2020 Virtual Annual Conference Session: Schedule, links to worship services, helpful documents & videos

Pastors, laity use quarantine to nurture gifts, talents


By Kara Witherow, Editor

While folks are spending more time at home than ever before, people are tapping into talents they’d let go dormant, rediscovering skills they didn’t have time to nurture, and pursuing passions long abandoned.

Rev. Grant Abernathy has always enjoyed doodling. In seminary, the pastime helped him stay focused and engaged as he listened to lectures, and the margins of his notes were usually littered with doodles and drawings.

The pastor of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Perry, during the Advent season Rev. Abernathy helped explain his sermons with drawings. One Sunday he sketched a star, another Sunday he drew Mary, and so on until the entire Advent story was illustrated.

“That seemed to go over really well, and people responded to it,” he said.

So instead of sitting or standing and talking to the camera during his daily Holy Week devotional videos, he decided to draw pictures to accompany and illustrate the scripture readings.

“One of the things I love most is not just telling the story, but seeing the pictures of the story,” said Rev. Abernathy during his Maundy Thursday video devotional. “Stories come alive when we’re able to see pictures; that’s one reason I’ve been doing the charcoal scribbles. But the best picture we show one another about the story of Jesus is how the presence of Christ is alive within us.”

As he read John 13:1-17, 34-35, he drew a simple but powerful charcoal picture of Jesus washing Peter’s feet.

“People have said it’s helped them feel engaged; it’s helped them as we’ve talked about different stories to see some visualization of it,” he said of the drawings. “It spoke so much to me when others have done it, and if it means something to me, maybe it can mean something to someone else.”

Several years ago, Anne Smith began making communion bread for Mulberry Street United Methodist Church. Now, as Vineville United Methodist Church’s spiritual director she’s continued serving in this behind-the-scenes way.

“The idea of getting to bake the bread for our church family each month is a great privilege,” said Smith, who bakes eight to nine loaves each month except on Christmas Eve, when she bakes about 20. “It’s something I can share. I love the rhythm of doing it and I love being able to serve this way.”

The first week of April, Smith was filmed making communion bread at home and the video was shared on the church’s Facebook page. The video, “Cooking with Anne: Communion Bread,” walks viewers step by step through the recipe, which Smith calls “forgiving.”

“We thought this would be a fun idea for folks to do at home and for kids to do,” she said, adding that the bread doesn’t require a lot of baking expertise to make. “It (the video) was something fun to stay connected and a way of marking the week that would have been communion Sunday and that we would have been gathered for the sacrament.”

The seven-ingredient bread is, according to Smith, an easy bread for beginners to make. The recipe can be found here.

“There’s grace in making it,” said Smith of the bread. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s kind of like the grace of God; there’s forgiveness in it. It’s a nice way to think about our communion meal and how we share that meal with Christians everywhere.”

Rev. Jerry Akin has been writing songs since he was a teenager.

For years, all he wanted was to make music and be a songwriter. The pastor of Vienna and Shiloh United Methodist Churches, Rev. Akin played bass in a rock band for about 10 years and even recorded an album.

Music is a hobby now, but Rev. Akin continues to write, record, and sing, especially now that coronavirus restrictions are in place and he’s finalized his Residency in Ministry (RIM) program.

“During the three-year RIM process, I put the guitar down for a while,” Rev. Akin said. “Now I have time to do things I enjoy. I just started really playing my guitar again in the past month.”

With the shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates, it’s been necessary to be creative with worship services, he said. While there are several talented musicians and singers at Vienna and Shiloh UMCs, it’s difficult to record music.

So lately he’s taken it upon himself to play guitar and sing, often playing original songs. His 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Clare, joined with him in a recent song and video.

Faith and family inspire Rev. Akin’s songwriting, including the song, “Take this Thorn,” which he played and shared on Good Friday.

“I think sometimes people connect with a sermon really well and sometimes they connect with a song. It just depends where they are,” he said.

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