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Conference gatherings collect funds for Nets, missions

Bishop Thomas Bickerton stands with youth wearing "Buzzkill" T-shirts in support of Nothing But Nets during the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference gathering. During their regional meetings, at least 22 United Methodist annual conferences contributed more than $1.3 million to the anti-malaria campaign.
A UMNS photo by Mark Rehn.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

July 10, 2007

In the spirit of Methodism founder John Wesley's declaration that the "world is my parish," at least 22 United Methodist annual conferences contributed more than $1.3 million in gifts and pledges to the Nothing But Nets campaign.

At least four other conferences announced activities for later in the year to benefit the United Methodist-supported fund-raising effort to end mosquito-borne malaria in Africa with insecticide-treated nets.

Nothing But Nets was one of the most visible beneficiaries of special offerings collected and promoted during the church's U.S. annual conference meetings this year. The people of The United Methodist Church are a founding partner of the campaign and have contributed to the total of $7 million raised thus far.

Supporters found a variety of creative ways to advance the cause during the denomination's regional gatherings.

In Central Texas, Joye Chamness honored her husband, Bishop Ben Chamness, and their 47th anniversary with a gift of a $10 net for every year of their marriage. Others at the meeting then made pledges in honor of a loved one or special event and, altogether, raised $100,000 for Nothing But Nets.

In California-Pacific, United Methodists celebrated the 60th birthday of Bishop MaryAnn Swenson by collecting gifts in increments of 60 to help people in need. Churches across the conference gave 60 bed nets for the campaign, 60 child immunizations and 60 tools for recovery work on the Gulf Coast.

Minnesota Annual Conference delegates place donations in a basket after intentionally violating cell phone etiquette, resulting in more than $2,000 collected for missions. A UMNS photo by Jill Shirley.

The Commale family received a standing ovation from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference session for raising more than $27,000 for Nothing But Nets.

In a modern-day "loaves and fishes" story in the Texas Annual Conference, one pastor's $20 gift to Nothing But Nets included a challenge to others that multiplied into $500,000 in donations and pledges by members and churches.

The highlight of the Pacific Northwest Conference was a basketball tournament between the "Bishop's Bunch" and "Youthful Yellow" teams. Donations from cheering fans netted $4,628.

Also using a basketball was Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Conference. During interludes, he sank 100 basketballs from the stage to raise money for the effort, and conference members challenged one another. In all, the conference raised more than $125,000 for the anti-malaria campaign.

Money for missions

While annual conference meetings serve as the gathering places for United Methodists to conduct regional church business, they also provide a venue for Christian worship and fellowship—and another opportunity to give to mission work and special offerings.

To enhance quality of life for people across the globe and to seek justice, United Methodists contributed thousands of dollars to mission projects, disaster response and partnerships in Africa, Europe, the Philippines and Brazil. Twenty conferences contributed to or addressed the Global AIDS Fund and HIV/AIDS initiatives in the United States and abroad. The Red Bird Missionary Conference celebrated a mission offering of $14,253 for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Louisiana United Methodists raised $127,000 for the Global AIDS Fund, and the month of November was identified as "Miracle Month" by Minnesota United Methodists. Congregations in Minnesota will raise $1 per member for the Global AIDS Fund and $5 per member to build a multi-use church center in Petersburg, Russia.

Every time a cell phone rang aloud during the Minnesota meeting, the phone's owner had to donate $5 to missions, thanks to Bishop Sally Dyck's warning on the first day of conference to encourage cell phone etiquette. On the last day of the session, members conspired to ring each other's phones at 11:30 a.m., and a mass of violators then paraded to the offering basket with more than $2,000 in donations. The conference also collected more than $80,000 for missions during a love offering.

Keeping with Wesley’s admonition of helping the poor, 22 annual conferences sought to help pastors and church lay workers in annual conferences outside the United States retire with dignity, hope and an adequate pension. The conferences contributed at least $1.4 million to the Central Conference Pension Initiative by donating annual funds received from the United Methodist Publishing House.

Holston conference members celebrated its annual "hands-on mission project" as the conference's 12 districts more than doubled their goals for donations of school supplies for Liberia and Ishe Anesu in Zimbabwe. More than 6,300 kits containing food, clothing, health and school supplies were loaded into two tractor-trailer trucks and dispatched to Africa. Wisconsin also loaded a tractor-trailer for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center. The value of the 4,214 baby/youth blankets, shawls, quilts, tools and other items was nearly $63,000.

Bishop Woodie White, speaking to the North Indiana Annual Conference, challenged church members to work for justice for all "not because we are good, but because we experience a living God who says, 'This is my world; these are my children; and I love them.'"

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. This story was compiled from annual conference reports.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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