Grandma and Granddaughter duo use music and action to support Epworth Partners Program
By Kerry Hoffschneider
Harrietta Reynolds sang “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” with her granddaughters when little Carlie Bauer was just three years old — but she had a big voice.
“That’s when I really took an interest in my Grandma’s music. When I was five, my grandparents bought me a little kid guitar and then when I was nine they gave me a big girl guitar,” Bauer said.
Seeing her grandchildren develop a passion for the arts was music to Reynolds’ ears and her heart. Adding to that joy has been seeing Carlie join the Epworth Village Partners program — a 100 percent volunteer program designed by Reynolds to support Epworth Village, a United Methodist mission serving children and families based out of York, Neb. The purpose of Epworth Partners is to make sure every single United Methodist in Nebraska and other supporters know the story of the national mission project of the United Methodist Women and church that began in 1889.
Recently, Bauer spoke about Epworth at Fairview and Archer Zion United Methodist Church. While her words were powerful, what moved those present the most was her beautiful voice accompanied by her guitar. Much like her Grandma, Bauer was teaching through song.
“It all began when Grandma approached me in the fall of 2015 when she invited me to a training session for Epworth Interpreters. I am a busy college student, but felt very much called by God after talking with her. She is just so passionate about Epworth and her passion is catching. I went to a training in Lincoln and since have spoken at a couple of churches,” Bauer explained.
Reynolds explained the history and purpose of the program and how to get involved. “Epworth Partners and Interpreters like Carlie are a committed group of diverse people living throughout Nebraska. Some are retired clergy, some lay persons, all ages and genders.”
“The idea for this program was conceived in February of 2013. I remember the day,” Reynolds recalled opening up the 2012 Epworth Village Annual Report. “Epworth had been financially struggling for several years. In looking at the total 2012 income, 92 percent of the total income came from the State of Nebraska. Since I was serving on the Epworth Village Foundation and was a life-long United Methodist, I was amazed to see the United Methodist Church only contributed three percent of the income of Epworth that year. The United Methodist Women had always been heavily supportive of the Epworth Mission but the overall church support was disappointing.”
Reynolds did not allow her disappointment to disrupt her faith and passion. She has a long history of not giving up and was, in fact, commissioned a United Methodist missionary by the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church in 1977. Reynolds and her husband Cliff, a United Methodist clergy, have devoted their entire adult lives to the church. Throughout her career she has served in seven states and the Virgin Islands and was also an Interim Director for United Methodist Agencies that were in a time of transition. She even took a break from her Epworth Partners work in June of 2014 to serve as the interim executive director for Epworth until the fall of 2015.
Now Reynolds is on a mission to re-ignite the hard work she and others have started, “When we started all of this, I went through the channels of the United Methodist Church and was given permission to prepare a packet to go into every church in Nebraska. Packets were given out at the Nebraska Annual Conference Session in June of 2013. Either the pastor or lay delegate for each church needed to sign for the packet. We prepared 375 packets and all but about 60 churches were signed for in June. Then in July, we called the pastors of the churches who had not picked up their packet and we mailed them.”
During that summer, Reynolds recruited and trained about 15 speakers — all committed and ready to go to churches to share about Epworth Village, “Bishop Ann Sherer-Simpson, Abbi Kleinschmidt, my husband Cliff and I were all working together to help lead the process. By the end of 2015, we had speakers in 150 local churches. In 2014, the Epworth Annual Report revealed the United Methodist support increased to 10 percent and individual gifts to 10 percent of the total income. It is estimated that eight percent of individual gifts came from individual United Methodists. This means that the percentage of church giving went from three to approximately 18 percent.”
And the work continues, “We are recruiting committed persons to be part of our Epworth Partners program and to serve as Epworth Mission Interpreters, like Carlie, and to go out and share. Congregations should note there is absolutely no charge for speakers and the volunteers travel at their own expense and do not accept honorariums. Epworth Partners has no budget. Epworth Village, Inc. prints what brochures are needed and the volunteers themselves also prepare materials on their own.”
“It feels good,” Bauer said. “Life is more than about fulfilling our own individual goals and desires. It’s about serving Jesus’ desires for our gifts.”
“It is indeed pure joy to know that Carlie and others supporting Epworth Village truly ‘get it,’” Reynolds said. “Our relationship with Christ is one that calls us to share and model what He teaches his followers – as in all times, that is especially needed today.”
Learn more about Epworth Village at www.epworthvillage.org.