You are a Light of the World! Celebrating Advent 2021
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God.” – Matthew 5: 14-16
Join us this Advent season as we journey to the manger by celebrating the laity in the Oregon-Idaho Conference who light up this world! Each day of Advent, beginning this Sunday, you will see different, amazing laity highlighted on our Oregon-Idaho Conference Facebook page.
We asked leaders throughout our Conference to nominate individuals from their church or ministry settings who are showing us what it means to be a church these days: demonstrating God’s radically inclusive love through acts of kindness, mercy and justice.
You will read about wildfire recovery heroes, champions of COVID-19 precautions, creation care specialists, youth inviting us to know our neighbors, and countless others. Some names you may recognize for the diligent work they do helping us, as a Conference, be disciples of Christ. We were also intentional about recognizing many of the hardworking individuals who aren’t always in the limelight, yet they, too, provide a bright spark through their everyday actions to bring about hope, peace, joy and love in the world around us.
Dan Moseler stepped in as our interim disaster response coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference right as wildfires broke out all across Oregon in 2020. While he assisted teams with getting resources into survivors’ hands, he also served as a liaison to the COVID-19 crisis response team as needed and assisted the Blue Mountain flood recovery. In uncertain times, his steady leadership proved invaluable.
Megan Bartlett is a bright star or a ray of sunshine on any dark and cloudy day. At the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone felt isolated from one another and unable to gather for worship, Megan sat down and started writing cards to individual members of her congregation – Sellwood Faith Community – almost daily. She expanded her card ministry to friends of her family and other people she knew across the Oregon-Idaho Conference as the months wore on, bringing hope, love and empathy to many who needed a smile.
David Richards Oshiro has supported his pastor at Oak Grove UMC in making the pivot to the “COVID-19 reality” of a changed local church. He has helped with numerous projects and programs in the local church and community, has been instrumental in advancing the church’s tech capacity and does an outstanding job of interfacing and interacting with online worshipers.
Jean Somerville Freeman lights up the world with her commitment to Klamath Falls UMC and a more inclusive community. The town held its first-ever Pride Festival in August as it makes steps toward inclusivity. Klamath Falls UMC was the only church present and Jean was regularly staffing the booth to offer a message of God’s inclusive love to event participants. She also regularly steps into the pulpit with a pastor assigned only quarter-time to the church.
Teri Watanabe What doesn’t Teri do to help her fellow churches? She preaches, writes and assists congregations that are ending their season of life as a traditional congregation into the next chapter. She brings the lay perspective to her work on the Board of Ordained Ministry and will serve as the chairperson for the board in the coming year.
Becky Platt has been a guiding light for the entire Greater Northwest Area of The UMC during the COVID-19 pandemic with her weekly data analysis and updates. Becky has provided timely data which has shaped our churches’ ministry during the pandemic. Her commitment to helping us doing no harm through our COVID-19 response is nothing short of amazing.
David Boan has gone above and beyond the call to fight COVID-19 as United Methodists. Using his experience with global health partners, David turned a missional project at Boise First UMC-Amity Campus to raise funds for equitable global vaccine distribution into a global initiative of The United Methodist Church. What began as a grassroots campaign now has the support of UNICEF, the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries and so many others.
Cynthia MacLeod has long championed dismantling racism and confronting white privilege both professionally and in her local church, Fremont UMC. As the Columbia District Lay Leader, she has stepped up to help the District Superintendent in countless ways to bring her passion and expertise into the work of the district.
David Cox led a solar panel installation project that benefited not only Salem FUMC but all the Open Door Churches of Salem-Keizer as well. David wrote grants to underwrite the majority of the $350,000-plus project. Then, with the help of his committee, privately raised the rest of the funds through individual congregations. All of the Open Door Churches are benefiting from lower electric bills while also being good environmental stewards.
As a devoted member of the Samoan Faith Community in Medford, Ria Galo helped her congregation establish COVID-19 vaccine clinics this fall. She serves as the Crater Lake District Lay Leader and spent countless hours helping the Oregon-Idaho Conference draft anti-racist policies and legislation. She lights up the world as a mom, academic adviser and disciple for all.
Terry Neal truly cares for all souls and puts his faith into action, regularly supporting the work of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrG). Lately he’s been working with the Refugee Care Collective to gather and store 500 refugee care kits at his home church, Tigard UMC. These care kits include everything from bedding to dishes, food and more. Terry is the light of hope in this, and many other aspects of his church-community volunteerism.
Rich Keefe has been a leader at Whitney UMC in Boise for many years, but his generosity with his time and talents reached new levels during the pandemic. From incredible amounts of work making online worship possible to his exceptional work assisting with pastoral transitions, Rich has gone above and beyond In a season when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Rich was a constant source of calm, capable, gracious leadership.
Neairra Morgan is helping youth from Parkrose High School in Portland find and shine their lights by running the food pantry at Parkrose UMC. She has developed relationships with students of various faiths and the LGBTQ+ community to help them live generously. In doing this, she’s also created a safe and open place for students to be themselves and feel welcome.
Allen Evans has always helped his church, La Grande UMC, in whatever ways possible. For years he’s volunteered with Eastern Oregon University cooperative campus ministries program with five other churches in town. He and his church have been active with the local community warming station. Recently, when his pastor recently went on extended leave Allen cheerfully stepped in to coordinate worship services.
Hazel Kiblinger is a faithful member of Hillsboro United Methodist Church and recently served as a youth voting delegate to the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference session. She has volunteered her time at the church’s Camp Common Good summer program. She regularly helps care for the younger kids in her congregation. Additionally, she’s a Girl Scout, dancer, and athlete, making her a busy and hard-working 13-year-old.
Barry Braden was a light in the dark for many as wildfires ravaged southern Oregon in 2020. A member of Ashland UMC and a retired NASA engineer, Barry coordinated the Conference’s response in Jackson County and oversaw the distribution of UMCOR supply kits and finances to community agencies. Additionally, he serves as a lead communicator on the Jackson County Long Term Recovery Group.
Sherry Pittam has a heart of gold and steps in when she sees a need. She has covered the office needs at Christ's Church in Monmouth since the paid staff position ended during the pandemic. She learned the technology needed to help her church with remote worship, and now continues as the primary tech worship volunteer in hybrid worship space. Sherry is a shining example of how crucial our laity have been to our churches during the pandemic!
Kylie Nelson has offered her gift of artistry to the people of Eugene through murals painted on church exterior -- and interior -- walls to help identify them as LGBTQ+ inclusive communities of faith. Serving as one of our reserve General Conference delegates, she advocates for reforming our denomination to practice what it preaches in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity. She is a beacon for what it means to live authentically in a world and church that continually asks people to fit inside the right-sized box.
Cindy Bjorneberg is grace in action. For a long season, Crossroads UMC in Kimberly, Idaho, did not have an appointed pastor. As chairperson of the church’s staff parish relations committee, Cindy was the main contact person, organizer, and team lead for Kimberly Crossroads UMC. She went above and beyond her duties as chairperson during this transition and continues to be a gracious presence in her church and community.
Jaime Silva passed mid-December, but knew he was being recognized as a Light of The World. Here's why we honor him: Jaime was vital to the Hispanic/Latinx Ministries of Washington County’s response to people in need during this pandemic. Masked up and ready to help, he shined his light by communicating with the local Hispanic community, distributing groceries or directing people to the church’s food pantry – rain or shine! We thank God for the time we had with Jaime and know that his legacy will continue to light our way.
Everything Louise Kienzle does is because of her calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ: organizing United Methodist Volunteers in Mission trips, donating countless hours to Camp & Retreat Ministries and contributing her musical talents to her local church, Hermiston UMC. When there's a job to be done, you can expect Louise to just quietly take care of it – because that's how she lives out her calling.
Sharon Bryan is a generous soul who has spent years giving her time to her local church and United Methodist Women. In her current role as Sage District Lay Leader, Sharon spends countless hours on Zoom with pastors and laity alike, always cheerful and freely sharing her professional skills and personal passions with everyone.
Sue Lundy Green, a music teacher by day, has been a light in the world for youth and adults for years! As the dean of Camp Hope (held each summer at Camp Magruder) Sue has helped participants enjoy a safe and caring environment where they experience the wonder of God’s creation, the support of a grace-filled community, and love inspired by Christian faith.
Rochelle Killett leads Creation Vacation and Simply Worship (a camp and service for differently- abled individuals) at Nampa First UMC in Idaho. She recently began book groups that are focusing on anti-racism in her church. All of this after serving 7 years as a lay assigned pastor at Nyssa UMC.
Natalie Huerta has been the driving force behind the new Gooding UMC youth group YouTube program “The Good People of Gooding.” At just 13, Natalie has interviewed the mayor, the fire chief, local librarian and others as the church attempts to connect with neighbors, one story at a time. Through her interviews, she’s shining the light of hope, peace and love in divisive times by learning the common threads which bind us together.
On Christmas Eve we honor you, ALL of YOU, for being the light of the world in your church and local communities! You have been the bright lights, beacons of hope and guiding stars that our world so desperately needs these days!