Methodist Church

The Upper Room continues to offer hope

NASHVILLE (Tennessee) – Randy, 45, was in prison for the second time. Struggling with addiction since his teens, he had stolen to buy drugs. “My life has never held much of anything important,” he said.

Randy planned to hang himself from a sprinkler system. But, somehow, he found – and opened – a copy of The Upper Room daily devotional guide. He read about a woman’s struggles with broken relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

“I don’t know how this copy of e Upper Room got in here,” he recalled. “I read Rachel Ophoff’s story, and her strength touched me. Could God really be trying to talk to me?”

Writing to publisher Sarah Wilke, Randy asked her to “be sure Mrs Ophoff knows her story touched someone with no hope”.

For 75 years, The Upper Room daily devotional guide has offered hope and inspiration to believers and seekers alike. However, today it is much more than “just a little daily devotional guide”, Ms Wilke said.

Launched during the Great Depression as a quarterly devotional booklet that sold for a nickel a copy, The Upper Room today reaches people in 40 languages in more than 100 countries.

Most of the stories are written by ordinary lay people who share their experiences and tell how Jesus Christ makes a difference in their lives. at sets the booklet apart from other devotional guides written by theologians.

“The writer’s experience connects with the reader’s experience,” Ms Wilke said. “It gives authenticity that is unmistakable.”

In today’s world, there is a big push to go digital.

However, Ms Wilke said: “We still are print-centric. Every other month, we print and distribute 2.2 million copies of the little English, small-print edition.” e total copy run for each issue is 2.6 million.

“You can download and have e-blasted to you and get that daily devotional in many, many ways,” Ms Wilke said. “However, even as that grows, only about 57,000 people receive it daily digitally. There is something about having your Scripture in print.”

Seventy-five years ago, the tiny staff of The Upper Room wrote the meditations. Today, the writers include anyone who wishes to submit a story. The challenge for the staff is sifting through 5,000 submissions of meditations per year – half of which come electronically – and narrowing the possibilities to 365.

The ministry involves much more than the devotional. Two of the most powerful outreach programmes, Ms Wilke said, are the ecumenical – and global – Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis. The goal of Emmaus is to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders. Chrysalis is the youth/young adult version of Emmaus.

Every year, about 10,000 people visit The Upper Room Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee. A beautiful carved replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting is the focal point. – United Methodist News Service.


British Methodists transcribe Bible by hand

In celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, England’s Methodist districts are transcribing 66 books by hand.

MANCHESTER – In an age when a hand-written letter is an increasingly scarce commodity, British Methodists have pledged to transcribe all the 66 books of the Bible by hand during the first five months of this year.

The “Written by Hand, Taken to Heart” national initiative is part of the denomination’s recognition of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. One of the world’s best-selling books of all time, this translation was first published in 1611, at the request of England’s King James I.

Each of England’s Methodist districts – roughly equivalent to US Annual Conferences – will transcribe 25 Old Testament chapters, five Psalms and eight New Testament chapters. e completed transcribed Bible will be presented at the 2011 British Methodist Conference this month.

Ms Jenny Ellis, the church’s Connectional Spirituality and Discipleship Officer, said most of the work is done in the community in “scriptoriums” set up in shopping centres, schools, nursing homes, universities and other public spaces.

“We want this to be a public expression of the church valuing Scripture,” said Ms Ellis. “And we want to be as creative as possible.”

In addition to the opportunity to contribute handwritten verses, participants will also be invited to create illustrations to go alongside them. – United Methodist News Service.

Kathleen LaCamera is a freelance journalist who also works as a hospital and mental health chaplain in Britain’s National Health Service.


First Asian-American dean named for a United Methodist seminary

MADISON (New Jersey, US) – In a ceremony filled with spirit and symbolism, Dr Jeffrey Kuan Kah-Jin was recently installed as Dean of Drew eological School. The Craig Chapel service followed an afternoon of events celebrating the first Asian-American to lead a United Methodist seminary.

“I stand before you today keenly aware of the enormous honour and task that the communities of faith and higher education have conferred upon me,” said Dr Kuan, who described his path from Malaysia to California to Drew as “a journey to the East”. And just as he has crossed continents to answer his calling, he said his hope for Drew eological School is that it will “increasingly become more global in its orientation”.

“By expanding transnational teaching and learning relationships, I hope we can explore together what progressive Christianity and progressive religion can look like in a global context,” he said. “I am very confident that Drew eological School’s pioneering legacy will help move us in our journey of theological education.” – United Methodist News Service.


Fun with English! comes to Tudan, Sarawak

TUDAN (Miri, Sarawak) – With the conclusion of e Reading Bus programme last December, Grace Methodist Church (GMC) recently embarked on another project to benefit the residents of Tudan, Miri.

Fun with English! is a free enrichment programme open to primary school children. Its aim is to develop the three basic skills needed for English literacy – reading, listening and speaking.

The specially tailored curriculum includes games and singing, art and craft, teaching of phonics, word puzzles and story reading. – Connection, an English station of The Chinese Methodist Church, Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference.