"The more the merrier." Members of the new North District--from many churches in the former Northeast and Northwest districts--gathered for fun, food and fellowship at a picnic August 26, at Knoebel's Amusement Park in Elysburg, to celebrate their new, larger district family. The Rev. Steward Warner photo

New districts gatherings to focus on leadership

Hundreds of Eastern PA Conference members will gather when our four new districts hold their inaugural meetings with Bishop Peggy Johnson over the next week, Sept. 12-18. They will welcome the bishop in their new, larger configurations, with new district and conference leadership, more district-family connections, and probably some new mission initiatives and relationships to look forward to in their journeys ahead.

Each district gathering will include meetings with clergy first at 4 PM and laity later at 6:30 PM, and a joint fellowship dinner in-between at 5:30 PM. Bishop Johnson, in her annual Days on the Districts, will share with each group important conference news and her personal insights and outlook for the future.

Attendees will also meet and hear briefly from their respective district superintendents and elected officers, and from other Conference top executives, including new Treasurer James Brown, new Director of Connectional Ministries the Rev. Anita Powell and Jo Fielding, Executive Director of Pension and Health Benefits and Director of Administrative Ministries.

The bishop will speak about her thematic focus on leadership for the new conference program year (which begins this month). She will recommend and share with leaders a new book she and her Cabinet have been reading: Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition (Revised Edition, 2016) by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder (retired) and the Rev. Laceye C. Warner.

Last year she shared with districts the Rev. Mark Batterson’s popular book Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge. Many churches, pastors, groups and laity have reported using it to enhance their prayer lives, worship and ministries.

The bishop’s new recommended book, written for Christian leaders and teachers, focuses on one of The United Methodist Church’s four missional foci: “Developing principled Christian leadership.” Carder and Warner, both seminary professors, explore the importance of identifying and nurturing Christ-centered character, even more than technical and administrative skills, in making disciples who can effectively nurture and lead other disciples.

The new East District will hold the first inaugural gathering Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Sanctuary UMC in North Wales. The new South District will convene its members on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Hopewell UMC in Downingtown.

The new, much larger North District will gather Thursday, Sept. 14, simultaneously—and conveniently—in two locations: First UMC in Schuylkill Haven and Asbury UMC in Allentown. While the bishop will be in Schuylkill Haven, attendees in Allentown will be able to view and respond to her presentation via simulcast livestream video. Conference executive staff will address the two gatherings from the Allentown location.

Finally, clergy and laity will gather from across the new West District on Monday, Sept. 18, at Ruhl’s UMC in Manheim.