District E-News - December 2021

News Article December 8, 2021

District E-News

December 2021

From the Edge*

As a spiritual leader on the margin, Rev. Jae Lee has led people from the edge.  From the Edge* will become a voice for diverse perspectives and encouragements among the Smoky Mountain District's churches and leaders.  Jae may ask the district lay and clergy leaders to write a short article from our own edges.

The Spirit of Christmas: “With”

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

When I served a local church in Charlotte, a Christian Arts Performing school used our church facilities. One of my joys was to watch their Christmas play. On a cold winter evening, they presented Bethlehem Oz, a revised version of The Wizard of Oz. In this play, a little African American girl, Dorothia, helped the scarecrow walk. However, the fear-filled scarecrow, who forgot how to walk, continued giving up walking. After instructing him how to walk in vain, finally, Dorothia committed herself to journey with him. Walking with the scarecrow toward Bethlehem reminded me of the spirit of Christmas, God with us, Emmanuel!

We are in the season of Advent and Christmas in this pandemic. By being overwhelmed with COVID, in particular, a new variant, Omicron, it may be easy and safe for church leaders to instruct and point the right direction for others from a distance. When we practice Emmanuel, the spirit of Christmas, however, we truly realize that God did not simply teach us the way of salvation but walked the narrow and unpaved road with God’s beloved people.

I am very grateful for our church communities, who boldly and creatively reach out to God’s people in this very challenging time. I pray that we may work for them and stand, listen, and be with them in the spirit of Christmas. May the Lord’s tangible presence be with you, with your families, with your churches, and with your communities.

Blessings and peace, Jae  


HIGHTS: Connecting a Community Who Cares
 to Vulnerable Youth in Our District

by Rev. Julia Trantham Heckert
Community Engagement Coordinator, HIGHTS

 Almost two decades ago, Marcus Metcalf, Executive Director of HIGHTS, began noticing the adversity youth face across the rural communities in our region. Studies show that youth who experience trauma and generational poverty have significantly elevated risk factors that contribute to increased rates of addiction, hospitalization, and incarceration. Combined with lack of access to critical services due to barriers such as transportation, food insecurity, and internet access, many youth fall through the cracks, adversely affecting our communities for generations.

In 2008, Marcus founded a nonprofit called HIGHTS that serves vulnerable youth and their families across the Smoky Mountain District. HIGHTS is an acronym that stands for Helping Inspire Gifts of Hope, Trust, and Service. Our mission is to transform youth in Western North Carolina by inspiring trust in their own abilities, connection to a caring community, and hope for a better future.

Over the years, HIGHTS has established a holistic continuum of care that allows us to walk alongside youth ages 11-24 as they grow into thriving adults. Our highest level of care is clinical mental health services for youth and their families, helping stabilize crises, address substance misuse, and begin the journey toward healing. Obtaining degrees and job experience is vital to well-being, so HIGHTS offers a Workforce and Educational Development program. This program assists youth in receiving high school or GED diplomas, funds community college courses, and offers paid work experiences.

Next, we have several skill building programs that focus on goal-directed activities and fostering life skills to support youth as they grow in their confidence and resiliency. Our methods include outdoor adventure and recreational therapy, art education, animal-assisted therapy, and community service opportunities. At the beginning of this year, HIGHTS began piloting our Bee Well Mentoring program, as new research shows that community connections are the number one indicator of well-being for youth with high levels of adverse childhood experiences. This program matches youth with caring community members who spend time each week pursuing the youth’s interests and working toward the youth’s goals together. We plan to expand mentoring to include a school-based model as well as programs for specialized populations.

HIGHTS couldn’t do what we do without strong community partnerships, especially with United Methodist churches. From the beginning HIGHTS realized the variety of valuable resources local churches have to offer the youth we serve. From opening up office and programing space in their buildings, to providing basic needs items for our youth, to allowing us to partner with ongoing outreach ministries and service projects, to supporting alternative schools, to volunteering with programs and acting as mentors, churches across our District have been using their gifts to love their neighbors and help change the trajectory of their lives.

The pandemic not only laid bare the realities vulnerable youth in our communities face, but exacerbated the challenges. Youth are in crisis. And local churches are taking notice. Clergy and congregations across the District have expressed a desire to respond to the critical needs of young people, and HIGHTS is dedicated to supporting churches in doing so. It is our prayerful vision to take the umbrella partnership models HIGHTS has been piloting with churches, like after school programs for middle school students, mentoring, and connection to alternative and under-resourced schools, and implement them across the District. HIGHTS is also grateful to have the support of the Duke Endowment in this endeavor.

It is the sacred work of the local church to create community and serve those on the margins. The Holy Spirit is moving in powerful ways in our region and together we can extend grace-filled love to young people who need it the most. I’m grateful to serve in a District committed to being a community who cares for God’s children.
If you’d like to learn more about HIGHTS, please visit our website at www.hights.org. If you’re interested in learning ways to partner with us, contact Julia at julia@hights.org.

Smoky Mountain District
Winter 2022 - Basic Lay Servant Training

The Smoky Mountain District will offer a Basic Lay Servant Training class in January 2022.  The dates will be Saturday, January 15 & Saturday, January 22 from 9:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. each day.  Participants must attend both Saturdays to get full credit for the class.
We will offer the class with both in-person and Zoom options.  If participants choose to attend in-person, the classes will be held in the Asbury Room at First UMC, Sylva (77 Jackson Street, Sylva, NC).

Cost: $35 (includes course book and meals)

Click Here to Register

Cruso UMC "a beacon for community service"

"Cruso was at the headwaters of flooding that made their way down the Pigeon River, leaving a wide swath of destruction in its path. Many of the homes that weren’t totally washed away were left damaged beyond repair. For those homes that can be repaired, the race is on to provide a clean, safe and warm place before winter hits." Vicki Hyatt of The Mountaineer tells the story of Cruso UMC, who continue to find themselves in the center of hospitality and recovery efforts.

The Western NC Conference is pleased to offer a conference-wide virtual worship with a homily from the Bishop, music and liturgy from the Appointive Cabinet and churches around the conference. Clergy and worship leaders, take a much-needed break after the Advent season and worship with friends around the conference. The video will be available for viewing on our website, YouTube, and Vimeo on December 20, 2021. A downloadable version of the video and order of worship will also be available for churches to upload and stream through their own platforms. 

A Service of Loss, Lament, Healing, and Hope

This service is designed for clergy and ministry professionals to gather and share in a time of worship together. 
Western North Carolina Conference leaders are encouraged to spend time with a missional network, covenant peer group, community ecumenical clergy group, or other gathering of colleagues. We have missed being together and may need to ease back into communal settings. We need each other.
It’s been a hard season in ministry and life. Just as we need confession and repentance to move toward redemption, we often need to name our loss and lament, in order to move toward healing and hope. 

This service is an opportunity to take that journey together. You can choose how you use it. There are seasonal adaptations at the bottom, depending on when you choose to use it.
It is a gift. We hope that you will take advantage of it.

There are two options are available for download: a digital version and a print version.

Coming Together: Clergy Collegiality and Care

Encouraging WNC leaders to gather and to support one another.

It’s been an exhausting 18 months for ministry leaders that has created anxiety and isolation for some. Many leaders are ready to join together with colleagues to share spiritual practices, find hope for what’s next, and to just BE together. 

You are encouraged to gather with a group of 3 or more Western North Carolina clergy or ministry professionals. You may choose to plan an outing, a meal, an overnight retreat, etc. You may also choose to include your families.

Each group is eligible for up to $200/clergy or ministerial professional participant to support the time together. Groups should be diverse. Make some new friends. Connect with people you haven’t seen for a while.

Please take appropriate COVID precautions.

Play, have fun, eat, share, connect!

Register for Grants

Spring 2022 Dates Available for Clergy Antiracism Ethics Training

Spring 2022 dates and registration are now available for antiracism clergy ethics training. There are both online and in-person offerings available. Three Saturday-only opportunities will be offered for part-time local pastors and laity. Antiracism training is mandatory for all WNC appointed clergy. Any clergyperson who has not yet completed an antiracism ethics training should register for one of these dates. Spaces are limited.

Sabbath Life 2022

(offered by Life Around the Table)

Sabbath Life is an ecumenical invitation to clergy and ministry professionals to practice the rhythms of Sabbath, stepping away from our daily lives to delight in God, creation, and each other. Our unique format offers a holistic approach to good health and clergy renewal, which in turn leads to flourishing congregations and communities.

In 2022, Life Around the Table is offering a variety of locations in North Carolina - Triange/Triad Area, Charlotte Area, and Asheville Area - as well as 4-month, 6-month,  and 10-month programs.  In each of these, we learn to incorporate sustainable practices that witness to and reflect the nature and character of a God of abundance and wholeness, enabling us to lead flourishing ministries.

To learn more click here.

For a glimpse into what Sabbath Life is all about, watch this video.

For more information, contact Laura Hamrick at laura.hamrick@lifearoundthetable.org.


Job Openings

The Western North Carolina Conference is hiring for the following two positions:

Disaster Response Site Coordinator
Ability to lead volunteer teams in rebuilding and rehabbing homes damaged by flooding from Hurricane Fred in Haywood County. Position requires good communication skills with supervisor, survivors in order to instill the hope and security the Church provides. Must ensure a high standard of work for all jobs and maintaining the standards of state and local building codes for safety. Construction experience required.  Must be able to work when teams are available including Saturdays.  Contract employee for six months with option to renew and additional six months.  Please send a resume to Western North Carolina Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Brian Mateer at bmateer@wnccumc.org
Disaster Response Administrative Assistant 
Must possess general office administrative duties to support the Disaster Recovery Efforts of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Seeks to provide a professional, confidential office atmosphere that assists in organizational and administrative responsibilities including but not limited to, answering phones, filing, submitting reports, basic computer and internet skills.  Will be working with volunteers and other Disaster Ministry staff.  10-20 hours per week at $15 per hour.  Please send a resume to Western North Carolina Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Brian Mateer at bmateer@wnccumc.org



Christmas & New Years Day
Schedule for District Office

The Smoky Mountain District Office will be closed for Christmas and New Years Day from Wednesday, December 22, 2021 through January 2, 2022.  The office will reopen on Monday, January 3, 2022.

In case of emergency, you may reach our staff by either phone or email at their respective information below.

Rev. Dr. H. Jae Lee, District Superintendent
jlee@wnccumc.org or 704-408-0909

Rev. Nicole Jones, District Vitality Associate
njones@wnccumc.org or 828-553-1587

Kara Miller, District Administrator
kmiller@wnccumc.org or 940-782-3698