Texas Annual Conference News

Subscribe to Texas Annual Conference News feed
Texas Conference UMC News Feed
Updated: 1 hour 8 min ago

Murchinson UMC and Port Arthur St. Paul: Face to Face and Heart to Heart in the Worst of Times

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
By: Sherri Gragg

You Are Not Alone
As Northwest District Superintendent Rev. Marlin Fenn began to hear stories about the hurricane damage suffered by sister churches in the Southeast District, he knew the recovery process would be a crushing financial burden for many of them. In response, he challenged the churches in his own district, which had been spared the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, to contribute to the apportionment payments of the damaged churches. “We want the say to the damaged churches, ‘You are not in this alone,’” Fenn said. 
Murchinson Offers Support
Many of the churches responded positively to Fenn’s challenge, but none more so than Murchinson UMC. Murchinson wasn’t satisfied, however, with simply contributing funds toward the apportionment payments. They wanted to also come alongside one of the flooded churches to pray for them and encourage them. “When we got the news of Harvey,” Murchinson Senior Pastor Thomas Haygood said, “our churches in East Texas bean to pray for and reach out to them because many of our clergy friends and lay members are part of that situation.”

Haygood contacted Fenn and requested that Murchinson be partnered with one of the suffering churches so that they might offer them encouragement on an ongoing basis. Fenn worked with Southeast District Superintendent Alicia Coltzer Besser to find a good fit for Murchinson. Besser suggested matching Murchinson with Port Arthur St. Paul.
Murchinson member, Dr. Holley Collier, enthusiastically led her church in going above and beyond for their suffering brothers and sisters in Port Arthur St. Paul. Collier organized fellow members to participate in a video recording offering messages of encouragement and comfort to the church. Since that time, Haygood has been in close contact Port Arthur St. Paul pastor Rev. David Daviss. The pastors are considering exchanging pulpits one Sunday to further strengthen the bond between the two churches. Haygood hopes the support Murchinson has provided Port Arthur St. Paul will be the foundation of a sister relationship between the two churches.
An Opportunity for All
Seventy-five churches in the Texas conference were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. Fenn is encouraging more churches in the Northwest District to follow Murchinson’s example and do what they can to support the damaged churches in the Southeast. “Tragedies can bring out the best and the worst in people. We are encouraging our churches to be the best that they can in response to the pain other churches are going through. The gifts of the spirit are relational gifts.”


FUMC Marshall: Empowering the Next Generation While Healing the Wounds of the Past

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
Healing the Painful Past
In the fall of 1960, Marshall, Texas businesses removed their lunch counters. The message was clear, the doors of white establishments would remain firmly closed to African Americans. There would be no more of the previous spring’s disruptive sit-ins led by the students of historically African American Wylie and Bishop Colleges.
Marshall’s lunch counters would not reopen for more than 35 years. The deep roots of racial segregation and injustice, however, have taken even longer to eradicate. Today, almost 60 years after the students of Wylie College braved assault and arrest during The Civil Rights Movement, the First United Methodist Church of Marshall is partnering with Wylie College to establish The Wylie United Methodist Leadership Pathway (The Pathway) internship program. In doing so, they will ensure racial justice marches on. The program, which is a partnership between the Texas Conference, the North District of the Texas Conference, FUMC Marshall, and Wylie College, is spearheaded by FUMC Marshall pastor, Rev. Rodger Garbs. FUMC Director of Discipleship, David Lee, who has recently begun the process of pastoral ordination, has been vital to the program’s development.
Equipping Young Leaders for Ministry
The purpose of the internship program is to provide a way for select students from Wylie College to develop leadership skills. Garbs hopes that many of these young men and women will choose to serve as pastors, and worship leaders within the United Methodist Church. He believes empowering young leaders of color is an important investment in the future of the UMC. “All churches need strong leaders,” Garbs said, “and strong leaders of color within the UMC are too few and far in between. We are hoping to change that.”
Students commit to an intensive two-year program which seeks to develop their leadership skills through participation in five areas: Sunday Morning Worship, Sunday Evening Worship, Discipleship Small Groups, Leadership Development Experiences, and Mission Experience. The focus areas are intentionally designed to equip the young leaders in a wide range of skills necessary to lead a church effectively. Students not only help lead worship services at FUMC Marshall, they have the opportunity to learn from professionals in 14 different fields such as Administration, Preaching and Worship Leading, and Conflict Management. The Pathway is currently working closely with Wylie College to make the internship program an official course of study at the school so that students are able to get academic credit for the time they spend as interns.
Success and Unity
The program is already realizing the goal of opening the door to ministry for a new generation of UMC pastors and worship leaders. Two interns have committed to pursue the pastorate after only a few months in the program. Both will begin seminary in the fall of 2018.
One the interns’ responsibilities has been to begin a new worship service on Sunday evening. Although it is geared toward Wylie students, everyone is welcome. Current members of the predominantly white congregation have embraced worshipping with the students of color. In a poignant contrast to the banned lunch counters of the past, everyone joins together after the evening service to share a meal.
At the end of each Sunday evening service, in a church that was built by the hands of slaves, four African American interns stand to open their arms to receive their white brothers and sisters for prayer. Tears fall. Prayers rise. And if one listens closely enough, one will hear the chains of racial injustice breaking at last.

“Don’t Kick the Dog”- How to End Christmas Conflict at Last

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
In one of the most popular holiday movies of all time, Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold is a man in crisis. He has done everything in his power to ensure the perfect family Christmas but, despite all of his planning and hard work, he finds he is utterly inadequate to withstand the nemesis of every holiday gathering… 
In one scene, Clark turns with stunned horror to his cousin Eddie and says, “Just can’t believe you’re standing here in my living room, Eddie.”
According to Marilyn Wadkins, Executive Coach with TEAM Ministries, our tendency toward conflict during the holidays is largely due to what she calls the “kick the dog syndrome.” Just as dogs love their masters no matter what, family members sometimes present the worst version of themselves when they are together because they trust each other’s permanency. “We feel freer to react inappropriately with the people we know will take us back,” Wadkins said.
But there is hope this holiday. Wadkins suggests a few practical steps for ending conflict this Christmas.
Prepare Yourself 
Most of us know from experience whether or not we are likely to experience tension during Christmas gatherings. We may even have a good idea about the types of situations that will occur. Wadkins recommends preparing and practicing neutral responses such as “I hear you,” or “That’s interesting.” When we have these prepared responses in our tool box, it enables us to go into potentially stressful situations with more confidence. This simple exercise helps ease our anxiety level which enables us to more calmly respond to potentially explosive situations.
Be a Good Listener
“Think first to understand, then to be understood,” is Wadkin’s favorite quote by author Stephen Covey. Sometimes we wrongly assume we know what another person is thinking. When we ask questions, it gives the other person the opportunity to clarify his or her point of view. Wadkins suggests using the simple request, “Tell me more about that” to help avoid misunderstandings.
Take a Step Back
There will be moments when despite our best preparation, and most valiant efforts to listen well, we will encounter a family member with whom it is difficult to live in peace. When this occurs, Wadkins urges us to take a moment for self-reflection to determine just why we are so upset.  It is also helpful to find a way to “detach” from the negative emotions we are experiencing.
“Act like the information you are receiving is coming from a total stranger.” Wadkins said, “How would you respond in that situation?”
The Secret Weapon
When all else fails, use your secret weapon- Remember you always have a choice. Wadkins advises pausing to ask ourselves if our reactions are matching up to our values and desires. “You can choose to be angry,” she said, “or you can choose a solution you can be content with.”
Perhaps if each of us enters our family Christmas gatherings a little better prepared to handle conflict, we will find ourselves one step closer to peace on earth.
Or at least around the dinner table.

Beyond Sunday Morning: Winterfield UMC Puts Community First

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
The Secret of Growth
Early in his appointment to Winterfield UMC, Rev. Steven Newcomb held several meetings with parishioners about the future direction of the church. Each time he sat down to hear from his new church members, they voiced the same concern; the church needed to attract more people to worship, especially young people and children.
Newcomb responded to each inquiry with the same answer. “I told them that in my experience, you are probably not going to succeed if those are your goals,” he said. He then explained that the best way to encourage the community to worship at Winterfield was to “be the church.” His challenge prompted church members to spend time in honest reflection concerning just how well they were sharing the love of Christ with others.
Loving On Longview
It turns out, they were doing a lot of things right. The church gave generously to international missions, and disaster relief. They were intentional about offering connectional activities as well. There were so many ways Winterfield was honoring God and loving well, but soon they realized there was one area in which they were lacking- their connection to the people right outside their doors, the city of Longview.
It didn’t take long for the Winterfield mission committee to take the lead in addressing the need. They formed a new outreach effort entitled Loving on Longview (LOL), the primary focus of which is to help the congregation connect with their community in fresh and meaningful ways.

The Birthday Party Ministry
As Winterfield began to brainstorm about how they could minister to their community, they realized one of their greatest resources lay in their beautiful facilities which were primarily unused during the week. Perhaps, church members reasoned, they could find a way to offer the gift of hospitality to the community by sharing their church home in some way. It wasn’t long before a member suggested a creative means to do just that. “Wouldn’t it be amazing,” she said, “if Winterfield was where children come to have their birthday parties?” She went on to explain that the cost of hosting a child’s birthday party in one of the local venues, such as Chuck-E-Cheese, was quite expensive. As church leadership began researching the idea, they found that many of the large apartment complexes surrounding the church charged relatively high rental rates for the use of their community rooms. If Winterfield offered their facilities as an economical option for these families, they could enable families to have birthday parties for their children who would possibly not be able to do so otherwise.
The Birthday Party Ministry was soon inaugurated. For a small fee to cover the cost of utilities, parents may use a large room in the family life center to celebrate their children’s birthdays. Families are encouraged to decorate the space, and use the kitchen for staging the food. Additionally, the church provides a volunteer host to open and close the facility as well as assist parents with any questions they may have. “I hadn’t realized it was such an emotional thing,” Newcomb said, “but now parents can give their child something they haven’t been able to do.”
Winterfield isn’t limiting the Loving on Longview program to birthday parties. They are actively seeking additional ways to share God’s love with their community, including adopting a local jogging trail where they pick up litter and hand out water to runners. “I really look forward to seeing how this is going to develop in the future,” said Newcomb, “we have had several people come up with some great ideas.”


No One Battles Cancer Alone: Christ Church Sugarland UMC

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
Seeing the names of three young mothers on the ever-growing cancer prayer list was a stark wake-up call for Rev. Michelle Hall, pastor of Congregational Care, Christ Church UMC Sugarland. It was a reminder of the rampant nature of the disease and the urgent need for the church to provide a caring support system for both patients and caregivers. “If not the church, then who will care for these impacted families?” asks Hall. Leaders, cancer survivors and experts from the CanCare organization have provided guidance on how to revive this former ministry to serve in a supportive role during this daunting experience.
Christ Church chose the holiday season to relaunch this ministry in partnership with the Stephen’s Ministry. “Cancer impacted my mom and my dad,” shares Hall, “and because I walked through that with them and also minister weekly in area hospitals, I know this disease has no boundaries.” Church members appreciate this personalized ministry of compassion, particularly at this time of year. “We consider it a privilege to walk alongside others in their journey, and intercede in prayer,” adds Hall. Christ Church provides materials and the book, Cancer-Now What, to leaders and participants.
Member Wayne Gray has been one of the inspirations for reviving this support ministry. Seven years ago, Gray was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and two months to live. He decided not to give in to the disease. Instead, he proclaimed that God was on his side and forged ahead in faith. “I’ve been life-flighted, survived a coma, 25 rounds of radiation and a rare form of maggot therapy,” said Gray “I knew the EMS staff on a first name basis, but I’m here to tell you I’m a special God-miracle, and he healed me for a reason.”
As a survivor, Gray is quick to give his powerful testimony to anyone needing encouragement. As a trained CanCare volunteer mentoring a growing list of cancer patients, Gray is excited to help his church inspire prayer warriors and wrap arms around others as they face their fears.
Key Steps in Launching a Cancer Ministry
“It is important to know that the size of the church does not matter when it comes to supporting one another in this critical way,” notes Hall. Leaders can begin by identifying survivors and volunteers to facilitate, pray and support patients and caregivers. Then, they can identify experts and local resource organizations.
CanCare staff and volunteers help congregations start cancer support groups and facilitate specialized training on the delicate matters involving cancer support. For groups in the Houston area, CanCare representatives can attend meetings and connect participants with resources and volunteers. Churches interested in starting a group can access training on the following dates in 2018-
• Feb. 16-18
• April 20-22
• July 20-22
• Oct. 19-21
Getting the Word Out
When publicizing the ministry, Hall recommends starting with one-on-one conversations with patients and caregivers in the congregation. Christ Church leaders then promoted their support group in the newsletter and social media forums, in worship, on the website and via word of mouth to friends and neighbors.
“We know this will be a work in progress and that we will learn by trial and error,” shares Hall. “Not everyone will be eager to look at their present reality and be vulnerable in a group setting.” Christ Church encourages a covenant of confidentiality and respect, and a time of sharing for caregivers to talk candidly among themselves.
Gray can’t wait to encourage others with his incredible testimony of faith and healing that began with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. He says, “Our church needs this group and our community needs it.”
Training information is available from Yolanda Lopez at yolandal@cancare.org or by calling 713.364.1671.

The Future is Bright When We Invest in Young Leaders

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
Each year, the Board of Higher Education supports outstanding students through their scholarship program. Marquis Hobbs, who is pursuing his Masters of Divinity from Chandler School of Theology at Emory University, was the recipient of this year’s Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship.
Hobbs recently returned to the United States from studying abroad in Ghana. We were honored to speak with this exceptional young man about what this scholarship has meant to his life, as well as his hopes for future ministry in the UMC.
Q: Marquis, tell us about your background.
A: I was born and raised on the Southside of Houston. My parents separated when I was born, and when I was 18-months-old, my mother asked my father to raise me because she felt a father should raise his son. However, my father’s work took him away from home often, so until high school, I lived with my grandmother. She and my aunt primarily raised me. They instilled in me reverence for God, and taught me to exhibit dignity and honor, and to have self-respect as well as respect for all human life. They also impressed on me the importance of remembering where I came from and to whom I belonged, to appreciate the value of education, and the power of exposure to a wide range of experiences.
Q: How did you receive your calling to ministry?
A: My call, at the age of 15, was far from dramatic. I signed up to lead a Thursday morning devotion at summer camp, read a scripture from my grandfather’s Bible, and delivered a small sermon which I have since forgotten. However, it was after this sermon that the leaders began to come to me to say they “saw something in me.” Once I responded to God’s call, it was like a door of opportunity opened. It is funny how when you follow in the footsteps of God, doors unlock, treasure maps are discovered, and opportunities seem to appear from nowhere.
Q: You just returned from Ghana. Why were you there?
A: I was in Ghana as a student in the study abroad program through Chandler School of Theology at Emory University, and Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra, Ghana. During my time in Ghana, I have been a student of Trinity and a student of life. I asked questions, tried new foods, read books, wrote papers, made friends and worshipped in different languages. I am still reflecting on it all.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: Simply put, I want to be a husband and father. If I am anything like my father, I know I will have done well.
I also want to be a pastor. I want to love God’s people, and “get my hands dirty” in the community. It gives me great joy to know God has called me to the beautiful responsibility of shepherding the flock through the teaching of the Scriptures, afflicting the comfortable, comforting the afflicted, and making Christ relevant in the hearts of humanity.
Q: As you consider your future, tell us about what the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship has meant to you.
A: This scholarship has meant that the UMC cares about its future leaders. Most of us know the financial burden school can be. This is amplified once one enters a masters or doctoral program. Many times, ministers who graduate from a Master of Divinity program are confronted with a heavy student loan debt. For my denomination to take this step to alleviate some of this burden speaks volumes.
Most significantly, as a recipient of the scholarship I recognize that the UMC considers me to be a candidate worth their investment. I do not take it lightly that my church sees my potential for ministry, hopes that I will affect positive change in the world, and expects me to uphold a standard of sound doctrine, witness, and mission. Therefore, to be selected is indeed an honor, but it is also a responsibility.

The Mission Field Outside Our Doors: We Love All God's Children

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
In the opening moments of his Episcopal Address at the 2017 Conference, Bishop Scott Jones quoted second century Christian philosopher Aristides’ description of early Christians. “they love one another…If they see a stranger, they take him home and are as happy as though he were a real brother…” (The Apology of Aristides) Jones then challenged the conference to hold fast to the example of the early church in the way we love each other and minister to the mission field just outside our doors.
We Love All God’s Children
One of the ways the Bishop is challenging churches across the Texas Conference to put their love in action is through the We Love All God’s Children initiative. Jones urged congregations to love the children in their communities so well that it defines our reputation as a conference.
Rev. Lance Richards, senior pastor of Watershed Church, and the other members of the Core Leadership Team (CLT) knew that to ensure We Love All God’s Children becomes a reality, they would need to spark a grassroots effort throughout the Conference. Their first step in seeding the Bishop’s vision in every church was to host a unique training experience for church leaders this past November.
A Holistic Approach
The CLT asked each District Superintendent to recruit three professionals from his or her district who were on the front-lines of their fields in one of the three target areas for We Love All God’s Children- children’s health, education, and discipleship. Church leaders were then invited to hear from these professionals as speakers, in panel discussions, and in a ministry fair. Participants found the diverse panels eye-opening. “People left with a sense of not only the vastness of the issues,” Richards said, “but also inspired to ask what they can do to impact them.”
We Love All God’s Children is designed as a holistic approach to children’s ministry- body, mind, and soul. Children in East Texas who live in a healthy food desert and lack safe places to run and play are suffering from an epidemic of childhood obesity. Many families also struggle to provide quality healthcare for their children. Richards hopes churches will ask how they can make a difference in these children’s physical well-being.  
The conference is also encouraging churches to find creative ways to help children become better readers. Studies have shown that if a child is not reading on level by the time he or she is in the third grade, he or she is far more likely to end up in prison and or suffering from poverty. Congregations are encouraged to go to local schools and ask how they can be of service.
Many children are suffering in spiritual deserts as well. Bishop Jones said of aging UMC congregations, “Too often churches say, ‘we don’t have any children.’ Look around. There are children in your community.”
The We Love All God’s Children initiative hopes that each church will minister in these three areas in a way that is unique to their gifts, resources, and the needs in their communities. “One church might be passionate about childhood obesity. Another might adopt a school or mentor students,” Richards said. “We want to be the first call our local schools make when they are in need.”

BMCR Annual MLK Jr. Brunch

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 00:00

MLK, Jr. Brunch Celebration 

Monday, January 15, 2018 (10:30am to 12:30pm)

The Power Center

2401 South Post Oak Road

Houston, Texas 77045

Learn more at https://www.txcumc.org/mlkbrunch

Trinity UMC to Host Collaborative Health Fair

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 00:00
Trinity UMC, Houston will be hosting the Third Ward Collaborative Health Fair on Saturday, February 17, 2018 from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
D.A.W.N -Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center
(Diabetes Awareness and Wellness Network}  City of Houston Health Department         
M.D.Anderson-Faith, Health Collaborative Initiatives in Congregations
Houston Methodist Hospital     Central Care Health Clinic- Riverside Campus
University of Houston- T.O.R.C. (Texas Obesity Research Center)

Trinity United Methodist Church
2600 Holman Houston, 77004

College Pastoral Internship Program

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 00:00

We are now accepting applications for the 2018 College Pastoral Internship Program!

This Pastoral Internship Project for College Students was designed to encourage a diverse group of gifted young candidates to enter pastoral service in the Texas Annual Conference, and to equip local congregations to identify and encourage persons with appropriate gifts and graces and a clear sense of call to commit to pastoral ministry, the Center for Clergy Excellence offers a pastoral internship for college students.

Interns are sent to serve local churches for several weeks each summer. Interns receive a stipend for their work and connect with one another at orientation and reflection retreat gatherings. Host churches will agree to provide the interns with housing (if needed), mentoring, and a full range of exposure to all facets of pastoral ministry.

At the end of each summer, pastoral interns return to college not only with local church experience, but with relationships designed to sustain them throughout lifelong careers in ministry.

Intern Application

In addition, we are seeking Host Churches in which our summer interns will serve. If you are a Pastor with the desire to serve as a mentor to an intern interested in exploring the ministry as a vocation, we would love for you to complete an application for your congregation to be a Host Church!!

Host Congregation Application

Learn more about CPIP

Get Spiritually Fit in 2018

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 00:00
The Texas Annual Conference and GBHEM are offering two Resiliency Workshops for Clergy, Lay Ministers, and staff. January 31st in Longview and February 1st in Baytown.
Come join us at a special Resiliency Workshop for Clergy, Lay Ministers, and Church and District staff. Guest presenter – Chaplain and Retired Brigadier General Ray Bailey Description of the Workshop: Spiritual fitness” is the development of those personal qualities needed to sustain a person in times of stress, hardship and tragedy. These qualities come from religious, philosophical and human values and form the basis for character, disposition, decision-making and integrity.
“Spiritual resiliency” is the development of those inner capabilities and tools to be able to better cope and be resiliently strong in body, mind, and spirit. It is the ability to recover rapidly from illness, change, or misfortune. It is the ability of a soul to regain its power. The Goal of spiritual resiliency training is to create pastors and lay leaders who are aware of the importance of being spiritually fit and resilient individually, in their personal family unit, and as religious leaders. Along with increased awareness, they will also become better able to balance the demands of their careers, families and personal lives.
The End state desired is pastors and religious leaders who are able to assess their own spiritual fitness and begin a spiritual fitness improvement plan.
January 31 Longview – First Longview, 400 N Fredonia St., Longview, TX 75601
February 1 – Baytown – St. Mark’s UMC, 3811 N Main St., Baytown, TX 77521
Each workshop will be from 10 am to 2 pm, with a box lunch provided.
Please email Nancy Slade with your reservation. We need a count of those attending, so that the churches can set up the room and enough lunches can be ordered. nslade@txcumc.org. If you wish to donate $5 to help offset the lunch expense, there will be a basket available.

A Season of Gratitude

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 00:00

Interpreter Magazine's final issue is focused on gratitiude. You can read this issue by clicking  on the individual articles listed below, by clicking here on ISSUU (best used on tablets) or by downloading the PDF.

Interpreter, a publication of the United Methodist Church, will cease publication with the November- December 2017 issue. UMCOM is encouraging audiences to subscribe to United Methodist Now  - a free biweekly eNewsletter for church members. 

Living in Gratitude, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/living-in-gratitude

Gratitude in the midst of loss, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/gratitude-in-the-midst-of-loss

Living with a grateful heart starts with simple practices, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/living-with-a-grateful-heart-starts-with-simple-practices

Gratitude journals spotlight God’s action, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/gratitude-journals-spotlight-gods-action

Celebrating with gratitude – at home, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/celebrating-with-gratitude-at-home

Practicing gratitude at church, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/practicing-gratitude-at-church

A Season of Gratitude, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/a-season-of-gratitudeKid’s

Kids’ thoughts on gratitude, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/kids-thoughts-on-gratitude

Interpreter: A fond farewell, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/interpreter-a-fond-farewell

Making prayer a priority, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/making-prayer-a-priority

Global migration focus of Dec. 3 observance, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/global-migration-focus-of-dec.-3-observance

When it is not the most wondrous time, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/when-it-is-not-the-most-wondrous-time

Step in to help grieving childrenhttp://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/step-in-to-help-grieving-children

Live Nativity is gift to the community, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/live-nativity-is-gift-to-the-community

Wind, water, fire devastate; love, money and muscles follow, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/wind-water-and-fire-devastate-love-money-and-muscles-follow

New studies ready for early Lent, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/new-studies-ready-for-early-lent

Publisher’s Page: Communicating today, tomorrow and beyond, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/publishers-page-communicating-today-tomorrow-and-beyond

IWFU – Church warms hearts and bellies, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/church-warms-hearts-and-bellies

IWFU – Cards for towboat crews, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/cards-for-towboat-crews

IWFU – Christmas tree ministry brings joy, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/christmas-tree-ministry-brings-joy

IWFU – Making a joyful noise for special needs, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/making-a-joyful-noise-for-special-needs

Advent outreach resources available for local churches, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/advent-outreach-resources-available-for-local-churches

World AIDS Day: Working toward an AIDS-free world, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/world-aids-day-working-towards-an-aids-free-world

Toolkit to help build relationships, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/toolkit-to-help-build-relationships

Compassion moves Gift of Hope scholar, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/compassion-moves-gift-of-hope-scholar

WAYS: How did you learn to express gratitude? http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/ways-how-did-you-learn-to-express-gratitude

I am United Methodist: Lucy Chelton, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/i-am-united-methodist-lucy-chelton

Technology is part of our history, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/technology-technology-is-part-of-our-history

To Be United Methodist: What is Advent? http://www.interpretermagazine.org/departments/to-be-united-methodist-what-is-advent

Perkins Houston-Galveston Open House

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 00:00

The Perkins Houston-Galveston Extension Program is hosting an Open House at St. Paul’s UMC, Houston on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 pm. Speakers include Bishop Scott Jones and Dean Craig Hill.
An overview of the plans for Extension Program will be given, as well as an update on the process.

Please RSVP to Dr. Dallas Gingles at dgingles@smu.edu.

St. Paul's United Methodist Church
5501 Main St.
Houston, TX 77004

Learn more about the Houston-Galveston Extension Program 


Preaching After a Catastrophe

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 00:00
Dr. Richard Lischer offers the following ten suggestions for preaching after a catastrophic event
  1. Don’t try to encompass the meaning of the event. Although you are expected to reflect upon it by means of God’s Word, you aren’t expected to explain it or to have mastered its significance.
  2. Don’t be too quick to extrapolate on the implications of the event. Here the preacher is merely relying on TV analysis and conventional wisdom, both of which are available outside the church.
  3. Don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment ­­— in anger or fear ­­— or lose yourself in the powerful emotions generated by the catastrophe. When possible, try to be the “non-anxious presence” of which pastoral counselors speak.
  4. Theodicy, “to justify the ways of God to man” as Milton put it in Paradise Lost, is not easily or wisely done in the midst of a crisis. You don’t have to know everything and explain it from God’s point of view. There will be time for such discussions to be carried out in a spirit of compassion and humility.
  5. To say too quickly that "good will come from this" may inadvertently dilute the tragedy and cheapen the suffering of the survivors. Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” only after an interval of many years.
  6. Try to do pastoral care from the pulpit. Reflect the needs of the community; don’t express your own grief, fear, or anger before thoroughly and compassionately engaging that of your listeners. Avoid the ironic mode entirely. Shun sentimentality or the artificial enhancement or exaggeration of emotion. Dwell on the hope and comfort of the Gospel. Your congregation already has found its focus; avoid extraneous illustrations.
  7. Preach the incarnate Jesus Christ, God’s definitive identification with the suffering of the world. Like those who perished this week, he was not granted a "good death" free of torture and terror. The death and resurrection of Jesus mark both the groaning of the old creation and the beginning of the new.
  8. Preach the bridge of God over the chasms of history. Jesus said, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." God’s love in Christ spans the best and the worst humans are capable of. God’s reign over history does not absolve us from making a witness amongst the terrors of history.
  9. Preach the God who does not forget us or forsake us, the One who assures us that a mother cannot forget her nursing children — "Neither will I forget you." Let the plain words of Scripture mediate the power of God through the sermon.
  10. There is a time to choose sides. Not all suffering stems from “neutral” causes like floods and hurricanes. The preacher asks “Whose story do we belong to?” The story of Jesus is incompatible with the glorification of guns and violence. It is incompatible with so-called “rights” that disregard the health of the human community. Let the sermon model, or, at least, foreshadow, the distinctively Christian way of life in a violent world. Let the sermon speak truth, make peace, and minister to the unprotected. May our sermons always serve the overarching purpose for which we have been given our holy vocation. 
See original post at umcom.org

2018 Program Calendars

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 00:00
UMC.org is offering Black Friday discounts on 2018 Program Calendars through December 1, 2017. Wall calendars, desk blotters, pocket calendars and classic book style versions are available.

Gratitude in the Midst of Loss

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 00:00
In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he writes these well-known words: "Rejoice in the Lord always." (Phil. 4:4, emphasis added.) And try as we might to follow Paul's admonition, there are times when it is just plain hard. There are times, in other words, when tragedy strikes, natural disasters occur, death lands on our doorstep or disease and heartache abound.

Is it possible, even amid tragedy and loss, to find something to rejoice about? Is it possible to give thanks for the thing that happened?

For Christians, our God is one who came to Earth and put on flesh. That means the God we worship knows what it's like to experience pain, suffering, grief and loss (and, we hasten to add, the joy of resurrection!).
Stories abound of people who have overcome great obstacles to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Helen Keller communicated with the world even though she was deaf, blind and mute. Bill Gates' first business failed. Stephen King's first novel was rejected 30 times. Oprah Winfrey gave birth to a child when she was 14; the boy soon died. Hurricane

The Rev. Hannah Terry knows a thing or two about loss. As one of the pastors at Westbury United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, she has literally been through the floodwaters of pain and suffering.

In August, Hurricane Harvey came for a visit. Terry's church is in the southwest side of Houston. While the church did not receive any major damage, the surrounding neighborhood did.

"About 50 people canoed or kayaked to the church during the storm," Terry said, "including our senior pastor and his family, and they live a block and a half from the church."

Homes around the church flooded with between 8 and 18 inches of water, Terry said. The church quickly became a "makeshift shelter," she said, until official shelters opened. They called themselves a "wait station," she said, until large vehicles – including tanks – could come through the flooded streets and rescue people.

The images of Houston after Harvey are sadly familiar. The recovery is going to take years. Still, Terry finds reasons to smile.

"We're very grateful for the help," Terry said. The church recently had a team of volunteers from Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, she said, "and they were awesome. Even in the midst of our tragedy, we were able to offer the gift of hospitality to them."

Terry is also grateful that God's abundance has been very clear through the whole ordeal. Not some random incidents, she said; it's been quite specific. One example stands out.

Several undocumented families live in the church's neighborhood. At one point, a few families came to the church asking for food. However, the church didn't have any. It had cleaning supplies and flood buckets and diapers, but no food.

"We said to them, ‘We're really sorry, but ...'" Terry said. However, while the families were still in the church, gathering what they could, within three to five minutes of when they first arrived, a truck arrived filled with food.

"People started bringing in bags and bags of exactly what they had asked for," Terry said. "Particularly in the first few weeks, it was loaves and fishes; it was manna from heaven."
From six Muslim youth from Sugarland, Texas, who came to help muck out an elderly church member's home, to people from St. Mark's, St. Paul's and St. Peter's United Methodist churches, people have "magically" appeared just at the right time, Terry said.

"Even when you're trying to figure out how to fly the broken plane ... you're still in the air. We crashed, but somehow, we got back up in the air," Terry said, "God's provisions were so apparent. It was interfaith. It was intergeneration. It was so beautiful to watch."

Terry is convinced this was God's Holy Spirit at work. Or, in more United Methodist terms, "prevenient grace."

And speaking of the church, Terry is perhaps most grateful for one more thing: the connection.

"I am so, so grateful for all the United Methodist congregations that have helped," she said. "We could not have done this without them. Connectionalism really is a beautiful part of being (United) Methodist and how we can actually carry that identity as Christ's body."

See Original Story from Interpreter Magazine

Texas Conference Receives Grant for Harvey Relief

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 00:00
We are proud to announce that The Texas Annual Conference has received $500,000 in funding from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund! 
These funds will be put to work to help repair around 50 homes and go toward rebuilding the lives of approximately 120 people in the Greater Houston area over the next 120 days.
The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (HHRF) was established to provide support and relief to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in the Harris County and Houston area (which may include City residents in Fort Bend or Montgomery County). The fund was established by Mayor Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
This HHRF is one of many critical philanthropic efforts across Houston and Texas that is supporting those whose lives have forever been impacted by this disaster. Because of the immense need in and around Houston, this fund is dedicated to filling the gaps that are not currently being met by other local and federal efforts on an immediate and longer-term basis.
Learn More about HHRF
Press Release from the City of Houston

Texas Conference Runs Hurricane Harvey Ads

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 00:00

To raise money for Hurricane Harvey for rebuilding, The United Methodist Churches in the Texas Conference are running newspaper, radio and billboard ads beginning this Sunday. Ads will run across major markets across the Texas Conference. Money for the advertising was given by a generous grant from United Methodist Communications and other generous donors.

The ad reads:  Headlines fade. Water recedes, we’ll still be there. It will take years to clean up the destruction from Hurricane Harvey, but we will continue to work side-by-side with survivors until they are on their feet. 100 percent of your donations goes directly to recovery efforts. Every bit of it. Txrecovers.org 1-833-TX-RECOV

The ads will be supported by a social media campaign, posters, and a magazine, which every church and stakeholder will be receiving. Each piece is designed to create awareness, but also drive people to the website to give so we can continue rebuilding.

The campaign will culminate at giving Tuesday, where every United Methodist engaging with the campaign will be asked to give a little something back. “While we are enjoying the holidays in our comfortable homes with family this year, there are still thousands of people whose homes are in disarray,” says Texas Conference Director of Communications, Shannon W. Martin. “If everyone who sees and hears this ad will just give a little something back, it will make a significant impact on the lives of those who lost everything.”

To give to Texas Recovers, go to txrecovers.org   

COB Receives Report on Way Forward

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. - Placing emphasis on the values of unity, space and contextuality - all for the sake of mission – the Council of Bishops (COB) is exploring sketches of three models as possible directions for a way forward for The United Methodist Church over LGBTQ inclusion.

With the mission of God through the risen Christ at the core, the bishops this week received an interim report from the Commission on a Way Forward that offered three sketches of models that would help ease the impasse in the church, noting that the power of the Holy Spirit trumps and guides all the church’s activities. The Commission serves the COB, helping prepare the COB to fulfill its mandate to make a recommendation for a way forward to the General Conference.

Just as the Commission did not express a preference for any of the models in its interim report to the COB in order for the bishops to fully do their work, the COB is also not now expressing a preference for any model, while engaging deeply with them and the implications for their church and their leadership. This will provide the space bishops need to teach and engage leaders in their episcopal areas.

After receiving the interim report of the sketches of the three possible models, the bishops engaged in prayerful discerning and offered substantial feedback to the Commission, but did not take any vote on any of the sketches.

The moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward noted that the values highlighted in any one model also live within the fabric of the other models.  Values expressed by any one model are not exclusive to one or absent in another.  The values that may be associated with the identity of any one model are there because it may be a value lifted to a higher level of preference or differentiation among the models. 

“Operate with a heart of peace and an openness.  All three models grew out of mission, vision and scope.  Each one of these models connects to a story and experience that is represented in this body,” Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators told her fellow bishops.

She added: “As we talk about it, let’s be respectful of each model.  When we speak about one of the models in a less than respectful way, we are speaking of someone’s experience or someone’s conscience. How we talk about these models is important because they are representative of where people are standing and how people are experiencing the church.”

The Commission and the COB acknowledge the interaction between the values of unity, space and contextuality, and the tension this interaction often creates, as part of what completes the UMC as a denomination rather than what divides it.

The Commission shared sketches of three models, with the awareness that the Commission and the COB are not restricted to these sketches and are open to learning, listening and improvement. It is likely that additional models or sketches may emerge as this process continues. Here is the summary about the sketches of the models presented to the bishops:

  • One sketch of a model affirms the current Book of Discipline language and places a high value on accountability.
  • Another sketch of a model removes restrictive language and places a high value on contextualization.  This sketch also specifically protects the rights of those whose conscience will not allow them to perform same gender weddings or ordain LGBTQ persons.
  • A third sketch of a model is grounded in a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services and one COB, while also creating different branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice.
  • Each sketch represents values that are within the COB and across the church.
  • Each sketch includes gracious way of exit for those who feel called to exit from the denomination.

The values underlying these proposed models are found in two documents: The Mission, Vision and Scope document, which was affirmed by the COB; and the Status Report of the Commission, released in July 2017. As part of the ongoing discernment within the church, resident bishops are being equipped to lead discussions in their episcopal areas by emphasizing the values of the proposed models as found in these two important documents.

The Commission will process the feedback received from the bishops at the Lake Junaluska meeting and will continue to welcome further input from members of the church through conversations and discussions with their respective bishops on the strengths and limitations of each model. The basic resources for these conversations were shared in a handbook with the bishops, and this handbook will be available on the Commission on a Way Forward’s website as a PDF.

The COB and the Commission have a series of meetings scheduled for early 2018 designed to continue the preparations for the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019. This includes Commission meetings in January and March; an additional COB meeting in February before a final report is discussed at the May meeting of the COB.

The COB is committed to prayerfully seeking God’s future for the UMC and continues to invite the entire church to be engaged in praying for a way forward.

 “Pray for the work of the Commission and for the bishops as they continue to discern God’s plan for the future of the UMC; a future that shows love for all of God’s people and a future with hope,” said COB President Bishop Bruce R. Ough.

See news release

Catalyst for Renewal

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
Some leaders are hardwired for leading change; others have to learn to discern the ideal combination of wisdom, skills and accountability. Several leaders from the Texas Annual Conference (TAC) learned this firsthand at a Turnaround Pastor training session in Houston.
Since the two-day boot camp training is based on scientific research using The Birkman Method, TAC Birkman consultant Rev. Peter Cammarano of Chapelwood UMC Lake Jackson was more than intrigued. He attended along with Associate Pastor Josh Lemons, and was joined by Rev. Jeff Dungan, St. Luke’s UMC Bryan, Rev. Alan Van Hooser, Cheatham Memorial UMC, Rev. Kate Walker, Deer Park UMC and her church council chair Brenda Cothran.
After researching how others are applying The Birkman Method in faith-based environments, Peter learned that the Turnaround Pastor organization developed a statistically valid profile of a successful revitalization pastor. “While information does not automatically create transformation,” Peter says, “information is important, when combined with relationships, wisdom and accountability.”
Attendees reviewed their own Birkman results as they learned more about the seven characteristics, out of the 32 that Birkman measures that describe a turnaround pastor. “Now that I am in a turnaround situation at Deer Park UMC,” says Kate, “I found this insight to be helpful to the pastor much like Vibrant Church Initiative is focused on the congregation. I brought our church council chair so that we could have a shared language and process as we staff out teams, and define mission, vision and values.” As the only non-clergy attendee, Brenda found the boot camp opened her eyes to the behind the scenes life of a pastor. “It was good for me to see the reasons why people do what they do, and how these pastors are learning how to hold themselves to a higher standard to help with revitalization,” says Brenda. “Scoring well in those seven personality traits is a tall order.”
According to research, pastors with strengths in these seven areas are wired as turnaround leaders:
  • Verbal assertiveness
  • Comfortable and flexible with shifting priorities
  • Independent thinkers
  • Prefer an environment that encourages initiative
  • Reflective decision makers
  • Musical interest and appreciation
  • Social service (making sure the sheep are cared for but not always personally involved)
Seminar leaders assured attendees that all pastors can be mentored in these best practices.
In a moment of revelation, Rev. Jeff Dungan, St. Luke’s Bryan realized one leadership style does not always fit all. “I tend to lead others the way I want to be lead, offering a great deal of independence. This training helped me realized some people need specific directions and parameters as volunteers or staff members,” Jeff says, “so I will work on discerning what would work best in a variety of situations.”
Through the VCI process, Rev. Alan Van Hooser is already witnessing a turnaround in attendance, giving, and outreach participation at Cheatham Memorial, yet he knows he wants to consider working on his “emotion quotion.” Notes Alan, “This exercise helped me identify my deficits and put together an action plan.” He will continue tuning in to follow up webinars and discussions as he works his plan. “I’m realistic in knowing I can do better,” he adds, “as I am not through learning yet.”