Holston Conference has 12 districts, each teeming with ministry and ideas. What's happening in your district? Send news and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Crossroads hosted a volunteer breakfast at the Marion Senior Center on Sept. 10. The goal, says Church and Community Worker Linda Stransky, is to organize a group of local workers to help with emergency projects (like building handicap ramps) that can't wait for work groups to come in. "It looks like a volunteer group just might happen," Stranksky said after the breakfast. Project Crossroads also distributed 200 vouchers for school children in need of shoes on Sept. 11 ... To stay informed of Project Crossroads' needs and celebrations, join their Facebook group.
- Family Weekend at Emory & Henry College is Oct. 7-9.
BIG STONE GAP:
- In July, Norton UMC started a new Tuesday-night support group for military veterans, in connection with the state's Wounded Warrior Program. "It's an honor for us to be a partner in this project," says member Fred Bevins. Visit WeAreVirginiaVeterans.org for more information.
- The Wesley Foundation at University of Virginia College at Wise will celebrate 50 years of ministry on Saturday, Oct. 1, 4-6:30 p.m. Alumni, former directors, current students, friends and family are invited to hear former director Rev. Larry Dial and eat barbecue. R.S.V.P. on Facebook or at (276) 328-6826.
- Jones Memorial UMC had its 36th annual Men's Club Barbecue on Sept. 17. Shirley Baugh reports that more than 100 volunteers (inluding the Boy Scouts) helped prepare, serve, deliver and clean up after a feast that raised nearly $6,000. The funds will help purchase coats for needy children as well as support youth camps and assemblies in the East Ridge community. "Last year we were able to supply 197 coats," Baugh said. The United Methodist Women had a bake/crafts sale that cleared an additional $2,000 for women's and children's ministries.
- Charge conferences for Chattanooga District started with Brooks Memorial UMC on Sept. 20 and will run steadily until First-Centenary UMC on Nov. 28. In all, Superintendent Mike Hubble will convene about 44 meetings with churches as they report on their ministries for the past and coming year. See the district's September newsletter for a complete list.
- Read about -- and support -- the Bethlehem Center's "Bethlehem Bistro" on Noogan.com.
- Broad Street UMC celebrated its 175th anniversary with a Fifth Sunday camp meeting at Johnston Woods Retreat Center. About 175 people attended the pot-luck celebration, many dressed in period clothing, according to Charles Harler. Rev. Reed Shell conducted the devotional service dressed as a 1800s circuit rider (see photo), and a choir led by retired music minister Rev. Jerry Hollis sang old-time hymns from a hay-wagon stage (see photo).
- Johnston Woods Retreat Center, located five miles south of Cleveland, is open year-round, with 380 wood acres, two lakes, a lodge, 12 cabins, a pavilion, walking trails, and sports settings. Visit johnstonwoods.org.
- This spring, four churches joined together for a "May Day" carnival for disaster relief in the Cleveland-Bradley area. The community was invited to bring non-perishable food and household items or to give money while enjoying a community meal, music, games and activities. More than $3,000 was raised for UMCOR. The organizing churches: First Cleveland, South Cleveland, Mt. Zion, and Wesley Memorial. (See photo.)
- The former pastor at Cherokee UMC, the Rev. Michelle McKinnon-Young and her husband, Gary Young, departed the U.S. and arrived in Czech Republic in June to begin the launch of a new church: The English-Speaking United Methodist Church in Prague (esumcprague.org). While the official first worship service is not scheduled until spring 2012, the budding congregation will begin meeting Oct. 19 for Bible study, coffee, and conversation, according to Betty Barton. Otterbein UMC recently gave $10,000 to help begin the new church.
- The district conference was held Sept. 18 at Cherokee UMC. Following a message from Bishop Richard Looney, current pastor at Telford UMC, the Rev. Steph Burkhart of Carter County Parish reported on ongoing tornado recovery. Congregations at Mt. Tabor UMC and Liberty Hill UMC have returned to their repaired buildings, but work teams are still needed. To schedule a team in Greene or Washington counties, contact Burkhart at (423) 895-1296 or email@example.com.
- Munsey Memorial UMC celebrated its third annual Care for Creation month in August. Workshops were offered on three Wednesday nights and on Sunday, Aug. 28, with Bishop Kenneth Carder, Brenda Haymore (Holston Creation Care Ministry Team chair), and the Rev. Randy Pasqua (Holston Camp and Retreat Ministries director) as speakers. The Sunday service featured a meal for 100, prepared and served by Rural Resources, a sustainable farming practices organization in Greeneville.
- In August, the district started a new congregation, LifeSpring, meeting each Saturday at 6 p.m. at John Adams Elementary School. Superintendent David Graves is serving as pastor, with the Rev. Susan Arnold of Elm Tree Parish service as Grave's associate. The goal is to not only attract newcomers, but to model worship and hospitality tactics to the district and offer a personal worship opportunity for pastors, Graves said. More details will come soon.
- Josephine, Frederiko, and their five children came from Burundi, Africa, to the U.S. about four years ago from through Bridge Refugee Services. Because they lived in refugee camps for 10 years, the couple was unable to have a formal religious ceremony, so before joining the congregation at Colonial Heights UMC, they wanted the Rev. Laura Rasor to bless their marriage. "We started the day with a reaffirmation of the wedding vows and even included rings," says Rasor. "Then we received them into membership." Josephine came from the Burundi Baptist Church and Frederiko from the Roman Catholic Church. "We discussed baptizing the children, and they requested immersion. So we moved to a member's home at the French Broad River for a picnic and the baptisms." Several church members joined the family in the water to witness the celebration. (See photos on Facebook.)
- Last April, Loudon UMC began collecting coats with the goal of developing relationships in the community. "It's supposed to be more than a charitable giveaway," says Elizabeth Rudesill, director of Christian education. "We want to invite folks into visit and get to know them." Central Baptist Church loaned the United Methodists clothes racks after their own consignment sale and pitched in with publicity and coat collections; other churches helped, too. On Saturday morning, Sept. 24, Loudon UMC served sausage biscuits, coffee, and juice, and church members were ready to show hospitality and simply to visit with their guests. Pastor Daniel Castillo and Kayce Castenir from Casa del Alfarero UMC came to help Spanish-speakers. About 500 coats were collected, all but 130 were given away, and the congregation opened the door for new friendships.
- The Rev. Robert Hilten, a retired pastor in the Maryville District, was awarded an Honorary Membership at the Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society's annual meeting in July. Hilten, Holston Conference historian for 20 years, wrote histories of Holston, Hiwassee College, and other documents.
- Middlesettlements UMC organized a youth rally, "Exposed," on Sept. 10, drawing 600 for an all-day spiritual festival on the church's "Field of Dreams." Speakers included Resurrection favorite Justin Lookadoo, Bishop James Swanson, and Rev. Micah Nicolaus. (See the video on YouTube.)
- Noe's Chapel UMC wanted to help children in tornado-stricken families, so the community was invited (through radio coverage) to "Recycle Your Bicycle." "Bikes came to us from all over the city," says the Rev. Dennis Loy. With labor and guidance from Talbott Bike Shop, church members repaired 84 bikes this summer, delivering them to Asbury UMC's new "Restoration Depot" in Greeneville. "We still have bikes coming in, so we are trying to establish an ongoing workplace," Loy said. (See photo.)
- The youth group at Shady Grove UMC, a "hard-working bunch of kids," went to Trenton, Ga., this summer to help with tornado recovery, reports Linda Armour. (See photo.) Youth Director Mark Meade has grown the group from a dozen to 77 enrolled youth. About 40 to 50 are active in Wednesday afternoon and Sunday night activities.
- Shady Grove UMC in Dandridge, Tenn., invites the public to a Hot Dog Buffet at 5 p.m. followed by "The Singing at the Grove" at 6:30 p.m. Contact Armour at (865) 850-1830.
- On a Saturday in July, the Oak Ridge District United Methodist Men organized a "green bean drop" for the Society of St. Andrew. More than 100 volunteers came to Concord UMC to bag and distribute 19,312 pounds of fresh green beans to more than 20 hunger-relief agencies in Cookeville, Knoxville, Wartburg, Oneida, Tazewell, Morristown, Crossville, Maryville, and everywhere in between. Within 72 hours of leaving the field, 57,936 servings were delivered and served in soup kitchens, emergency shelters, and low-income homes, according to the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA). "The beans were 'culls', meaning second-quality or unmarketable product -- in this case, beans either too long or too short for market," a SoSA newsletter stated. Harvested at a Crossville farm, the beans were donated to SoSA by the packing house, then trucked to Concord's parking lot. For six hours in 90-degree temperatures, volunteers readied the beans for distribution, giving each eight-pound bag a quick ice bath dip to mitigate field heat. "The bottom line is all the families who were able to get this fresh produce," said Mike Smith, Holston United Methodist Men president. "More than 2,400 bags were distributed instead of being fed to cattle or dumped in a landfill." To help SoSA with future gleanings, contact Linda Tozer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Charles Mattson, pastor at New Tazewell UMC, reports that a July mission team to Sedlcany, Czech Republic, served 71 students for English Camp in the morning and about 65 students in the afternoon for Vacation Bible School. During the visit, eight students accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and the Sunday worship services grew from 17 to 106 in attendance. The team was comprised of Mattson, five New Tazewell members, and others from Arizona and England. "This is our third trip to Sedlcany from our congregation, and my fifth trip to the Czech Republic," Mattson said. (See video on YouTube.)
- In spring 2008, five Honaker congregations met to brainstorm on how the town pool as a place to offer Jesus Christ to children. SPLASH Community Ministries was created from the acronym for "Seeking People to Love and Serve Him." The ministry began with Wednesday afternoon Bible lessons and tickets that could be redeemed at the snack bar for a pizza slice or nachos and a drink. The pool children were later invited to a Halloween Trunk-or-Treat and Easter egg hunt. In summer 2009, SPLASH started helping the children with back-to-school supplies. In summer 2010, the churches began feeding lunch to 50 low-income children once each week. This summer, the lunch program expanded to feed 160 children, five days a week. The ministry also provides a weekly bag of food staples for each family (bread, milk, dry cereal, cheese, peanut butter, crackers, bologna), along with Bible verses and church phone numbers. Last month, 115 children received backpacks filled with school supplies, reports the Rev. Clyde Hester, pastor at First Honaker UMC and Elk Garden UMC. Other participating churches include Bethany Baptist, Honaker First Baptist, and Valley View Freewill Baptist Church. (See photo.)
- Six churches joined to host the 2nd annual Back-2-School Sonshine Bash on Aug. 11 at the Farmer's Market in downtown Bluefield, W.Va. Bailey, Bethel, Ebenezer, Falls Mills, First Bluefield, and Virginia Avenue UMC provided free school supplies, Gideon New Testaments, T-shirts, crafts, face painting, storytelling, and a hot dog dinner. More than 200 students registered for the event, but with additional family members and volunteers, more than 300 attended. "The bash was hosted in 2010 by one of the churches, but with the recent emphasization of the Call to Action, sharing the ministry with other churches was almost effortless and tremendously supported," said Pam Brewster. "Everyone pitched in."
- Bishop James Swanson was scheduled to preach at Page's Camp Meeting Aug.14-17 near Radford, until his mother-in-law, Beulah Ramsey, died Aug. 9 in Georgia. Four pastors were selected to step in, reports Superintendent Meg Taylor: Rev. Kathie Wilson-Parker (Dublin UMC), Rev. Mike Carter (Central-Radford), Rev. Sharon Bowers (Randolph Avenue/Slaughter's Chapel), and Rev. Hugh Kilgore (First Pulaski UMC). On one night during the anthem, four members from Grove (Radford) UMC joined in with sign language. "Lily, our two-year-old who was born deaf, was there," says the Rev. Karen Lane. "There was not a dry eye in the house." (See photo.)
- Graham's Forge UMC has 55 in average worship attendance, but last summer they had 90 each night for Vacation Bible School. The congregation in Max Meadows, Va., is led by the Rev. Ray Bolen. (See photo.)