As your congregation gathers for worship this Sunday, congregants may be thinking and talking about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Be prepared to offer words of comfort, share details about the denomination’s stance to affirm all persons as equally valuable, and help church members find resources that will empower them to address racial justice issues in your community.

The United Methodist Church is advertising nationally to encourage a unified stand against racism, challenging people to learn how we all can be a force for good. A compilation of articles and denominational statements is available at UMC.org/EmbraceLove. Resources from across the connection are also available, including liturgies, discussion guides, videos to use in worship and on social media, and tips for talking to kids.

Explore resources at http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/archives-racism-resources.

Since its beginning in 2015, Urban Poiema UM Ministry in Milwaukee has been conducting baptisms, which now total 67 baby and adult services. Recently, Pastor Juan Marcos Garay said that he has conducted 11 baptisms, which are featured in this short video. While the ministry is only two years old, average worship attendance is 105 people, and the church has had up to 150 in worship. Urban Poeima is currently using Central United Methodist Church as their meeting place, but will soon be moving into their own building, the old Aldersgate UMC location. Pastor Garay said, “We are thrilled to see this type of growth for our young  ministry. Our members have incredible stories of God’s grace, healing, and purpose in their lives. We have seen families restored, addictions broken, and lives changed for the glory of God.” Recently Pastor Garay baptized a Muslim person. “He came to the waters, and God totally transformed his life.” On his Facebook page, the individual shared this: “I just got baptized. Thank you God for accepting me! Anyone who truly know me will understand how hard this decision was, but I truly felt my spirit moved. I felt God tell me it’s time. My mind went blank, and my legs began moving on their own towards the water that washed over me, and started a new beginning in my life. I know that I will lose my family when the news breaks out, but I will have God by my side in every step that I take for the rest of my life.” Pastor Guray commented, “What God is doing in our midst is too complex for words, and I’m just blessed that I get to be in the midst of witnessing a move of God in our church.” Watch a recent Make A New Wisconsin video featuring Juan Garay.

“Delavan UMC's Food Pantry may be small, but it serves 15-25 families per week on the one day it is open,” said Jeanne Esch, communications coordinator at the church. Donations are received from church members and from businesses within the community. They partner with Feeding America, and are able to purchase dairy, meats and frozen foods. Church members are also generous with the produce from their gardens. Their Food Pantry is staffed solely by church volunteers. Esch explained that the pantry started as a project of an Outreach Team, and is now run by members Van and Pat Brown, who are extremely dedicated to the Pantry.

Under the leadership of George Cairns, on Saturday, July 15, Trinity United Parish hosted a Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show at the Endeavor Trinity United Church of Christ. The show was named in memory of George Smith, George Cairn's uncle and a huge car buff. A total of 32 vehicles registered for the show. Included at the event were a 50/50 raffle, door prizes for participants, dash plaques, trophies and cash prizes, as well as t-shirts commemorating the show. Music was provided by DJ Ed Hoffman. Cash prizes were given out for Best of Show, as well as first through third place. However, the biggest winner was the charity that was designated. Proceeds from the show, totaling $1,134, were donated to the Marquette County Budda Box. Budda Box offers both financial and emotional support to those in Marquette County who have been diagnosed with cancer, along with their families. As Marquette County has the highest rate of reported cancer per capita in the State of Wisconsin, this organization provides critical services for so many in need. Trinity United Parish is a three point charge, made up of Briggsville United Methodist Church, Moundville United Methodist Church and Endeavor Trinity United Church of Christ. With the success of this first show, there are plans to make this an annual event.

Clintonville United Methodist Church is continuing to celebrate their sesquicentennial year by entering a float in the August 12th Firemen’s Festival Parade. The float, which depicts the beginning of their church start in Clintonville, will highlight the two pioneer women, Lucretia Doty and her daughter Fanny Guersney, who were responsible for starting a prayer meeting in 1867 in the town’s schoolhouse. This led to the organized church of 150 years. Portraying the two women who will be featured teaching religion to young children in an outdoor setting are Ella Lewis and Jennifer Jannusch, respectively. The church also has plans to feature a pictorial directory of the congregation, a special anniversary dinner, unique decorating for the Christmas/Advent season with a Wassail Party, and year-end toast for the future. Sandy Loberg is the general chairman of their 150th Celebration Committee.

On July 16th, Mount Horeb UMC did not have a formal worship that morning. Instead the congregation served at Hearts & Hands, a local daycare, and had a short prayer service at church. More than 60 people did work throughout the daycare building, in the play yards, and around the perimeter of their grounds. Sound gardens, a bridge, and a pallet house were built and installed. Weeds were pulled and cut down. Inside the building, ice packs were made, and books and dress-up clothes were repaired. Children washed and dried toys. While still others sorted doll clothes. Some made playdoh in the kitchen. There were so many things accomplished in a few short hours. The teachers and staff at Hearts & Hands said, “Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication…but, the children are the ones who are most thankful, as seen in their smiling faces.” View letter.

Wellspring UMC, on the west side of Madison, has been intentional about building bridges in their community and taking church outside its walls. Here are three examples:

Lussier Community Education Center is used for adult and children programs, including training and after-school and summer activities. It serves hot meals to thousands of people each year. School supplies, a food pantry, emergency funding are all coordinated through Lussier with the help and cooperation of many churches and organizations on the west side of Madison. While Wellspring UMC has been providing school supplies for a number of years, this last year they decided to “up their game”. Each year their Food Pantry Garden, grown on church property and maintained by church volunteers, produces 300-400 pounds of fresh veggies and fruit. They are now delivering weekly crops to Lussier, coinciding with their Wednesday evening community meals.

A week-long mission trip to Milwaukee for the youth group at Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison wasn’t just about scraping, painting and weeding. The trip also allowed for interaction with children from the neighborhood. Read all about their volunteer efforts and what they learned from this special experience, as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Menomonie Police Department will be hosting the Annual National Night Out campaign on Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Cedar Corporation parking lot, located at 604 Wilson Ave. The event will feature vehicle displays from the Menomonie Police Department and other area law enforcement and public safety agencies. Some of the highlights for the evening include a dunk tank, a bicycle rodeo, children’s activities, live music by the Cutaways, and food provided by the Boyceville United Methodist Church to create an evening of fun for the whole family. National Night Out, in its 34th year, involves more than 15,000 communities from all 50 states. The event allows the community to come together with the men and women who maintain the safety of our community and neighborhoods. National Night Out promotes crime prevention and safe and healthy living for area youth.

The Wildfire! Youth Mission Event, which was hosted by Faith United Methodist Church in Superior, WI, was a huge success. This year more than 100 youth from 17 different churches across the state, and one from Minnesota, participated. According to event coordinator Rev. Joel Certa-Werner, each day the group was able to help people, community programs and ministries throughout the Twin Ports area with projects, such as painting, construction, demolition, cleaning, sorting, upkeep, and more. “We had wonderful meals, engaging worship, and great evening fun activities. The best part was that we were able to grow closer to Christ and each other. I know God is rejoicing, the Church is strengthened, and people are blessed,” Certa-Werner said. Read story from Superior Telegram. View television broadcast from WDIO/ABC.

In January, a young Muslim girl sat at a table and told stories about being bullied in her middle school. Men and women of different faiths listened intently and shared how they, too, had experienced violence in their everyday lives."Sharing Our Faiths: Our Experience of Violence" was a discussion night hosted by the Southeast Milwaukee Interfaith Covenant Association in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twelve Christian churches – including Bay View United Methodist Church – and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee host events such as "Sharing Our Faith" in hopes of unifying an interfaith community in love and support for one another. Over 60 men and women of varying ages and religions came together at the January event to discuss faith and violence. A panel made up of a Milwaukee Police Department officer, another adult and a teen spoke briefly to open the discussion. Seated at round tables, other participants then shared their own stories.

The Rev. Andy Oren, one of the pastors at Bay View Church, recalls that a Catholic teacher told how the school at which she taught had recently made a "friendship bench" to help children avoid bullying. It was a safe place where kids gathered on the playground when they had no friend to play with. Others would come to the bench and invite those children to play. The interfaith discussion night, Oren said, has since been dubbed a "friendship bench of faith," a place where participants find new strength and unlikely friendships. The Southeast Covenant Association formed in November 2000 when representatives of the 13 congregations committed themselves "within the unifying love of God ... to the exercise of understanding, cooperation and growth in unity through faith." The Rev. Lowell Bartel, then a pastor at Bay View, initiated conversations in 1999 with Ziad Hamdan, imam at the Islamic Center, that led to the Association. The beginning of the organization was also the beginning of a change of heart in Milwaukee. The association began hosting interfaith events to encourage open conversations about faith. On Sept. 8, 2001, the group held its first annual interfaith picnic. Oren remembers that day vividly. Read more

About three weeks ago, Stoughton UMC had to cancel their mission trip. This left a hole in the worship plans for this July 9, which was supposed to be a mission trip team-led worship. After some prayer and discernment, their day of "Hitting the Streets" transpired. Pastor Cathy Christman set an ambitious goal of 30 people to leave the sanctuary to go and serve. When the morning began, they had 21 people signed up. By the end of the morning, they had 31 servants worshipping through acts of ministry. (Their actual total was 38 people since a team had recruited ahead of time.) According to Rev. Christman, “Since we met our goal, I will be having a special hair cut next week during worship; I will be donating my ponytail to Wigs 4 Kids. We had a kitchen team that prepared a wonderful meal for us for the end of the morning. We had a hospitality team that greeted walkers, joggers and pets as they walked by the church. We had two teams that headed out to two homes for service with our neighbors. Our volunteers were from all ages and abilities who performed sit-down jobs, as well as heavy labor. Prior to our work, each group gathered to pray and hear expectations for the day at the end of a brief worship service.” View photos here.

The 175th Anniversary (1842-2017) Celebration at Yorkville United Methodist Church continued with the creation of a special Fourth of July parade float. The theme was “Let Your Light Shine” and “This Little Light of Mine” was played on a boom box. The message was “175 Years of Sharing God’s Love” through local mission (Food Bank), national mission (Flood Relief through UMCOR) and world mission (agricultural missionary Rev. Paul Webster). The float featured large map cut-outs of Wisconsin, the United States and Africa. Parade walkers wore colorful “light bulb” T-shirts with “Shining For Jesus” on the back, and several children wore light bulb costumes. A second float with a similar theme, carried the “Hims of Harmony” men’s quintet, singing “Ain’t Nobody” and “Cool Drink of Water”. It also advertised the upcoming Vacation Bible School. Both floats, built on hay wagons and pulled by members' farm tractors, appeared in the Union Grove parade at 9:15 am and the Raymond parade at 1:00 pm, both in Racine County. It was a great witness to the communities. There are more 175th Anniversary events to follow.

Parade photos by Sandy Moyer. Submitted by Carol Knight, Chair of 175th Task Force

The 2017 Annual Conference was blessed this year with a “pick up” worship ensemble, staffed by volunteers from various congregations from around the state. Working alongside guest worship leader Dr. Marcia McFee, this group provided musical inspiration and leadership for the four worship services. It is a joy to share the names of these musicians and celebrate their commitment, accomplishment, service and gifts to this year’s Annual Conference. This creative collaboration is definitely a representation of the theme “One with Christ”:

  • Pastor Justin Lowe-Piano/Vocals--First UMC, Kenosha
  • Matt Starika-Jolivet-Vocals--Director of Creative Ministries, Sun Prairie UMC
  • Denise Utter-Vocals--Logos H.S. Leader, Sun Prairie UMC
  • John Haas-Bass Guitar--Ministry Council Chair/Lay Member, Still Waters Community UMC, Jackson
  • Holly Taylor-Flute--Lay Member, Parfreville UMC
  • Mary Keuhn-Guitar/Vocals--Choir Director/Song Leader, First UMC, Tomah
  • Pastor Norman Bude-Guitars--Evansville UMC
  • Tim Karth-Drums, Horns, Vocals, Piano (Laity Session)--Choir Director/Lay Leader, Wauwatosa Ave UMC

Article submitted by Tim Karth, Wauwatosa Avenue UMC

Given last year's "unrest" and the just announced not-guilty verdict in the Dominique Haagen-Brown trial, Sherman Park in Milwaukee returned to the media spotlight June 21, 2017. The District 7 Faith Based Initiative (of which Milwaukee's Albright UMC is a member), had been attempting to schedule a Prayer Walk around Sherman Park for roughly three months, and a date was finally set, June 23. God knew what He had in mind as that date turned out to be two days after the verdict was read in the trial of Dominique Haagen Brown. The officer charged in the incident that sparked the 2016 "unrest," and members of Milwaukee:Albright were front and center for the entire walk.