May 11, 2018
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Bishop Peggy Johnson announces the following 2018 appointments & assignments, effective July 1, 2018, unless otherwise noted:

North District: 
  • Manfredo Martinez Luna (lay supply pastor) to Allentown: Salem as Lay Assistant Pastor (1/4 time) effective May 1, 2018.
  • The Rev. Jennifer Freymoyer (Full Elder) from Bethlehem: Epworth to Shoemakersville: Salem (¾ time) and the North District as District Assisting Elder (¼ time).
  • Correction:
    The Rev. B. Kenneth Edwards
    (part-time local pastor) from Effort UMC to Joliett: First UMC & Tremont: St. John’s UMC (1/4 time) and Effort UMC (1/4 time), as of January 1, 2018.
  • The Rev. Philip Sabas (retired full elder) from Lewistown Valley: Calvary Evangelical to Barnesville: Bethany/Quakake: Ebenezer (1/4 time) and Tamaqua: First (1/4 time), effective July 1, 2018.
Conference, District summer schedules begin in June 

Offices to close on Fridays through Labor Day

The Eastern PA Conference Office will operate on a modified summer schedule from June through August. Beginning on Monday, June 4, the Conference Office full-time staff will work Monday through Thursday, with the office open 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. We will be closed on Fridays. This modified schedule will end after Labor Day, September 3, when we will reopen on Fridays.

District offices will also operate on a variable, Monday through Thursday summer schedule through Labor Day. Most will be open from 8 AM to 4:45 PM; but the East District will be open from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Please contact district offices first before visiting, as their hours may vary.

Conference mourns death of Prayer Advocate, Dennis Wack

Conference Prayer Advocate Dennis Wack, 65, passed away on May 3, 2018. A Certified Lay Minister at Evansburg UMC, he was an active member of United Methodist Men and provided leadership in prayer ministry for the organization and for the conference. Dennis is survived by his wife Sharon (McKinney) Wack, two children, two grandchildren, his parents and step-siblings. Relatives and friends are invited to his memorial service on Saturday, May 12, at 11:30 AM, at Evansburg UMC, 3871 Germantown Pike, Collegeville PA. A luncheon will follow. In lieu of flowers please send donations to: The Upper Room Prayer Ministries, PO Box 340004 Nashville, TN 37203-9525. Obituary for Dennis Wack
Healthy Transitions for Clergy Spouses event postponed
The Healthy Transitions for Clergy Spouses workshop, scheduled for Saturday, May 12, is postponed and will be rescheduled soon for a date in July.

Mothers give life, but many also suffer death

As you prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day on May 13, go beyond celebrating just moms who contribute so much of life to their families and congregations. The UMC’s Church and Society board asks you to also remember and respond to the deaths experienced by women worldwide in the face of pregnancy and childbirth.

The education and advocacy agency reports that “830 mothers die each day from pregnancy-related complications; and many of these deaths are preventable.” It is urgent that we recognize the perils that women and girls face as a result of pregnancy.  Although the number is decreasing globally, the rate is actually increasing in the U.S. and 12 other countries.

Please read and share Bishop Peggy Johnson’s Mother’s Day letter, dated May 13, which calls on all of us to help “save mothers’ lives.”
Children are born, grow up and then have babies of their own. Kathy Gilbert, a reporter for UM News Service, reflects poignantly but joyfully on one grandmother’s blessings for Mother’s Day.   Read More

Come enjoy Gretna Gritty and camps’ open houses

All four of our Camp & Retreat Centers are hosting open houses this month, three of them on Saturday, May 19, among other special events. It’s a great opportunity to get an advance look and feel for new site additions and the new summer camp season. So come one, come all! Learn more…

But first, Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center‘s biggest single event of the year will be the Gretna Gritty, May 12, from 8 AM to 2 PM. At the 6th annual mud run fundraiser gritters will run, climb, crawl and jump through a 3-mile course, complete with creative obstacles, to help the camp raise money to support its life-changing ministries. There are competitive, simply recreational and kids-level runs made for all levels of action; so, everyone can get involved. Learn more.
Eastern PA women to help lead Women’s Assembly
“Bold and Courageous” women of the Eastern PA Conference will take center stage during various parts of the quadrennial United Methodist Women’s Assembly May 18-20, in Columbus, Ohio.
Bishop Peggy Johnson will speak briefly as one of 10 female bishops of the global UMC to serve Communion at the Assembly. The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner, Director of the Wesley Foundation of Tucson, serving the University of Arizona, will be one of several, international keynote speakers. She previously served as founder and curator of The Shout, a spoken-word poetry collective based in Houston, Texas, and was on staff at St. John’s UMC there, a downtown church in ministry with its homeless neighbors.
Darlene DiDomineck, a Deaconess and ministry leader at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, will teach “Crossing the Road: A Workshop on Intersectional Organizing,” one of over a hundred workshops that will educate and engage more than 3,000 expected attendees. DiDomineck is also interim executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

Finally, Barbara Drake, former chairwoman of the Eastern PA Conference UMW and former dean of its Mission u school for Christian mission, will be consecrated as a Deaconess during the Women’s Assembly. She currently serves as the conference’s Global Missions Secretary, chairs its Church and Society Work Team and co-chairs the Health and Healing Council, in addition to her local church leadership roles. The consecration service will occur at the Columbus Convention Center on Friday, May 18, and will be video livestreamed at Learn more…

Bishop names Taylor-Storm new Cabinet Dean

Bishop Peggy Johnson announces that the new Dean of the Eastern PA Conference Cabinet for 2018-2019 will be the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Superintendent of the South District. Taylor-Storm joined the Cabinet in 2014 and led the conference’s 2016 General Conference delegation. She recently led the dual-conference team visit to Congo Partnership mission sites in the DRC. She succeeds the Rev. Irving Cotto as cabinet dean.
“I give thanks for the servant leadership of Rev. Dr. Irving Cotto, and am humbled to serve as a part of the EPA Cabinet,” said the new dean. “Our Cabinet, under the faithful leadership of Bishop Peggy Johnson, serves as a team on behalf of the local churches in our care. In a world that often chooses polarization and isolation, I believe the connectional church is the best vision of who we are called to be as God’s people. I am thankful for God’s sustaining grace in my life, and I offer my service, to the best of my ability, as together we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

North District to celebrate Cotto’s ministry May 20

All are invited to join in celebrating the ministry of the Rev. Irving Cotto as North (and previously Northeast) District Superintendent on Sunday, May 20, from 4 to 7 PM, at Covenant UMC, 2715 Mountain View Drive, Bath, PA. There will be food and festivities, including music, celebratory dance, Holy Communion and more, with each district church participating. Members are invited to:

  • Send photos of their churches in ministry for display.
  • Financially support the vision of developing Diamond UMC’s evangelism and outreach among the large Latino population in the Hazleton community. Make checks payable to the Eastern PA Conference and write “Hazleton Vision” on the memo line. Bring donations to the May 20 celebration or mail them to the North District Office.
Dr. Cotto, who recently earned a Ph.D. in Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation (GTF) in Indiana and the Instituto Teológico Internacional de Puerto Rico (ITIPRI), will become the senior pastor of St. Paul UMC Warrington. There is no cost for this event, but please Register online so we can insure that there will be enough food.

Farewell Dinner for Robert Shoemaker, Esq.

About 50 people, including grateful friends and colleagues, attended a farewell fete for longtime Conference Counsel Robert Shoemaker on Saturday May 6, at The Columbia Station in Phoenixville, PA.  The Rev. Dale Owens, former Conference Treasurer, who hired Rob 41 years ago, was there to join in the celebration, as was St. Matthews UMC of Valley Forge’s Chancel Singers and Ringers, who provided music after dinner.
Bishop Peggy Johnson spoke of how “Rob has served us so humbly over the years” and how he often responded to her calls for legal counsel, even while out of the country on vacation. Conference Administrative Services director Jo Fielding, who organized the event, presented Shoemaker with a glass sculpture resembling a flame to honor his many years of service to the conference.

Celebrating 50 Years of The United Methodist Church

May 20 is being called a “once in a lifetime” event for United Methodists, offering an opportunity to commemorate the church’s history alongside the celebration of Pentecost. Numerous event-specific resources are available for congregations, including a video created to honor the church’s legacy since April 23, 1968, when leaders of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church declared the creation of a new denomination, The United Methodist Church.

May 20, 2018 is Pentecost PLUS!,” said the Rev. Fred Day, general secretary of the General Commission of Archives and History (GCAH). “Not only is the third Sunday of May, Pentecost, the culmination of the great 50 days of Eastertide, the day for celebrating the loosing of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the gift of Christian unity. It is also Heritage Sunday (which falls on the Sunday nearest Aldersgate Day). This year the Heritage Sunday theme is ‘Jubilee’ in a nod to the 50th anniversary, which often is referred to as the Golden Jubilee.
Be sure to view the illustrative video WE STILL BELIEVE: Celebrating 50 Years of The United Methodist Church. Under 5 minutes long, it is well suited for local churches and annual conferences to help celebrate 50 years of The United Methodist Church transforming the world. The denomination’s Social Creed is set against the sweeping history of the Wesleyan movement, from John Wesley being saved from a fire in his childhood home, to the contemporary events that helped shaped the denomination’s birth. Using historical and contemporary imagery, the film is a moving tribute to how The United Methodist Church has helped shaped history.
Consider using this video and other resources for your celebration of Heritage Sunday. For example:

Celebrate, give on Peace with Justice Sunday, May 27


Offering provides conference grants for peace and justice ministries 

Prepare your church to observe the UMC’s Peace with Justice Sunday May 27, and receive on that day the special offering that support life-affirming ministries of hope and change. The offering is divided between ministries worldwide funded by the General Board of Church and Society and ministries of peace and justice in our own conference. Since 2013, the BWC has granted more than $37,000 to local churches doing justice work.

Is your church engaged in a creative ministry of social education or action to further the cause of peace with justice? If you would like to apply for a Peace with Justice Ministry Grant, read the application and its funding criteria on our website, then complete and submit it to the Rev. Jessica Ross, Peace with Justice Coordinator, at Learn more

UM bishops recommend a Way Forward

United Methodist bishops, meeting in Chicago, engaged in a prayerful process to discern a way forward.  At the conclusion of the discernment process, the Council of Bishops strongly approved the following motion and rationale:
Having received and considered the extensive work of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Council of Bishops will submit a report to the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 that includes:
  • All three plans (The Traditionalist Plan, The One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan) for a way forward considered by the Commission and the Council.
  • The Council’s recommendation of the One Church Plan.
  • An historical narrative of the Council’s discernment process regarding all three plans.

Guided by the mission, vision and scope document, the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church. Learn more…    

News from two related institutions in ministry with the poor

Visit our website’s Missions & Outreach page to see recent newsletters from our two conference-affiliated mission institutions: LUMINA, supported by churches in Lancaster County; and UM Neighborhood Services in Philadelphia, supported by UM Women, volunteers and partner churches. UMNS is located at Janes Memorial UMC in Germantown. Both are doing important, life-enhancing mission work–providing food, clothing, education and other essential needs–to their communities.

LUMINA is seeking a few more individuals or small groups willing to sponsor children to attend summer camp by donating $100.00 for sleeping bags, duffel bags and other gear. Please contact Correen Russo, at, as soon as possible for details.

Volunteers in Mission Team Leader training, July 14
Learning to show Christian Love in Action
The new Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Leadership Team:  
(From left)  The Rev. Nick Camacho, who heads the Helping Puerto Rico Rise Again campaign; Robert Simcox, new Disaster Response Coordinator; the Rev. Russell Atkinson, new Volunteers in Mission Coordinator and Ben Botti, Disaster Response Leadership Team Advisor.


The Eastern PA Conference has a new Disaster Response Leadership Team in place and a training event on the calendar for the first time in a while. Anyone wanting to become a Volunteers in Mission Team Leader, to lead VIM response teams to disaster-stricken areas, must receive training.

The new team will host its first training event on Saturday, July 14, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, in centrally-located Reading, at West Lawn UMC, 15 Woodside Ave, West Lawn, PA.
Experienced team leaders should also consider this as a refresher training opportunity.
Leading the training will be:
  • the Rev. Tom Lank (Deacon), Northeastern Jurisdiction VIM Coordinator;
  • Ben Botti, longtime, retired VIM coordinator; and
  • the Rev. Russell Atkinson, our new Conference VIM Coordinator.
“Great passion and interest have been expressed throughout our Conference for the continuing struggles of the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last year,” said Atkinson. “The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico has developed a sound disaster response plan which our Conference has been asked to support.”
Though the training will be appropriate for all who are interested in learning how to lead teams, emphasis will be put on preparing leaders to respond to the Puerto Rico recovery. The Rev. Nicholas Camacho, our Conference Special VIM Coordinator for Puerto Rico Response, will update the gathering on conditions, needs and expectations there.
The training cost of $45/person will include the book Mission Journey, the most up-to-date production of the VIM Team Leader Toolkit, a continental-like breakfast, and lunch.

For further information contact: Russell J. Atkinson, Eastern PA Conference VIM Coordinator at 610-675-7187 or See updates for this event on our website.

To know and love transgender people

Advanced Sexual Ethics training, May 31

Register for Advanced Sexual Ethics Training May 31, 9 AM to 3 PM, at West Grove UMC, 300 N. Guernsey Road, West Grove, PA. Cost: $35.00 (includes lunch and materials)
Bishop Peggy Johnson has recognized the need for churches to better understand and show love to transgender people and their families. She has invited David Garrett, a layperson from the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, and the Rev. Andrea Brown, an elder from the Eastern PA Conference, to co-lead a workshop on this topic, primarily for clergy.

The workshop will provide information about scientific understanding of gender and explore biblical stories and teachings on the topic. Attendees will receive practical advice for children’s, youth, and adult ministry that is “responsive, inviting, and life-affirming to transgender, non-binary, and gender fluid people.” For more information and registration, please click here.

Four Stations of the Holy Spirit training, June 2
Where: New Birth (Nuevo Nacimiento) UMC, 1025 Lehman St; Lebanon, Pennsylvania 17046
When: June 2. Arrival: 8:30 AM. Start: 9 AM. Finish by noon.
Cost: $15 for the packet, which includes the book Too Busy Not to Pray and convenient, travel-size containers of anointing oil, baptismal water and communion elements
Registration: Email Gordon Hendrickson:  or phone: 267-258-9507.  For full information, please click here.
  •  Four Stations of the Holy Spirit – Saturday, June 2 – Lebanon: New Birth, 8:30am-11:45am
  • Transitioning Pastor’s Workshop – Saturday, June 9 – West Lawn UMC, 9:30am – 12:30pm
  • Relating with Clergy Spouses – Saturday, June 9 – West Lawn UMC, 12:45pm – 2pm
  • Annual Conference – Thursday, June 14 – Saturday, June 16 – Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, PA.
  • Mission U – July 20-21 – Inn at Reading, Reading, PA
  • Laity Academy – August 3-5 – Quakertown UMC
  • Vital Church Merger Workshop – Saturday, September 15 – Christ Church, Lansdale, PA
  • Laity Sunday – Sunday, October 21 – YOUR CHURCH!
  • Domestic Violence Workshop – Saturday, November 17 – West Lawn UMC
  • Equipping Church Leaders – Saturday, January 19, 2019
  • Tools for Ministry – Saturday, March 2, 2019
Annual Conference 2018 Registration
Registration is open for Annual Conference attendees and exhibitors. Register online now! The registration deadline is

Friday, May 18.


On our Annual Conference 2018 information page, beginning June 14 at the opening session, you will find our video livestream of Annual Conference sessions as they occur in real time.
Be sure to also visit our twitter profile and watch the hashtag #EPAUMC18 to read and respond to key actions, special moments and important comments. This year we will also use a Mobile Event App at the conference. Download and login instructions for the app were provided at the May 6 District conferences, and are now available on the AC 2018 Information page. Access to the app will open on Thursday, June 14.

Grants to help pay higher education costs 

May 21 is the deadline for accepting grant applications, provided by the Education Society of the Eastern PA Conference to assist worthy individuals with defraying the cost of higher education for the 2018-2019 school year. The application is available on the conference website. Questions? Contact the Education Society Chairperson, Al Adey at All applications received in the Conference Office (between and including) April 30 to May 21 will be considered for a grant. Unless there is some disqualification, grant recipients will be randomly selected.
Theologian to address “evangelism in this modern age’

With support from the South District, Holy Cross UMC in Reading (329 N 5th St.) and the Reading Mission Connexion will welcome Peter Enns, Ph.D., author, theologian and Biblical Studies Professor at Eastern University, on Friday, May 18, 8:30 AM to 4 PM. He will present two of his books “which will give both clergy and laity the tools that are needed for evangelism in this modern age,” according to former pastor the Rev. John Gudikunst. Enns has written extensively on the relationship between religion and science, the Creation-Evolution controversy, and Old Testament interpretation, often challenging conservative/mainstream Evangelical biblical interpretation.

The event is open to the whole conference, and clergy may obtain.6 CEU’s and their quadrennial Evangelism training requirement. “Peter Enns does have a particular focus: reaching those who are not currently in churches and helping the church find ways to bridge that gap,” said Gudikunst, who sees Enns and his ideas as appealing especially to today’s Millenials and other post-Baby Boom generations, who have little interest in attending traditional churches and many of whom describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
Dr. Enns will first speak on his book The Bible Tells Me So, followed by a time for questions and discussion. A soup and sandwich lunch will be served at 12 noon. Then Enns will speak and engage in discussion on The Sin of Certainty.
“We need to look at Evangelism through a new perspective, and I believe Pete Enns has the unique gifts and skills to help us,” Gudikunst asserted. “The morning session will help pastors learn a language to talk with people, especially younger people, who already have a deep suspicion about Scripture… and its natural positive bias. The afternoon will help us build a bridge beyond the battle currently being waged over ‘correct belief.’ I am convinced that absent the training that Dr, Enns can begin, our efforts at reclaiming the importance of evangelism will fall short of the generations we need to reach the most.”

Please register online for $20 today. Lunch and a light breakfast will be served. Questions about this event?  Contact the Rev. John Gudikunst at Questions about your registration? Contact the Rev. Lin George at

Internship helps students explore call to ministry 

Vocational Internship Program can benefit churches, too

The Eastern PA Conference Vocational Internship Program enables college-level young adults to explore first-hand their call to ministry at participating churches. During 10 summer weeks they will be exposed onsite to different aspects of ministry, while assisting the sponsoring church and earning a $3,000 stipend. Apply by May 18.

This is a great opportunity to get a close-up view with valuable on-the-ground training in ministry. Congregations and pastors who would welcome a helping hand (and an inquiring mind) during the summer could find themselves preparing a next-generation leader for the church. The church (perhaps with mission connexion participation?) pays the $3,000 stipend, but the conference Board of Ordained Ministry reimburses one-half of it at the completion of the 10-week internship.
“The Vocational Internship Program was for me a key factor in discerning a call to the ordained ministry,” says the Rev. Bill Lentz, pastor of Lehman UMC in Hatboro. “Thirty-one years later, I look back on those days when local churches of our annual conference gave me the opportunity to spread my wings by giving me room to explore my gifts and calling for service. I have enjoyed making that same experience available to others looking for room to grow in grace as they explore the call.”
If you are interested in having an intern serve at your church, or if you know of a college-level student who could benefit from a vocational internship in ministry, please contact the Rev. Tracy Duncan, Vocational Intern Program coordinator, at Apply now, by May 18. Please download and share this flyer with potential interns and host churches.
Also, if you benefited from this program in the past–either as a Vocational Intern or as a sponsoring church–and would recommend it to students and churches, please send us a brief statement revealing what you found helpful about that experience. Write to us at and/or to Rev. Tracy Duncan, Vocational Intern Program, at
Clergy transitions workshop June 9 
The Eastern PA Conference will offer a workshop for clergy facing appointment transitions to newly assigned churches. The annual Clergy Transition Workshop, June 9 at West Lawn UMC in Reading, 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, is open to any transitioning clergy and Staff-Parish Relations Committee members at their new church. There is no charge for the event, but registration is requested to provide sufficient accommodations.
Mission u 2018, July 20-21
Mission u returns to the Inn a Reading for two days, July 20-21. The annual academy of in-depth courses, mission activities and fellowship helps church members (lay and clergy, men, women and youth) understand and interpret the church’s global mission and the responsibility of Christians within that mission. It also provides information about the work of United Methodist Women. For more information, contact Mission u Dean Jean Twardzik, 570-345-5061, or  Download the full brochure.  Download the mail-in registration form

Laity Academy Aug. 3-5

The 2018 Laity Academy will convene August 3-5 at Quakertown UMC. A curriculum of 14 planned courses so far will highlight the outreaching theme “Pass It On: Spreading God’s Word through Action.” Information on classes, registration and hotel reservations will be posted on our website in May. Visit our Lay Ministry page for updates. Be sure to read and share the flyer “What Is it? Why Should I Go?”, and also share the “Save the Dates” mini-flyer.
Let’s stay connected. Send us your newsletters
Please add our Communications Office to your church newsletter’s digital and/or print mailing lists. We find much of our news in church newsletters (when we find time to read them), and we try to report local church news and events as much as possible. (We also love seeing Conference news reported in your newsletters. Thanks!) However, we want to receive only your church newsletters please, not other e-mailed church announcements. Thanks!

Update your Find-A-Church profile
Developed by United Methodist Communications, Find-A-Church helps your church connect with people who may be looking online for a church to provide worship, fellowship, spiritual nurture and other needs. If your church has a Website, having a church page in Find-A-Church doubles your local visibility to reach people searching by city, town or zip code. It is the official online directory of United Methodist churches in the United States and  one of the most visited sections of, averaging more than 1,000 page views a day. You’ll achieve the best results from your Find-A-Church profile when you update your church’s information. For video instructions on how, visit Video Tutorial: Find-A-Church Overview.

Missed any past issues of NEWSpirit Digest?
You can still read or share informative, colorful back issues of our weekly e-newsletter on the Eastern PA Conference Website at Share this link with others who might want to stay informed about our news, events, resources and concerns. And please encourage them to subscribe by e-mailing Thanks!
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