Replenishing After Easter

Taking a break after Easter has become a family tradition. It started before we had kids, but now, it’s more important than ever.

We used to take off a few days after Easter, but with kids, we have to work around the school calendar. This year, we took two days off after Easter (school holidays), but because we had expected to lose those two days for snow makeup days, we had also planned to take the weekend after Easter off. So, we ended up taking two mini-breaks this year. And, it was a good thing: Joleen was sick on Monday, and I was sick on Tuesday (Ethan had been sick the day before Easter)!

After Easter, we spent a couple of days relaxing in a borrowed cottage along the Juniata River. The kids got to play, fish, watch a couple movies, while we took turns being sick!

This past weekend, we went to Pittsburgh and spent several hours at the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Here are some photos from Easter and our post-Easter break …

A Tennessee Thanksgiving

In recent years, our holiday tradition has been to travel to Tennessee to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and to stay home, near Joleen’s family, for Christmas. Going to Tennessee gives the kids a great opportunity to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa Willis and other family members!

On Wednesday, we picked Ethan up from school and began the lengthy drive to Cleveland, Tennessee. After making a pit stop overnight, we arrived at my family’s place at 12:45 p.m., just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

On Friday, we went to the Ocoee River, which was used for the canoe slalom during the 1996 Olympics. The water was pretty low where the visitor’s center is located. There are also a couple of bridges connecting paths on both sides of the river. We spent a lot of time walking on the rocks in the middle of the river. (We enjoy rocks; that’s one of the reasons we like going to Maine.)

On Saturday, we went to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. It was a nice—and tiring—afternoon, seeing all kinds of (mostly underwater) creatures!

This morning, we visited the New Covenant Church of God where Joleen and I attended while we were in seminary. It was good to see a few people we knew, especially Jackie and Cheryl Johns, pastors and seminary professors. They also officiated at our wedding at New Covenant.

The family got together this afternoon and exchanged Christmas gifts.

This has been a quick trip due to the school schedule (living with a school schedule is new to us, now that Ethan is in kindergarten). Tomorrow, we head back home.

Maine Vacation 2012

It’s been a slow-blogging summer, but as summer comes to an end, I thought I’d post some photos from our summer vacation in York Beach, Maine.

Back in July, we returned to the same place as last year. Our time there was very relaxing, and the weather was great. It was hot the day we arrived and the day we left, but in between, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Ever since our trip to Maine last year, the kids occasionally talked about it and looked forward to returning again this year. In addition to the beach, the kids enjoyed climbing on the rocks at the cottage and along the rocky coast of Maine. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed eating seafood; the kids, not so much.

Lovely Lane

Our local United Methodist churches sponsored a two-day confirmation bus trip, hitting some prominent regional sites and ministries within our tradition. Yesterday, I wrote about our visit to Strawbridge Shrine in Maryland. From Strawbridge Shrine, we visited the historic Lovely Lane United Methodist Church and Lovely Lane Museum in Baltimore.

Lovely Lane UMC, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is called the “Mother Church of American Methodism.” The current structure was designed in 1884, one hundred years after the Christmas Conference where the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and where Francis Asbury, one of the most prominent early Methodist leaders in America, was ordained.

As I noted yesterday, our hosts at Strawbridge Shrine were very hospitable and youth group friendly. Unfortunately, our experience at Lovely Lane was altogether different. On the trip home later that evening, our bus driver/tour coordinator reviewed the two-day trip. When he got to Lovely Lane, he said, “You all got yelled at, at Lovely Lane.” It was an experience to remember!

But, from a historical viewpoint, it was a good place to visit. Here are some photos.

Strawbridge Shrine

Earlier this month, the Clearfield Cluster of United Methodist Churches (churches from the Clearfield area) conducted a two-day confirmation bus trip for youth who are either preparing for confirmation, or have been confirmed since the last bus trip a few years ago.

The trip, with 30-something people, included stops in the Harrisburg area (the Pennsylvania State Museum, The United Methodist Home for Children, the offices of the Susquehanna Conference, and Mission Central), the Galleria Mall in York, and an overnight stay at a church in York. On the second day, we went to Maryland and visited the Strawbridge Shrine, Lovely Lane UMC, and the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, before returning home. Ethan and Sarah, who were with us, did very well on the long, busy, two-day trip.

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Strawbridge Shrine. The tour guides were very hospitable and youth group friendly (especially compared to the subsequent visit to Lovely Lane, which I’ll write about tomorrow). Strawbridge Shrine is called “home of American Methodism” because it is arguably the first Methodist societies in America (there are a couple of other possibilities). Interestingly, the first Discipline of the Methodist church in America, states …

About twenty Years ago, Philip Embury, a local Preacher from Ireland, began to preach in the City of New York, and formed a Society of his own Countrymen and the Citizens. About that same Time, Robert Strawbridge, a local Preacher from Ireland, settled in Frederick County, in the State of Maryland, and preaching there formed some Societies. (3-4)

Robert Strawbridge was an early Methodist who arrived in Maryland around 1760 and later began the first Methodist class in America. You can learn more about him at

I am also enjoying reading about Strawbridge and other early Methodists in American Saint by John Wigger (I’ll blog more about the book when I finish reading it). Perhaps the biggest controversy with Strawbridge is that he was performing the sacraments even though he was not ordained, a practiced he continued even after being confronted by Francis Asbury, I believe.

Finally, as I said, the tour guides were great hosts. Marian was particularly fond of Ethan and Sarah. Just before we boarded the bus, she asked to have her photo taken with the kids (see below). A few days after our visit, we received a letter from her along with two copies of the photo, one for each of the kids. The kids still know her name!

Surviving the Storm

A few days ago while in New York City, I wrote, Bracing for the Storm. A monster storm, which moved across the country, went through New York City dumping snow and ice. There were concerns about how the weather would impact the final day of our seminar, but we were, in act, able to complete the seminar.

Wednesday morning, a group of 28 members from our conference, trudged through icy slush on the sidewalks to the subway and then from the subway to the offices of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

We did shave off an hour and a half of the seminar so that we could head home at 2:00 p.m. However, one of our members went to the emergency room in the morning with suspected food poisoning. We left GBGM at 2:00 p.m., and parked near the local hospital to see whether or not our friend/colleague would be able to make the trip home with us. Fortunately, he was able to return with us, and we headed home at 4:15 p.m.

We arrived at the Paxton United Methodist Church in Harrisburg (where our cars were parked) around 7:30 p.m. Since none of our vehicles had snow/ice on them, we assume someone cleared them (many, many, many thanks to whoever did that for us!). Joleen and I continued our trip home, arriving around 10:30 p.m. The kids were asleep so we had to wait to surprise them until this morning!

We enjoyed our time in New York City. But it’s great to be home. Here are some photos from the last few days in NYC …

Connecting the Church in Mission

We just returned from New York City where we participated in a seminar at the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), whose motto is “Connecting the Church in mission.”

We survived the storm; more on that in the next post.

The three days were pretty intense, including two days at GBGM and one day visiting ministries in New York City. On Monday and Wednesday, we listened to presenters from GBGM. I think most of us felt overloaded with all the information we were exposed to, so it may take some time to process it.

Visiting area ministries on Tuesday was a good break from the seminar room. We visited the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew (A United Methodist church), Anchor House (A Christian rehabilitation center for men and women), and the Church Center for the United Nations (a Christian worship space owned by the Women’s Division of GBGM).

One of the things that many of us were struck most by was the passion of the presenters (people who work at GBGM). Sadly, though, many United Methodists are unaware of much of the services of GBGM, which is why our conference requires provisional members (i.e., those who have been commissioned and are on track to be ordained) to attend this seminar. Having attended this seminar, we will be better equipped to communicate to our congregations the resources that are available to us through GBGM.

The Susquehanna Conference (through the former Central Pennsylvania Conference) has a long history of making this annual trek to GBGM in New York City. This was the 38th annual trip from our conference, all led by Rev. Charles Keller (retired). Groups have ranged in size from 28 to 70 (we had 28 this year).

The trip to GBGM takes place around the beginning of February to keep costs down (off-peak time). Even though the seminar is in the middle of winter, travelers have encountered snow in New York City only three times before this year, and (only) once was there a shortened seminar (one year, the third/final day was cancelled due to snow).

We enjoyed the seminar and our time in New York City. As I said, though, we’ll need some time to process all the information and how we might make the most of the resources available to us through GBGM.

Question: What do you know about GBGM, and how have you utilized the resources they provide?

Bracing for a Storm

The storm that’s headed this way has been a popular topic of discussion for our group ever since we met in Harrisburg on Sunday for our orientation; in fact, the intensity seems to be increasing as the hours go by.

As we go to sleep Monday night, there is a winter storm watch here in New York City, which I expect will be adjusted by tomorrow. New York has already been hit hard this winter with a record-setting 33 inches of snow in the month of January. (Edited Tuesday morning to say that at 4:15 a.m., a winter storm warning was issued through 7:00 p.m. Wednesday!)

The problem with this storm isn’t so much snow but ice. The storm is coming from the west, which means it will hit our home (Clearfield) on its way here. At home, there is a winter storm warning well into Wednesday where a half inch of ice is possible on top of a few inches of snow. Here, things are more uncertain, but any ice would impact the city.

Based on the current forecast, there doesn’t appear to be a good time to travel home through Wednesday night. We’re scheduled to leave here Wednesday around 3:30 p.m. If the Board of Global Ministries closes for the day due to the storm, our plans would change.

Well, all of this certainly makes the next couple of days exciting. We hope that we aren’t delayed too much as we will already be apart from the kids for about four days!

Our trip home includes a 3.5 hour bus trip from NYC to Harrisburg where our vehicle is parked. Then, we’ll have a 2.5 hour drive home (these times do not include weather problems/delays!).

The good news is, it should make for a good story! 🙂

A Glimpse of New York City

Today was our first full day in New York City. We are here for the Global Ministries seminar. We spent most of the day at the General Board of Global Ministries learning about what the UMC does around the world. It was a great day (we’ll reflect on what we’re learning later when we have more time).

After our sessions today, a group of us got a better glimpse of the city. We started with dinner at John’s Pizzaria which is housed in a building that used to be a church, sadly enough. At their website, click on gallery to see photos, which are much better than the few I took inside the building. After dinner, we walked to the The Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center where we ascended to the observation decks (67th, 69th, and 70th floors). It’s cold on the ground; it’s even colder in the sky!

Tomorrow, we will visit churches/ministries that are engaging their city in ministry, which will give us an even better glimpse of the city, but also what God is doing in the city. It should be a great experience. In the meantime, here are a few photos from today …

New York, New York!

Yesterday, I wrote 4 Details About Our Trip to New York. Earlier today, we drove to Harrisburg to meet up with the group from our conference going to the General Board of Global Ministries seminar.

We arrived in New York City this evening, walked to the subway station to get passes for our time here, then a few of walked around Times Square together before calling it a night (in the city that never sleeps!).

We’ll share more about our time here in the days ahead. For now, I’m posting a “movie trailer” I created with Apple’s iMovie which is included on the DVD we left for the kids while we’re in New York (all I did was choose short video clips which were recorded at a local indoor playground a few weeks ago; iMovie pieced it together and supplied the music and words).