By: Christa Meland
• Reach • Renew • Rejoice: Thursday marked the formal launch of a congregational development initiative to start new churches and grow existing churches. “It is first and foremost a spiritual renewal movement,” said Bishop Bruce Ough. Last fall, the conference launched a feasibility study for a congregational development capital campaign. The study, based on more than 600 online questionnaires and 110 personal conversations, found that the vast majority of people surveyed believe that pursuing a plan to fund new faith communities and congregational vitality programs is important. In January 2014, conference and ministry team leaders voted to move forward with a conference-wide capital campaign. Here’s what the initiative will enable: Each year for the next seven years, we will start one new church, assist 20 churches in revitalizing their ministries, and partner with a vital parent church to multiply its ministry beyond its current site. Our “breakthrough” goal is $2.5 million, and our “rejoice” goal is $3.7 million. A total of $929,216.03 has been pledged to date, and Metro West Builders presented a check for $200,000 on Thursday before conference attendees. Click here for more information about Reach • Renew • Rejoice.
• Rural Church Award goes to Hope UMC (Blue Earth): This award is given annually to a rural church that has achievement and service in the areas of mission and evangelism, responds to local needs, has innovative ministries, lives in enthusiasm for rural life, and raises up faithful disciples. This year’s award was presented to Hope UMC in Blue Earth, a vital congregation that has roots in three churches that merged and became one. Its focus on hospitality and ministry to the whole family has gained notoriety in the community where it continues to reach new people. It hosts community events and local organizations, as well as a weekly mid-week supper and worship combined with its mid-week education program “Legos.” This mid-week opportunity welcomes young families and offers meaningful expressions of the Gospel to a variety of ages and interests. The intentional hospitality practiced by members has led to more than 100 new people choosing to call this church home; most of them are new to the United Methodist Church. Congratulations Hope UMC!
• Reducing our carbon footprint: Conference members approved a resolution to reduce the carbon footprint of our church buildings. The legislation, submitted by the Hopeful Earth Steering Committee, calls for the conference to “encourage all of our congregations to estimate the carbon footprint” of our buildings, determine how to reduce it, and implement those changes. All congregations that reduce their carbon footprint by 10 percent or more will be recognized at the 2016 Annual Conference. At least half a dozen people spoke in support of the resolution. “Everyone should be able to do it,” said one person.
• Chartering of Spirit River Community: On Thursday, conference session attendees celebrated the chartering of Spirit River Community, a four-year-old faith community in Isanti. It is the first United Methodist church to charter within Minnesota in 18 years, the last being Crossroads, which began in Lakeville and now has three other sites.
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