Daily Devotionals still going strong, connecting people

Daily Devotionals still going strong, connecting people

Communications staff Madasun Loy creates images, works with writers, and emails the "Holston Conference Daily Devotionals" to 4,000 subscribers.

ALCOA, Tenn. -- Every morning around 4 a.m., a devotional arrives in the email boxes of some 4,000 United Methodists. They are not written by strangers on computers located several states away.

Instead, the “Holston Conference Daily Devotionals” are written by about 200 United Methodists who, like the readers, also attend churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. A daily email that began as a limited Lenten series in 2019 has grown to a year-round publication inspiring and connecting both readers and writers through scriptural reflections and prayer.

“I love to write, so I am always looking for a chance to put words down for others to read,” said the Rev. Michael Vaughn, a frequent contributor and pastor at Gate City United Methodist Church in Gate City, Virginia. “It is invigorating to me. It fills a passion.”

Based on the Revised Common Lectionary (a listing of readings from the Bible to be used on particular week or day), each devotion features an author’s reflections on the designated scripture as well as a personal prayer. Susan Collins said the opportunity to write devotions was especially meaningful last year after the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly stopped her ability to teach in-person Bible studies.

Like Vaughn, Collins said she was honored when readers responded directly to her writing.

“I was surprised and happy to have a way to study the Bible deeply and share it with others,” said Collins, a member at Burks United Methodist Church in Hixson, Tennessee. “I was getting emails and texts from people saying, ‘That really resonated with me,’or ‘I’ve never thought about it like that before.’”

The daily devotional series was created in March 2019 when two new Holston Conference staff members -- the Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications, and the Rev. Terry Goodman, conference secretary – decided to create something new together.

“We both enjoyed daily devotionals, so we thought we would try a Lenten devotion,” Jones said.

The original series, authored by pastors, was so popular that lay writers were invited to join in and keep the publication going. Nearly 1,000 devotionals and 200 writers later, the series is still going strong, with an editorial board to oversee it and a new staff member to maintain it.

“It just became too overwhelming to proofread and get it posted everyday,” Jones said.

The board was formed in February 2020, when a fan was enlisted to help improve the devotionals’ editorial quality.  

“I had been reading the devotionals every day and was concerned about misspelled words and incorrect grammar that kept appearing,” said Anne Travis, Holston’s former director of connectional ministries and current member at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. “I wrote to Terry and Tim and asked if anyone was reviewing devotionals for grammar or content. Out of that email exchange, Terry proposed the idea of the editorial board.”

Travis and four other persons on the board (Charles Ensminger, Danny Nettleton, Joshua Swanson, Beth Tipton) created a style guide. They review each devotion for language and format as well as for Wesleyan theology, Travis said.

In March 2021, Jones hired an administrative assistant, Madasun Loy, who took on the daily work of recruiting writers, working with the editorial board, and posting and emailing the devotionals to some 4,000 subscribers.

As a student majoring in web and print design at Pellissippi State Community College, Loy also brings her gifts to the project by creating the accompanying art. She said she likes interacting with many of the writers and appreciates the connection that readers experience through the devotionals.

“They’re not about me. They’re not for me,” Loy said. “They’re for people who need them. I get to share somebody’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions along with some scripture. If that makes somebody’s day, then I’ve accomplished something.”

Since Holston Conference is now sharing an episcopal leader (Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett) with the North Alabama Conference, the two conferences may join in a "read-through-the-Bible" daily devotional, Jones said. Loy also has ideas for incorporating video and meditations to “revamp” the series.


Email Madasun Loy to inquire about writing a devotional.
Read the latest devotionals.
Sign up for devotional subscription.


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Holston Conference includes 850 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.
 

Author

Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.