By: Christa Meland
When we work together, shoulder to shoulder, we can change the world.
That’s the message that Southern Prairie District Superintendent Phil Strom gave to members of the 161st Minnesota Annual Conference Session. And that message was reinforced Wednesday afternoon through several stories of Minnesota United Methodists being church in their communities and across the globe.
Conference attendees learned how Oakwood United Methodist Church in New Ulm adopted an elementary school in order to share God’s love with the neediest children in the community. They learned that Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato provides hot breakfast and hope six mornings a week to its neighbors in need. They learned that 61 Minnesota United Methodist churches have formed relationships with 16 missionaries being the hands and feet of Jesus around the world. They learned that the Minnesota Conference is partnering with United Methodist missionaries in Vietnam to help foster an abundant life for children in Vietnam. (Watch this year’s missional report video to learn more about these projects.)
They learned that we are healing a broken world in a wide variety of ways (see printed missional report for more details). Other highlights celebrated during a look back over the past year:
Reach • Renew • Rejoice: To date, $3,038,968 million has been pledged to this congregational development initiative that aims to raise $3.7 million to start new churches and revitalize existing churches across Minnesota over the next seven years. Many individual donors and roughly a quarter of churches have thus far made pledges. (Watch a two-minute Reach • Renew • Rejoice video to learn more.)
• Transformational processes: Twenty-four churches are currently engaged in a revitalization process—Missional Journey for small churches, Healthy Church Initiative for mid-sized churches, or Missional Church Consultation Initiative for large churches. These churches have all said “yes” to starting a new lifecycle of vitality and are working to position themselves for growth in number, spirituality, and community impact.
• Church planting: “We believe in resurrection and we are a missionary movement, always going to the frontier, where new people are living and working, and we send circuit riders to those places,” said Rev. Whitney Starkey, associate pastor at Centennial UMC in Roseville. The Minnesota Conference currently has 15 faith communities that are less than seven years old. One of them is a second site for Centennial that will launch later this year. Another is a new Minneapolis church that Tyler Sit, who just finished a church-planting residency in Chicago and will be commissioned Thursday, has been appointed to launch this summer. That church will be focused on eco-justice, which Sit describes as the intersection between race, economy, and ecology.
• The ELI Project: Thanks to a $60,000 grant from the United Methodist Church’s Young Clergy Initiative, the Minnesota Conference just launched The Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project, an internship program for college students exploring a call to vocational ministry. Eight interns will spend eight weeks at a host church this summer to engage in hands-on ministry. “Developing leaders who have the zest, grit, and heart to not only lead the church we have now, but imagine and create a church for the future, is priority one,” Rev. Cindy Gregorson, the conference’s director of ministries, said.
• Generous givers: Through their generosity, Minnesota United Methodists have collectively enabled vital mission and ministry around the world. Gifts include: $2.8 million to Imagine No Malaria (which has saved 280,000 lives), more than 3 million meals packed and nearly $100,000 given for hungry children around the world, and $959,000 in giving over and above apportionments—including $218,000 to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which brings hope and assistance to places impacted by natural disasters. Thank you for your generosity!
Strom concluded by saying that we know the challenges before us. But we also know what we can do when we work together. “It is time to be ‘all in’ on this journey of vitality,” he said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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