"The Bishop is coming," was the buzz at Effort UMC for several weeks.
And so she came, not wearing liturgical robing signifying her position of leadership, but a feminine pink outfit. That outfit grew with a prayer shawl presented to her, the Rev. Peggy A. Johnson, Bishop of both the Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences, by Effort UMC's Prayer Shawl Ministry. She wore it as she preached and she wore it for the luncheon held in her honor after the joint worship service.
Bishop Johnson is the elected spiritual leader, as of July 2008, of 900 churches of the United Methodist faith in those two conferences. She commented on the "beautiful country" in which Effort is located and lauded Pastor Robin Fisher and the congregation for the church's missions and "for giving yourself away."
"It's joy to be here," she told the congregation as she detailed some things about her family, including her pastor-husband whom she had the privilege of appointing to his church position, and two adult sons.
The theme for her message centered on encouragement, based on the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5.
"The main purpose of this building is to be the heart of encouragement," she said. "As we encourage, we are encouraged."
She stated we should encourage all, including people we don't like.
"Think of two things that are good about someone."
Do deeds of kindness, like sending a letter to Armed Forces personnel and helping with home makeovers on mission trips, she suggested.
"Build up your leaders, say thank you for all that's been done," she added explaining how geese in formation honk encouragement to the head of the "V" formation flying overhead.
Recalling Clara Barton, Bishop Johnson shared that when the Red Cross was finally established, Barton had forgiven those who had opposed her idea for it. She also told the story of Cyril Axelrod, a deaf Roman Catholic priest in Africa and later in China, who had become blind. He embodied the concept, the belief, that "God works all things for good."
Each member of the congregation left the church that day understanding that as Christian brothers and sisters each had much to do in touching and encouraging the lives of others.