Growing Churches in the Florida Conference
At a time when church attendance across all denominations is in steady decline, three churches in the Florida Conference are bucking the trend.

Community of Hope UMC in Loxahatchee Groves, Sun City Center UMC, and New Covenant UMC in The Villages are among the 25 fastest growing large United Methodist churches in the country, according to an annual report published by Len Wilson, an author, speaker, and church growth strategist. Community of Hope is ranked fourth with an average attendance of 1,436 and a five-year annual growth of 16.3 percent, while Sun City Center comes in at eighth with an average attendance of 1,191 and a five-year annual growth of 9.7 percent. New Covenant is listed as 10th with an average attendance of 2,464 and a five-year annual growth of 8.7 percent.

The pastors at the three churches recently shared some of the stories behind these revealing numbers, discussing what they’re doing right, how they’re serving their respective communities and what leaps of faith they have taken. You can read their stories at this link.     

Two Are Sometimes Better as One
While Christians around the world celebrated new life in Christ this Easter, two Jacksonville churches celebrated a different kind of salvation. Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church have entered into a covenant to share the downtown buildings of First Church.

It’s not a merger, said the Rev. Jay Therrell, district superintendent of North East District. Each congregation will maintain its identity, ministries, and staff, but they will share space and expenses. In a time of political and racial polarization, the agreement makes a powerful statement to the church and the community. First Church Jacksonville is a predominately white congregation; Simpson Memorial is black.

“The overall objective is to see how the two congregations can be a greater witness to the Kingdom of God in the shared space,” said Rev. Lawrence Barriner, pastor of Simpson Memorial. “It gives the churches an opportunity to live into what we proclaim as a denomination in terms of inclusivity, to be a people of God allowing the Spirit of God to transcend race and culture.”

Both churches are steeped in history with congregations whose families have been members for decades.

First Church Jacksonville grew out of the work of circuit rider John Jerry, who began holding worship services in 1823 on the second floor of a dry goods store in the newly established city of Jacksonville. The congregation grew with the city and was buffeted by history. During the Civil War, Union troops used its sanctuary for prayer and worship. Half a century later, the church and most of the city was destroyed in the Great Jacksonville Fire of 1901. The current sanctuary dates to the 1960s, an era when Jacksonville was wracked by civil rights disturbances, including the infamous “Ax Handle Saturday” (August 27, 1960), when white supremacists attacked black demonstrators just a few blocks from the church.

Simpson Memorial was founded in 1884 in the new residential neighborhood of Springfield, north of downtown. It was Jacksonville’s first neighborhood, with stylish mansions in the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style adjacent to a thriving business district. But over time, the fortunes of both congregations have waned. Membership has dropped; finances dwindled. Hard decisions had to be made.

“Ours is an aging congregation,” said the Rev. Tony Chance, pastor of First Church Jacksonville. “We’re not keeping up with the losses from deaths and people moving away. We have a membership of 250 with anywhere from 70 to 125 in worship. We’re classified as a small church.” It’s a small church with three big buildings—a sanctuary, an educational building, and an administration building. It’s so big that they rent space to two nonprofits.

Simpson Memorial’s building is in poor condition, and repairs are beyond the means of the congregation, which has 232 on its rolls but only 80 in attendance. “It really takes away from our ability to do more effective ministry,” Rev. Barriner said.

In January 2017, during a cross-cultural pulpit exchange, a conversation got started between the pastors about whether there was a way to extend the legacies of both churches. In October, with Therrell’s blessing, six members of each congregation began meeting weekly to take a hard look at what it would take for both congregations to come together—side by side—under one roof. To read more about this merger of two congregations unfolded, 
go to this link.

News from Our Community, District and Conference

Your Invitation to 
Lay Servant Training

The goal of the Gulf Central District is to create 100 new lay servants who are trained for mission and ministry in 2018. This should be an easy goal to achieve given the District’s 89 churches —especially if each church sends at least one new person to be trained as a lay servant.

Please think about who in your church would benefit from a taking basic course in lay servant ministry. This class offers a biblical and practical foundation for taking a next step in being trained and deployed as a servant leader in the church and community. 

Who in our church would benefit from a taking basic course in lay servant ministry? Such a class offers a biblical and practical foundation for taking a next step in being trained and deployed as a servant leader in the church and community.

Lay servants provide leadership, care, and communications within each church. Lay servants combine words and actions in leadership roles within their families, churches and communities. Two lay servant classes are being offered on consecutive weekends in April. 

Lay servants provide leadership, care, and communications within each church. Lay servants combine words and actions in leadership roles within their families, churches and communities. Two lay servant classes are being offered on consecutive weekends in April. 

The BASIC Lay Servant training is offered on Friday, April 20th and Saturday, April 21st (candidates must commit to attending both days). The ADVANCED Lay Servant training is offered on Friday, April 27th and Saturday April 28th. Candidates need only attend one weekend, but they may decide to attend both weekends. The classes will be held at Oak Grove United Methodist 2707 West Waters Avenue in Tampa. Additional information and a registration application can be found 
at this link.

Graduation Sunday Is Coming
If your child or grandchild will be graduating from high school or college, please let Pastor Merritt know by May 1st. We want to acknowledge all our graduates next month.

Volunteer Opportunities at RUMC
We are looking for volunteers to help Sharon Cayce with Children’s Moments on Sunday mornings. If you are interested, please contact Sharon at 802-8325.

We need counters to help after church services on Sundays, usually for about an hour or so. If you have time available, please contact Mike Plett (at 349-9000) or stop by the library immediately after church.

We need additional Communion stewards to help Debbie Stephens on the first Sunday of every month. If you can help, contact Debbie at 689-0109.

Purchase from AmazonSmile
We are reminding everyone in our congregation to do their shopping throughout the year at Amazon will donate a portion of each purchase to our church. Shop at this link and help the church financially at the same time.

RUMC Book Club News
The RUMC Book Club is currently reading “Clara and Mr. Tiffany” by Susan Vreeland. From a recent Goodreads review:

“It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows, which he hopes will honor his family business and earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division. Publicly unrecognized by Tiffany, Clara conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which he is long remembered.

“Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman, which ultimately force her to protest against the company she has worked so hard to cultivate. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces to a strict policy: he does not hire married women, and any who do marry while under his employ must resign immediately. Eventually, like many women, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.”

The RUMC Book Club meets every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM—usually at the home of Connie Mosley, 9720 Lorrayne Road in Riverview. You can contact Connie at 766-7104 for more information
8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
Pastors Message
About Us

Normal Weekly Recurring 
Events at RUMC
(Call the church office at 677-5995 for more information about these or other events sponsored by the church.)

9:00 AM Faith Groups for All Ages
9:00 AM Children's Choir
10:00 AM Refreshments & Relationships
10:30 AM Worship Service
11:45 AM Prayer Warriors, Rm 8
11:45 AM Prayer Shawl Ministry (Knitting Witness)—Rm. 6
12:00 PM Hispanic Congregation Service
6:00 PM Youth Band Rehearsal
7:00 PM R. U. S. H. (Youth Group) Meeting

11:30 AM Women's Bible Study, Rm 6
7:00 PM Cub Scout Pack Pack 83

10:00 AM RESTORE Food Bank and Thrift Store Open*
6:30 PM  Boy Scout Troop 83
7:00 PM  ESOL Instruction

6:30-7:30 AM AA Meeting
6:00 PM Potluck Dinner and Fellowship
6:45 PM Children & Youth Activities
6:45 PM Pastor’s Bible Study
6:45 PM Hispanic Church Bible Study
7:00 PM Ladies Bible Study
​7:00 PM Christians Connecting with Christ

6:30-7:30 AM AA Meeting
10:00 AM RESTORE Food Bank and Thrift Store Open*
6:30 PM Chancel Choir Rehearsal


9:00 AM RUMC Book Club
11:30-12:30 PM  Metropolitan Ministry
Meal Partnership

*RESTORE is an equal opportunity provider and is open to the public.
Fruitland Park Camp Schedule
The Warren W. Willis Camp and the Life Enrichment Center have both announced their upcoming camp schedule for the remainder of 2018. Both the camp and the enrichment center are located in Fruitland Park, Florida and serve the United Methodist churches in central and southern Florida. The Warren W. Willis Camp is designed for children and youth events, whereas the nearby Life Enrichment Center accommodates adult and family events.

Warren W. Willis Camp Retreats 
and Summer Camp
Created by God Camp, April 20-22
Youth Summer Camps, June and July
Confirmation Retreat, October 5-7
Connect Retreats, October 19-21 and November 9-11

Life Enrichment Center Weekends
Dad and Me Weekend, April 13-15
Grandparents and Me Weekend, 
June 25-28
Family Camp, June 29-July 1 
and July 20-22
Mom and Me Weekend, 
September 14-16