Calling All Men: "Quit acting like you are alone," Swanson says

Calling All Men: "Quit acting like you are alone," Swanson says


Attendance dropped dramatically, yet "Calling All Men" again found its spiritual niche by offering a weekend package that specifically spoke to men and their daily challenges.

Organized by the Holston Conference United Methodist Men, the Friday-Saturday event was held Aug. 14-15 at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville, about 40 miles from its original site at a Sevierville resort. Calling All Men was launched in 2008 with about 700 participants from Holston churches.

This year's attendance was 365, including about 100 staff and organizers. However, a new hands-on mission component on Friday and full-house worship services in Cokesbury Center attracted some participants who were not registered.

David Lambert, member of Fountain City UMC in Knoxville, attended for the first time this year:

"I'm trying to take a closer walk with God," Lambert said, explaining that family and work conflicts had forced him to reach out for help by re-connecting to the church. An announcement about Calling All Men in Fountain City's bulletin led him to sign up for the event. "I went to church on Sunday, opened up the bulletin, and there it was," he said.

Lambert was among several perspiring men working outside the church building in 95-degree temperatures on Friday morning. The men assembled 10 hand-cranked carts for the PET Project of Middle Tennessee, which will ship the "Personal Energy Transportation" vehicles to people disabled by disease and war in Benin, Africa.

Other participants -- who came a half-day earlier this year for the mission projects -- put on hair nets and packaged 10,104 dehydrated meals for Stop Hunger Now. At one table, the represented churches included Shady Grove/Morristown District, First Cleveland/Cleveland District, Pleasant View/Abingdon District, Concord/Oak Ridge District, and Cokesbury/Knoxville District.

Later on Friday, men gathered to hear Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Conference ask: If we can eliminate malaria deaths in the United States, why can't we do the same for Africa? Bickerton urged listeners to help raise money for malaria nets and join in other efforts for the international "Imagine No Malaria" campaign.

"Every 30 seconds, an innocent child in Africa dies of malaria," Bickerton said, pausing periodically  to announce the total number of children who had died thus far during his presentation. "The reality is that every one of God's children deserves the same chance our children have."

"It does me good to see men praise God," said the Rev. Tyrone Gordon during one of three worship services that included Christian rock by the Concord UMC praise band. Gordon, who also preached at Holston's 2009 Annual Conference, encouraged men to "turn their wounds into worship." He referred to the story of David, "who had trouble keeping his hands to himself, his pants on, and his zipper up." (See 2 Samuel 6:12-20)

"Can I be real in here?" Gordon said. "I believe David became a worshiping man because he realistically faced his demons and confronted the issues in his life."

"Expose your spirit to the healing of God," Gordon said. "Don't ever let your faults turn you into a failure." Gordon is senior pastor at St. Luke "Community" UMC in Dallas, Texas.

Bishop James Swanson, resident bishop of Holston Conference, concluded the two-event with Holy Communion and the continuing emphasis on a man's need to turn his problems over to God.

"Your theme is 'You are Not Alone,'" Swanson said, waving to the stage backdrop. "Quit acting like you are alone. Learn to turn some things over to the Lord. We try to fix everything ourselves instead of allowing the Lord to fix it."

Seven workshops were offered Saturday. The two highest attended were, "Dealing With Difficult People, Spiritually and Professionally" by the Rev. Ron Matthews, and "Growing Spiritual Giants by the Rev. Tyrone Gordon.


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