Open new doors to ministry


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Doors can be a way out or a way in. Doors can say a lot about those on the inside and their attitude toward those on the outside.

What do the doors say about local churches in the Mississippi Conference?

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward has called on each church in the conference to decorate a door so that it illustrates churches’ mission or ministry.

“Beginning with Revelation 3:20, I began to watch and listen for doors in the Bible. I did not expect to find so many,” Ward wrote in a message to churches about the project. “My initial word search in a concordance yielded 82 references. I spent a day reading all of them. It is amazing.”

The decorated doors will be on display at the Annual Conference June 12-14 at the Jackson Convention Complex. Groups decorating doors are asked to bring them between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 11 to the JCC.

“These doors help tell the story about our churches, not only for Annual Conference, but who they are and what they represent,” said the Rev. Steve Casteel, conference director of Connectional Ministries.

Churches seem to have taken to the idea.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of mission in our area, and we want to portray that and display the mission that we’ve been in and the people we’ve been able to reach,” said the Rev. Wesley Pepper of Siloam UMC in the Starkville District. “Our church has grown extensively in the last two years, and I believe most of that is due to mission in the local community.

“Mission has been very important to this church in last two years. We’ve spent around $10,000 in mission in the last year. For a rural church that’s a large amount of money,” Pepper said. “I think (keeping the door after Annual Conference) will continue the idea and help us understand that this is important as we reach out and try to show the love of Christ to the community.”

In Ripley, the Rev. Andy Stoddard used a door as an Easter Sunday sermon illustration at Ripley First UMC. He preached about how the disciples were locked in a room out of fear following the crucifixion. He pointed out that we often lock our hearts from fear.

That door will be decorated for Annual Conference.

“We’re going to put some pictures on the door about the different ways we’ve opened our doors to the community,” he said.

Ward asked churches to find all kinds of doors — old, new, borrowed, rescued, solid, screened, mirrored, screened, windowed — for the project. Ripley First UMC’s door is a French door.

“I like it because you can see out of it. Most doors are solid, as are so many of our doors,” Stoddard said. “A door is not an end to itself, simply a means to go out. Our French door allows us to not focus on the door as much as focus on the other side. That’s what we should focus on. For the church that’s the world.”

Some churches are turning the project over to various groups within the congregation. A couple of Wesley Foundation groups are considering decorating doors, and some churches have their youth taking on the project.

In the Tupelo District, one plan is to have churches decorate doors and then place them in the Wesley Foundation building at Itawamba Community College, which has been undergoing an upgrade. In addition, the district’s Probe Staff is considering doing its own door.

The decorative doors also ties with the new phase of the general church’s open hearts, open minds, open doors campaign. The new phase focuses on the 10,000 doors of United Methodist churches and the opportunities for service they provide.

Annual Conference itself will be different in 2009. After a four-year run at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, the event has moved to the brand new Jackson Convention Complex. Located in downtown Jackson, the facility opened in January. In addition, the conference is being held on a weekend.

Casteel said he believes three factors of the 2009 session of Annual Conference will standout: worship, Trans4mation and meeting on the weekend.

“I think the speakers and the worship teams have done an outstanding job creating worship,” he said. “One of my goals has been to move Annual Conference to a time of renewal and worship. This is a step in the right direction.”

Trans4mation — a day and a half of speakers about being in mission that begins June 11 — will provide a time of fellowship and learning, he said. “We have excellent teachers who will share ideas and practical applications for the local church.”

Some have raised questions about security. Casteel said the JCC will provide paid security, and that the conference has been in contact with the Jackson Police Department about additional patrols. In addition, Downtown Jackson Partners provides paid security for the area. Casteel also pointed out that more than 100 volunteers will be on hand to assist Annual Conference members at hotels, the JCC and in the parking areas.

Two mission opportunities will be available: A Society of St. Andrew potato drop “with a twist” and packaging food for Stop Hunger Now.

The potato drop is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. June 13. About 200 volunteers will be needed.

Last year 400 volunteers packaged more than 100,000 Operation Sharehouse meals in just two days, and this year Stop Hunger Now hopes to duplicate the effort. Some 400 volunteers will be needed to make this possible. The tentative working hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 12-13 one hour shifts.

Anyone is welcome to take part in either or both activities. For information, contact Jorge Navarrete, conference missions coordinator, at 1-866-647-7486, 601-354-0515 ext. 20 or

In addition, this year’s mission offering will go to support Stop Hunger Now and SoSA..

Arise! Shine! Run!
 The 6th Annual Mississippi Conference Arise! Shine! 5K Run-Walk will be held at 6:30 a.m. June 13. The race will start in front of the Jackson Convention Complex on East Pascagoula Street. Pre-registered Amazing Pacers (prior to June 1) will receive a guest ticket to June 12 Amazing Pace luncheon and 10,000 LifeBux for participating. Awards will be given to overall male and female, overall masters male and female and age groups. You may register and get information at

Childcare will be provided for all Annual Conference members who are attending Trans4mation on June 11 and-or the business sessions of the Annual Conference June 12-14. Childcare for preschool aged children (6 months – 5-years old) will also be offered at all three evening worship services on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.  

All childcare for children ages 6 months through the completion of fourth grade will be held at the Jackson Convention Complex. Plans include fun events, outings and activities for elementary children. 

Pre-registration is required. Registration after May 18 will carry an additional $25 fee. This fee will be in addition to the registration and childcare fees. A $40 fee will be assessed to each family that does not register. This late fee will be in addition to the registration and childcare fees.

Costs for childcare:
• $35 registration fee per family
• $25 per day (business sessions and lunch included)
• $15 per evening worship session (only for those under 5-years old)

The Annual Conference childcare registration form is available on-line at

Per Diem
The per diem payment for the appointed clergy of the local church whether retired or active and for the lay members to annual conference of the local churches is the responsibility of each local church. The 2008 Annual Conference adopted the policy for conference paid per diem payments for the 2009 session.  In the 2008 Journal Volume 1 beginning on page 230 is the listing of the groups of members that will receive their per diem from the Annual Conference. The reason for paid per diem for lay people is that they are equalizing members for the Annual Conference. Retired clergy and clergy on disability are paid because their membership is in the Annual Conference. The conference Board of Pensions pays the per diem of the surviving spouses. If you are eligible, you will be contacted in May. The form should have been turned in at the preconference briefing and checks will be picked up at the Annual Conference site. No forms should be mailed in and no checks will be mailed out. 

The amounts set for per diem are $5 per meal and $50 per night that a member is in attendance. Per diem begins with the opening session and ends at the closing session. The projected per diem will be $30 for meals and $100 for rooms. Travel is not paid.