This year, as part of the church’s Living Lent Ministry Opportunities Program, the First United Methodist Church of Medford set a goal of folding 2,000 peace cranes in order to present a thousand cranes to two local elementary schools. The church’s Living Lent planning team thought it would be a good idea to do the peace cranes with their partner school, Jackson Elementary.
In the church’s ongoing relationship with Jackson Elementary they have contributed school supplies, provided 100 Christmas dinners to families from the school that are in need and, this past winter, made and donated 350 winter hats to the students. The initial goal of 1,000 cranes was raised to 2,000 and the church added another school where many of the church’s children attend.
Origami peace cranes come from an ancient Japanese legend that promises that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. The thousand origami cranes were popularized through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was two years old when she was exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Sasaki soon developed leukemia and, at age 12, inspired by the senbazuru legend, began making origami cranes with the goal of making one thousand. In a popular version of the story as told in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, she folded only 644 before her death. The Sadako story was shared with the congregation at the beginning of Lent as a way of introducing the idea and praying for peace.
According to Pastor John Tucker, “The idea was to present our community partners with symbols of peace and support as our culture deals with the growing problem of violence.” When the congregation responded by folding 5,000 peace cranes on Sundays during Lent and in their homes throughout the week, three more schools were added to the original plan and after displaying the peace cranes on Easter Sunday, a team from the church presented the five schools with a thousand peace cranes each. The Origami Club at the Hoover Elementary School helped fold some of the cranes and when we presented the cranes back to the school the students were convinced that they could tell which cranes they had folded.
There was lots of laughing Easter Sunday at “The Four Churches” service. Life is good, and the Resurrection is real. 200 people, toddlers to elders, gathered at Tillamook UMC to worship together--Congregationists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and United Methodists, singing their hearts out, celebrating the new thing God is creating among them.
It wasn’t so joyful a few years ago. All four congregations (St. John’s United Church of Christ, St Albans Episcopal Church, St Peter’s Lutheran Church, and Tillamook UMC) had suffered along with the community as the recession deepened and jobs disappeared. Each had seen their membership decline, and their energy for ministry dwindle. “I’ll be honest with you,” says the Rev. Jerry Jefferies, who pastors our UM congregation, as well as two others. “This began as a matter of survival.”
Beginning in 2010, under Jefferies’ leadership, The Four Churches began to share their ministry intentionally. They co-operate in youth ministries, with an all-church choir, and in worship together each fifth Sunday. They share a pictorial directory and publish one monthly newsletter, so everyone is included. But their greatest success is in their combined efforts to feed the people of Tillamook, body and spirit. Over 500 meals are served each month, and 6,000 lunches are packed for school children each summer. The Four Churches story was featured on the front page of the Oregonian on Easter Sunday, to the delight of the congregation.
What’s next for The Four Churches? “I don’t know,” said an Easter worshipper, “but it’s going to be good!”
Another article about the churches cooperation was featured in the Oregonian newspaper Easter sunday.
* Peg Lofsvold is the District Superintendent of the Cascadia District of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
BOISE, IDAHO – Members and friends of United Methodist churches across the region will spend the month of April raising awareness of hunger and collecting food to share with people in need.
During the second annual March on Hunger, United Methodist churches will serve as collection points for food and monetary donations for the Idaho Food Bank and local food pantries. The month-long movement will begin March 31 – Easter Sunday – as the churches focus on loving their neighbors by feeding the hungry as Jesus commanded his followers to do.
Participants will make a one-mile march from the Cathedral of the Rockies to a hunger awareness rally at the Statehouse in Boise on Saturday, April 6. They will make a prayer walk around the capitol, and donations will be accepted.
Workshops to discuss justice issues related to problem of hunger being planned to help raise awareness of the causes and solutions for hunger.
“We’re stepping out to make a difference in our community and challenging others to join us in our efforts,” said the Rev. David Thompson, project coordinator and pastor at the United Methodist churches in Emmett and Sweet. “We’re working to increase awareness of the problem of hunger in Idaho and to encourage people of all faiths to participate in solutions to the problem. With all of us working together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who are most in need.”
Thompson noted that nearly one in six Idaho residents – and one in four children – is food insecure, meaning he or she is uncertain about having adequate food. Statistics released last week show that half of Idaho’s schoolchildren are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
In addition to donating food or money, people interested in participating can learn of opportunities to be involved longer term in the fight against hunger. Further information on volunteer projects such as community gardens can be found at www.marchonhunger.org.
“United Methodists believe that church is not just a place you go but also an action you take,” said Thompson. “We believe that faith and good works belong together, that faith should inspire service, and that what we believe must be confirmed by what we do. This is one opportunity for us to step out to confirm our beliefs.”
For more information, contact:
The Rev. David Thompson
Cell phone: (208) 866-6821
A partnership of necessity has become a focus of ministry for the United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in Hood River, Oregon. Responding to shrinking congregations and the expenses of leadership, the congregations of Asbury United Methodist and Our Redeemer Lutheran churches began meeting together in March of 2011, rotating between the two church buildings. Rev. Andrew Wendle, who has served the Our Redeemer congregation since 2004, was appointed to the Asbury congregation in June of 2011. They now consider themselves one worshiping body, and agreed to a Joint Ministry Partnership to be joint stewards of ministry resources, people resources, and financial resources.
When members of both the Methodist and Lutheran congregations participated in the Oregon-Idaho conference’s Congregational Leadership Development classes, it led leaders of the Methodist congregation to look at the stewardship of maintaining a 100-year-old building for part-time use and see that was not where they were called by God. That realization has led to the sale of the building to a local businessman, and a renewed focus on partnership in ministry and reaching out to the community of Hood River County. The church will keep the proceeds of the sale for future capital projects. “While at times tearful, the vote was peaceful, forward thinking and courageous;” said Wendle, “this moves us forward to where God is calling.”
Dating back to the 1880’s, Asbury has a history of courage, including supporting Japanese-Americans who were persecuted and interned during World War II. Today that courage turns to working in partnership to plan and create an over 6,500 sq. ft. food bank warehouse and distribution center. Located on the Lutheran property, the center will serve the needs of the county. According to Wendle, “We look forward to demonstrating our commitment to the community with this project.”
A Decommissioning service will be held for the building on Sunday, March 24 at 3 p.m. The building is located at 616 State Street in Hood River.
January 1st 2013 ushered in the return of the circuit rider to North East Oregon. On that day, the United Methodist congregations of Elgin, Cove, La Grande, North Powder and Union strengthened their connection by becoming the North East Oregon (NEO) Circuit. This circuit is similar to the circuits of old in that a single Elder will make the rounds of the congregations, providing preaching, sacraments and administration. But, instead of each congregation functioning as a lonely mission outpost, the five churches will provide worship, ministry and music in a partnership of laity, Lay Persons Assigned, Certified Lay Servants, a retired elder and an active elder in full connection. Steve Wolff (pictured right), who has served three-quarter time at La Grande United Methodist Church for the past 18 months, has added one-quarter time as the circuit supervising pastor. When asked about this new ministry Steve responded, “I have been serving local churches for 22 years, and this is one of the most exciting ministries I’ve been involved in. At our 2012 Annual Conference, our Bishop reminded us just how essential each of our local congregations is. This is not a last chance option for any of these churches. This is a next chance model for how to do church everywhere.”
While efficient utilization of resources is a part of the model, the real key is to equip the laity to provide worship and disciple making ministries across the Grande Ronde Valley. The coordinating pastor will be based in the La Grande congregation, rotating through the circuit one Sunday a month preaching, teaching and providing sacraments. While distances are large (nearly 100 miles from one edge to edge), modern transportation allows for plenty of non-Sunday contact between the elder and the congregations. Lay Servants and Lay Assigned pastors will attend to regular preaching duties, with liturgists in each congregation providing the local anchor for each community’s worship. The circuit will also have a music director, Josh Peters, who will help develop and coordinate traveling ensembles to provide regular music in each setting. Administrative coordination will come through a council of Lay Leaders. According to District Superintendent, Kim Fields, “Though the supervising pastor will be based in the La Grande church, this is not a first step in a plan to merge churches or in any way dilute their individual identities. Each of the congregations has strengths to offer and role to fill in its local community. The plan is to maintain local identity while strengthening the United Methodist connection.”
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Members of Newtown United Methodist Church in Sandy Hook, Conn., are “still holding our breath” to learn the full impact of the Dec. 14 shooting at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, said the Rev. Mel Kawakami, the church’s senior pastor.
“We’re trying to keep our lines open,” he said. “We have already tried to reach out. We have communications circles that are trying to canvass our congregation.”
At least 27 are dead, including 18 children, according to the most recent news reports, in what is already one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. The shooting came less than a week after a gunman killed two holiday shoppers across the country at an Oregon mall.
The Sandy Hook, Conn., church — which has about 600 members — is within walking distance of the elementary school. Kawakami said the church already is serving as a respite center for Red Cross first responders, and its sanctuary is open for prayer. The church also plans a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. EST Dec. 14.
“We are in the midst of Advent, and the light is coming,” Kawakami said. “And we are praying for the light.”
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. Each time I hear the news, I react not as president, but as a parent. That’s especially the case today,” he said. “Many of the victims were between 5 and 10 years of age. They had their entire lives ahead of them. … Our hearts are broken today.”
Prayers and reactions began appearing on social media right after the shooting.
“Years ago, on a Holy Land tour, I visited Rachel's tomb. People of all ages surrounded her tomb weeping and praying for their children,” wrote Deen Thompson, lay leader of Edgehill United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Facebook. “Today this experience and words from the Bible become today's reality. ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.’ God help us...”
The Rev. Beth A. Richardson, editor of “Alive Now” magazine, published by Upper Room, offered this prayer: “Loving God, comfort your people in the midst of the tragedy of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Comfort all who mourn, God of Healing. We pray to you, Amen.”
The United Methodist Church is offering a prayer wall on Facebook.
The denomination’s communications agency, United Methodist Communications, also is planning to place messages of support and hope in local newspapers.
The United Methodist Board of Discipleship is offering resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.
In addition, the United Methodist Publishing House’s Ministry Matters site has a resource page, “When Tragedy Strikes Children.”
*Heather Hahn, Joey Butler and Barbara Dunlap-Berg with United Methodist News Service contributed to this report.