We received word that Thelma Sommers, widow of UB minster Walter Sommers, passed away Monday morning, November 9. No details, except that the funeral will be held in Elkhart, Ind.

After church on Sunday at Bethel Temple of Praise in Yonkers, N.Y., Sandy and I drove across New York City and through New Jersey to Pennsylvania. We arrived in Shippensburg at 6 p.m. I dropped Sandy off at our son’s home and I headed on to Rhodes Grove Campground. It was my first visit to the camp.

At 7:00 I arrived at the camp for a fireside chat session with some pastors and lay folks from Pennsylvania. I shared my story and talked about what I see for the United Brethren Church in the future. We had an enjoyable evening.

On Monday morning, I shared some devotional thoughts with a group that had come in for Mid Atlantic Resource Day. Then I headed back to spend some time with our son and daughter-in-law. Added to that opportunity was the chance to spend time with our granddaughter Aubrey. What fun it is to see her walking and growing up so fast.

Tuesday morning found us headed back to our home in Huntington. It has been a good trip.

Sandy and I arrived in Yonkers, New York, on Friday, November 6. On Friday night and Saturday, I led an evaluation of Bethel Temple of Praise, the UB church in Yonkers.

I was joined by Dan Palmer, an experienced church planter from Tennessee who and has a history of planting a multiethnic congregation. We had a good meeting with senior pastor Dalton Jenkins on Friday night.

On Saturday, a group of 15-20 people from the church came together. We asked some questions and did some teaching and sharing. Then Dan and I came back to the hotel and put together a report.

On Saturday evening, I met with the cluster that Dalton leads. Linton Thomas and Joseph Abu came to the meeting, and we had some good interaction.

Then, around 7 p.m., there was a fundraising rally. It was a night to remember. Many people, most of Jamaican descent, came from a number of area churches. The Bethel Temple of Praise church was packed as its praise team led off with several songs. Each church had someone sing a song. After each song, they went out to collect an offering, then return and report what they had raised. The emcee kept it moving with humor and a good-natured challenge to each church to out-give the last one.

On Sunday morning, I gave the sermon at Bethel, challenging the people to identify the lions in their lives that cause them to fear, and to become a lion chaser through the power of God.

On November 8, NorthPoint Church of Toledo, Ohio, began holding services in the 930-seat auditorium of a new YMCA. In return, NorthPoint signed an agreement to contribute $500,000 to the YMCA over the next ten years.

The Toledo Blade ran an article about the church on November 7, which included interviews with senior pastor Brad Wotring and teaching pastor Pat Schwenk.

Northpoint, with a 2008 attendance of 500, is overflowing its current facility (the church once known as Harvest Lane). They held a preview service a few weeks ago at the YMCA, and 800 people came. They’ll continue using the Harvest Lane facility for office space, Bible classes, community outreach, and other things.

Fonda Cassidy, layperson, Mt. Olivet UB (Mt. Solon, Va.)
During October, we had pastor appreciation each week with events of writing on their walls, poking them, etc. (using large cardboard pieces as walls). The third Sunday, our two pastors, Todd Lilley and pastor Dan Lam, were presented with overnight stays at the Highland Inn, a beautiful historical hotel in Monteray, Va. The fourth Sunday, we did a short video of events throughout the year, and a surprise lunch at the end of the service. We had great attendance and great support.

Bonnie Ramer, layperson, Ebenezer UB (Greencastle, Pa.)
Our church held a Pastor Appreciation Sunday. We gave our pastors the day off, and members of the congregation did the entire morning worship service. Afterwards, everyone was invited to the front of the church to present their tokens of appreciation to senoir pastor David Grove and his wife Amy, and associate pastor Jim Mack and his wife, Faith. Since David and Amy just had a baby girl, Madison Noel, on October 1, we had a baby shower for them at the same time.

David Grove, senior pastor, Ebenezer UB (Greencastle, Pa.)
For the first time, the church held a public Harvest Party on the church parking lot as an alternative to Halloween Trick or Treating. We had games, food, face-painting, trunk & treats (candy was given out from the trunks of several cars), and hay rides. Although it was windy and chilly, we had close to 300 people. Praise God for this great success. We are planning on having a second one next year.

Last Sunday evening, Sandy and I went to Mainstreet Church (Walbridge, Ohio) to hear senior pastor Marty Pennington talk to the small groups that normally meet on Sunday evenings. They set up their lobby as a coffeeshop and served coffee and donuts. He shared about their “BE” capital campaign. It was an enjoyable night.

We returned on Monday for a tour of the Mainstreet facility. It is an attractive and functional church. We shared lunch with Marty and Amy. It is exciting to see God at work.

On Tuesday morning, before we headed out of Ohio, we realized that we were only about 10 miles from Bethel UB in Elmore, Ohio. So we drove over there. Pastor Norm Pickett was visiting someone in the hospital, but the church secretary showed us around. She was a great guide and spoke in positive terms about the church and the impact it is having in the life of the community and in her family. It was exciting to hear. We then drove on to Franklin, Pa.

On Wednesday morning, we met with Steve Clulow’s cluster at the Atlantic Avenue church in Franklin. About 10 pastors were there. Gary Small, who pastors Atlantic Avenue, shared devotions about unity from Acts 4. Some good discussion followed and then I shared a little of what has been going on at Healthy Ministry Resources.

Gary took us on a tour of the new facilities under construction. They will have a new sanctuary, offices, and lobby, and the lower level is being turn into a delightfully decorated children’s area. God is at work.

Sandy and I then left Franklin around 11 and headed across Pennsylvania. And today, Thursday, it is on Yonkers to meet up with Dalton Jenkins and the Bethel Temple of Praise church. Looking forward to a good time together.

Greg Helman, Senior Pastor, Blue Rock UB (Waynesboro, Pa.)
Blue Rock Church held a roast for me at the Mont Alto Fire Hall to celebrate over 20 years of ministry for me. There was a tremendous turnout for the event. Some people who attended were in my Sunday school class when God called me to be a pastor. At that time, I was the teacher.

Photograph albums, posters, and a ministry scrapbook of weddings and funerals were laid out for all to see. A number of people stood up and spoke from the audience. Two of my children did a Top Ten of things they thought were both funny and serious about me. My wife shared her point of view from the call throughout the last 20-plus years.

Of course, they asked me to share some, and I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love through cards, gifts, and kind words. It was a wonderful night of good friends and good food.

David Burkett, Senior Pastor, Mount Morris UB (Mount Morris, Mich.)
For Pastor Appriciation Month this year, I received cards of appreciation, some including gifts of cash or gift cards, throughout the month. Then on Sunday, November 1, we had a “Pack-A-Pew” Sunday. We gave a prize to the person who brought the most first-time visitors. The prize-winner brought six new people with her! Following the morning service we had a potluck dinner at which my family and I were the honored guests.

Tell us how your church recognized Pastor Appreciation Month.

I want to announce the hiring of Denny Miller, senior pastor of Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. He will work one day a week for Healthy Ministry Resources. He will oversee the cluster leaders and provide direction to the cluster system.

As I talk with other denominational executives, they all seem to like our cluster structure. I believe this system has great promise, but needs more direction.

Denny is uniquely equipped for this role. Some of our original ideas for clusters came out of the Healthy Church Leadership Team back 8 years ago. Denny was the chairman. I believe we can work on some new ways to help clusters have a greater impact in both training and meeting the needs of pastors.

We hope to roll out an updated strategy with our cluster leaders in January 2010.

We are excited about what is happening in many of our churches. We want to challenge all of our churches to pray hard and follow the direction that God leads us in to more effectively impact the towns and communities where we have churches. It is time to move with all of our energy to accomplish the mission that God has for us.

Early last Sunday morning, I picked up my good friend Wally before heading to Carson City, Mich., where I was scheduled to speak at Mount Hope United Brethren Church. Wally’s wife, Phylis, was sick with the flu and didn’t want Wally doting on her all day. She just needed to rest.

On the way there, Wally asked what to expect. I told him I had no idea. I believed it was a country church and told him the pastor’s name. Wally and I do a lot of wilderness canoeing trips together, so jumping into the unknown is not an issue.

We arrived at the church and were immediately greeted by folks in the parking lot. Within minutes, all of our display stuff was in the church vestibule and we were enjoying cookies and coffee. We met the pastor, Valerie Reynolds, and discovered that she was raised in Chicago near Wrigley Field. That followed with a lengthy conversation about the proper way to dress a hotdog and whether or not diced tomatoes belong on a dog. Wally grew up in Chicago, too.

The service went well. Sincere people with a sincere faith in God. It was great to hear of 14 people who have recently come to Christ, baptisms, and various outreaches to the community. The congregation was a mix of young and old, professional and blue collar. After the service, there was a potluck lunch in the adjacent building and great conversation around the tables.

Once we had things packed up and were on our way back to Fort Wayne, Wally asked, “So was that what you expected?”

I told him I was pleasantly surprised. Although the church has been there for years, it certainly is not a “has been” church but rather one that remains vital and continues to impact its community and world.

I told Wally, “I always come away from a church visit asking myself if I would attend this church if I lived in the community.” This Sunday, the answer was a definite yes!