Our “Virtual Only” Annual Conference
Bishop Carter, the Cabinet, and the Annual Conference Planning Team announce that the regular session of Annual Conference 2020 will be a virtual-only event held on Saturday September 19.

We had hoped to be able to host a hybrid event at First Lakeland UMC, allowing for some to attend in person and some virtually. After careful discernment and review of the latest information about COVID-19, Conference leaders have determined that we cannot plan to safely gather a large group inside a sanctuary in September. We are learning alongside every other annual conference who are shifting to virtual only large events.

The virtual 2020 Annual Conference Session will utilize an online platform that will allow members to securely participate using an internet-connected device. A focused agenda is being finalized and will include voting on essential matters of business.

All lay and clergy members of the annual conference should plan to be present on the online platform in order to participate in the virtual annual conference session on September 19 from 9 a.m. to Noon. We are planning to virtually honor our retiring clergy and share in a virtual memorial service during that day.

The first order of business will be to amend our standing rules to authorize virtual voting. The method of remote communication will enable every member to speak and vote at the session and hear the proceedings of the session. The Annual Conference Planning Team will release a plan next week explaining how all lay and clergy members will be able to fully participate.

This plan will include ways to assist persons who may be uncomfortable with technology or lack access to adequate internet. Details and instructions for how to prepare are forthcoming. Additionally, we have determined that we cannot adequately and safely accomplish everything on Saturday September 19. To that end, Bishop Carter and Conference Leaders announce the following livestreamed events that will take place on Saturday, September 12:

  • The Board of Lay Ministry will host a virtual laity session from 10 a.m. to Noon on Saturday September 12. The laity session will conclude with a livestreamed service led by Bishop Carter to commission two new deaconesses.
  • Bishop Carter will lead an outside Service of Commissioning for the new probationary clergy members at 1 p.m. on Saturday September 12.
  • Bishop Carter will lead an outside Service of Ordination for the newly ordained elders and deacons at 3 p.m. on Saturday September 12.
  • Bishop Carter will lead an outside service of Installation of our two new District Superintendents at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday September 12.

All outside services will take place at the Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park on the shores of Lake Griffin, a place where many Florida United Methodists have received their call to ministry.

The services will be livestreamed and recorded so that everyone in the conference can participate. In person attendance at these outside services will be strictly limited to those being commissioned and ordained and their immediate families. All in person attendees will follow the mandated safety protocols related to social distancing, required face coverings, screening for symptoms, etc.

We want to thank all of you for your flexibility during this time. We are praying for each of you, your families, and your churches as we continue to navigate these uncertain waters.
8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
Pastors Message
About Us

Castles in the Sand
Most weekends, Dylan Mulligan can be found surrounded by skies and sea, relishing in all that God’s Hand has wrought, whistling his favorite hymn, “This is My Father’s World.”

Mulligan builds sandcastles, a hobby the lifelong United Methodist has pursued for more than three decades. Through the years, Mulligan has come to realize that what some might call child’s play is his God-given gift.

“The Lord gives everyone talents,” Mulligan says. “When I realized how much people enjoyed my creations, building sandcastles became about something more than an activity I enjoyed. It became about taking that talent to glorify Him.”

Spending hours building sand structures presents opportunities to talk about his faith, as admirers often question Mulligan on how he can build the intricate castles.
“It’s nothing but the Good Lord’s blessing,” Mulligan always replies. “A human being could not take a pile of sand and turn it into something like that.”

Mulligan has been mixing piles of sand with buckets of water since he was 4. Back then, he built drip castles. “The mud drips out of your hands and gradually builds,” he explains. The youngster graduated to small hand stacked towers and walls and, as a young adult, learned to build larger towers and walls.

Claiming he’s no professional, he says he occasionally watches videos of professional sandcastle builders. Mainly, though, trial and error were his teachers. “I figured out what worked for me,” adding that his instruments involve water buckets, shovels, PVC pipe to shape towers and carving tools.

Mulligan’s creations have included replicas from around the world, including well-known Georgia structures, such as The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia, and the University of Georgia School of Law, where Mulligan, an attorney, attended. He recently built Highclere Castle, known to the world as Downton Abbey from the popular TV series of the same name.

To read more about Dylan Mulligan’s talent, and to view some of his creations go to this link.
COVID-19 Guidelines from the Florida Conference
We continue to pray for you and your communities as we enter the sixth month since we began actively giving guidance to our churches regarding the COVID-19 virus. We pray especially for the over 637,000 persons in Florida who have experienced the COVID-19 virus and the 11,800 persons who have died.

We know this has been a difficult season for you to navigate as clergy and lay leaders. All of us have had to adapt to this ever-changing reality and learn new ways of doing life and ministry together as a church. We have watched as you have persevered. We applaud your resilience and creativity.
Our consistent guidance has been grounded in Matthew 22, the healing ministry of Jesus, and the Lord’s commandment to love our neighbor. In a global health crisis, we do this by maintaining a social distance, and by honoring many of our older and more vulnerable members.

As we continue this journey together, Bishop Carter and the Cabinet, with guidance from other conference leaders and medical professionals, reaffirm that our COVID-19 safety protocols remain in place. Our COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines are connected to the ongoing guidance and recommendations from the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

Specifically, we want to remind you of some key parts of our ongoing guidance:

  • At all times persons must maintain at least six feet of distance between family groups.
  • Masks or cloth face coverings are required when any group gathers (except for children under the age of 2).
  • Monitor your symptoms. Stay home if you are sick or displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive should adhere to the CDC guidelines for isolation and quarantine.
  • All inside activities must be in well ventilated spaces that allow for persons to maintain at least six feet of distance between family groups. Outside activities are preferred over inside activities.

We ask that you please continue to offer on-line worship and virtual ministry opportunities. It is important that opportunities are readily available for people in your church who are not ready to return to your campus. Persons in vulnerable populations or with underlying health conditions as defined by the CDC should be encouraged to stay home.

Decisions about in-person activities will vary according to your church context. We understand there is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach for every church around the conference. Contexts are different as cases rise at different rates. At all times churches should carefully follow the guidance of your city and county officials. Any decision to resume in-person activities should be affirmed by the pastor in consultation with a team of leaders and should be communicated to your District Superintendent. We know many of you have already communicated to your District offices your fall plans to offer a variety of hybrid models that include continued virtual ministry, outside experiences, along with limited in-person activities according to the safety protocols.

As we enter this fall and winter season, we commit to continuing to offer guidance and resources to you. Most of all we commit to praying with and for you in this time.

The Peace of the Lord,
Bishop Ken Carter and The Cabinet of The Florida Annual Conference

COVID-19 Guidance from the CDC
One of the infectious disease experts we have consulted with continues to emphasize that large gatherings in closed indoor spaces are extremely dangerous, especially if there are persons present who are early in the infection timeline. During this time, anyone has the potential of being a super spreader. Super spreaders can produce more infectious aerosol when speaking and breathing and even more so when singing.

One way to mitigate these concerns for those persons planning to attend an in-person event is to monitor their symptoms by performing daily temperature checks at home. If someone’s temperature increases 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit or more above their normal temperature, the person should not attend the in-person event. Persons with such temperature change should consider getting a COVID-19 RTPCR test or antigen test if available and as advised by their local health department or personal physician.

Finally, our expert, along with the CDC believes it is very important to get the flu vaccine this year in order to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. A coinfection of COVID-19 and the flu could be devastating.