Celebrating our partnership and passion for missions

missions art

EPA Conference Communications plans to live-stream the opening plenary session–specifically, a keynote address by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson and two featured presentations by the Rev. Patrick Friday, head of In Mission Together, an innovative global mission partnership program of the General Board of Global Ministries.

The webcast opening plenary is scheduled to occur from 9:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. with a 15-minute break at 11 a.m. 

The two morning presentations Friday will deliver are “When Helping Hurts: 50/50 Mission Partnerships for Long-Term Impact” and Mobilization, Multiplication Movement: A Church Growth Wesleyan Model.” The six afternoon workshops and closing session will not be webcast live.

Simultaneously, a video production team, led by freelance producer Henri Giles, will record much of the mission celebration to capture scenes for a Global Ministries video about new ways of doing mission. “We are shooting a video as a follow-up to ‘The Movement,’ which was released last year,” explained Friday about the production that will include scenes from his presentations at the celebration. “The focus is on a new paradigm of missional engagement through 50/50 partnerships.”

Our denomination’s mission, charged by Jesus Christ, to “Make disciples for the transformation of the world” is not given only to committed individuals but to the church at large. It is a collective enterprise that relies on partnership as much as passion. And it is not a mission to be performed here and there, or every now and then, but everywhere and every day of our lives.

Thus the theme for this year’s second, back-by-popular-demand Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Celebration of Missions on April 5: “Into All the World: Living the Great Co-Mission.”

The celebration, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Olivet UMC in Coatesville, will focus on healthy, productive mission partnerships that creatively and consistently engage people and churches in Christ’s ministry at home and around the world.

Long before he pronounced the Great Commission Jesus sent his 12 disciples out two-by-two for what might have been a trial run, a chance to witness what they could really do in mission for God in Christ’s name. And they were amazed by the results as they shared the gospel, healed the sick, cast out demons and inspired new believers. But it all depended on their partnership with one another and with Christ who would later assure them, and us, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Spirit of Partnership

That same blessed assurance and spirit of partnership should imbue the April 5 gathering with deep confidence and a commitment to pursue and support the mission of our church, in league with our missionaries laboring in the field. Just like last year, attendees will get to meet, learn about and talk to some of those missionaries, calling in from their posts around the world (and from various time zones) via the miracle of Skype.

In addition, the gathering—which should exceed the more than 200 people who came last year—will hear an inspiring, challenging message about transformation from Bishop Peggy Johnson, followed by a multimedia presentation from the Rev. Patrick Friday, Director of In Mission Together, a program of the General Board of Global Ministries. The well-traveled Friday will help us explore creative mission partnerships that offer long-term, transformational impact. But he will also teach principles and strategies to avoid fostering dependency and inequities that could ultimately hurt those we seek to help. Friday will further examine with us new iterations of the Wesleyan model of church growth that can lead to mobilization and multiplication of new believers and transformed churches and communities.

Six Breakout, Breakthrough Workshops

And yet, there’s more, thanks to six breakout, and potentially breakthrough, workshops.

Patrick Friday will teach “Glo-cal Partnerships for Community Transformation,” offering a fresh look at making the gospel relevant to changing needs and times by linking global and local concerns and relationships.

Ron Whitlatch, Northeastern Jurisdiction Mission Interpreter and a former missionary, will open our eyes to the changing faces and forms of mission, in which innovative mission personnel and programs are deploying new skills, strategies, sensitivities and technologies in a post-modern world.

Karen Weiss, a coordinator of In Mission Together and a candidate for deacon in our neighboring Susquehanna Conference, will return to share more information about current programs and opportunities for churches to forge productive, mutually beneficial partnerships with missionaries and the peoples they serve around the world.

The Rev. David Ryan, who leads the EPA Congo Partnership, along with the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and the Central Congo Episcopal Area, will talk about our ongoing efforts to assist local churches, medical clinics, nutrition centers, an aviation ministry, agricultural training and children’s ministries that together are saving lives and souls in a region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He will invite churches to become part of this vital, inspired mission endeavor.

Meanwhile, Ben Botti, EPA’s Volunteers in Mission coordinator, will help attendees of his workshop picture themselves and their churches engaged in mission in any arena, whether local, regional, national or international. He will help them imagine the transformational impact that experience can have, as givers become receivers and vice-versa through mission partnerships. Botti, an active, retired engineer, has led or co-led numerous mission teams to do construction and post-disaster rebuilding projects in the U.S. and globally, starting with his first in 1995 to Honduras. He currently manages the Peninsula-Delaware Conference’s post-Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts in Crisfield, Md.

Finally, Barbara Drake, President of the EPA Conference United Methodist Women, will co-lead with others the “UMW Mission-U” workshop. They will interpret their support of 97 National Mission Institutions in the U.S. and other global missions that focus on women, children and youth around the world. They will offer a closer look at other UMW mission efforts in EPA, including the Needlework Circle that helps low-income families. And they will put the “work” in “workshop” by engaging their participants in assembling health kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief to send to communities devastated by disasters of every kind.

Our goal is to encourage interest in missions

A remarkable day like this, of worship, discipleship and fellowship in celebration of missions, offers priceless, timeless value; but the cost to participate is only $10 in advance or $12 at the door to help pay costs for lunch, snacks and materials. Advance registration by April 1 to facilitate planning is strongly preferred, either online at epaumc.org/events/calendar/2014-missions-celebration or by mail to event registrar Barbara Drake, 15 Yale Road, Havertown, PA 19083. (E-mail her with registration questions at bedrake15@aol.com.)

“Our goal is to encourage interest in missions, renew our commitments to missionaries who represent us, and fulfill the task together of sharing Christ’s gospel and ushering in God’s Kingdom in near and faraway places,” said the Rev. David Davis, lead organizer, EPA Conference missions coordinator and host pastor for the celebration. He reports that after last year’s event, several missionaries itinerated in the conference to interpret their work and “giving to missions went up by 8 percent, as more covenant relationships and connections with missionaries were established among our churches.”

“I truly believe that God is telling us something here,” said the Rev. Christopher Kurien, Conference Director of Connectional Ministries. “Missions and evangelism will revive our church again, and people are hungry for such a revival. We have to be prayerful and strategic in our efforts.”

–By John Coleman, EPA Communications Director