Arkansas Conference Announces 3 District Superintendent Appointments
Central, Northwest, Southeast Districts Welcome DS's, Starting in July

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church will be starting 2021 off with the announcement of some exciting new leadership changes. Bishop Gary Mueller has appointed new District Superintendents to the Southeast, Central and Northwest Districts. 

The Rev. Edna Morgan has been appointed as the new District Superintendent and Chief Mission Strategist for the Southeast District, and the Rev. Dr. Ulysses “U.C.” Washington has been appointed the new DS and Chief Mission Strategist for the Central District. Morgan will succeed the Rev. Mark Norman, who has served as the DS for the Southeast District since 2013.

In addition, the Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford, who has served as the Central District Superintendent and Chief Mission Strategist since 2018, has been appointed to serve as the DS and Chief Mission Strategist for the Northwest District. Bradford will take over from the Rev. Stephen Coburn who is retiring this year after serving the Northwest District as DS since 2015.

Rev. Edna Morgan, Southeast District Superintendent starting July 1, 2021

Southeast District

In the Southeast District, Rev. Morgan will take over as District Superintendent and Chief Mission Strategist on July 1.

The Rev. Mark Norman is looking forward to the next role he will play in the Arkansas Conference and knows that the Southeast District has been able to accomplish a lot in the time he’s served as DS.

“I’m really proud of the way that our District office has been able to engage the mission field. We’ve focused a lot on engaging with our community through food pantries and church partnerships, and working really closely with 200K Reasons to fight hunger in our district,” Norman said. “We’ve also been blessed to have pastors who come to the Southeast District from other places who have been able to bring their own experiences and energy, and appointments at our churches have been a success in nearly every case.

“To go along with that, cross-racial appointments have made a big impact here. Some of them may have begun with hesitation, but they always end up where the church hates to see their pastor move on to another church. I believe that cross-racial appointments have to be pushed and made a habit in order for us to build the church together.”

Norman has served the Arkansas Conference since 1998. His first appointment was at Wesley Chapel in Little Rock. He then went out to serve at St. Paul UMC in Maumelle, Rossville UMC in the Great Plains Conference, and as an associate pastor at Benton First UMC.

He is married to the Rev. Natasha Murray and they have two children, Kelly, who is studying Psychology at Hendrix, and Mylas, who is studying Art Education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Rev. Norman has served faithfully in the Southeast District for more than eight years, and during that time, the District has grown even stronger and more focused on making disciples for Jesus Christ. I will miss his wise and faithful counsel with which I’ve been blessed for the past eight years, but know Rev. Norman will continue to serve with distinction in his next endeavor,” Bishop Mueller said.

Rev. Morgan received, with honors, her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Hendrix College in 1974; Master’s Degree in Educational Supervision and Administration from Roosevelt University, Chicago, in 1982; Master of Divinity in 2005 from Memphis Theological Seminary; and, after completing Clinical Pastoral Education at JRMC, she was Board Certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains in 2007.

She completed, with honors, a Masters in Counseling at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2014 and received her license as an Associate Counselor in 2019 from the AR Board of Examiners in Counseling.

Morgan received her first appointment in the Arkansas Conference in 2002 as an associate pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff. She later served as the Crime Victim’s Chaplain for the ARUMC from 2006 to 2009, before serving in another associate pastor role at First UMC in Pine Bluff.

Morgan’s last appointment was at Hawley Memorial UMC in Pine Bluff, where she has served since 2016.

“Rev. Morgan has a heart for the Southeast District, as she has served there for 20 years. Her passion for bringing the gospel to the broken has been clear throughout her faithful service in the Arkansas Conference,” said Bishop Mueller.

She accepted Christ as her personal savior at age 12 at the church where she would later serve as pastor, St. James United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff. Her husband, David Morgan, is a retired local pastor in the Arkansas Conference, and together, they established a 501(c)(3) non-profit retreat center, Healing Place Ministries, in 2004 that serves the Pine Bluff community.

“I am looking forward to meeting all of the pastors and laity in the Southeast District. I am grateful to God for this opportunity to lead and assist our District in reaching out to those who are broken, hurt, and lost during these challenging times as we make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Morgan said. “I know it will be exciting and challenging, because of the times in which we live. I am quite fond of this District, where I was nurtured from childhood to adult. It is an honor and privilege to serve with the Body of Christ in the Southeast District.”

Edna has been married to David for 48 years, and they have two daughters, Michelle and Teresa, and four grandchildren, Nathan, Regina, Noah, and Nicole. All of them currently reside in Pine Bluff.

Rev. Mark Norman, current Southeast District Superintendent

Central District

The Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford will be leaving his role as Central District Superintendent and will take over as the Northwest District beginning July 1.

Taking his place in the DS role is the Rev. Dr. U.C. Washington, senior pastor at Highland Valley United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

“I am honored to be asked to serve in this capacity. I do not take lightly that this is an investment of faith in many ways. I can only imagine the many hats one must wear as a District Superintendent/Chief Mission Strategist; however, I will always seek to keep my focus clear,” Washington said.

Washington has been senior pastor at Highland Valley since 2018. Previously, he served appointments at Theresa Hoover Memorial UMC in Little Rock for two and a half years, and Mission UMC in Fort Smith for 13 years.

Before serving as an elder in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Washington was a pastor in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church for 26 years.

“I have spent a lifetime pastoring local congregations, which will certainly be a different step for me. And in many ways, a different step for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. However, I trust the same God in this- that I have trusted across the many years of trying to serve and be of service to God’s people and his kingdom expansion.”

Washington said one of his goals for the Central District is to bring a more diverse group of people into the faith community of the United Methodist Church.

“I believe, and I hope others believe or will come to believe, that our Christian Witness is better realized in a community of diversity. When a wider array of people shapes the work of God’s kingdom efforts together, something special is communicated. This will require intentional efforts, specifically linked to people’s inclusion from diverse walks of life. It has been said, ‘All of humanity is one family, which God desires to unite,’” he said.

Rev. Washington has a Doctorate in Ministry, Pastoral Leadership/Homiletics from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He has been happily married for 44 years to his wife, Mona. Mona is a retired educator. They are the proud parents of two adult sons, Garry and Michael. Pastor Washington enjoys sports, exercise, good movies, history, spending time with family, various music such as gospel, contemporary spirituals, Motown, blues, and country.  

“I am grateful for the spirit of unity through diversity that Rev. Washington brings to the Central District,” Bishop Mueller said. “He has already been an impactful voice in the Arkansas Conference for dismantling racism and we welcome him with great joy.”

Rev. Dr. U.C. Washington, Central District Superintendent starting July 1, 2021.

Northwest District

The Rev. Stephen Coburn has been the District Superintendent for the Northwest District since 2015, and after almost 40 years in ministry, he will retire on July 1.

“Rev. Coburn has served the Northwest District with a mission strategist’s mind and a servant’s heart. I wish him the very best in his retirement. I look forward to seeing his wonderful photography of our beautiful nation, and hope to be able to attend one of his photography shows again soon,” said Bishop Mueller.

Rev. Coburn began his first appointment in 1981, serving as the associate pastor at St. James UMC in Little Rock. His first full-time appointment as a senior pastor was at Bradley UMC. He later served as associate pastor at Fort Smith First, and senior pastor at Maumelle First, Lonoke First, Christ UMC, Cabot, and Springdale First, before being appointed to the Northwest DS position.

He said that two of his biggest achievements as DS was helping to develop the Centerton project with The Vine of NWA. 

“With that project, we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the development of an area, rather than coming in and starting a church in an already developed community. We have the unique opportunity to help define the community there,” Coburn said.

He also cites having a part in appointing a diverse range of pastors to new areas that are “outside of the box.”

“The appointment of young clergy and female clergy and cross-cultural appointments, that’s something that will have a lasting impact on the annual conference,” he said.

But the position of DS is in many ways quite different than leading a church, and Coburn said he’s learned a lot about what it means to lead in a Conference that has a variety of beliefs and ideas.

“You have to learn to lead from the center. Because, in the conference and in the district, we have such a diversity of thought and theological perspective. That even though as a superintendent, each of us may have our own personal positions, it’s important to not let those get in the way of leading. We really have to lead from the center so that we have the ability to speak to everyone and be in relationship with everyone, and not get pulled into a corner and let tribalism take over.”

Rev. Stephen Coburn will be retiring this year.

The Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford, who currently serves as the Central District Superintendent, will be the new Northwest District Superintendent beginning July 1. Bradford said his focus as DS will be to continue building on the work that Coburn and the churches of the Northwest District have already put into motion, while also figuring out what the post-COVID church will look like going forward.

“Rev. Bradford’s tenacity for strategic growth and development will be a huge asset for the fastest growing district in our Conference. I look forward to him continuing to serve as Dean of the Appointive Cabinet. He will be a blessing to all of the churches in the Northwest District,” said Bishop Mueller.

“I think that opportunities will abound to help connect people to each other and connect people to Jesus. People are going to be looking for community, and so the question then is, ‘how can the church respond to the opportunity and the challenge of this moment?’

“You know, COVID has really sped up all these trends in the church. Things that we thought would probably happen in Arkansas and the Northwest District in the next five years are actually happening now. Churches have to respond and connect to a world that is different today than it was before March 2020. I’m humbled to continue as a Superintendent, and I am grateful to Bishop Mueller for the opportunity,” Bradford said.

Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford, Northwest District Superintendent starting July 1, 2021.

As far as taking over the DS appointment from his friend, Bradford said that they will be big shoes to fill, but he’s happy that Coburn is going to be taking some much-needed time off to pursue his other passions, namely photography.

“I got to really know Stephen when we both served on the Board of Ordained Ministry years ago, and I’m excited for him to start a new chapter of his life and wish him a wonderful retirement. I can’t wait to see the great photography that he’s going to do around our country. I’ll be doing my best to follow such a great church leader.”

Coburn said he’s also looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his grandkids. He also has hope for the future of the United Methodist Church.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have served on the cabinet and I look forward to seeing what new life emerges from the church. I have every confidence that the future is hopeful and the gospel will continue to be proclaimed.”

Salem UMC’s Sharing Fridge Provides 24/7 Food Access to Hungry Community

Salem UMC’s Sharing Fridge Provides 24/7 Food Access to Hungry Community

fridge

A volunteer at Salem UMC places donated food inside the Sharing Fridge.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

When we think about feeding people who are in need, we often think of traditional outlets for food distribution, like a food pantry, food bank, or food donation drive. But what if there was a way to get food to people who need it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and cut down on food waste at the same time?

At Salem United Methodist Church in Conway, their Sharing Fridge food ministry is an amazing example of innovation at work, and provides a way for people living around the Conway community to anonymously access the food they need whenever they need it.

“The idea for the Sharing Fridge came from a news article that the former pastor at Salem, the Rev. Todd Vick, had read about a community fridge that was helping hungry people in Spain. He thought it would be a great idea to start at Salem, and he and Teri Moffitt, one of our laity volunteers, launched the Sharing Fridge in spring 2017,” said the Rev. Andrew Suite, senior pastor at Salem UMC.

The Sharing Fridge is an actual working refrigerator that is open 24/7 outside the church, underneath a covered, lighted walkway. Anyone who needs food from the fridge can drive or walk up to the fridge and take what they need from it. There is no need for anyone taking from the fridge to sign any paperwork or make a note of which items they take from the fridge.

Larry Jones, another laity volunteer at Salem, said the food for the fridge comes from a few different places, one of which is a local grocery store. Most of the items they get from the store include bakery items, like donuts, pastries, cakes, pies, and other sweets.

“People really like getting the sweets, especially kids. But as far as protein items go now, like meats, we really depend on restaurants for that,” Jones said.

sharing fridge

The food they receive from restaurants, and some catering places, are mostly items that the restaurant has more than enough of at the end of the workday. If not for the Sharing Fridge, these items would most likely be thrown in the trash instead of going to a hungry person or family.

The Sharing Fridge provides a way to keep fresh food from being wasted. Most items are gone within a day of being placed in the fridge, said Jones, so there’s almost no chance that an item will spoil before it gets into someone’s hands.

“We have volunteers inside and outside of our church who will go to grocery stores and bring back food to donate to the fridge. And some of this food I never even get to see before it’s gone! That’s how needed this ministry is in our community,” Jones said.

Jones also said that one of their biggest volunteers is a guy who lives in his neighborhood but has no connection to the church other than donating food. He said this volunteer just wants to be able to help out his community by donating food.

But for other volunteers, getting involved in the Sharing Fridge has led to them attending Salem and then eventually joining the church.

notes

Over the years, people who have benefited from the Sharing Fridge have left notes to the church to show their appreciation.

“As a pastor, this is just incredible to me. Most people’s vision for ministry follows the funnel strategy. This is where we used to think of the church as a way to get people to come to worship, and then trickle down, and maybe they’ll get involved in discipleship or a small group. And then at the bottom of the funnel, maybe they’ll be serving somewhere,” Suite said. “But I like to think of it as the exact opposite, an inverted funnel, where someone gets involved in a volunteer ministry and then becomes a part of the church family. And that’s exactly what’s happening here.”

And although the pandemic has made it more difficult for volunteers to interact with each other in ministry, it has not slowed down the need for food in their community. Suite said it seems like COVID-19 has sped up the rate at which the food disappears from the fridge, meaning they need more donations now than they have in the past.

Jones and Suite said anyone can donate to the fridge if they have the means to do so, but there are a few items that they don’t accept, such as raw meat, eggs, and other perishable items.

They are also looking for non-food donations to help out their ministry. One of the biggest items they are always in need of is quart-sized plastic storage bags. Most of the food is placed in these bags and a date is written on the outside of them before they are put inside of the fridge. Jones said they are also in need of jars with lids, like glass Mason jars, in order to store soup and other liquid food items.

If you would like to donate either of these items, get in touch with Rev. Andrew Suite at pastor@salemumcconway.org or Larry Jones at joneslarryn@gmail.com.

Suite said that he knows this ministry has been a blessing to not just the community around Salem, but the broader Conway and Central Arkansas community as well, and he hopes that it will continue to be a blessing to the area for many years to come.

“The church, especially during this time, isn’t what happens inside the building. It’s what happens outside the building, especially right outside our building,” Suite said. “So whether or not these people ever darken the door of the church, we want to help them understand that God loves them. And that they can have a home here too. But there are no strings attached to the food, and that’s God’s grace.”

Mabee Foundation Awards $950,000 to Methodist Family Health$950,000 challenge grant will help fund the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center in Little Rock

Mabee Foundation Awards $950,000 to Methodist Family Health
$950,000 challenge grant will help fund the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center in Little Rock

mfh millar center

Methodist Family Health received $950,000 from the Mabee Foundation for the construction of the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center.

LITTLE ROCK, AR (Jan. 19, 2021) – The Mabee Foundation recently awarded $950,000 to Methodist Family Health for construction of the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center. The new center will replace the original chapel on Methodist Family Health’s oldest campus, the Methodist Children’s Home, in Little Rock.

This challenge grant to the Methodist Family Health Foundation for completion of the new center stipulates the nonprofit raise the total project cost of $4,256,175 by October 13, 2021. To date, Methodist Family Health Foundation has $809,000 left to raise.

“This center will include a chapel, multipurpose space, welcome center for the campus, and administrative space for our Methodist Children’s Home administrators,” said Carolyn McCone, CFRE, executive director of the Methodist Family Health Foundation. “We also will include an outdoor labyrinth, new landscaping and enhanced parking to compliment the center.”

Plans for the center include bible studies and spiritual services, such as communion, for the Arkansas children and families Methodist Family Health serves. United Methodist Church groups throughout the state and region generously and continually volunteer to serve at Methodist Family Health, providing worship experiences like music, devotionals, vacation bible school and other spirituality services, and with this new reverent space for worship and spiritual learning, those we serve will continue to connect with the community and feed their spirits in a place where they feel love, peace and hope for their futures.

“Even with our attempts at keeping it structurally repaired, the original chapel has deteriorated to a point where our children are without a dedicated place to worship,” McCone said. “Currently, our faith-based services must be held in our gym or in individual cottages. For some of our children, these services are their first experience for worship and a relationship with God.”

millar center interior

Millar Center interior

In addition to the chapel, the center will provide space for:

  • Methodist Family Health’s best first impression to families and visitors.
  • Training for directors and staff; and
  • Meetings for community partners such as neighborhood associations and community education.

McCone said the Methodist Family Health Foundation is seeking contributions from the community to meet the challenge grant’s requirement so the new center can begin construction. To make a tax-deductible donation, donors can:

  • Text SLC to 501-881-2258.
  • Visit https://www.methodistfamily.org/donate.html and choose “MCH Renovation for chapel or other facility”.
  • Send a cash or check donation to Methodist Family Health Foundation, P.O. Box 56050, Little Rock, Arkansas 72215. Please note SLC on the memo line of your check.
  • Call 501-906-4201 to make a secure donation using your debit or credit card.
  • Contact Carolyn McCone, CFRE, executive director of the Methodist Family Health Foundation at CMcCone@MethodistFamily.org or 501-906-4202 about naming opportunities, questions about the Mike Millar Spiritual Life Center capital campaign, or to make a one-time gift; arrange a yearly, quarterly, monthly or weekly pledge over the course of three years; a gift of stock or funds from an IRA; or any way that works best for you.

ABOUT THE MABEE FOUNDATION

The Mabee Foundation was formed in 1948 by Missouri natives (and Oklahoma residents) John and Lottie Mabee. John, who did not complete high school, and Lottie were hard workers, innovative entrepreneurs, and shrewd investors. Starting with nothing, they built an impressive business and were gracious and generous as they shared their financial blessings with others through various forms of philanthropy. John and Lottie, who had no children, formed the Foundation in 1948 and ultimately both left the bulk of their estates to the Foundation.

Over time, the Foundation began to limit grants to ‘brick and mortar’ projects located in six states: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. John and Lottie Mabee also desired others to give and crafted the foundation ‘challenge’ grants in such a way as to both require and inspire widespread public support. The forward-thinking policies and parameters of John and Lottie Mabee became the catalyst for the exponential raising of more funds from a broad pool of givers for Mabee Foundation grantees. As such, Mabee Foundation Challenge Grants have enabled many organizations to finish projects in a timely fashion and, in the process, to build their bases of support in such a way as to help insure the health of the organizations for the long-term.

The simplicity of the focus of the Mabee Foundation has allowed its grants to impact grantees in significant ways. Mabee Foundation-funded buildings dot the landscape of the six states in which the Foundation operates. Since its inception, the Mabee Foundation has grown to a value of over $1 billion and has made grants totaling over $1.2 billion. The generosity and commitment to wise philanthropy of John and Lottie Mabee continues to inspire others and to enrich the lives of many today, as it has for the last 60 years.

ABOUT METHODIST FAMILY HEALTH

Founded in 1899 as the Arkansas Methodist Orphanage, Methodist Family Health provides the best possible care to those who may need our help. A statewide continuum of care, Methodist Family Health each year serves thousands of Arkansas children and their families who are abused, abandoned, neglected and struggling with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual issues. Methodist Family Health has locations throughout the state, including the Methodist Behavioral Hospital, two residential treatment centers, therapeutic group homes, a day treatment program, outpatient counseling clinics, school-based counseling clinics, a grief center for children and their families, and the Arkansas Center for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES).

Too Many Books? Give Them a New Home Through the Literacy Initiative

Too Many Books? Give Them a New Home Through the Literacy Initiative

books

By Rev. Sam Meadors

Community Coordinator, The Delta Project - 200K More Reasons

Take a moment and locate the closest book to you right now. Maybe it’s on the bookshelf behind you. Perhaps it is in your bag. If you’re an e-book fan, it could even be in your pocket. I’d venture a guess that, if you’re like me, there is a book within 10 feet of you at any time during the day.

Now, you probably know this about me, but I am a pastor. Like many pastors, I have books upon books. Despite giving some to church libraries along the way, my books continue to accumulate. In fact, the time you most hear about a pastor’s books is when they move, in which case they may pack more than 20 boxes with books to send to their next office.

Despite the numerous books that sit on many of our shelves and fill many of our church libraries, access to books is a real problem in our communities.

Unfortunately, access to books, like access to many other resources, is limited based on economic status. It is estimated that 61% of low-income families do not own any children’s books. Still, studies have shown that having books in the home is twice as important an indicator of later academic achievement as parental education level.

Take another look at that book closest to you. It carries a bit more weight now, doesn’t it?

Starting now, 200K More Reasons is challenging Arkansas United Methodists to donate 35,588 books to build the personal libraries of low-income children in Arkansas.

Why such a specific number? There are 35,588 third graders in Arkansas. And third grade is when students move from learning to read, to reading to learn. Imagine what kind of possibilities could spring from an additional 35,000 books in the hands of students in Arkansas.

Churches can begin by collecting new and gently used books from their congregations, Sunday School classes, youth groups, or children’s ministries. While our number comes from the number of third-graders in the state, donated books can be for children or youth of any age.

Make sure to take pictures of your congregation in action. Tag us on social media telling us the number of books you collected. We’ll add that number to our count and will report our total at Annual Conference. Use the hashtag #givingbooksforlove so we can share your story.

Finally, make a plan to distribute books to kids. You can partner with a teacher, a specific grade, or even an entire school. Teachers in your congregation might be willing to help get you connected. You can also locate a little free library in your community using the map on their website and donate there.

Another way to distribute books is to connect your book collection to your feeding ministry. Offer books to take home during food pantry hours. Incorporate books into the weekend feeding backpacks given to local schools. Where churches are already doing so much for children, let us continue to do even more.

We long for every child to have access to books in their home. Access to books improves literacy and literacy improves academic potential.

But there’s more to it than that. We want students to know that we care about them. We want them to understand that they are loved. That we hope they might reach their God-given potential.

Be on the lookout for more information coming soon about how you and your church can get involved in the 200K More Reasons Literacy Initiative!

Cheerleading Vaccines is the Wesleyan Way

Cheerleading Vaccines is the Wesleyan Way

vaccine

By Rev. Chase Green

Senior Pastor, Primrose United Methodist Church, Keo UMC

What an honor it was to be in the last class ever taught by the Rev. Dr. John Farthing at Hendrix College, John Wesley and Methodism. It was in that very class I first learned of John Wesley’s ministry of healthcare to the sick and the poor.

One of the books I love from that class, and still refer to, is the incredible work of Richard P. Heitzenrater, The Elusive Mr. Wesley. Heitzenrater shares John Wesley’s fascination with health, remedies, and the cure of diseases. Wesley’s obsession even led him to view an autopsy once. He would connect with physicians to gain knowledge on the subject of diseases. This is what led him to eventually aid the Methodist Societies to open health clinics. These were designed to aid the poor, who were unable to afford healthcare, or were too often taken advantage of. It is thought that Wesley was the instigator behind the first free medical clinics in England.

John Wesley even came up with his own remedies for various symptoms of illness — do yourself a favor and Google these for a good laugh. The point is, that in our Wesleyan DNA, is the concern for the sick and the poor, and helping to bring health to those who are ill.

This focus followed throughout American Methodism’s rise as our ancestors in the faith opened up health clinics, hospitals, and championed the call of Christ to “heal the sick.” Throughout our connection, there are numerous health clinics connected to United Methodist congregations, or at least sharing in funds to support nonprofit health clinics in their communities. How proud are we in our own Annual Conference of Methodist Family Health, championing mental healthcare for our children and youth.

Perhaps the largest health initiative of the last few decades of our United Methodist Church was Imagine No Malaria. This campaign, able to be coordinated due to United Methodist health clinics throughout Africa and our sister churches across that land, has truly made an incredible difference. Four million mosquito nets were provided, 61 facilities renovated, 2.1 million people treated, tens of millions of dollars given, and together with global partners, helped save the lives of 6.1 million people since 2001. We made an impact on global health through our united efforts.

We all know of the devastation the COVID-19 virus has had in our nation and around the world. As of this writing, there have been more than 300,000 deaths in the U.S. due to the virus. Projections are that over the next month or month-and-a-half we could add another 100,000 deaths. This is undoubtedly the biggest health crisis of our lifetimes. In harsh irony, this also comes at a time when the “Anti-Vax Movement,” those opposing and refusing vaccines, is gaining traction. Those who know the horrors of Polio and many other diseases vaccines have helped to eradicate or suppress, know of how vital vaccines are and how many lives they have saved or healed.

Clergy brothers and sisters and dear, servant-hearted laity throughout our connection, let us cheerlead the COVID-19 vaccines in our churches. We must be of one voice to advocate for vaccines. We cannot allow politics or conspiracy theories to get in the way of life-saving vaccines. From our pulpits and in the pews, we must alert those in our congregations of the truth that United Methodist beliefs are not incompatible with science. Let us share that we have our Wesleyan roots in healthcare and the cure of diseases. Yes, we should certainly lift up for everyone to consult with their own doctor, and we do not want to come across as medical experts, but pastors especially have a sacred duty to usher in facts and use our authority to educate and advocate for the healing of the body, mind, and soul of those in our congregations.

Recently, the head of the National Institute of Health, Francis Collins, was interviewed in a piece advocating for churches to be vocal, transparent, and educational to encouraging folks to take the vaccine. Collins, even expresses that clergy taking video of themselves receiving the vaccine would be helpful in clearing up some doubters.

We as the People Called Methodists must raise our voices for truth, health, and cherish the mission of Mr. Wesley to give aid to those who are ill. Let us rally together, use our God-given minds, and once again take up the charge of working to eradicate disease.