UMR Communications, which prints and mails Western Pennsylvania's Interlink edition of the UM Reporter, will cease operations on May 31. Finding no viable plan for reversing financial losses of recent months, the board or the Dallas-based nonprofit voted at a May 16 meeting to close.
UMR Communications (UMRC) publishes the United Methodist Reporter in print and digital formats and online, and provides printing and communication services to churches and other nonprofits.
The final Interlink edition of the Reporter will be dated May 31 and included news and features for June. It will be printed and mailed by May 24.
Western PA Conference communications staff will begin immediately to explore alternatives for printing and distributing a monthly Conference newspaper. Until new mechanisms can be put in place, the PDF version of the Conference news section will be available electronically at wpaumc.org/Interlink and news items will be posted as usual on the Conference website.
The vote to cease UMR operations came at a tearful board meeting in Dallas.
“At one time, our ministry produced nearly 300 separate editions of the newspaper which integrated content created by our news staff with content provided by church and conference partners,” said Tom Palmer, board chair. “That number has decreased over the past 10-15 years due to changes in publishing technology. The financial crisis of 2008 had a significant impact on both individuals and institutions. Local church and conference finances were also severely affected. As a result, a growing number of churches and conferences either ceased publishing Reporter editions or changed their publishing frequency. We now no longer receive enough revenue from our publishing and printing operations to sustain the overhead needed to maintain the ministry.”
Closure will cost the jobs of the 26 remaining employees, including some with more than 40 years of service. Thirteen others were laid off near the end of 2012.
Alan Heath, CEO since August, 2011, said the ministry had struggled financially for several years. But the late 2012 loss of a major contract – for printing, as well as for warehousing and shipping curriculum materials – reduced revenue by about 40 percent.
Reporter editions have declined to 45, though UMRC has continued to print other newspapers, as well as doing a variety of specialty printing.
Since the beginning of the year, efforts to cut costs while seeking new income could not keep the ministry in the black. Mr. Heath noted that UMRC has operated as a fee-for-service ministry, with no strong donor base and no direct support from the United Methodist Church.
In recent days, various organizational alternatives were explored internally and with friends of the ministry, Mr. Heath said, but closure became the only realistic step.
“There was no solution that didn’t involve red ink,” he told board members.
Mr. Heath added, “This decision obviously affects not only our newspaper customers, but other customers that have relied on us for printing and mailing services for many other products. We are sorry to leave our partners in ministry who have been so faithful to continue their relationship with us. We will do our best to help these ministries find a new print provider.”
For departing employees, severance and vacation pay will not be available in the short term, for lack of funds, Mr. Heath said. He added that after liquidation of assets, any remaining funds will be used to pay former employees proportionally.
The Reporter has its origins in pre-Civil War Methodist papers in Texas, and was long the main vehicle for news about Methodists in Texas and across the Southwest.
In recent decades, it has covered the full United Methodist Church, offering independent news coverage, features and commentaries. Staff members have regularly won religious press awards.
Mr. Heath said an appropriate home will be sought for the newspaper’s print and online archives.
The UMRC board celebrated communion at the end of this morning’s meeting, led by the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, a board member and director of communications for the Iowa Conference.
Before doing so, he said: “Many of us standing around these ordinary tables have received the gift of grace of people of the UMR family – the grace of an extra day, or days, or more when we’ve needed to send our copy for a paper, the grace of converting stick figure ideas into beautiful designs, the grace of telling stories, offering commentaries, helping us to see beyond our own horizons. And we are the better for the gift that the UMR team is.”
United Methodist Church Union, a ministry agency based on the Northside of Pittsburgh, is forming a young adult volunteer team to work in Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts in Crisfield, MD from August 18-23. It’s part of the denomination’s Restoration Generation initiative.
There are 20 openings on the team. Participants must be at least 16 years of age.
With lodging in a local UM church, the cost is estimated to be about $300.
"This trip is geared toward young adults and those who want to work with them to restore the generation gaps within our church and restore a sense of missional engagement with world around us," said the Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk, associate director of UM Church Union, who is coordinating the trip. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and to apply.
"The timing of this trip pairs nicely with the NEJ Young Adult event called The Oasis from Aug.16-18th in Washington, DC," she added.
Find out more about Restoration Generation and register for The Oasis at www.resgenumc.org
Since its creation, first as A United Methodist Witness in Pennsylvania during the mid-1980s and in recent years as United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania, the organization has operated as a non-profit separate from the annual conferences. It had its own board of directors and budget. It maintained a consultative relationship with bishops across the state.
The annual conference retired clergy/spouse luncheon will be held on FRIDAY, June 14, 2013 at NOON in a private dining room in the Rathburn building (a new building located behind the chapel). This building was completed last year and will provide the group with its own dining space, rather than using shared space. This will facilitate group conversation and allow for a brief meeting following the meal.
The building is handicap accessible and some parking is available nearby.
The Rev. John Fanestil said that he began serving Communion in Friendship Park in 2008 to stand in solidarity with families who meet there. “For some families, it’s the only place they get to see loved ones.”The visit was a learning experience for the bishops, who met with Mario Lopez, a representative of the San Diego mayor’s office at San Ysidro and viewed the pedestrian bridge leading into Tijuana. At another stop, they met with Enrique Morones, director of the Border Angels, a volunteer non-profit organization that advocates for human rights and immigration reform through community education and awareness programs.
“The division of families, the division of the church, sisters and brothers here and there, the division of neighborhoods – that was exactly the same. I’m so happy that the church is in ministry here at that border. The congregation meeting there Sunday by Sunday is such a witness that through Christ and in Christ and in God's love, any border does not matter because we know that God's love is for all people and we work for justice so that families can live together.”
The Rev. David Stains, pastor of OakView UMC in Waynesburg, and his team of 10 Volunteers in Mission have returned from a 10-day trip to Colombia, where they worked on an addition to El Camino Church in Sincelejo, an area hard-hit by power struggles over drug trafficking.
The work in Sincelejo is part of a Northeastern Jurisdiction Volunteers in Mission Project proposed by the Rev. Clinton Rabb, who died in the Haiti earthquake. Teams are needed to continue the project in Colombia.
In the Sincelejo area, with access to the Caribbean and the money to be made from drug trafficking to Central and North America, groups have battled 50 years for the power to do so. One generation of men is missing due to war. Many sons and fathers are missing or have been killed.
The church and community are made up of many single mothers and their children. While drug traffickers entice children to join them and abuse the young women, the church is teaching the children and women that they are created to be more, to do more and to become more than to serve these battling groups.
The team, along with the pastor and his family and other local Colombians, dug trenches for footers, built forms and poured concrete for six columns, cut and bent rebar and built support cages for the footers and removed dirt from the area to level the ground.
The community surrounding the church is made up mostly of women, children and older men. The addition will serve as a place for the children and women to come together. The women cook and sell food and other items outside the church to generate money for the church. Pastor Rennys continues to teach school because the church does not have the cash to pay him. The addition will give the children a place to meet, play and learn with one another.
The women on Stains' team also held a four-day Bible School for area children. They enjoyed singing, listening to and dramatizing Bible stories, making crafts and just spending time with the leaders and each other.
Before the team left Colombia, they visited the IPS Clinton Rabb Methodist Clinic in Hermosa Vista. The clinic is open; a medical doctor is there all of the time, and a dentist is available. They are set up for minor surgery and to deliver babies. A lab is equipped to test blood and perform other tests. A small number of beds are available for patients and families to stay overnight. Bunk beds are available for teams of medical volunteers.
Donations to the Encounter with Christ in Latin America and the Caribbean will aid this project and other Methodist ministries in the area. Learn more.