Third week of Advent – Joy and Strength
In this week’s Connections, Bishop Ward discusses joy and strength as the themes for the third week of Advent.
Open Enrollment Deadline Approaching
The 2014 Open Enrollment for insurance elections will end on Dec. 18. Please log into your account at www.ebenefitsnow.com or contact Caroline Thornton at email@example.com, 800-849-4433. Retirees using Extend Health have until Dec. 31 to make their 2014 elections. Retirees may contact Extend Health at 855-801-9759.
Critical Drivers Reminder
Pastors: the data entry page for the fourth quarter Critical Drivers information will be made available on the Online Data Collection System on Jan. 1. If you have missed entering information for previous quarters, fill in the blank columns at the same time you are filling in the data for the current quarter. Please log-in and enter the church’s fourth quarter information during the first week of January to ensure it is included in the reports submitted to the Cabinet on Monday, Jan. 13.
Bishop’s Forum Luncheon Jan. 15
The next Bishop’s Forum luncheon will take place at the UM Building on Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. The topic for this forum will be Race and the Criminal Justice System. The guest speaker will be Daryl Atkinson, staff attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and founding member of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance. For more information on Mr. Atkinson, click on Southern Coalition. To reserve lunch ($5 cash donation at the door), please email Robin Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 10.
Scholarships Available for UMC Creation Care Conference
Blessed Earth is offering 20 scholarships to North Carolina UMC clergy and lay leaders for the UMC Creation Care Conference in Atlanta, Feb. 6-9. Each scholarship is for $200 to cover registration and some travel expenses. Up to one person per family, and two per church, are eligible for the scholarship. The hope in granting the scholarship is that attendees will return to their home congregation ready to take a leadership role in creation care and Sabbath practices. Interested? For information about the scholarship, email Laura Leavell at Laura@blessedearth.org. For more information about Blessed Earth, go to www.blessedearth.org.
Bishop Ward Addresses ACA
A video of Bishop Ward speaking about churches and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be posted at www.nccumc.org/bishop on Wednesday, Dec. 18. The ACA will provide access to physical and mental health care for the 1.3 million persons currently uninsured in NC. The window for enrolling in a health insurance plan, to receive the benefits as of Jan. 1, is open until Dec. 23. The enrollment process has been greatly improved since the Oct. 1 introduction, and application may be completed online, by telephone or on paper. Pre-existing conditions will not prevent applicants from getting coverage. If you or someone in your congregation needs help, you can get more information at www.healthcare.gov, or 1-800-318-2596. Some churches are providing navigators to assist in the enrollment. The navigators are trained by Legal Aid of North Carolina. To make an appointment for enrollment assistance, call 1-855-733-3711.
Churchwide Special Sundays in 2014
General Conference created six unique Special Sundays to prepare students to become leaders for the church and the world; empower the poor and victimized to live fuller lives through self-improvement programs; advocate and challenge injustice and pay administrative cost for disaster relief. Offer your church members the opportunity to change the world one life at a time by lifting up these Special Sundays. Here is the list for 2014: Human Relations Day Sunday – Jan. 19; One Great Hour of Sharing – March 30; Native American Ministries Sunday – May 4; Peace with Justice Sunday – June 15; World Communion Sunday – Oct. 5; and United Methodist Student Day Sunday – Nov. 30. Ministry and promotional resources are available at Special Sundays.
The next News Briefs will be published Dec. 31. The Conference office will be closed Dec. 24-25 for the Christmas holidays and Jan. 1 for the New Year’s holiday. Have a blessed Christmas season and a safe and happy New Year!