UMs to offer gift of hospitality in Phila. Dec. 15-18

By John W. Coleman

United Methodists can share a warm cup of hospitality—and warm cocoa—on the streets of Philadelphia Dec. 15-18, along with the message, “When we find the true meaning of Christmas church can happen anywhere.” Now we’re looking for a few good volunteers to help make that hospitality happen.

It’s all part of a national Rethink Church Advent “creative outreach campaign” planned by UM Communications for nine major cities this month, focused on high-pedestrian traffic areas.

warm-invitation-cupAn “experiential marketing” firm hired by UMCom will provide the cocoa, poured by men wearing heavy, red containers that look like jetpacks on their backs. But the Eastern PA Conference needs to find and deploy volunteers who can accompany them and hand out flyers with a welcome message to passers-by as they get their cups of cocoa.

Messaging on the flyers, the cocoa dispensers and cups will invite people to visit a UM church this Christmas, but first to visit so they can find one near them. Of course, volunteers are free to invite future guests to their churches as well; but the invitation should be subtle. The warm cocoa is the main thing here.

For six hours each day the four cocoa dispensers and accompanying volunteers will be at 10 high-traffic Philly locations: City Center, Old City, near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the Italian Market, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, the Blue Cross RiverRink, the Comcast Center and a couple of very popular cheesesteak joints—namely Geno’s and Pat’s King of Steaks. Often there will be planned special events happening, which should increase crowds. And we’ll be praying for calm, non-frigid weather.


So as commuters, holiday shoppers and eventgoers crowd these busy venues, United Methodists will be amongst them, hoping to warm their stomachs and warm their hearts. In addition, mobile billboards will rove around on trucks like welcome wagons, emblazoned with heart-warming images from Rethink Church ads and always the key message: “When we find the true meaning of Christmas church can happen anywhere.”

what-it-meansLocal media outlets—electronic and print—will receive press releases about the campaign with invitations to come see and report on our creative outreach efforts. And national Rethink Church advertising will also be running during Advent on digital media and cable television stations.

So almost everything is set and ready for our close-up… except we still need those volunteers. The Eastern PA Conference Communications Office is reaching out to districts, churches and conference committees and organizations for help in recruiting friendly folks to give an hour or two greeting people and handing out flyers after they get their cocoa.

If you want to volunteer please e-mail us at or call us at 484-762-8227 as soon as you can. Please provide your name, contact information and days and times available. The campaign hours are:

  • Thursday and Friday, Dec. 15 and 16, from 8 AM to 2 PM;
  • Saturday, Dec. 17, from 9 AM to 3 PM; and
  • Sunday, Dec. 18, from 11 AM to 5 PM.

And if you’re concerned about missing church on Sunday morning, just remember our Rethink Church campaign message: “Church can happen anywhere.”

Please download this informational flyer and map of hospitality sites to share with your church: Rethink Church Advent Flyer & Map