Annual Conference Award Winners
The following is a look at awards that will be given at Annual Conference in Wildwood, N.J., on May 28-30.
Denman Evangelism Award – Youth: Brielle Hohne
Brielle Hohne attends Medford UMC and has been active in that church since 2001. She has piloted the B-1 program by joining with youths from several churches to raise awareness of hunger and poverty, raise funds for United Methodist Advance projects and even asked school teachers to sponsor her. Hohn also participates in such local events as the CROP walk, a bike-a-thon to raise awareness for people with cerebral palsy and helped organize a county pumpkin event to raise awareness and funds for ALS. This past summer she was part of the Global Justice Volunteers through the United Methodist Church Global Ministries. She worked with the Women’s Work Board in Manila, Philippines, where she saw first-hand the effects of a typhoon and HIV/AIDS.
“Brielle has pushed youth leaders to risk by going beyond the comfort zone, challenged youth leaders to make a new path, and encouraged her peers to stand in areas of peace and justice. It is part of her DNA as she takes the church to the people in schools, peer groups and other organizations.” – Rev. Debbie Barnett, GNJ Youth Chairperson.
Denman Evangelism Award – Laity: Charlie Burch
Charlie Burch attends First UMC of Toms River and has been active there for 26 years. He has taken part in week-long youth mission trips to South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey. He has also facilitated six long-term Disciple Bible Study groups and six short-term Bible studies in the past 13 years. He is also a regular overnight host when the church is a host in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. He has also been active in the Garden State Walk to Emmaus and has sponsored 22 Pilgrims since he took that walk in 1998. He has also served in various lay leadership roles in the church, “Charlie has witnessed and shown the love of Jesus not only to the youth but also to clients by doing home repairs during those trips. He is a true disciple of Jesus Christ.” – Scott Bilquist United Methodist Men’s President at First UMC Toms River.
Denman Evangelism Award – Clergy: Rev. Frank Davis
Rev. Davis is currently the senior pastor at the UMC in Spring Valley, N.Y., and before that also had full-time appointment at Covenant UMC in Plainfield. In each instance, the churches led by Davis have grown. At Covenant, worship attendance grew from 68 to 120 in four years. At his current appointment, attendance has grown from 40 to 75.
“Rev. Davis has a deep faith, a passionate commitment to make disciples for Jesus Christ, and a vision to continue to serve Christ and his church in his community and around the world. His willingness to serve God and the church where he is called has been seen in the energy he has brought into turning churches around, growing them in their love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and bringing them hope and a new vision for the future.” – Skylands District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Steve Bechtold.
Christian Unity Award Clergy – Rev. Jackie Burgess
Rev. Jackie Burgess is an Elder currently serving the Avon and Ballard UMCs. She is a member the UM Disability Ministries Committee, the Advisory Board of Peace Islands Institute, Asbury Park Community Development Initiative, Asbury Park Community Action Network, Chaplain of the Avon Fire Department and the Monmouth Council of the Boy Scouts of America and runs a Cub Scout Pack in her neighborhood school. She has been the vice-chair of the Board of Church and Society, the Chair of Churches Uniting In Christ and the Chair of the Disability Inclusion Ministries. She has also served as president and vice president of the NJ Council of Churches.
“Rev. Burgess has been instrumental in the ecumenical movement for over a decade. She has exemplified what it means to be an ecumenist. She has also demonstrated a passion for interfaith work. From her local church to her work with organizations like Peace Islands Institute, she has shown what it means to be a powerful witness to our neighbors.” – Rev. Jessica Campbell, Chairperson for the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.
Helenor Alter Davisson Award – Rev. Dr. Jisun Kwak
Rev. Dr. Jisun Kwak is currently the Delaware Bay District Superintendent and has been given this honor for being an outstanding woman for leadership and influence throughout the conference. Kwak’s influence has been evident throughout the conference. She has previously served as the Gateway North District Superintendent before moving to Delaware Bay in 2014. She also has served as the pastor at Centenary UMC in Metuchen as well as in Methodist churches in Mendham, N.J., and Thiells, N.Y.
“She continues to impress me with her intelligence, spirituality, administrative ability, communication skills, social justice stands and commitment to progressive ideas. Dr. Kwak over the years nurtured many young women under her pastoral guidance to be exceptional leaders as part of their identity in order to make a difference in the world. But her ministry did not stop with just women. Her ability to preach, teach and living her core values showed the way to many men to rethink, understand and change and resulted in many of the males under her pastoral wing to change their attitudes, conceptions and interaction with women regardless of their place in society.” – Mark Shenise, the Associate Archivist for the General Commission of Archives and History for the conference.
Francis Asbury Award – Rev. Don Gebhard
Rev. Don Gebhard has won this honor for Fostering United Methodist Ministries in Higher Education through his work as chaplain at Centenary College. Gebhard, who is also an associate pastor at Trinity UMC in Hackettstown, has been the chaplain at Centenary since 2002. The various offerings for students at Centenary include campus worship on Tuesday nights and food and faith on Thursday nights. The office of chaplain also offers service opportunities such as The Zone, Trunk or Treat, Valentine’s Day Cards for local senior citizens and assisting in Trinity’s food pantry and thrift store. Also for the third straight year, more than 20 students have attended the off campus spiritual retreat.
Recent Centenary graduate Kevin Dufrense wrote this about the campus food and faith ministry in an article for Campus Alive: “There are various spiritual experiences Pastor Don Gebhard shares . . . We do not just delve in Bible studies or strict teaching because the importance of community in faith is far more appreciated.”
Bishop’s Congregation Award – Manasquan UMC
The Committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns has selected Manasquan UMC as the winner for this honor. Manasquan UMC has been a leader in its community and helped host a key event last year called The Ten Commandments Hike. It is one of many ways communities can experience how much all people and religions have in common. This second year hike between 10 host church sites had 275 participants. The event occurred with the collaboration of the All Faiths Committee of the Monmouth Council of Boy Scouts of America. It has committees that represent Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, and Protestant faiths, along with Manasquan UMC. The 15 Churches of the Manasquan Ministerium are also working on another two-mile hike for the fall.
Rev. Harry A. Seese Award
Rev. Jungrea Chung of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Long Branch has been honored with the Rev. Harry A. Seese Award by GNJ. Each year this award is given to a pastor whose plans for continuing education have led to strengthening his/her ministry in the local church. Chung has been instrumental for collaborative effort by organizing team ministry with the community groups to enhance the spirit and vitality of the community in the areas of poverty, economic development, education, and health. Under her pastoral and administrative leadership, currently the church is involved in the greenhouse project, second hand recycling program, and ESL class, and continuation of the Soup D’Shore (free meal) and the food pantry. She has been a clergy member of the United Methodist Church for 29 years which include her ministry as an executive at the General Board of Global Ministries for 15 years. Guided by Rose Seese of Gibbsboro, his widow, and supported by ongoing gifts, the scholarship honors her late husband, the Rev. Harry A. Seese, who died while serving the Medford Church.