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QUESTION OF FAITH

What distinguishes United Methodists from other Christians? Answered by the Rev. H. Clark Edwards, senior minister at First United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg, 212 Third St. N.

"I think, for me, what distinguishes United Methodists from other Christian denominations is the connectional system that unites our local church with other United Methodists around the world. You can find a United Methodist church, mission school, hospital or clinic in most every part of the world. Whenever a disaster occurs, the United Methodist Church is quickly on the scene to provide love and care to the victims of natural disasters, ethnic violence and warfare. We feed more than a million children a day. Our focus for ministry is to continue Christ's ministry of preaching, teaching, healing and caring. This is what makes us unique or United Methodist.

SKETCH: For the Rev. H. Clark Edwards, who was assigned to First United Methodist Church last June, the church "is the most exciting congregation" he has ever served. An ordained United Methodist minister for 20 years, he has served churches in the Tallahassee, Orlando and Tampa districts. He graduated from Florida State University and received his master's of divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Edwards and his wife, Donna, a registered nurse, have been married for 27 years and have three children, Bryan, 23, Tracy, 21, and David, 12. He enjoys fishing and softball.

TEST OF FAITH: "Recently, our oldest son, Bryan, was diagnosed with a serious eye condition called Stargardt, which could eventually lead to his blindness. At first, I did not want to accept this diagnosis. I did not want to believe that this could be true. In my prayer life, I began to wrestle with God as to why this could be happening. After all, here I have dedicated my life to the work of ministry. Doesn't that count for something? As I continued to wrestle with God on this to seek answers, a strange thing occurred. Instead of being the one to give support and encouragement, suddenly we were the ones to be the recipient of calls, visits, cards, e-mails of encouragement and love. The Christian community was so evident for our family. In addition, my son Bryan's own faith flourished and was solid. Having a supportive Christian family that cares and supports you can get you through any difficulty you may face. I am indeed thankful for a wonderful family of faith that has no boundaries."

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