United Methodists meet in conference

Dane Barhite, left of Clifford, was one of eight youth delegates to the Susquehanna Annual Conference who spoke to the body Thursday. Here, he, along with Robin Correll of Lenoxville, and Holly Enders and Jessica Malicky of Jersey Shore, make popcorn for attendees to snack on. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

Dane Barhite, left of Clifford, was one of eight youth delegates to the Susquehanna Annual Conference who spoke to the body Thursday. Here, he, along with Robin Correll of Lenoxville, and Holly Enders and Jessica Malicky of Jersey Shore, make popcorn for attendees to snack on. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

United Methodists representing more than 900 churches across northeastern and central Pennsylvania met their new bishop – Rev. Jeremiah Park – during the Susquehanna Annual Conference this week and most liked what they saw.

The Korean-born Park began leading the conference last August, but the conference’s annual meeting at Messiah College was a first chance for many clergy and laity to get to know him.

Park’s keynote address Thursday focused on the “worthy journey” the denomination was engaged in across a sprawling 24-county area of Pennsylvania.

He told the more than 1,000 people assembled to “Dream God’s dream with your eyes wide open” and not to put their faith in a church building, and also noted that a dream without deeds is a daydream.

“Our hope lies in the God who calls us to be the church,” he said, adding that “Our journey is about God’s kingdom for all people.”

Park was ordained a bishop in 2004, when he began serving the Greater New York Area Conference that included New York City, and remained there until last summer when he was assigned to the Susquehanna Conference that covers about one-third of the geographic interior of Pennsylvania.

Upper New York Conference Bishop Mark Webb, a native of Williamsport, led morning Bible studies Friday and Saturday, and called Park a deeply spiritual man who loves to sing.

Mary Bishop, a lay member from Tunkhannock said his singing enthusiasm was duly noted and she also appreciated Park’s sense of humor.

On Friday night, some 30 pastors in the conference formally retired, representing more than 640 years of service among them.

Included locally were Pastors Lloyd Canfield, Patricia Newhart and Richard Spering in Susquehanna County, Rev. Earl Roberts III in Drums and Rev. M. Lynn Snyder of Shavertown.

Scranton-Wilkes Barre District Supt. Jon Buxton, right, thanks Pastor Richard Spering of Montrose for his years in ministry at a retirement service Friday night. At left is Spering’s wife Janice. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

Scranton-Wilkes Barre District Supt. Jon Buxton, right, thanks Pastor Richard Spering of Montrose for his years in ministry at a retirement service Friday night. At left is Spering’s wife Janice. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

In a Susquehanna Conference Board of Trustees report, it was announced that Centennial United Methodist Church in Forest City had been closed.

Most of conference was a harmonious event with the only contention occurring when the body debated about whether a task force should be formed to look at the conference possibly divesting itself of investments in companies that occupy Palestinian territory in the Middle East.

Although sympathies with Israel ran deep among conference members, the motion narrowly passed as proponents argued it was just asking for the creation of a task force to study the matter.

The body did take action to encourage the passage of the Racial Justice Act in Pennsylvania to end racial profiling with death sentence cases.

And, in a nod to putting hands and feet on their faith, those gathered the first two days of conference also assembled 70,125 meal packets for distribution around the world by the relief organization, Stop Hunger Now.

It is clear that most Susquehanna County United Methodist Church pastors were returned to their posts for another year, beginning July 1.

Pastors included among the returnees are Sara Kolenda (Montrose, Franklin Forks); Margaret Knapich (Clifford, Lenoxville); Daniel Lincoln (Gibson, South Gibson); Donald Littleton (Great Bend); and Jane Pykus (New Milford, South Montrose); Cecily Eisley (Springville and Dimock); and Leanne Campbell (Susquehanna, North Jackson).

New appointments include:

*Pastor Phyllis Hunter was appointed to the East Ararat-Thompson UMC charge.

*Pastor Richard Spering was appointed to the Hop Bottom, Brooklyn and Kingsley charge.

The Union Dale UMC, South Auburn UMC and East Rush-Rush-Retta-Fairdale UMC charge are yet to be supplied.

All of the Susquehanna County churches are in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre District with the exception of South Auburn which is on a charge with Beaver Meadows, Bradford County, in the Williamsport District.