The new North District will sponsor a clergy family picnic August 26 at Knoebels Park, continuing the former Northeast District's annual tradition. This is a playful scene from their 2015 picnic.(Photo courtesy of Sheila Milz)

New districts plan picnics in August, celebrations in September

The new North and South districts will both hold picnics in August for their clergy families, inviting all to come and get better acquainted. But clergy and laity of all four new districts will have a chance to get better acquainted in September when they each host Bishop Peggy Johnson, combining her annual Days on the Districts visits with their inaugural new-district celebrations, complete with worship, dinner, presentations and meetings.

The bishop will bring several conference staff—including Benefits Officer Jo Fielding, new Connectional Ministries the Rev. Anita Powell and our new Conference Treasurer if one is hired by then—to meet with clergy about important concerns first around 4 PM. Joint lay-clergy dinners will follow, and then meetings with laity in the evenings.

“I will be preaching and setting a tone for this year’s various activities,” said Bishop Johnson. “I want to emphasize leadership in the Wesleyan tradition and the book Grace to Lead by Bishop Ken Carter.” At her 2016 Days on the Districts she introduced and offered free copies of the Rev. Mark Batterson’s book Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge, which became a popular prayer resource for many over the past year.

The vast, new North District will hold its Clergy Family Picnic on Saturday, August 26, at Knoebels Resort in Elysburg, billed as “America’s Largest Free-Admission Amusement Park.” Three weeks later they will host Bishop Johnson for their celebration on Thursday, September 14, in two distant locations simultaneously: at First UMC in Schuylkill Haven and Asbury UMC in Allentown.

Plans call for Bishop Johnson to be at the Schuylkill Haven UMC site with the Rev. Joe Tyson, North District Assisting Elder, and for the Rev. Irving Cotto to be at the Asbury UMC Allentown location. But members at the latter site will still get to see and hear their bishop on-screen through the power of video-conferencing technology. Clergy at the two sites will meet first at 4 PM, followed by a joint dinner at 5:30 PM, and then a meeting with laity at 6:30 PM.

The Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Superintendent of the new South District, will welcome clergy members and their families to her annual picnic at the District Parsonage in West Chester, on Saturday, August 12, from 11 AM to 3 PM. Lunch will be provided, along with fellowship for adults and fun for children, who can enjoy water-play activities in their swimsuits.

The Bishop’s Day on the South District comes next on Wednesday, September 13, at Hopewell UMC in Downingtown. Bishop Johnson will meet and celebrate the new district’s inauguration with clergy at 4:30 PM, followed by dinner for clergy and laity at 5:30 PM, and a meeting and celebration with laity at 6:30 PM.

Phiadelphia: Sayers Memorial UMC’s choir will sing at the new South District’s inaugural meeting and celebration with Bishop Peggy Johnson September 13. John Coleman photo

The laity session will feature music by Philadelphia: Sayer’s Memorial UMC’s Choir and Phoenixville: First UMC’s Bell Choir, with closing music by Hopewell UMC’s Youth Praise Team.  And the clergy session will include worship led by the Rev. Tracy Duncan, pastor of Eastwick UMC.

The East District will have the first inaugural meeting and celebration with Bishop Johnson at North Wales: Sanctuary UMC on Tuesday, September 12. Clergy will gather and meet there at 4 PM, followed by dinner with clergy and laity at 5:30 PM, and a laity gathering with the bishop at 6:30 PM.

And the West District will have the final inaugural meeting and celebration with Bishop Johnson at Ruhl’s UMC in Manheim on Monday, September 18. Clergy will gather first at 4 PM, followed by a dinner for clergy and laity at 5:30 PM, and a laity session at 6:30 PM.

Worship and program agendas in all these districts are still being developed, and updates will be reported.