous in her faith in places that are outside the walls of the church.

“Building relationships and knowing our communities is the basis of much of the work GBCS does. It is also what Christ calls us to, as we trust in him; to be faithful is to move beyond our comfort zones, the boundaries we set for ourselves, and the ideas and expectations we have of who Jesus is and who Jesus is for.”

For more info on the General Board of Church and Society and their mission, visit