By Rick Wolcott*
Greetings to you all! We are so excited to visit with you!
Grace and peace,
John and Charles Wesley
With those, and other, written words, Flat John and Flat Charles introduced themselves to the congregation of Faith United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) in North Canton.
A set of Flat Wesleys – based on the popular character Flat Stanley© – was sent at the end of February to one church in each of the annual and central conferences.
Discipleship Ministries (formerly the General Board of Discipleship) created the flat brothers as a means to teach children about covenant discipleship. Their mission is to encourage children to live out their discipleship.
“I learned how to praise God.”
– 1st grader at Faith UMC
“They were a blast. Once, we caught them singing with us. They followed us around.”
– 3rd grader at Faith UMC
“Hosting the Flat Wesleys at Faith UMC has been a fun and educational experience to introduce children in grades K-5 to our United Methodist heritage,” said Kathy Schmucker, the congregation’s spiritual formation director.
The Wesleys participated in the ministry of Faith UMC for two weeks.
“I learned from Flat John and Flat Charles to always be praising God and to always love others,” a Faith UMC 4th grader wrote in a letter that accompanied the Wesleys to their next church, Camp Branch UMC in Alabaster, Alabama.
In that same letter a 2nd grader wrote that loving others is “helping around the house, giving others a meal, helping hurting friends, and that loving others makes God happy.”
“The children worked in small groups to brainstorm and identify ways they could live out each of the areas of discipleship,” Schmucker said. “One student created a prayer journal for acts of devotion. Several students discussed how standing up to bullies is an act of justice.”
The Flat Wesleys were present at Wednesday Night Faith Connections when children were learning about hunger in North Canton and the ministry of the church’s Faith Kitchen. On that night, children helped decorate empty bowls as a reminder that people go to bed hungry every night.
“The Discipleship cross and reminders that God loves us and is always with us were themes that showed up in the décor of the plates children decorated,” Schmucker said.
In the letter to Camp Branch UMC, the children of Faith UMC wrote of the things that they learned from Flat John and Flat Charles:
“Love others like God loves you and care for others.”
– 2nd grader
“Always reach out to God and pray to God.
– 3rd grader
Following their visit to Alabama, the Flat Wesleys will join in ministry with the congregation of Fellowship United Methodist Church in Trophy Club, Texas. The brothers will itinerate through the summer before returning to Nashville, TN in September.
If you are interested in having Flat John and Flat Charles at your church, send an e-mail request to Discipleship Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The end result of this project is for children to have the opportunity to practice compassion, justice, worship and devotion, to really pay attention to how they are doing that, and to be able to share their experiences with other children across the Methodist connection,” said Melanie C. Gordon, director of Ministry with Children at Discipleship Ministries.
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.