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Pastors Report for 2022 Church Conference

7 persons died since last church conference: Emma Whitmer, Finley Reatherford, Hugh Jackson Jr, Henry Wood, Elsie Buckmaster, Norman Sanders, Alberta Williams. 10 students joined through confirmation of faith: Abby Frank, Alyssa Carroll, Caitlyn Mullaney, David Wester, Josie Rae Roberts, Jerilyn Roberts, Joy Conway, Nate Wolf, Sadie Pennington and Sophia Lewis. 5 Persons were baptized: Kimberly Hammond (adult baptized in the Chesapeake Bay on May 21, 2022) George Donnelly (4.10.22) Harper Jane Lehan (8.28.22) Peyton Norris and Kennedy Norris (10.1.22)

8 joined by profession of faith: Kimberly Hammond, Gail Pepin, Andy Vivian, Rachel Grayson, Jennifer Chang, Pattie Holubowski, Donald Frank, Alan Pennington

The Pastor shall give a report on the state of the church and an account of pastoral ministry as it relates to (¶ 340): Providing support, guidance, and training to the lay membership in the church; ministering within the congregation and to the world; and administering the temporal affairs of the congregation. Unlike churches which have struggled to regain pre-pandemic vitality, Mt Harmony-Lower Marlboro has continued to grow in worship attendance and overall commitment of persons to the ministries of the church. Though-out the week, our building is busy with bible study, three age-level of youth groups, community dinners, member prayer & care, AA groups, Alanon, four civic groups and The Wesley School. Special Sunday Worship events such as Blessing of the Backpacks, Easter Sunday, or Youth Sunday can boost our attendance over 200 persons. The average weekly attendance for in-person worship is 85 a week with an online attendance averaging 16 per Sunday, according to our UMC Vital Signs (which is updated weekly by our church secretary) Since last church conference, we have received new members, baptized and confirmed persons into the household of God and prayed for those who now rest from their labor with Christ in heaven. Eighteen persons were received in to church membership since last conference. Four children have been baptized and one adult, Kim Hammond who was baptized in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Community of Christ Players, an intergenerational gospel-based theater program that under the direction of Jackie Waymire were active this year with two performances and a third set for November. The Star and the Dramatic Reenactment of The Last Supper include persons ages 6 - 86 as cast and crew from across several denominations and geographical counties. The Star, an epiphany-themed show set in the scene of a 1940’s southwest cafe was postponed due to the winter COVID spike, which meant that the nativity themed show was performed in March, but it did not lose it’s impact or reach. The 30 member company was delighted that The Star was sold-out (over 220 tickets sold) and all the funds supported community youth ministries. The Last Supper reenactment, held on Maundy Thursday continues to be a powerful part of our Holy Week observances. In production for November is, Beulah Land, an ole time gospel show about one man’s journey to “find his way back home”. This show, written by Jackie Waymire, features regional musicians including The Sojourner’s Band as well as actors from Community of Christ Players. The funds from this will go toward the improvement of our sound equipment at Mt Harmony.

Our Children and Youth ministry program continues to be strong. In the last year, the programs grew to to include three age levels of weekly youth group meetings (3rd-5th) (6th-8th) (9th-college). Under the direction of Julie Todzia, these students meet weekly for study, prayer and fun. In January of 2022, Family Ministries initiated a winter retreat at WISP Resort where 50 people of all ages attended. The weekend retreat included snowboarding, skiing and tubing as well as evening and morning worship led by Patrick Meyers, the director of Camp Ligonier. A summer day camp program led by our Family Ministry Director, Julie Todzia, extended across 6 weeks featuring biblical themed lessons in art, music, cooking. The annual youth retreat to Camp Ligonier was again sponsored in-full by the generous donation, making it possible for 25 students grades 6th and up to experience Christian team building.

Our mid-week academic programs for children ages preschool through eight grade underwent considerable change this year. The Wesley School and Project Approach Ministry, were booming at the start of 2021 school year. In winter, the trustees and council moved forward toward the goal of reconfiguring the Parsonage into an outreach center for academic ministry. Our hope was that the parsonage could be a space certified for The Wesley School to extend grades 3-6th. Over the course of several months, a formal site development study was conducted. Professional architectural drawings, soil and perc-testing, and community conversations were held as part of determining the feasibility of expansion. The final assessment by Calvert County planning and zoning determined that the property at 300 E. Mt Harmony could not support a school. This was a disappointment which certainly took an emotional toll on the families and staff who were committed to the dream of growing the school. Emotions were compounded by an abrupt ending of The Project Approach ministry, which was to be the model of our upper level grades.

To forge a path ahead, we worked with Dr. Peter Bray a church member and retired school administrator for the remained of spring of 2022. He truly helped us determine a way forward for the school. Dr Bray is retired from the public school but he also had experience as a former Head of School at a United Methodist school which operated out of a church, quite similar to our arrangement. Dr. Bray observed each of the classrooms, performed teacher observations, oversaw the daily schedule and provided feedback to the Church Council. By late spring, he improved protocols for daily operations and guided the school toward a PTO model that fosters parent involvement and better collaboration between church and school. He also developed a full-time job description for the Head of School. In June 2022, the homeschool initiative closed out, the parsonage returned to be a residential rental property and Kassie Evans, a staff member who was a part-time Special Educator, was hired as the Head of School.

For decades, the mission of serving others has remained at the forefront of our life together. The ministry of feeding neighbors (with carry out dinners, food deliveries and Wednesday Night Suppers) has continued and adapted to the changes brought by Covid. The Angel Tree, which serves children in need at Christmas, was led by Paul and Tina DeLong in honor of Tina’s father Wayne Hammond. The Good Neighbor Food Delivery Ministry has found partnership with West River Area Churches in bringing groceries to our families in need. Our longstanding support of the Calvert Community Churches food pantry in Prince Frederick is appreciated for our many volunteers and our financial commitment through several of our Communion Offerings.

Provide an update on the status of the vision / mission goals set for the prior year.  

We have stopped any further plans to renovate the parsonage or to expand the academic outreach of The Wesley School on our property. We have connected more with our community through partnerships with a variety of Girl Scout Troops, Yoga classes, and support groups. We continue to prayerfully draw together learning and listening opportunities for discussion issues facing our church today. Several persons attended Bishops Zoom meetings on April 22, 2022 “Stay or Go” and September 28, 2022 “Setting the record straight”. Both of these were to seek understanding regarding the denomination split. Some person have attended local events hosted by Wesleyan Covenant Association and Global Methodist Church at other churches and provided reports to the Council.

Provide vision / mission goals for the upcoming year.   

Although the conflict regarding denomination split are still before us, we now understand that there is no need to lead persons in the church around a "stay or go" vote. Our church council has determined to not pursue the One Board model. Instead, it will seek to attract younger persons within the congregation to take on leadership roles. Finally, it is understood that our church needs to look at the ministerial arrangement of the Wesley School an outreach ministry of the church. There may be a need to separate the church and the school in order to be in compliance with the directives of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Include as a part of the report a statement outlining the pastor's program of continuing education and spiritual growth for the past year and plans for the year to come (¶ 350.1).

My program of continuing education for the last three years has been through the virtual classes of the Center for Action and Reflection which is out of Albuquerque New Mexico. I am currently considering possibilities for in-person retreat and sabbatical.

How are you and your congregation engaging with the spiritual discipline of justice and specifically the NEJ Call to Action on Racial Justice?

Our church is the site of the War of 1812 and specifically the location of the port on Patuxent River where 14 enslaved men and women won their freedom in exchange for joining the British war effort. Each year, we host the annual Lower Marlboro Freedom Festival that includes walking tours, speakers, entertainment, food and exhibits at the historic Lower Marlboro United Methodist Church and Lower Marlboro Hall.

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