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Updated: 2 hours 11 min ago

Attitude of Gratitude

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
It’s fairly easy to be thankful for friends, family and food at this time of year. Fall can also provide the opportunity to make gratefulness an intentional way of life beyond Thanksgiving. How can we maintain an attitude of gratitude in the midst of disaster and random violent tragedies? How can we teach and model this concept? How can we put gratitude in action?
Gratitude is what prompts us to pull wet carpet out of a neighbor’s home, hand a hamburger out the window to a homeless person, or share from our finances when we learn of a need. By helping others, we emotionally reboot their day, as well as our own.

Keeping it in Perspective
As the materialistic season of Christmas ramps up, Thanksgiving provides a key opportunity for pastors, parents and teachers to revisit the Biblical references to a thankful heart and the practical ways to reinforce these life-changing principles on a daily basis:
  • Encourage generosity
  • Insist on a verbal “thank you’” as well as handwritten notes of appreciation
  • Work gratitude into daily conversations
  • Keep your eyes open for a need your family or students can help with
  • Acknowledge God as the source of blessings
  • Have youngsters and young adults pitch in when they want something
Finding teachable moments with children might start with a “thank you” jar where they can name their blessings and add to them over time. There are strong payoffs to grateful adults as well. Experts attribute a thankful mindset and lifestyle to better relationships and increased optimism, empathy and hope.

Being Grateful in Hard Times
Hurricane Harvey has given dozens of United Methodist clergy the opportunity to be on the receiving end of help when they are typically the ones providing help to others. Calamity can challenge gratefulness and it can accentuate a thankful heart, as was the case with Christy Littleton, spouse of James Littleton, the associate pastor of Dickinson FUMC. When he was stranded and had to walk three miles in rising waters, it was the longest 12 hours of her life. Once they were finally reunited, she shared on Facebook, “The most important thing is that we are together, and I am so, so thankful.”

This year, not only did Rev. Jim Love, associate pastor of Bellaire UMC, deal with a flooded parsonage, but also widespread flooding that devastated the church and many homes of its members.  Seeing others help his family and others at a time many would otherwise be tempted to focus on their own needs, he says, “It fills my heart with joy, because God’s love knows no bounds.”

It would seem particularly hard to be grateful if the floodwaters devastated your historic church, built in 1839, but Rev. Mary Shotwell, St. Mary’s UMC, has seen God at work in countless ways. “Every week, I’m checking on people who are living in little storage houses in their backyards, and we are all determined to keep on keeping on,” she says. “The community is working together in one accord,” adds Mary, “and as we wait on the Lord, we are welcoming teams to help us. I just learned we are getting an 18-wheeler of donated solid oak church pews when we get our structure restored, so, yes, God is so good.”

Sharing Blessings in Texas and Beyond
An impactful and easy way to show gratitude at this time of year is to share financial blessings using hashtag #Txgiveday (Giving Tuesday) on November 28, or by donating to www.txrecovers.org
“Giving Tuesday is a compelling reminder that long after our Thanksgiving celebrations are over, thousands of Texas flood victims will still not have much to celebrate,” says Bishop Scott Jones. “We will still need your gifts of money to support these families to help them rebuild their homes, and we are grateful to our connection for helping to make that possible.”

Cohort Camaraderie

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
At 23, Bethany Brown recently moved to Texas to follow God's calling into youth ministry as the Children's and Youth Director at the First United Methodist Church of Dayton. She recently learned about an opportunity to join an online cohort of youth directors from across the south district. Although her group has only met in one Google hangout, facilitated by Eddie Erwin, Conference Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministry, she already has a sense of belonging and support.
Bethany says, “Our newly formed cohort has given me a place to relate to other youth directors and discuss the opportunities and struggles we face.” She looks forward to learning from older, more experienced youth workers and to brainstorming sessions about youth group events and activities. “The cohort has already eased that nervous feeling of swimming solo in the waters of youth ministry,” she adds.
The original pilot program for the youth leader cohorts began in the east district in 2016. Jeff Campbell, who leads a youth group of 40-50 students at FUMC Nacogdoches, has enjoyed the face-to-face gatherings his group has had to date. Youth leaders from Lakewood UMC, Lufkin FUMC, have also been in the pilot group. Churches rotate hosting the gathering to keep the drive time manageable for travelers.
Jeff finds it encouraging, fun and informative to be with others sharing in a small venue how they are balancing life and ministry. “Because of the intimacy of the cohort,” Jeff says, “we really get to know each other, build trust and become more aware of what's going on in the district and conference in regards to youth ministry.”  Another perk: the group is forging a bond that results in better coordination for district and conference retreats and camps.
“My favorite part is just listening to what is going on in the lives of the other directors and praying together,” Jeff says. “I would say to other district youth directors that it is well worth starting a cohort with your peers in youth ministry.”
Bethany is eager to learn new ways to be an example of faith for her “small youth group with a big heart.” Adds Bethany, “I believe having a consist adult presence in kids' lives is one of the most important things you can do for them.”

Consulate on Wheels

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
In diverse communities there are many unmet needs. When the Mexican Consulate realized that many people of Mexican descent were unable or unwilling to travel into the city of Houston for help with documentation requirements, they looked to their community partner, Armstrong Elementary School in Missouri City.
Once the decision was made to bring a temporary Consulate office to southwest Houston, the leaders at Armstrong turned to their long time partner, First UMC Missouri City. As the school’s ministry partner, the church quickly agreed to reconfigure several Sunday school rooms as stations for families to get the expertise they needed. “We welcomed hundreds of special guests to renew passports, drivers licenses, absentee ballots, birth certificates and more,” says Rev. Eddie Hilliard.  
Ft. Bend is the most diverse county in the greater Houston area. According to Consulate representative Georgina Saldana Diaz, many families of Mexican descent lost important paperwork in the Hurricane Harvey floods, so the Consulate on Wheels outreach program was an ideal solution. “We really appreciate the church’s role in this three-way community partnership,” Georgina says.
Elsa Villarreal, Armstrong Elementary Liaison, knows she can make one call to Pastor Eddie when there is a need because FUMC Missouri City has invested in the young in many ways through their six-year partnership. “Our families are so thankful for this amazing opportunity so conveniently located in our neighborhood, because they are already dealing with other flood related losses as well.”
The congregation’s commitment to the community goes beyond the school partnership, but this two-way relationship has grown through the years. There are teacher appreciation events, prayer partners, and a special mentoring/reading program named after a church member who passed away after years of volunteering. The school leaders occasionally attend worship services to share success stories with the congregation. It is the goal of both organizations to continually find new ways to love their neighbors.
Rev. Hilliard is glad the church could provide friendly hospitality, a confidential environment, and an area for the US Department of Labor to inform attendees on labor rights and documentation requirements. “We believe we are opening our doors to the community in a unique way that is making a difference in the lives of our neighbors,” he adds. 


Growing and Going

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
Each summer, students hone their leadership and ministry skills at the Texas Youth Academy (TYA) leadership event hosted by the Texas Annual Conference. This annual “spiritual boot camp” helps several dozen high school students clarify their ministry calling. For Patrick Golden and Barinaale Dube, TYA was a launching pad that prepared them to stretch their leadership muscles in the weeks and years that followed. Just recently, they were both elected to serve as delegates to the 2018 Global Young People’s Convocation.
Patrick, a student at University of Texas and Barinaale, a high school senior who attends First UMC Westchase, feel honored to represent the South Central Jurisdiction at the most extensive global gathering of young Methodists. They have individual reasons for choosing this leadership adventure.
As a religion and history major with a desire to travel, Patrick enjoyed serving as a delegate to the Convocation in Germany in 2010 and the Philippines in 2014. “In each international location I learn something new about what it means to be a part of the global United Methodist Church,” says Patrick. He knows that participants may practice their faith differently in their home countries, but when all can have their voices heard in this global forum, it richly adds to the experience.
Unlike Patrick, Barinaale was initially hesitant about attending TYA in Texas, let alone being a delegate to South Africa. “In both situations, everyone else saw my potential and felt I would be perfect for these leadership opportunities,” she says, “so I finally said, ‘Ok God, I’ll go.’”
How did they get here?
Looking back on their leadership journeys, Patrick and Barinaale are quick to credit the Texas Youth Academy as a pivotal part of their spiritual formation. “Texas Youth Academy was the first place I met youth leaders outside of my home church that placed church at the same level of importance as I did,” says Patrick. A natural born leader at an early age, Patrick also served as the president of the Youth Council for the Texas Conference.
At TYA this summer, Barinaale began discerning God’s next steps for her life. “Texas Youth Academy was a training ground for me to learn, get answers and connect with people outside my immediate circle of friends,” says Barinaale. TYA helped prepare her for mission work in Haiti that gave her confidence to serve as a global delegate. With family members in Nigeria, Barinaale has additional motivations to travel to Africa. “Some day, I hope to open an international chain of community centers, “ she shares, “so this Convocation seems to be an amazing way to learn the inner workings of my denomination and see the world.”
Next Steps
As voting delegates, Patrick and Berinaale will spend time over the next eight months raising funds and getting acquainted with the proposed legislation that will be discussed. “This is uncharted waters for me,” says Berinaale, “but I think it will be exciting to connect with other youth in a meeting that impacts the future of the denomination.”
Patrick feels his life experiences in the last few years have made him more receptive to the global perspective of the church. “I will spend the next few months in virtual meetings with other delegates and might even submit my own piece of legislation if I get inspired,” Patrick says. “I’m excited to use the leadership tools I have acquired since my TYA days in ways I believe to be really important to young people across the globe, and the Methodist Church.”


Neighborly Love

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
In December of 2016, members of the Texas Annual Conference's cabinet traveled to Baton Rouge Louisiana where they helped repair damaged homes following the devastating floods. 

After the flooding of Hurricane Harvey, members of the Louisiana cabinet felt a strong desire to return the goodwill.  

“It’s an opportunity to be the physical hands and feet of Christ but also to provide the emotional support,” says Rev. Wybra Price, Shreveport District Superintendent. “We can bring that gift of an unconditional loving God and to extend the the gift of grace as that grace was extended to us. Texas is one of our nearest neighbors and Scripture says ‘I was in need and you ministered to me’. Sometimes our neighbors are in need and so we’ve come to Texas to share in the gift of their time in need.”

Hurricane Harvey displaced nearly 30,000 Texans as it devastated the southeastern coast in August and, just like the August 2016 flood in southeastern Louisiana, Harvey dumped a massive amount of rain - 19 trillion gallons.

"For me, it wasn't so much that we needed to repay the favor of Texas coming to Louisiana. Instead, it was just a matter of widening our circle," says Rev. Tom Dolph, District Superintendent of the Lake Charles District. "There was a storm that dumped a bunch of stuff on a lot of people and for a few months now, I have been working in Lake Charles and Vinton and Moss Bluff and now we've reached a point where we need to widen the circle of help."

For the Louisiana cabinet, that help meant two different projects. The first mission - install new sheetrock and walls in a flooded Orange, Texas home. Next, help an elderly lady who, after having fallen twice, was having a difficult time managing the steps outside her trailer. The crew, led by Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Director of the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement and Scott Moore of the Texas Conference, decided to build a custom ramp for the woman.   

“We know as Louisianians what it's like to go through a great flood. They've gone through the same thing, and this is our opportunity to be connectional, serving one another and serving God in a time of need,” says Waughtal. “My heart cries for what people have been through, and I am reminded, once again, about how we need to be there for one another. We are God's people, and we can overcome this!"

For Rev. Gary Willis, District Superintendent of Monroe, the reasoning for the trip west was simple. “We have suffering people and this is where Christians go,” he says. “When 60% of the homes in this county flooded, well - there are a lot of people here who are suffering. This could be seen as a small project, but it's part of the larger connection of work inside the United Methodist Church."

Rev. Gloria Fowler, Director of Congregational Transformation and New Church Development was also reflecting on the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church. “We've seen connectionalism in so many ways and it's now it’s our chance to be part of the global church. We can do so much more when we are united and working for God’s glory.” 

“Love has to be concrete," says Rev. John Cannon District Superintendent of the Acadiana District. “We can’t just talk about Jesus Christ and what that love means  without taking action and so when people are in need, and we can help, and we can help, then that is what we need to do.”

“We are there to help them get from that place of despair and to see the new life that awaits them,” says Rev. Jan Curwick, New Orleans District Superintendent. “We can walk that journey with them, helping them move from this tragedy that has come upon them to a point where they are restored.” 

For more on the recovery efforts in Texas, please follow their progress here.


Together in Mission

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00
Three teams. Three sites. Three days. This October, nearly 30 conference leaders practiced servant leadership at locations where the ravages of Hurricane Harvey are still evident some six weeks later.
This year’s ministry outreach marks the 10th year that the Texas Conference Bishop along with ministry ordinands, district superintendents, and Center directors have devoted action-packed days to mission work. “I believe we are the only annual conference that does this type of project on a yearly basis, which I feel is very significant,” says Rev. B.T. Williamson, assistant to the Bishop. “We started this in 2007 helping with flood relief in Iowa, and this time the floods hit very close to home so we made sure to have a presence in the three districts that were impacted.”
The teams greatly appreciated the preparation work of Rev. Scott Moore and his disaster relief teams. They coordinated the trailers, equipment, site selection and details for local congregations to host the teams. “A unique highlight from this year was sharing dinner with our host church each evening,” adds B.T, “and hearing local pastors reflect on how their congregations have ministered in the flooding aftermath.”
Having multiple teams in multiple locations required participants to make adjustments, but everyone made the most of the multi-faceted schedule. For ministry ordinand Silverio Sanchez of FUMC Beaumont, it was a memorable time spent doing life together: during bus rides to Dickinson and Anahuac, gutting homes and damaged churches, and reflecting and sharing stories that will not soon be forgotten. “On one day our team was helping at St. Peter’s UMC, built in 1839,” Silverio says, “and the next day we helped a church member in Dickinson that was a former drummer for The Who.”
Amidst the debris and hands-on projects, Silverio experienced a heartwarming deja vu moment that took him back to 2005. “I heard our Dickinson homeowner talking about playing in a band at Lakeview Conference Center and I realized I was the worship leader at that same camp 12 years ago!”
Silverio is grateful for the concentrated time with this extended group of passionate leaders as he approaches ordination next May. “It was physically challenging at times, and eye opening to realize some people are still without power or help,” he says. “Pastors certainly have a lot to say,” he adds, “as we all enjoyed conversing as we traveled, worked and ate together, and ending our day with communion each evening.”
Ordinand LyAnna Johnson traveled from New England to participate in the cabinet’s teambuilding outreach. Since she is currently on loan as a church planter in Worcester, MA in the New England Annual Conference, her views of Harvey were limited to electronic screens. “I was heartbroken as I watched the devastation and I hated that I wasn't there to help,” LyAnna says. “The cabinet day trips allowed me to be an active part of the recovery effort.”
Bishop Jones worked alongside each of the teams on Wednesday and shared from his heart at the closing worship and communion service. Whether they were in protective clothing covered in mud or sharing a meal, each team member appreciates the richness of the overall experience. “Part of the joy of the connectional system is the relationships that we have with our colleagues, and this project certainly deepened those bonds,” adds LyAnna. 

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UMW Assembly 2018

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 00:00
United Methodist Women Assembly 2018 is a time for fellowship, equipping for service and collectively experiencing God’s call to mission with women, children and youth. Through moving worship, inspiring speakers, engaging exhibits, riveting workshops and town hall-style meetings, participants will leave Assembly with knowledge, courage and determination to change the world as part of a daring and compassionate 150-year-old movement of women committed to turning faith, hope and love into action.


To register and learn more: https://umwassembly.org/register/
For additional information, contact:    
Paulette Moore-Hall

Statement on Sutherland Springs Shooting

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 00:00
This was a senseless, outrageous and evil act. I am shocked and heartbroken. Our brothers and sisters need our love and prayer support. Please stop whatever you are doing today and throughout the coming weeks and join me in praying for the pastor and families of those who lost loved ones at 11:20 a.m.

Scott J. Jones

Third Sunday Native American Worship November 19:  Jorie and Christie West

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 00:00
This month CONAM welcomes back Jorie and Christie West, who are known for their unique blend of rich, beautiful harmonies.   After working for many years as studio musicians and backup vocalists on the mainland and in Hawaii, they began singing as Sayani (Cherokee word meaning Zion).
They are Cherokee, Creek, and Choctah.  Their 'Sacred Fire' album was written to share their family stories, both past and present, of life as Indians through language and music.  
If you have heard them sing, you understand why they are an award winning (NAMA) duo and you will want to join us to hear them again.  If you have not heard them, you owe it to yourself to take the opportunity this month.  
Crystal Batiste Stephenson (Alabama/Coushatta) will grace us with inspirational teaching.
Please come and enjoy a fantastic musical and spiritual experience and then stay to share our potluck meal.
Veteran's Powwow - Nov. 11, 2017 - Grand Entry 1pm & 7pm  at Alabama-Coushatta's Veterans Pavilion,  147 Day Care Rd, Livingston,Tx
Sayani at IAMM Talent Masters Concert in Dickinson, Tx. Sat. Nov 18 at 6:30pm  - West Bay Assembly Of God 
3607 FM-646 W, Dickinson, TX 77539  Free admission; Love offering received
Native American Powwow - Jan, 13, 2018 at Christian Tabernacle, 13334 Wallisville Rd.,  Wallisville, Tx. 77049 - Grand Entry 12 noon and 6 pm.  Pastors Robert Soto & Dan Zarate

DATE:  November 19, 2017
TIME: 4:00pm
 St. Marks United Methodist Church
1615 Patterson St., Houston, Tx.
(One block south of I-10 & west of I-45
Close to I-10 and Shepherd Dr.)
As always, please join us for a potluck meal after the service.

109th Anniversary - Trinity East UMC, Houston

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 00:00
You are invited to the 109th Anniversary of Trinity East UMC, Houston Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

Guest Speaker
Bishop Robert E. Hayes, Jr. (Retired)

Senior Pastor, Reverend Marilyn M. White 

Trinity East United Methodist Church 
2418 McGowen Street
Houston, Texas 77004 

See Flyer

Burning Passion to Preach

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
Rev. William Sowell, who retired his fireman’s helmet in 2013, knows what it’s like to put his life on the line for something he believes in.  Sound familiar? It’s a theme repeated throughout his favorite book, the Bible.
Pastor Sowell’s calling is to help people. That’s what he enjoyed most about his nearly 30 years as a firefighter in Galveston, and what he loves now about his role as the third pastor of Galilee UMC in Texas City.  
“There is no value in life without giving of yourself,” he says.  “I need to always be there for someone.”
No matter his role, trust and faith are important to him.  “I never felt fear when fighting fires,” he explains, “because as long as I had a relationship with God, I knew he’d keep me safe in his hands.”
Rev. Sowell learned about faith at a young age when he visited an older preacher in his neighborhood who told him a story from the Bible every day and then challenged him to share those Biblical truths with others.
The older pastor was planting the seeds of ministry in young William Sowell’s life. As a young man, he became a youth leader, and then at age 26 he started preaching in the Apostolic Church.
Compassionate leadership
When Rev. Sowell began preaching, he also answered the call to serve in the fire department.  William became head of several crews, acting captain at various fire stations in Galveston County, and vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters’ local union. Rev. Sowell’s “higher calling” was always near during his years as a firefighter. He frequently counseled members of the department to help them overcome the challenges they faced, such as dealing with fear.
“I believe God used me as an instrument to help others work through difficult times,” he says.
Though Pastor Sowell believes both of his roles are calls to service, he knows the Lord’s plan now is for him to be the pastor at Galilee UMC. It is a position he takes seriously. He is looking forward to leading his new congregation with compassion, grace, and loving acceptance. It is the same way he approaches his role as husband to his wife, Laurie, and as father to his seven children, four of whom are adopted.
 “I try to speak in a positive way and bring light and encouragement where I can,” he explains.  
A graduate of Prairie View A&M University with a major in psychology, William is a voracious reader.  He credits the principles he learned in the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves, for bringing a positive change to Galilee UMC.
His favorite aspect about the Methodist Church is its missional spirit. “They don’t just talk about it,” he said, “They be about it.”


Crowdsource Rescue: Puerto Rico

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
The Fog of Disaster
As Hurricane Harvey roared into Houston, data engineer Matthew Marchetti sat with his business partner Nathan Larson in their leaking office where they are normally busy running their business, Phase Four.
But this day was different because Harvey had arrived, and Harvey was no ordinary hurricane. Soon, Matthew watched in dismay as his phone began to light up as members of his church, Chapelwood UMC, began calling out for rescue to fellow members who were desperately trying to reach them.
“There was all of this back and forth,” Matthew said. “You may have heard of the ‘fog of war?’ Well, this was the ‘fog of disaster’.”
It seemed to Matthew that the rescue efforts were in danger of being critically handicapped by lack of information. As a data engineer, he saw the problem clearly- One group had help. The other group needed it.
So, Matthew and Nathan did what came naturally to them. They used existing real estate map data to create an automated solution to organize the rescue data. Six hours later, Crowdsource Rescue was born.
God’s Plans
Matthew and Nathan didn’t set out to save Houston, or the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria either for that matter. They just wanted to help their neighbors get to safety, but God had bigger plans. When Matthew went to bed that first night, there were 250 rescues underway on the website. When he got up the next morning, the number had risen to over 3,000. By the time Harvey blew out of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, the Crowdsource Rescue map logged a mindboggling 7,700 rescues involving more than 37,000 victims.
The results spoke for themselves. Crowdsource Rescue was a powerful new tool in disaster rescue.
Crowdsource Rescue had been thrown together quickly in response to the overwhelming need in Houston. Once Matthew and Nathan realized their program’s effectiveness, they were eager to go back to the programming and see what they could do with more time, but the 2017 hurricane season wasn’t willing to cooperate. Irma barreled toward Florida next, and Matthew’s team quickly modified Crowdsource Rescue to bring aid to the residents of the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
Next, Hurricane Maria took aim at Puerto Rico. Again, Crowdsource Rescue was there to assist aid workers as they began the difficult process of getting desperately needed supplies to the devastated island despite minimal cell service, and almost total power outages. It is a mission that is far from over.
“Puerto Rico is very hard,” Matthew said, “When Harvey hit Houston, we had 37,000 rescues in four days. In Puerto Rico, we have had 3,000 in about five weeks. Family members (who are searching for loved ones) are still checking in with us every day. It is heartbreaking and frustrating.”
The Next Steps
As the incredibly destructive 2017 hurricane season draws to a close, Matthew and Nathan are looking forward to going back to the drawing board. They want to get ready for the next hurricane, the next disaster. They are determined to invest whatever time and energy is needed to make Crowdsource Rescue the best possible tool it can be. They are excited to see what God has in store for them.
“We think this is the wave of the future in terms of responding to disasters,” Matthew said.
Puerto Rico needs you. If you speak Spanish and have a heart to help Puerto Rico, please reach out to Matthew and Nathan at http://crowdsourcerescue.com/


Feature: It’s Raining Gift Cards

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
The spouses of UMC clergy delivered love, in the form of thousands of gift cards, to other UMC clergy spouses who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey’s widespread flooding.
Along the Texas Gulf Coast it’s raining again, but this time it’s raining gift cards.
When word spread that approximately 30 clergy in the Texas Annual Conference were personally dealing with water in their homes, dozens of other clergy spouses flew into action.
The annual Texas Conference Clergy Spouse Association (TCCSA) retreat in September became gift card headquarters when attendees arrived with piles of gift cards from their home churches. Even friends, and friends of friends, contributed to the cause.
Hugs and Hope
In addition to the blessing of the gift cards, the association encouraged the recently flooded clergy spouses to attend the annual retreat on full scholarship as a brief escape from their recovery efforts, and a place to receive hugs and hope. Sharon Mooney, wife of Rev. John Mooney of First UMC Vidor accepted the scholarship and attended the retreat for the first time. “I felt guilty leaving town but the retreat was exactly what I needed to get stronger for my family,” says Sharon. “Since this is our first appointment, I loved spending time with more seasoned clergy spouses, and I have been incredibly blessed to receive the gift cards as well!”
As the list of flooded clergy increased into the double digits, card care coordinators Susan Brannen, Jill Krone, Dulce Cadar and Kay Peschke turned to social media to publicize the gift card campaign. They were stunned to see what happened next. Donations began pouring in from both inside and outside the conference. When the card care coordinators emptied the collection box after the retreat, it took more than two hours to tally the totals.
Heartwarming Response
The backstories of card donors, shared through the private Facebook page, were equally as touching. Friends and former congregants, living as far away as Minnesota, Indiana and California heard of the need, and wanted to help. Time and again, donors gave sacrificially, including a 90-year-old retired clergy spouse and her 90-year-old neighbor who gave from their own limited budgets.
The historic catastrophe inspired one clergy spouse to use a $500 gift honoring her late husband to assist other spouses rebuild their homes.

Delivery Day
Personally delivering $1000 in gift cards and $200 in cash to each of the flooded clergy is something I will never forget,” says Susan. She was particularly blessed to meet ad help Rev. James and Gwendolyn Berry of Shaw Tabernacle, whose home and church flooded. The flooding has turned the neighborhood surrounding the church into a ghost town. Since Shaw Tabernacle is a small church, Rev. and Mrs. Berry were unaware that anyone even knew of their devastating need. When Susan arrived with their gift package in hand, they were overwhelmed with gratitude.
This care campaign was quite a faith builder for givers and recipients. "God illustrated the fishes and loaves story in a mighty way by more than tripling our goal,” shares card coordinator Kay Peschke, spouse of Rev. Michael Peschke, FUMC Port Neches. “We are all truly astounded at this blessing."
Next Steps
The clergy unaffected by the flooding know the recovery process for their fellow clergy will take years. That is why they are committed to keep extending a helping hand as long as it takes. Clergy who would like ongoing encouragement throughout the long recovery process can contact Jill (jill.krone@gmail.com) to be matched with a willing listener.

Holy Family

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
East Downtown Houston (EADO) is changing as an arts district and residential area are take root, bringing new life and color to the dreary former warehouse district.
God is doing something new in East Downtown Houston too. We recently sat down with pastor Jacob Breeze to learn more about Holy Family.
Holy Family is such an unusual church. Was this a dream of yours for a long time?
Jacob: This is something I felt led into, propelled into, wooed into by God. We have said from the beginning that Holy Family was a dream that began in the heart of the triune God. We were responsive enough to get in on that dream. It is humbling to be a part of something that God is doing.

What was the church planting process like for you?
Jacob: I was still at Duke Divinity in Seminary, finishing up, when they (conference leadership) said, ‘What we would like you to do is come back.’ They gave me 12 months to come up with three things- a Parish, a plan, and who my partners would be.
Eventually, we identified the east side of downtown as our potential parish. We felt it was underserved by the UMC. After that, we began going to barber shops and cafes to meet people. We were doing one to one relational evangelism. It was during this time that I got to know Shayne Hawthorne. He was my barber. Over time, I built a friendship with him. Then, one day I took him to coffee after my haircut and said, “Every UMC pastor has to partner with a lay leader, and I am getting hints from the Holy Spirit that needs to be you.” Shayne agreed to help.
So, you had a parish and plan. How did Chapelwood become your partnership?
Six months into the deal, we hooked up with Chapelwood. I knew they were interested in starting new local churches. We talked, I told them what I had in mind, and we decided to get to know each other for six months. By the end of that time, we had a sense the Holy Spirit was putting everything together.
Tell us about your congregation.
Jacob: The Holy Spirit is drawing young, ethnically, and racially diverse persons of all genders and sexual orientations into Holy Family. We are a community where people who are deeply spiritual but deeply suspicious of church come together. If someone feels close to God but doesn't feel like a church has understood them, we get it.

What should a first-time visitor should expect when they walk through the doors of Holy Family?
 Jacob: Holy Family is a place where life-giving traditions come to life within an airy, welcome and creative setting. Picture and aesthetically beautiful room with clean, modern furniture, abstract art, and seats full of people with tattoos and dreadlocks.
Liturgy is a big part of Holy Family, much more so than some other UMC churches. Why?
Jacob: We are hooking into the original Methodist vision which belonged to Charles and John Wesley, who were Anglican. My interpretation of what Charles and John were up to is, they had the prayer book and it was good, but they needed a way to bring the liturgy to life. So, they began their work as a supplement to the liturgy. Another stream of Methodism, led by Asbury, focused more on Colonial Methodism. That whole impulse of Colonial Methodism is fine, but we have a lot of that. At Holy Family, we are drawing from the Methodist idea that was birthed in the Anglican imagination.

Kid-Sized Kindness

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
If her eyes are not focused on a favorite book, fourth grader Emily Trumbature has a knack to spot people in need most everywhere she goes. When a classmate forgot her lunch money, Emily paid her way. After meeting a homeless woman at the park, Emily rallied her mom to make a fast food run so she could bless the hungry lady with bags of food and bottles of water. When the woman thanked her, Emily replied, “Remember God loves you just like he loves me.”
Her adult-like behaviors are evident daily. “She has a heart of gold and a giving nature rare to someone her age,” says mom Tara Webb. Emily’s teachers have noticed her sensitivity to others as well. They recently awarded her the honor of being a “Heights Hero.” At the young age of nine, Emily frequently models courage for adults when she fearlessly befriends strangers of all ages and confidently reads scripture aloud in the worship service.
Although Emily looks up to her mom as an example, Tara does not take all the credit for Emily’s sweet disposition. She credits Moody Methodist Galveston and Emily’s Bible leader Miss Margarita Sims for helping to instill and reinforce these values in her daughter.
Every season is the season of giving for Emily. During the school year she loves putting flags on the graves of veterans.  When Hurricane Harvey flooded her grandparent’s home, she took her place alongside the adults as they “mucked and gutted” the house, and helped find her grandparents a new place to live. Emily also took the time to go to the church clothes closet to personally pick out some new items for her grandparents to make sure they had clothes they liked.
Last Christmas, Emily noticed a tag on the Angel tree at church that indicated a child with a parent in prison wished for a bike. Emily knew just what to do. “I had a new bike but since I lived in an apartment, I did not have any place to ride it,” she said, “so I decided to donate it to a child who probably would not get any other presents.”
In a world enamored with celebrity, quiet servants all too often go unnoticed. But not this time. Emily recently learned she was featured in the 2017 AmazingUMCKid Facebook campaign. She was nominated for her continual acts of kindness, a life of service that is an example to all of us.
“People don’t always notice things because they look at their phones so much,” shares Emily. “But I know Jesus is really happy when we help others like he did.”

Leading, Loving, Learning

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
Retreats bring a special opportunity to share new insights and inspirations in a large group setting. This fall, 16 church groups across the north, east and northwest experienced this firsthand at the kickoff retreats for a program called ABIDE.  Developed by small member church experts from Spiritual Leadership Inc., ABIDE places the focus on discipleship and spiritual growth instead of numerical growth.

 As the Daingerfield FUMC team facilitator, Erica Koolstra enjoys leading her four teammates, including Rev. David Gilliam, through group activities at the district gatherings and her home church. “Our team is connecting in new ways, praying for each other and serving as accountability partners,” says Erica, “as we focus on leading, loving and learning.”

Since she is studying to become a local pastor, Erica has a special appreciation for training that makes the faith journey more fulfilling. ABIDE’s book and Bible studies have already opened the team’s eyes to the “glory sightings” happening all around them. Erica shares, “God is leading our members to be incredibly hospitable, inviting, loving, generous and creative as they begin taking their place in new ways in the church.”

 The team is encouraged that about one-third of the 85 active members at Daingerfield FUMC recently participated in the church-wide study on “A Disciple’s Path.” The leaders are also grateful to Bishop Scott Jones for sharing this resource with the Texas Conference after seeing how it enriched the small congregations in the Great Plains Conference.

The laity-driven nature of ABIDE is David’s favorite aspect. He says, ABIDE is a blessing in that it empowers church to focus on leading, loving and learning regardless of who is pastor. David is encouraged to see longtime member Sally Greene and brand new member Laura Wilson participate in the Daingerfield FUMC group and encourage the congregation to share glory sightings where God is at work. “Laura has jumped right in, and Sally is on fire when it comes to sharing about ABIDE,” adds Erica, “and taking action by starting a new Sunday school class for women.”

The teams’ next steps involve sharing dreams for the future of Daingerfield FUMC.  ABIDE has helped them recognize how vibrant their faith community already is, while planting seeds of new possibilities. “Big membership numbers are not necessary for big discipleship results,” Erica says. “The Holy Spirit had quite a ripple effect through just 12 disciples.”

Theology on Tap

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 00:00
Theology on Tap (TOT) is what happens when church and happy hour collide. Six times a year more than 150 young adults of all beliefs and perspectives gather at an inner loop ecumenical setting to have a beer together and discuss matters of faith. This innovative mixer of sorts is the brainchild of several pastors and youth leaders.

Two years ago Chapelwood UMC’s Youth Minister Andy Cunningham rallied some young adult ministry leaders in central Houston to discuss how to engage their demographic in the church. Young adult ministry leaders Michael Jarboe from Memorial Drive UMC, and Sara Stone from Memorial Drive Presbyterian, readily agreed to pool funds and jointly find a context for ministry that would be appealing, interactive and nonthreatening.
Theology on Tap launched with topics ranging from the realities of being a Christian in the workplace to discussing what other religions believe. “It is less of a taboo to ask questions about faith these days,” says Michael Jarboe, “so we set out to create a safe space, in the midst of a polarized culture, for everyone to join the conversation.”

Thanks to social media and word of mouth, a diverse Theology on Tap audience has been growing ever since. Messages are high on creativity and low on religiosity. Publicity teasers challenge prospective attendees with questions such as, “How can we know truth in a world full of alternative facts and fake news?”

These two-hour hang outs begin with a 30-minute social hour during which attendees can use their two tickets for beer or other beverages and free munchies. Many participants come after work, intrigued to hear a guest speaker or pastors of different denominations address faith and science, and even the controversial faith and politics. “We see every career represented from Starbucks baristas to medical folks in their scrubs,” Michael says, “and sometimes young adults sit together and root for their pastor on stage.”

Not every meeting features a heavy discussion. The December event will present a panel of pastors giving a three-minute theological backstory on obscure Christmas carols, their history and what that might mean in today’s world.

As the emcee each evening, Sara can look over the crowd and instantly evaluate attendees’ level of engagement. “During the commentary portion of the evening I don’t see many people looking at their phones,” she says, “then after our refreshment break my phone blows up with over 50 plus texts offering questions about the topic.”

The other leaders behind TOT are Broun Stacy (Grace Presbyterian), UMC pastor Meredith Mills (Gastrochurch), Oscar Villanueva (City Church) and Mike Whang, who is filling the shoes of founder Andy Cunningham from Chapelwood UMC.

Young adult Dylan Cumberland loves attending an event where people with wildly different views can listen to the other’s beliefs and “still be united in faith, recognizing each other’s sacred worth.” Dylan will be speaking at the February meeting, representing the gay Christian perspective on the “Sex and Sexuality” topic.

Theology on Tap organizers have a heart for young adults, but they have also created an environment that appeals to singles and young married couples, as well as non-Christians. Each event also introduces attendees to a church related nonprofit they may want to support as a volunteer or contributor. “As we head into our third year, we know this has been a successful forum to show that Christians, and others, can respectfully disagree and still have a beer together,” shares Rev. Meredith Mills.


CLT/DLT Launch Event

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 00:00
CLT/DLT Launch Event Nov 16, 2017

Join us for the CLT/DLT Training Event that will take place November 16, 2017 at Lufkin, First UMC (805 E Denman Ave, Lufkin, TX 75901), from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. 
Lunch will be catered, so we need your RSVP by October 31st to jervin@txcumc.org to attend this event.

See Flyer

102nd Homecoming Celebration - St. Paul, Port Arthur

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 00:00
St. Paul UMC, Port Arthur invites all for a good time in Christian discipleship and fellowship as we celebrate our 102nd Annual Homecoming with Guest Speaker, Rev. Irv White of Windsor Village UMC, Houston.
The event will be held Sunday, November 12, 2017 from 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM at 821 Texas Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77640.

For additional information, contact:    
Jacqueline Gunner
(409) 985-9977


United Methodist Vocabulary Quiz

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 00:00
UMC.org invites you to take a short quiz to test your knowledge on some of the vocabulary words we use when talking about The United Methodist Church. Take the quiz at: