by Alexx Wood
As in many churches, each month St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts, lifts up and celebrates congregation members with birthdays during that month. However, St. Stephen’s extends this celebration by inviting those with birthdays to give special thanks to God for the gift of their life, and to offer a donation to a special “Birthday Mission Bank” as they are able and willing. These birthday offerings are set aside for a mission project that the congregation decides upon each year.
The Mission Bank, shaped like a church, was built for one of the St. Stephen’s congregants, by a friend and member of a United Methodist Church in Tennessee. “The Mission Bank is not only a way for us to tangibly give back for the gift of life on our own birthdays, but it also serves as a reminder of our connectionalism,” said Rev. Karen Peters, pastor of St. Stephen’s.
This year, the connectionalism represented in the Mission Bank will go even deeper. The congregation has decided that the funds from the 2012 Mission Bank offerings will be donated to the Greater New Jersey Hurricane Relief fund. The fund, which our New England Conference Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar explained in his November 20 letter to the Conference
, will be the focus of the conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction as we support our brothers and sisters in the Greater New Jersey Conference after the devastation of super storm Sandy.
As of the December birthday offering, the St. Stephen’s Mission Bank had more than $1,200 in donations. The birthday fund offering will be added to the special offerings collected from many of our 627 churches in the New England Conference. To date, nearly $7,000 has been received by the Conference for this fund, and together with the St. Stephen’s amount these offerings will be put together into one gift with all the other Annual Conferences of the Northeastern Jurisdiction and presented directly to the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. In addition, the New England Conference has collected more than $56,000 through separate local church donations to Advance #3021787 for UMCOR’s Hurricane relief fund.
“I am deeply moved by the generosity of our churches like St. Stephen’s in Marblehead in responding to our brothers and sisters in their times of need,” remarked Bishop Devadhar. “As we wait in anticipation for the celebration of the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the light of Advent is already shining through the faithfulness of our New England Conference churches. Thanks be to God!”
About the New England Conference: The New England Conference (www.neumc.org
) includes more than 600 United Methodist and federated congregations in Eastern Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Congregants at St. Stephen's UMC in
Marblehead donate to the Mission Box
on their birthdays.