B.O.L.D. = Being Ourselves. Living Different.
YOUTH 2023 will be in Daytona Beach, Florida from July 25-28, 2023. We’ve got an amazing theme for the event to help us build out the worship messages and the opportunities for you to grow.

Over three days in late February of 2022, our Design Team met onsite at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort to pray over the space, to meet each other in-person for the first time, and to create some plans for YOUTH 2023. Among those hours, our team spent time working through many different possibilities for an event theme. So many questions and thoughts were bounced around as we explored, discussed, and prayed:

  • How will we facilitate many possibilities to experience God?
  • How could we hear about what God is already doing in the lives of youth?
  • How do we understand ourselves and our actions considering God’s unfiltered and unfolding story?
  • What does it mean for us to gather again for the first time in four years? Has COVID-19 changed how we behave with each other?
  • How can we come alongside youth who are figuring out their identity, their sense of belonging, and their purpose to offer support and challenges to grow?
  • How are bravery and authenticity measured in today’s world?
  • What does today’s church and world need to hear from youth?

As you can imagine, the discussion was rich, the answers as diverse and powerful as the Design Team itself, and slowly a theme we could all buy into began to emerge.

A regular piece of advice we receive is to “just be yourself” – but what if you don’t know who you are just yet? It takes a certain amount of courage to admit you’re still figuring that out, and honestly, it’s a question that even adults come back to. God’s answer to us as we figure ourselves out is pretty bold, “You are a member of the family, and you are loved.”

The way that the world expects people to act and the way that God asks people to act can be radically different. We’re asked to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly – to demonstrate our love for God and care for our neighbor. Bold move to ask us to act differently than most of the world and to look for ways to bring people together in a world where division seems easier than unity.

Even gathering can feel like it takes some additional bravery as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions. Youth are so good at not tripping over obstacles and bringing energy, passion, and joy to worship. It’s a bold act to bring as much joy and energy and spirit-filled passion to worship as possible. The church and the world need to see how good young people are at coming together to worship and to celebrate the things that unite us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 mentions a “great cloud of witnesses” – people who have gone before us in faith to create opportunities for faith that we have now. It also mentions Jesus as a pioneer and a perfecter, who boldly showed a way to lay aside distractions, so that we could discover how to endure and grow as disciples, walking in the ways that lead to life! So here it is, the theme for YOUTH 2023:

BOLD: Being Ourselves. Living Different.

To be ourselves, we need to know more about ourselves. We’ll discover who we are as members of God’s family and why God loves us unconditionally. We’ll find out more about how we are called to live differently because of the example that Jesus set for us. We’ll invite the spirit to our worship and fellowship, making new friends and connections during our time together.

A world-transforming disciple is bold enough to make tomorrow that much better than today.

Chris Wilterdink, Director, Young People’s Ministry
Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church

8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
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RESTORE Food Pantry is open from 10 AM until Noon every Tuesday and Thursday.  Please do not come onto the property until 9:30 AM.  The RESTORE Food Pantry is an Equal Opportunity provider for all eligible recipients regardless of race, age, or gender.

On Tuesdays, recipients can also enjoy hot meals in our Fellowship Hall--courtesy of Metropolitan Ministries.

On Thursday, recipients can also receive fresh produce and/or frozen food courtesy of Feeding Tampa Bay.

The 2022 Florida Annual Conference 
Will Be In-Person
The Cabinet of the Florida United Methodist Conference is glad to announce that the Annual Conference will be held in person from June 9-11 at the Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.

Florida Southern has indicated that mask wearing indoors will be optional. If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.

The general schedule for the 2022 Annual Conference is now available at it can be found at this link. We look forward to seeing everyone in June.

The Florida Annual Conference Planning Team

Pre-Conference Workshops
We invite you to join us for these virtual pre-conference workshops:

Refresh Church:  Tuesday, June 7, 9–10 AM. In this post-Christendom, post-pandemic season, are you ready to REFRESH your church? We will discuss strategies of being relevant, adaptive, and resilient, refocusing the church vision for what we are called to do. There is no easy fix for refreshing our churches. If you are willing to be introspective, prayerful, and open to new possibilities, please register.

Clergy Care: Tuesday, June 7, 11 AM–Noon.  Resources for clergy well-being.

Building Anti-Racist Churches: Tuesday, June 7, 1:30–3:30 PM.  In the United Methodist Church, our baptismal vow calls us to “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” The sin of racism is one of these evils and injustices. Dismantling racism is part of our discipleship. We invite you to pray about how God is calling you and your church to be engaged in dismantling racism, not for a moment, but for a lifetime. This workshop will give an overview of the basics of anti-racism, give practical steps churches can take to become anti-racist, and provide real examples of churches that are engaged in the work of anti-racism.
Workshops are limited to the first 300 registrants. Click here for more details and to register today!


Next Life Line Screening Opportunity—May 18th
Have you ever thought about the following?

  • I want to see my grandchildren grow up.
  • I want to continue living independently.
  • I don’t want to be a burden on my family.

Preventive screenings can help, and we have partnered with Life Line Screening to provide these valuable screenings on Wednesday, May 18th at Riverview United Methodist Church. 

The mission of Life Line Screening is to provide advanced, affordable, and convenient health screenings that supplement your traditional healthcare. These preventative screenings can help you be proactive in detecting a silent, unrecognized problem that can be treated at an early stage.  

Don’t let heart disease and stroke get in your way of the life you love. Call toll free 1-888-653-6450, visit https://llsa.social/HSC, or text the word, “circle” to 797979 to schedule your health screening. 

The package of 5 screenings is offered for only $159. Call today to register and receive a $10 discount off the vascular screening package prices!
We Are an Easter People
During the Easter season, many United Methodists sing, "Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song." These words open the last verse of "Easter People Raise Your Voices" (United Methodist Hymnal #304) penned by United Methodist pastor the Rev. William M. James. The hymn reminds us that we celebrate renewal every day.

Out of oppression.  In 1940, when Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia became part of the Soviet Union, there were 46 Methodist congregations in the region (we didn't become United Methodists until 1968). When Estonia gained independence in 1991, there were only 17 left. God, however, was working toward revival.

"I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart in 1991," says the Rev. Sergei Sutskov, "It was a time of great spiritual awakening in Estonia. At this time, Estonia seceded from the Soviet Union." Three years later, Sutskov moved to nearby Kohtla-Järve to start Galvary United Methodist Church.

Sutskov, a member of the first graduating class of the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary founded by The United Methodist Church, continues to pastor this growing congregation today. In partnership with Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia since 1996, they are reaching the people of Kohtla-Järve.

In the early days of Galvary United Methodist Church, their biggest challenge was "the lack of its own building for the community," Sutskov says. In 2007, the congregation moved into a place with sufficient space for worship, Sunday school, and other activities. Reflecting on his faith journey and the church he serves, Sutskov says, "God responded to the spiritual hunger of people." Every day can be Easter.

Out of ashes.  Living Waters United Methodist Church in Centerton, Arkansas, was just getting started when fire destroyed their building in 2011.

"The fire and loss of the building just seemed like a long line of setbacks and obstacles we had to overcome," says the Rev. Blake Lasater who then pastored the congregation. "It happened at a time when I seemed to be losing everything close to me."

Lasater's wife was suffering from pancreatic cancer and would pass away just four months after the fire.

"We are called to place our absolute trust in God even when we cannot see a way forward," Lasater explains. "That's what I ultimately did. It wasn't easy." After two years of struggle, the new building opened in 2013 with a sense of renewal. "The fire made people into a community of faith," Lasater says. "I learned that loss can be absolutely overwhelming and leave you feeling that there is no hope, and it is in those moments we are called to trust God the most," Lasater reflects. "When we cannot see beyond the next horizon, when we can't imagine the sun ever rising again, God is still there working.”

Out of floodwaters.  In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the resultant flooding displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Rev. Darryl Tate was one of them. "I had lost our church by floodwaters, and our home," Tate says. At the height of the flooding, St. Luke's United Methodist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, had 10-12 feet of water in it.

"I lost my stuff, but the storm was not going to define Darryl Tate," he recalls, "I was going to overcome."

Bishop William W. Hutchinson soon asked Tate to organize The United Methodist Church's disaster relief ministry in Louisiana. Tate served as director of the Louisiana Conference Storm Recovery Center until 2012. In his work, Tate saw many examples of renewal. "Our organization helped 125,000 households," in response to "four hurricanes, seven tornadoes, three floods, and one environmental crisis," he reports.

He remembers a unique request from a man whose home the Storm Recovery Center was ready to rebuild. "I want a house only 1,000 square feet," he said.
The case manager assured him that though guidelines would not allow them to build more than he had before, they could rebuild the 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home the storm destroyed. "No," the man replied. "I only want a house that is 1,000 square feet. I live alone. I don't need a home that big anymore. Give it to somebody else."

An elderly couple from a horse farm in Pecan Island were forced to live in a horse trailer when floodwaters came to their home. During the home blessing service held for the family by the Storm Recovery Center after rebuilding their home, the woman excitedly showed Tate her new refrigerator. "I can put my glass in the door and I'll get water and ice. Isn't it amazing?" she said. "I am so blessed." A new home, a new refrigerator, a new blessing that comes after a storm. Every day can be Easter.

We are Easter people.  As Easter people, we know that even in the tragedies of life, God is at work bringing renewal. Some of those renewals we get to experience—like a national revival, new church buildings, and rebuilt homes. Others, like the death of a loved one, we wait to celebrate in the Kingdom of God to come.

In Louisiana, Estonia, and Arkansas. the sun will come up again. Every day can be Easter.

Tate shares one more story from the Storm Recovery Center in Louisiana.
After a morning of shoveling muck, wet ceiling tiles, and other debris from a house damaged by floodwaters, a group of volunteers were approached by the neighborhood street-watcher. She was concerned about unknown people rummaging through her neighbor's house. After showing her the paperwork authorizing them to be there, Tate explained, "These are five United Methodist bishops." The neighbor was stunned. "Bishops?" she asked.

Later in the day, she returned to have lunch with these special volunteers. Tate remembers, "She was just blown away with the servanthood of our bishops."  
As Christians, we experience resurrection every day and are called to share it in our worship and work. Every day can be Easter, all year long.

Joe Iovino, United Methodist Communications

Where Is the Church Today?
In a culture characterized by polarization and incivility, philanthropy in America faces economic and social challenges. Where is the church in all this? New York Times columnist David Brooks and writer Anne Snyder offer their assessment of the current climate and possible solutions.  Read their discussion at this link.