Advent-Reflections-CDecember, 2015 For the last several weeks we have been hearing and singing the “songs of the season,” which in our time has come to be a strange mixture of both traditional and contemporary, sacred and secular. All of them together contribute to creating a different spirit than exists during the other months of the year.  This year I have been drawn to two more recent such songs, both of which I have viewed and listened to often in the last few weeks. “Mary, Did You Know” (lyrics by Mark Lowry, music by Buddy Greene) has been around for more than twenty years and recorded by many. The questions posed in that song remind us that while we may get caught up in the Bethlehem-manger-shepherds story, the baby does grow up to walk on water, heal the sick, and is “the great I am” and “has come to make you new.” If you have not seen it, check out the YouTube video of Pentatonix singing this one. “A Baby Changes Everything” (written by Faith Hill) invites us not only to remember the story of Mary and Joseph, but also to experience the life-changing gift of God’s love and mercy. The baby born in a manger in Bethlehem indeed changes everything. Check out the YouTube video of Faith Hill singing her song with scenes from The Nativity Story connecting the lyrics. But for all the songs ever written for this holy season, none compare to the first one sung by angels in the vicinity of Bethlehem. First the angel brought the message: “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you – wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11, CEB) The great “I Am” has come in the flesh that transforms our lives and changes all of history. With that news announced, the night was filled with the sound of an angel chorus: “Glory to God I heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2:14, CEB) “Peace on earth” is our prayer, our hope, our longing – this year as much as any year.

I pray that the song of the angels will touch your hearts and stir your spirits this Christmas.  I wish for all a “wonderful and joyous” Christmas and a blessed new year.

-Bishop Larry Goodpaster

BishopGoodpasterBishop Larry Goodpaster is the Resident Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church

Resources for Vital Congregations



Lewis Center for Church Leadership

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor

GBHEM Leadership Resources


Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church

Englewood Book Review

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Ted Talks: The Golden Circle

Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability

Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability

Design Thinking

Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians


Be A Disciple

A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network

Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations


Living As United Methodist Christians

Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials

Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today

John Wesley Sermons: Anthology


Get Their Name

Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit

Canoeing the Mountains

Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples

Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People

Community: The Structure of Belonging


Institute for Emerging Issues

Congregations 4 Children


The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants

The Duke Endowment


The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:

  • Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
  • Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.

We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at


  • Resources
Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.