Donna and Jonathan Baker returned March 24 from spending 40 days in the Democratic Republic of Congo and have much to report on the Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership that includes the Eastern PA Conference. 

Bishop Peggy Johnson encourages churches and members to support the Partnership's vital efforts through ongoing giving and through the special missions offering to be received at Annual Conference on Saturday, May 16.

Here is Donna's report, adapted for this article, and photos from their visit.

The agenda and schedule for our 2015 Annual Conference is set...well, not in stone, but close enough. The roughly 3-day annual session, from Thursday to Saturday, May 14-16, will convene at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa.

Online and mail-in advance registration for all members are starting to pick up with a deadline of April 27. Clergy and Laity will gather for their separate annual sessions Thursday morning at 10 AM. The opening worship will follow at 1:15 PM, with the Rev. Susan Henry Crowe, General Secretary of the Board of Church and Society, preaching perspectives on environmental stewardship.

Shovels and ice scrapers were the first tools many EPA Conference church leaders needed early Saturday morning, March 7. They had to liberate their snow and icebound vehicles for the trek to full-day Tools for Ministry academies across six districts. But those who matched the stubbornness of this winter with their own determined quest for knowledge learned an impressive array of ministry tools and tactics useful to address just about any task in any church.

Having moved the annual church leadership training event from January to March 7 this year to avoid the worry of winter weather, district planners saw another fresh snow fall across the region the day before. "March comes in like a lion," the old adage starts; but the lion's roar did not deter more than 800 people who came out to attend more than 70 classes and workshops aimed at helping them to be more innovative, effective and responsive in their ministries.

Several recent television programs have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the film The Sound of Music, which burst onto theater screens in 1965 and won the hearts of fans worldwide. Even the recent Academy Awards TV broadcast featured an impressive performance by popular singer Lady Gaga and the appearance of Sound of Music star Julie Andrews. Now vocalist Elisabeth von Trapp, the granddaughter of Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired that film, is coming to Eastern Pennsylvania and offering to perform in some of our churches.

"Yield to the Call; Explore the Call; Stay with the Call." The biannual YES retreat for high school-age youth undeniably masters the "Explore" part of that call-to-ministry formula. Hopefully, the rest happens when they return home.

As each retreat ends Bishop Peggy Johnson shares her call story and then anoints and prays for each participant (as shown here). But in the eight hours prior to that solemn climax the young attendees explore the inner and outer nature of the "call" experience, aided by some dedicated, knowledgeable tour guides.

By Christina Siewert, Hopewell UMC

I was blessed to attend the 2015 Youth Rally, titled "Masterpiece." After two years of absence, it was amazing to be back in Ocean City, Md., again. I am continually amazed by the way God can touch every single person’s heart throughout the weekend. And this year was no exception for me.

I was most amazed by the Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil’s presentation, “Mission Impossible.” She talked about how God calls each of us into situations that make us uncomfortable and doubtful of success.  She assured us that the Bible doesn’t promise us an easy walk of faith; but God calls us into difficult places in order to further His kingdom. In particular, she focused on the church’s call to further the faith of young people.

"A Century of Commitment, A Legacy of Love." That reverent theme will mark a joyous celebration of the former, all-African American Delaware Annual Conference Saturday, May 30, at Philadelphia's historic Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, 750 S. Broad St.  Bishop Gregory Palmer of the West Ohio Area, a Philadelphia native, and Bishop Ernest Lyght (retired), of New Jersey, will headline the celebration. They will be joined by host Bishop Peggy Johnson and other former clergy and lay members of the old Delaware Conference.

From 1864 until it merged with adjoining geographical conferences in 1965, the racially segregated conference of black Methodists stretched from Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore up through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and north of New York City. It was the first all-black conference to organize, in order for black churches in the original Methodist Episcopal Church to have their own black pastors, manage their own affairs and be free of white control.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church

Welcome! The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church is made up of about 465 churches, which serve nearly 125,000 members in 16 counties. Led by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, the Conference's mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Today, this mission is the focus of the conference’s 465 churches, congregations which speak to diverse and multi-generational populations in the many cities, towns, and rural areas throughout our area. The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and its sister Peninsula/Delaware Conference together compose the Philadelphia Area, with nearly 1,000 churches served by Bishop Peggy Johnson.

If you are a clergy person or member of one of our 465 churches, we invite you to explore this website for resources and information to support you in your effort to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a welcoming faith family, we invite you to visit a United Methodist Church in your community: www.find-a-church.org.

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Office: 980 Madison Ave., Norristown, PA 19403; telephone 610-666-9090; fax 610-666-9093.

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