Monday, March 30, 2009

Keeping the Sandbags Warm

    When the floodwaters rose in North Dakota recently hundreds of people worked non-stop for several days putting 3 million sandbags along the river’s edge to prevent the flooding.  Unfortunately the frigid temperatures (zero and below) were causing not only painful work conditions but the sandbags began to freeze. Frozen sandbags do not fit together and they don’t prevent flood waters.  They were described as feeling like 30 pound frozen turkeys.  To combat this problem, volunteer workers were bringing many of the sandbags into warm warehouses so they could soften up. These soft sandbags are useful because they fit snugly against one another , adjust to shifting and also absorb flood waters. 

     We can act like frozen sandbags when we don’t work together with one another.  When we focus on things that divide us rather than things that unite us, when we are unable to be flexible and cooperative, when we refuse to absorb the flood of need in the world and instead let it pass us by, we are frozen sandbags in human form.

     What kind of sandbag are you?   Ephesians 4:32 says “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven you.”

     And don’t forget to show kindness to our sisters and brothers in the Dakotas.  Disaster Response funds can be sent to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (#901670).  One hundred per cent of your gift will help with this relief effort.  Funds can be given to your church and remitted through the conference treasurer and on to the General Board of Global Ministries.

 Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


When I was a child I used to love reading Greek mythology.  One of the stories that stuck with me the most was the story of a young girl named Pandora who wanted to open a box that no one was supposed to open.  It was tied shut so she could not even look inside.  Finally curiosity got the best of her and she opened the box and out came all the evils and sadness of the world.  Prior to that the world had been perfect and there were no problems.  In the bottom of the box after all the demons had been released out into the world there was an angel that came out at the end.  Her name was “hope” and as the story goes…hope is still alive in the world today helping people to cope with evil. 

The Bible teaches us in a better way that God is our hope in times of trouble.  Psalm 62 says “I depend on God alone, I put my hope in God.”    God is with us no matter what happens in life.  I read a story about a man who climbed Mt. Everest.  After his great expedition he was in a serious car accident and became paralyzed.  He likened the accident and the recovery from it as “climbing Mt. Everest within” himself.  He said that God was with him through it all and the strength of God gave him hope to move on. Today he teaches mountain climbing and is an encouragement to many people in rehabilitation centers. 

God is love and the power of love can overcome any and all obstacles in this life.  It is love like the power of Niagara Falls constantly streaming into this world and into our lives. 

When we have the hope of God in our life it can be contagious.  You can’t keep it to yourself.

I was a student pastor at a church in Indiana years ago with a serious structural problem in the basement.  There were very few members.  It looked like the church was going to have to close.  The district superintendent came and everyone was sad.  One man said he was going to see what he could do in the basement…just give it one more try.  He started digging around and engaged some of the other church men…they found a contractor. …the contractor found some friends.  This project became a community passion.  New people joined the church, the basement was completely renovated and this little church that was supposed to close is still alive and well today! 

Where can you throw some contagious hope in this world? Sometimes a little hope can turn the world upside down.  Put your hope in God.  As Paul says in Romans “hope does not disappoint us.”

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ministry of Deacons

Although baptism is a sign of God’s calling of every believer into ministry, from among the baptized, Deacons are called to a lifetime of servant leadership, authorized by the church and ordained by the bishop.  Deacons are in servant ministry in the world and lead the Church in making the essential connection between our devotion to God expressed in our daily worship with the work God is doing in the world. 

Deacons give leadership in the church’s life in the teaching and proclaiming of the Word, in worship, in assisting the elders in administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in forming and nurturing disciples, in conducting marriages and burying the dead.  Deacons are ordained to serve in the church and the world in the United Methodist Church.

Deacons help the church hear the cries of those most needy, neglected and marginalized in our communities and respond.  Deacons are used of God to empower the church to see Jesus in their world and to respond in practical ways.  They help us see Jesus when he is hungry and show us ways to invite Jesus to our table.  Deacons can see Christ in need of adequate shelter and the basic necessities of life, and share with us a vision of change.  Deacons help the church find ways of touching those who are locked away from the world, by prisons, some physical, some emotional, and others spiritual.  Deacons hear God’s call for the church to learn a new language, to reach out in ways the stranger can understand and organize the church to make sure that it is done.  Deacons respond to God’s call to make the church “green,” lighting the way to transforming ways of being the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.  Deacons teach us the importance of play and sport, the need to organize and protest and resurrect communities from social and spiritual despair.  What is God’s call upon your life? Is God calling you to be a Deacon in the life of the church?  Pray about it.  Talk to your pastor. Deacons are an important part of the ministry of the United Methodist Church.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Monday, March 9, 2009

One Great Hour of Sharing

On March 22, 2009 we in the Philadelphia Episcopal Area have a chance to participate in the annual One Great Hour of Sharing campaign.  Through this offering we enable the United Methodist Church to be there when an emergency happens anywhere in the world, and to be the hope of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering great loss.

One Great Hour of Sharing is how we fund the primary functions of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  The World Service Apportionment does not go to fund this important ministry, this offering does.  Gifts to this offering underwrite UMCOR’s ongoing business and enables them to keep their promise of making sure that 100% of designated gifts go to those projects.  It is a fact that without a good response to this yearly offering much of what UMCOR does to bring a compassionate response in time of crisis could not happen.

Your gifts will ensure that the United Methodist Church will be there with hard working families who are affected by storms or war, disaster or disease.  Please join with Christians throughout the connection in this important work.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Women's History Month

March is Women’s History month and indeed our area is rich with the wonderful histories of women who have given their lives in service to the church through the years.   Rev. Joe DiPaolo called to my attention one such woman who was a pioneer woman preacher, missionary, educator and holiness advocate.  Her name was Lela McConnell (1884-1870) and she was a native of Chester County, PA.  Lela was nurtured in the faith in the Honey Brook Methodist Episcopal Church.  She was raised on a farm where she found herself in charge of all of the horses and plowing the lower ten acres by herself when her father died. She became a Christian at a revival service at the Honey Brook Church and the pastor, W. Q. Bennett saw her spiritual giftedness and put her in charge of disciple groups and leading in prayer at public meetings. 

She attended the West Chester State Normal School (Now West Chester State University) and served as a school teacher for five years. Later she attended Keystone Norma School which brought her to a job teaching in Atlantic City, NJ.  There she became involved in the Central Methodist Episcopal Church and the holiness movement.  Doors opened for her to attend the Chicago Evangelistic Institute (an inter-denominational  school dedicated to holiness principles.)  Upon graduation she moved to Alberta, Canada and helped to found a Bible Institute where she was appointed principal.  Health concerns led her back to Philadelphia where she did a great deal of evangelistic work and home visitation.

In 1922 she moved to KY and attended Asbury College.  There she became involved in what became her life’s work: The Kentucky Mountain Missionary Society.  She was ordained a local deacon by Bishop Theodore Henderson at the annual session of the Kentucky Conference. Two years later she was ordained a local elder.  The church at that time allowed women to be ordained but they still could not serve as appointed pastors or enjoy full clergy rights. 

Her work in Eastern Kentucky was full of dangers and difficult personal sacrifices but she brought  the gospel of salvation and many people responded to her ministry and she helped people who lived in poverty.  She established the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association and the Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute.   Lela gave women many opportunities to preach and she preached widely in the area and frequently spoke on radio. 

People who knew her said that she was a great leader, with a determined spirit.  Lela always went forward in prayer, never asked for money, and knew how to have fun. 

I thank God for the life of Lela McConnell, the “hand maiden of the Lord” from Honey Brook, PA.  Her life set many people free and extended the love and salvation of Christ to many. 

Daughters of the faith….we have Lela in our cloud of witnesses. When things don’t go our way, we can remember her dedication and sacrifice.  Remember the generations yet to come who are depending on us and our faithfulness.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson