“Enough is enough!” Students Protest to Change Gun Control Laws

By Rick Wolcott*

“Alyssa Alhadeff, student, age14
Scott Beigel, teacher, age 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, student, age 14”

Outside Berea-Midpark High School, one by one the names were read of the 17 people killed during the Valentine’s Day shooting inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

massive group of students bow heads for moment of siklence
Moment of Silence Prior to Walk at Berea-Midpark HS

Berea-Midpark students joined thousands of others from schools across the country when they walked out of class on the one-month anniversary of the deadly shooting to protest the current gun control laws.

Berea-Midpark HS Walk for Change

Gathered near the memorial garden before their march around the school, Ben, a Berea-Midpark senior, told his fellow Titans, “take out your phones, take pictures, take videos, use the hash tag enough is enough, show people that we are no longer sitting back and letting things happen.”

“Today is all about the students and has been organized by them,” said Berea-Midpark High School Principal Vincenzo Ruggiero.  “Ben and the other students have been phenomenal in the planning of this march.  This is a student movement and our role has been to support it.”

“Nicholas Dworet, student, age 17
Aaron Feis, football coach, age 37
Jaime Guttenberg, student, age 14”

Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change
Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change

Clergy and laity from the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District) stood in the school parking lot, watching the protest and praying for the students participating in it.

“The issue of gun violence that prompted today’s walkout is one that our community and our congregation is concerned with and I think it’s always important for the church to show up and be a witness for what we believe when there’s an issue that impacts our neighbors,” said UMC Berea Senior Pastor the Rev. Nathan Howe.

Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell
Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell

“As a former educator and school principal, I feel this is a really critical issue for our students to undertake because of their safety,” said Claire Powell, a lay member of UMC Berea.  “Hopefully they can be able to make a statement to the country and to the lawmakers and the NRA that there needs to be tighter gun control laws so that these incidents of gun violence will stop and children can feel safe when they go to school every day.”

“I think there is value in supporting the youth of our community and the causes that they believe in.  I think we need to stand with them and to pray for and with them,” said UMC Berea lay member Don Moody.

Ben was encouraged that members of the community were present for the walkout.

“It makes me happy that people have come out and are supporting what we are doing,” he said.

Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS
Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS

Outside Chaney High School in Youngstown, students also began their walkout by reading the names of those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting.

“Chris Hixon, athletic director, age 49
Luke Hoyer, student, age 15
Cara Loughran, student, age 14”

Rev. Abby Auman, Mahoning Valley District superintendent, was in attendance offering prayer and showing her support.

“It is important to show the students that adults care about them and their safety, and that The United Methodist Church stands with them in calling for reform,” she said.  “I don’t know how Columbine wasn’t enough.  I don’t know how Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, or Chardon, or any of the other mass shootings enabled by AR-15s.  So if these high school students are ready and willing to stand up and say that gun ownership in America does not have to be an all or nothing proposition, and that their lives matter more than unlimited and unfettered gun ownership, I’m willing to stand with them and support them however I can.”

“Gina Montalto, student, age 14
Joaquin Oliver, student, age 17
Alaina Petty, student, age 14
Meadow Pollack, student, age 18”

“It was amazing to see so many students stand up for something,” said the Rev. Kelsey Orosan, pastor of Richard Brown Memorial and Trinity UMCs in Youngstown, and associate pastor of Boardman UMC.

Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan
Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan

She and Auman credit Richard Brown Memorial UMC members Penny Wells and Lucy Smith with organizing the Youngstown walkouts through their work with Sojourn to the Past, which takes students on a journey along the path of the Civil Rights Movement through the American South.

“The Sojourn students led the charge at all three Youngstown high schools with thoughtful and thought-provoking speeches that called students to take specific actions.” Orosan said.

In Youngstown and in Berea, students sent many messages on this day.  With their feet, they walked in protest of current gun laws.  With their hands, and the stroke of a pen, they registered to vote, giving them the power to make a difference at the polls.

“I’m encouraged by the students wanting to use their voice to share what’s on their hearts in the ways that they are peacefully protesting and making their concerns known to lawmakers,” said the Rev. Carrie Antczak, pastor of Christian formation and outreach at UMC Berea.  “I want to support that the students are doing what they can to change the world that they live in.”

“Helena Ramsay, student, age 17
Alex Schachter, student, age 14
Carmen Schentrup, student, age 16
Peter Wang, student, age 15”


*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

Annihilation is so close to being a good film …

Photo by Paramount Pictures

Movie Review by Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader

Annihilation, based loosely on the Nebula Award winning first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, is writer-director Alex Garland’s second attempt at deep thinking science fiction, following 2014’s Ex Machina.

As the film begins, a ball of fire that appears to be a meteor hits a lighthouse and creates a strange phenomenon that is called Area X, a mysterious and slowly expanding region of strange vegetation and stranger animal life. Teams of male scientists have been sent in to investigate the area working out of the government’s Southern Reach facility. Area X is separated by a translucent and penetrable wall that is called The Shimmer. No radio signals have been received from the exploration parties. There have been no survivors with the exception of …

Read entire review to find out who survived!

Embracing Diversity to Reach New People for Christ

By Rick Wolcott*

Jai mashi is a Nepali phrase that means “victory in Christ.

On Sunday, February 4, the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese Christian congregation of Refugee International Fellowship and the congregation of Grandview United Methodist Church (Canal District) celebrated their victory in Christ together during a joint worship service.

Worshippers in the Sanctuary

Pastor Santa Gajmere and the Refugee International Fellowship congregation began worshipping in the Grandview UMC sanctuary in 2016 thanks to the connection of The United Methodist Church.

“We used to worship at Grace United Methodist Church in Newport News, Virginia but it was expensive living there.  When we were looking to move, Pastor Hank (Teague) sent a letter to the United Methodist churches in Akron and Pastor Paula (Koch) was the first to answer,” he said.

“When I received the email, it was at a time when the congregation was looking for a way to reach our community.  I realized this was a way to be present for others,” Koch said from her current church, Millersburg UMC, where she was appointed in 2017.

“One of my favorite memories was the first World Wide Communion Sunday after the ministry began using Grandview’s facility. I preached and Pastor Santa translated my message. It was a great opportunity to share the Sacrament together and worship together. It truly brought home to us that we are the Body of Christ no matter what language we speak or what country we call home.

Canal District Superintendent the Rev. Ed Petersen says that North Akron is quickly becoming a large international community.

“Akron North High School reports 26 distinct cultures and 13 languages represented in the school, and Akron now has the largest population of Bhutanese/Nepali people outside of Nepal.”

“Surveys show us that there are 18,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese in Akron and the surrounding communities, but less than 1,000 of them are in Christ,” said Gajmere.  “So we are continuously praying for the other more than 17,000 and we need the help of the churches in the area to reach out and introduce them to Christ.”

He explained that the large Bhutanese population, coupled with better employment opportunities and a lower cost of living were reasons the 12 families of the Refugee International Fellowship moved from Virginia to Akron two years ago.  Since arriving in its new home, the congregation has grown to 100 worshippers, comprised of 19 families.

Roseann Andrus, a member of Grandview UMC, says, “I’m really excited to have Pastor Santa and his congregation here.  I really am.  They are trying so hard to assimilate and the more we can help them the better off everybody is.”

“I have found the people here to be very friendly and they all have a heart to help,” Gajmere said.  “There are so many seen, and unseen, people in this church who are helping us, and making us feel at home here.”

When the Rev. David Hull-Frye was appointed to Grandview UMC in July 2017, succeeding Koch, he was glad to learn that his new congregation had welcomed their Bhutanese brothers and sisters in Christ.

“In 2001, I worked with a refugee population from Sudan, with the Lost Boys, so I had experience with that, and I’ve always enjoyed working with different cultures.  It was exciting to come here and be part of this,” he said.

“Here in this community we don’t expect it to be racially diverse, but it is.  That’s the dynamic of who we are now.  So for this congregation to embrace that is encouraging to me and I think it’s living out our Gospel message.”

The two pastors meet once a month to brainstorm ideas to bring the congregations together, since Grandview UMC worships in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and Refugee International Fellowship worships there in the afternoon.

“We decided that once a quarter we are going to come together in worship, share our cultures and emphasize the similarities in our faith.  We’re all worshipping the same God, though it might be in different languages,” Hull-Frye said.

Voices of both languages sang together as one during the February 4 service.  The Refugee International Fellowship choir led the singing of Mahan Iswor Bicharchhu Kaam Tapaiko in Nepali, while the Grandview UMC choir led the singing of How Great Thou Art in English.

Other ideas borne from the pastors’ brainstorming sessions will come to fruition this spring.  A new church pictorial directory will be published that features photos of both congregations in the same book; and Gajmere will begin writing a section of the Grandview UMC Sunday bulletin in which he will offer Nepali words and phrases, along with their English translations, to facilitate breaking down the language barrier between the two congregations.

“Grandview’s commitment to build a relationship with ALL people in their community has led to this amazing partnership between worshipping communities.  Rev Hull-Frye’s leadership is moving towards East Ohio’s vision in reaching new people,” said Will Jones, the East Ohio Conference director of Multicultural Vitality.He, Hull-Frye, Peterson, and EOC Director of Congregational Vitality the Rev. Kelly Brown continue to be in conversation with Gajmere to discern ways to join in ministry with the Bhutanese Christian community, and also be in ministry to them and the larger Bhutanese refugee community.

“We equate it to a new marriage, where you have to take time to get to know each other, and understand each other’s needs.  We each have a culture we have to learn, and all sides bring something to this,” Hull-Frye said.  “It’s a joy to work with both congregations and see the dynamic of how that comes together.  Its not always easy to welcome those that we perceive to be different, but deep down we’re all the same and we all want to experience God’s love.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.