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Updated: 27 min 8 sec ago

“Know Thy Neighborhood”

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:00

St. Mark’s newest clergy member already has his eyes – and heart – focused on his new mission field just miles from his new church on Pecore Street in Houston. The area is dubbed “Near Northside” and is considered a forgotten space between the upscale Heights area and the low income Fifth Ward area near the towering Houston skyline. Russell is getting outside of the church walls to facilitate unlikely relationships between the least, the last and the lost and provide a community to “do life together” in an environment where the gospel can be lived out.

Although his new appointment is still very new, he has already joined forces with Rev. Emily Chapman and lay leader Janet Allen to explore some unique outreach opportunities in Near Northside. Having experienced the rewards of a ministry in southwest Houston called the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM), Russell felt God calling him to develop a similar community in St. Mark’s virtual backyard.

FAM’s intentional community facilitates relationships between refugees, immigrants and local Houstonians in a missional Christian community including shared meals, prayer, worship and support. For the residents of all ages and nationalities, this faith-based “experiment” has yielded transformation, encouragement and friendships more common to a “house church.”

Now that Russell feels called to create an environment for these kinds of relationships in Near Northside, he will draw on his experience and lean heavily on the Holy Spirit’s leading. He envisions himself on the starting line of an incredible, yet unpredictable journey.  Russell is asking himself, “How do we do this? Where do we start?”  and adds, “Determining the next steps – that’s one of the charming and scary things about a ministry like this. We will need to practically build the plane as we fly it.”

His spiritual path to this point in time has prepared him for such a time as this. Russell received his call to ministry while working as an electrical engineer, and got to know Rev. Hannah Terry while they were both exploring the ordination process. When Hannah guest lectured for his evangelism class at Perkins, he was so intrigued to learn about her role in the Fondren Apartment Ministry (FAM) that he took a day off work to shadow her and visit Community Night there. “That was October 2013 and I continue to describe that as my personal Aldersgate moment,” Russell shares. “I found this sacred chaos playing out before me and realized this was the kind of ministry I want to do. I even set up part of my Perkins internship within FAM, which deepened my pastoral experience in this type of environment.” As St. Mark’s starts its own Near Northside community, the church will continue in partnership with FAM.

Adds Russell, “I deeply appreciate this time of deep focus on listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit – which is necessary because there is no formula for this. I love that Intentional Communities are deeply relational and that we are empowering laity to live in the neighborhood in a life-giving way.” He expects prayer, hospitality and justice to drive this new ministry’s success.

As a leader, Russell tends to go in a certain direction and encourage others to join him. He is also an encourager when others have new ideas and projects. “To grow as a leader, I learn by doing and by talking to mentors,” he shares. “I also tend to derive leadership principles from books that aren’t always about leadership topics. I’m reading a book about how our brains work, and from that I’m learning other important aspects of leadership.”

Russell is not going into Near Northside with zero relationships. “One of my first connections is with a Near Northside resident named Grace Bukuru, a refugee from the Congo, who I am helping to learn English,” he shares. “Now that I am in this new appointment, I am adopting pastor Emily’s ‘never eat alone’ recommendation. This will help me quickly get to know church members and neighborhood insiders.”

Rev. Hannah Terry, Executive Director of FAM in southwest Houston says, "It's been a joy to watch the Holy Spirit at work with Russell and Grace, who met through Russell's life in the FAM community and Grace's participation in FAM gatherings. I cannot wait to see how God will multiply intentional Christian community in Near Northside. This type of expansion and growth demonstrates our UMC connection at its best."

Russell is excited about the hands-on, entrepreneurial adventure that awaits him at St. Mark’s. He enjoys talking about this kind of ministry so early in the process because it allows others to experience the experimental side of it and learn how these types of ministries get started. Adds Russell, “I am comfortable taking risks and look forward to seeing how God leads us in Near Northside.”

Third Sunday Native American Worship August 20: Bryan Jacobs

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:00
We welcome you at St. Mark's UMC, Houston (Patterson) on August 20 at 4 pm to listen to Pastor Bryan Jacobs (Seminole, Creek). 
After that, please stay with us for potluck.  
DATE:  August 20, 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.)
Potluck and fellowship follow the service
Third Sunday Speakers – 2017
  • September 17 - Jim Cochran, Christian Lay Minister (Cherokee)
  • October 15 - Pastor Melody Jacobs, Christian Speaker (Mescalero Apache)
  • November 19 - Sayani, NAMA Award Winning Music Ministry(Cherokee/Creek/Choctaw)
  • December 17 - Rev. David Wilson, Supt of OK Indian Missionary Conference (Choctaw)

National HBCU Leading in Transformation Conference

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:00
Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century will debut our latest program the National Network of Young Adults (NNYA) during the first-ever national conference designed for young adult students who attend United Methodist affiliated Historically-Black Colleges and Universities.  
The first-ever National HBCU Leading in Transformation (LIT) Conference is Thursday, September 21 in Atlanta, Georgia on the campus of Clark Atlanta University. This one-day, power-packed conference will offer relevant workshops and community service opportunities focused on social justice, ministry, and academics. The college-aged young adult leaders how attend will learn strategic models and best practices to strengthen our communities and our churches.
We need your support to get the word out to United Methodist Affiliated HBCU’s in your area and to young adults in your areas who you would want to be equipped to lead.
You would agree that our work to inspire, engage and equip young adults between the ages of 18-35 to a great network of other discipline young adults, campus ministers and mentors with the goal to build a pipeline of effective leaders to serve within our church and respective UMC affiliated HBCU campuses.
The National Network of Young Adults Program Coordinator Nathalie Nelson Parker has provided leadership to a design team for a program that will challenge, empower, and inspire all who attend. I invite you to take advantage of this opportunity by identifying some young adults who you can register and send. Partner with us to help grow leaders that will strengthen black churches and our community. Registration for the National LIT Conference is only $30, and all details are at NationalLITConference.com.

Please Report Flooding or Homes Damaged in Your Area

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:00
Disaster ministries would like to know of any problems in your area. If you suffered (or are aware of areas that suffered) flooding or damage to homes, please contact Rev. Scott Moore, smoore@txcumc.org.


McMahan Chapel Celebrates 184 Years

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 00:00
McMahan Chapel Day: celebrating 184 years of continuous service on Saturday October 14, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
McMahan Chapel
2240 McMahan Chapel Rd
Bronson, Tx 75930
(10 miles East of San Augustine, TX to Spur 35)
Mary Lou Reece, wife of Bishop Scott Jones, will be our guest speaker.
Covered Dish lunch follows service in the Jack and Charlsie Maund Museum and Event Center.

Good Shepherd UMC 25th Anniversary Celebration

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 00:00
Good Shepherd UMC will be holding their 25th Anniversary Celebration Sunday September 17, 2017 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.
In September of 1992, Pastor Bill Haygood led the initial worship service of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in the Fairfield Athletic Center Gym.  25 years later,  Pastor Bill will lead a celebration event in the church’s new 1200 seat worship center. Good Shepherd has been blessed from humble beginnings to become one of the 150 largest United Methodist Churches in America. www.goodchurch.us.
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
20155 Cypresswood Dr., Cypress, TX, 77433
Mark Eaves, Director of Media Ministries

Pastor Matt's Doubt

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 00:00
Rev. Dr. Matt Russell - pastor at St. Paul's UMC, Houston shares his story of faith in a recent feature by The Houston Chroncle:

Bishop Jones on KSBJ Sunday

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 00:00
Tune in to KSBJ at 11 a.m. this Sunday, August 6, 2017 to hear a devotional by Bishop Scott Jones titled "Enter His Gates."  How to Listen If you're in the Houston Area tune in to KSBJ 89.3 at 11 a.m.

Stations in various markets around Texas also carry their programming. See options for listening.

You can also listen online at KSBJ.org or NGENradio.com

KSBJ Mobile App (compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Android) - Apple | Android

NGEN radio Mobile App (compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Android) - Apple | Android



Some Wireless Microphones May Soon Be Illegal to Operate

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 00:00
In 2014, the FCC adopted rules to implement a change to existing television band and repurposing some UHF television band frequencies for new wireless broadband services.
What this means is that churches and others using wireless microphones need to be aware that it will soon be illegal to use some currently legal equipment operating in specific frequencies as they may cause interference with others who now own the bandwidth and will be operating equipment in that space.
This affects equipment operating in 600 MHz frequencies – specifically the 617-652 MHz and 663-698 MHz frequencies. All wireless microphone operations in the 600 MHz service band must cease no later than 39 months after the close of the incentive auction. The 39 month window closes on July 13, 2020.  
However, some regions will need to stop operating such equipment sooner as the FCC states: “if such operations could cause harmful interference to any 600 MHz service licensee’s operations.” In some cases, 600 MHz service licensees have already begun field application testing.
Members of UMITA, An Association of United Methodist IT professionals have put together a white paper outlining the issues and include some tips and links to rebates from some microphone companies to replace your equipment with compliant models.
See White Paper
FCC 14-50
FCC 15-140

Sermons Around the Conference

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 00:00
The following links to sermons were selected at random. They are listed in no particular order.

Philippians - Mind Of Christ
The Foundry, Houston – Rev. Theresa Fauser
Moving From Burnout to Balance: "Living Into the Simple Life"
FUMC Livingston – Rev. Steve Woody
Sunday Message - 7/30/2017
Russell Memorial UMC, Wills Point - Rev. David Cartwright
Thank You for Serving Others
Jones Memorial UMC - Rev. Kenneth Levingston,
Swiping Right: Relationships and Real Romance
The Story, Houston – Rev. Eric Huffman
Want more? See a listing to links of video, audio and text sermons from around the conference at: http://www.txcumc.org/sermonarchives

Called to Serve

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Recently, 32 people from various backgrounds - of various races, numerous occupations, and even different languages – came together to be equipped for the ministry that God has called them to at the Texas Annual Conference’s Local Pastor Licensing School.

“This eclectic group of would-be pastors quickly became a community united around the goal of preparing them for God’s work. They spent time learning from some of the best folks around the Texas Conference. And during meals and breaks they spent time learning from one other. The work that God was doing beneath the surface was just as significant, and maybe more so, as the work being done in the classroom,” says TAC Local Pastor Licensing School Dean Mike Lindstrom.

And that classroom work is not for the faint of heart. Seminars in preaching, church administration, stewardship, self-care, evangelism, and many more subjects filled the six-plus days these pastors spent in the Central Building meeting room at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. “These set-apart persons were asked to assimilate a great deal of information in a short period-of-time, and they did so with grace and eagerness,” Mike says.

At the end of the week, many were given their license to serve as pastors in a local charge, which is where we get the term ‘Local Pastor.’ These persons, affirmed in their calling by their District Committees on Ordained Ministry, began serving churches on, or in some cases, before the first of July.

“They have the right and privilege and responsibility to serve all pastoral roles – from preaching to the sacraments to administration – in their local charge. In that regard it is a limited role and different from an ordained Elder who can serve in pastoral and sacramental ways in any place at any time. Local Pastors have been an integral and important part of the Methodist Church since its beginnings in the late 1700s,” Mike explains.

Other students were affirmed as Certified Lay Ministers. This is a relatively new designation in the church, which does not give any pastoral authority to the person. Mike explains that Certified Lay Ministers do not perform the sacraments and rarely administer the life of the local church. “They may, however, fill a pulpit and offer a word as preacher,” he says. The Methodist Church recognizes them as having been properly trained and encouraged in this work when they are certified.

For more information about the Local Pastor Licensing School, contact one of the deans: Dr. Jerome Brimmage (jbrimmage@lufkinfirst.com) or Rev. Mike Lindstrom (mlindstrom@fumc-conroe.org).

Tour de Force

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Over the last four years, certain churches in the TAC have been mysteriously growing because of the Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI). The TAC Center for Congregational Excellence has worked with 60+ churches of all sizes by providing “prescriptions” related to areas from vision and discipleship to communications and leadership.
This initiative succeeds by building on each congregation’s unique strengths via members’ input and coaching from proven clergy. “In recent months, we’ve been excited to have some larger congregations take the plunge into VCI,” shares Rev. Mike Tyson, VCI Director. Churches with over 350 members now in the process include Holy Covenant Katy, First UMC Katy, St. Mark’s in Baytown, FUMC Dickinson and Atascocita UMC in Humble. “These churches have the budgets, staff and lay leadership to get really good traction through the process,” he adds, “resulting in both spiritual structure and numerical growth.”
Motivation To Pursue VCI
Most churches would be ecstatic with three services and an average attendance of 450 each week, but Atascocita UMC (AUMC) had plateaued there for a decade when leaders considered VCI.  AUMC Rev. Deborah Proctor shares, “Our immediate community has been growing 30 percent, yet our membership has not grown.”
Stagnant growth was also the motivation for First UMC Katy to participate. “We are a 114-year-old congregation in one of the nation’s fastest growing zip codes,” says Dr. Dick White, adding, “so our church council understood the need for outside consultants and coaches to help us do ministry in a changing mission field.” 
VCI Accomplishments
  • Following successful hospitality and communication workshops, Atascocita UMC has added a staffed ‘Guest Central’ booth, clarified the vision statement and is currently defining the path of discipleship.  Notes Deborah, “We have also made great improvements in live streaming, made our website and campus more guest friendly, and have obtained financial consultation to streamline reporting and creative funding of ministries.” Next steps include initiatives with small groups and foundational classes.
  • After the VCI consultation weekend, First UMC Katy leaders launched a new focus, saying, “It’s not about us, it’s about them.” One team is moving forward to clarify the vision of the church while another team works on a third worship service geared to people not currently attending a church.
  • St. Mark’s Baytown has task forces focused on creating more consistent, accurate and engaging information. St. Mark’s also leveraged the TAC’s Birkman assessment tool to help staff members identify their leadership style. The team has already witnessed more cohesive support among staff and leadership.  Peter shares, “VCI gives us the direction, momentum and energy as we move together toward the common goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ.”
  • Holy Covenant is simultaneously working on all five VCI prescriptions. Rev. Fred Willis says, “We started by having thorough, overarching discussions about what we do well and not so well, and what we value. We are also addressing leadership gaps, by pairing longtime leaders with new volunteers.”
  • “The VCI self study helped us see ourselves more accurately,” shares Rev. Jack Matkin, FUMC Dickinson, “and the consultation weekend provided multiple opportunities for a large segment of our congregation to be heard. The recommended prescriptions confirmed what we knew we needed to do, but for one reason or another had not yet addressed.” Jack says the new vision statement resonates with the members and community: Real People, Real Purpose, Real God – Life under the Cross, providing more focus now and drawing more members to get involved.”
Coaching Perks
Pastors agree that one of the main benefits of VCI is meeting regularly with a trained coach. “This has been key in helping me stay on track and keeping us accountable,” shares Deborah. St. Mark’s leaders are thankful for the coaching of Dr. Chuck Simmons. Shares Peter, “He is respected by our leadership and has consistently emphasized the importance and centrality of God’s presence. His leadership style has inspired us to think outside the box, look at our future and grow deeper.”  Holy Covenant has experienced another benefit of having a coach. “Our coach helps clarify the wording in the consultation report on occasion,” explains Fred. “Rev. Steve Wende has been a very positive champion who is walking with us and bringing outside experience and thoughts. As a certified coach myself, I know this would cost $150-200 per hour under normal circumstances, yet it is part of the VCI package.”
Visible Results
One common result these congregations have all experienced thus far is an energized leadership base and more unified staff.  Fred sees excitement in the leadership ranks at Holy Covenant, as evidenced by consistently high attendance at task force meetings. AUMC strategically placed one staff member on each of the VCI prescription teams to improve consistency in future planning. Adds Deborah, “We’ve also noticed that our giving is higher than last year which I attribute to the more confident atmosphere.” Dick White says there is a notably positive “buzz” in the church and a strong increase in the numbers of visitors attending the five summer camps for children. Adds Dick, “This renewed focus on our vision is also motivating more volunteers to help. Most see change as being a good thing and they are ready to pitch in.” These, and other pastors feel it has been a good investment of time and money and they are surprised more churches are not involved. “When someone asked me how much it would cost the church to do VCI, my response was, ‘What’s it going to cost if we don’t do VCI?’ There is going to be a cost either way,” notes Dick.
To learn more about this impactful renewal process, contact mtyson@txcumc.org or mgreen@txcumc.org.

Two Powerful Weeks

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
After two weeks of togetherness at the annual Texas Youth Academy (TYA) in Austin, students and leaders alike are eager to share their ‘wow’ moments from an action-packed schedule that stretches their leadership muscles from sun up to sun down. Matthew Edison, member of Life in The City UMC in Austin, enjoyed his experience as a first-time mentor for TYA. Notes Matthew, “In recent years I have been impressed by the spiritual changes in our church youth that have attended this, so I was looking forward to being a mentor this year. However, my overall experiences have superseded my expectations as I observed these amazing young people sitting straight through seminary level lectures, grasping key concepts, processing these complex themes of doctrine, Christian heritage, and theology.” Matthew found himself looking forward to hearing the students’ feedback in the mentor groups each night. “I enjoyed hearing their prolific thoughts, questions and challenges – and seeing their desire to design and lead worship.”

Texas Youth Academy is one of the Emerging Leader strategies of The Texas Annual Conference, designed to cultivate relationships with young adults seeking to pursue ministry work. Year after year, students appreciate having this space and time to explore their calling. “TYA is a fantastic ministry experience,” says Noah Furr, Chapelwood UMC - Lake Jackson. “I hope this kind of resource is available for other conferences as, had I not been a part of the TAC, I would not have been aware such a great opportunity for youth. I enjoyed seeing and visiting with an array of students and adults. It opened my eyes to understanding that there are many people out there that are different from me.” 

The highlight for Haley Macha, Strawbridge UMC, was the opportunity to build community with her peers.I came thinking things were going to be awkward but we all became best friends on the first day of TYA. I expected the plenary sessions to be boring but they were actually interesting. We were told that the experience was going to be unique and indeed it was.”

Dozens of churches have been investing in the young by sending youth and mentors to TYA in recent years. Cassy Nunez, Renacer-Galena Park UMC, is thankful she was able to serve the students as a mentor. “Wow, the word Academy is so appropriate,” Cassy explains, “because TYA does an amazing job at making every activity in the schedule intentional -- from the morning prayer through breaks and even the meal times.” Cassy expected a type of camp in the city program, but was pleasantly surprised. She adds, “Texas Youth Academy is like a mini seminary-mission trip-intentional community.”

Most of the students really enjoy the arts and crafts sessions. “I had never created an art piece with the intention of being a spiritual practice,” Cassy shares. “The artists prepare every activity with such dedication to help the students hear what God is speaking to them; this is evident in each art piece.”

Participants thrived throughout the two-week session appreciating the daily themes, activities, and worship and a schedule that was easy to follow. “The diversity of the staff allowed conversations to go further into real life examples and it gave the students an opportunity to hear narratives from different people,” observes Cassy. Maya Malone  Blueridge UMC – Houston, gave it a thumbs up. “I enjoyed the sense of community and closeness we felt over the past two weeks,” she says, “and I am amazed at everything we have learned.”

Tell Two Friends
Cassy returned to her home church with plans to help get the word out for next year’s Academy. “I would urge pastors and youth directors to consider sending their youth to TYA. It is a program that will transform lives,” she says.

Geography and Theology

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
When it comes to the Bible, Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles insists that her SMU Perkins School of Theology students repeat and memorize the mantra, “All geography is theology.” A New Testament Professor and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dr. Clark-Soles will share many insightful revelations about how land matters in Bible contexts at the upcoming Houston Lay School of Theology. The Houston Lay School of Theology is sponsored by SMU Perkins in cooperation with the Texas Annual Conference and is hosted by St. Paul’s UMC at 5501 Main Street in Houston. This year’s event will be Saturday, August 19 from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Students will learn:
  • Why the disciples are known as Galileans
  • The location of the Decapolis and why it matters that Jesus ministers there
  • How ancient Joppa and modern Joppa intersect and why contemporary Christians should care
  • Why Jesus ministers at the Decapolis and why the Bible mentions that woman at the well is from Samaria
  • What is meant by Galilee “of the Gentiles” and why the author of Revelation calls Rome “Babylon”
As one who rarely misses a class, Beverly McMahan, longtime member of St. Paul’s UMC highly recommends setting aside time to attend this annual training. “Houston Lay School has been a very enriching experience and has provided me with excellent study opportunities.  The many different topics offered and highly qualified leaders have given me a better understanding of the Bible and myself as a Christian. I also enjoy spending the day with other students from around the area, and exchanging thoughts and ideas,” Beverly says.
St. Paul’s Houston has been hosting this event for over three decades and counts it an honor to provide the venue for the Houston Lay School. “What’s unique about this school is that it gives laity access to meaningful, faith-inspiring knowledge from seminary professors,” says Rev. Karyn Richards-Kuan, associate pastor of St. Paul’s.
Online registration will be available through Aug. 14, 2017. Childcare is available with advance notification. Interested parties should contact Priscilla Pope-Levison at popelevison@smu.edu before August 14. Registration includes the course and lunch. For more information call Mary Roberts at 214-768-2390.

Meet Tayler Johnson

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
Some 15 years ago, The Texas Annual Conference committed to cultivating vibrant, growing churches while investing in a younger generation through programs like the College Pastoral Internship Project. Students experience the life of a pastor for 10 weeks in the summer.

Q. How did you decide to become a pastoral intern?
A. I grew up going to church, but not understanding the value of a relationship with God. I quit going to church but later felt like something was missing in my life. A friend invited me to YoungLife, where I heard a story about Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners. It was in the verses of this story that I began to see how I had put God as the reason for my problems instead of the solution to them. I became heavily involved in YoungLife and then FUMC Corpus Christi, which became my home and community in late March of 2013. When I became involved in the Texas Wesley Campus Ministry, I really saw God working in my life and felt God call me to ministry while on a mission trip over spring break to South Padre Island. I heard about the Texas Annual Conference College Pastoral Internship Project (CPIP) from a friend who participated last summer. After some prayer and reflection, I felt as if this internship would give me the best opportunity to explore pastoral ministry.

Q. What kind of things are you doing this summer?
A. I am serving at FUMC Athens this summer and have had the chance to shadow our lead pastor in most everything he does. This includes: working on a back-to-school weekend for families in the Athens area as well as planning events to attract young families to our church. My lead pastor is very involved in the community, so I attend events around town with him to see how a pastor should be involved in their community.

Q. What is your favorite aspect of the internship? 
A. I enjoy building relationships with the congregation and finding ways that I can serve them in ministry. My favorite memory was a note I received from a little girl I had only known for two days. The note said, “Dear Mr. Tayler, Thank you for encouraging me and being my leader. But most importantly, thank you for being my friend.”

Q. What is this experience confirming?
A. I definitely believe this experience has been confirming my call to ministry. I have gotten to see both sides to what it means to be a pastor, but my heart continues to see that the joys outweigh the concerns.
Q. What’s next?
A. After this internship concludes, I will go back to Austin to finish up my last semester as an undergraduate student, followed by an internship with the Texas Wesley Foundation. I will enter seminary in the fall of 2018.

Q. Describe your preaching experiences:
A. I will preach several times and lead different parts of worship throughout the summer, including the opportunity to lead devotions at the Conference Chapel.

New Spiritual Directors

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
The Charis program recently held a graduation and commissioning service for 13 spiritual directors at FUMC Conroe. The Charis Spiritual Director’s Training Program is an ecumenical initiative of the TAC, teaching clergy and laity how to serve as a ‘counselor for the soul.’ 
Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on their spiritual journeys to help them tell their sacred stories. Charis helps spiritual directors go into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit and offers a place to explore prayer practices and meditation.
Charis Coordinator Becky Oates says this experience is far more than just an academic study. The program combines the ancient Christian traditions of spiritual guidance with the Wesleyan spirituality that inspires the United Methodist faith. “Spiritual directors are companions with others on their spiritual journey, in a Christian tradition that began with Jesus,” Becky says.
Featured speaker for the graduation, Assistant to the Bishop Rev. B.T. Williamson, centered his remarks on the road to Emmaus story in Luke 24. He reminded listeners that those who encountered Jesus in that passage wondered who he was yet felt their hearts burning. “Identity is important to all who follow Jesus,” B.T. shares. “Each person must explore the question, ‘Who am I spiritually?’” He noted that even John Wesley struggled with who he was spiritually until his life-changing, heart-warming experience at Aldersgate. Spiritual direction, B.T. explains, is “a day-in, day-out way of life in which the spiritual director helps tend to others, serving as a companion and an instrument of God’s grace.”
The Charis board and faculty members anoint graduates with oil and prayers of blessing. “The laying on of hands was profoundly meaningful after three years of sacred journeying,” says one board member. “When the final graduate knelt before us, I found my fingers resting on her neck where I felt her pulse underscoring the words of the prayer. I was truly feeling the heartbeat of God.”
How the Charis Program and Its Graduates Serve the Conference
Charis graduates offer a quiet ministry of presence and service. Charis Board Chair, Rev. Glynden Bode, explains that a task force of United Methodist spiritual directors, all of whom had received their training through other Christian traditions, developed Charis. Choosing the Greek word for grace as the program name, the founders created a program rich in Wesleyan spirituality and launched training for the first Class in 2005. Today a total of 75 trained spiritual directors are available throughout the Conference.
While many Charis graduates offer one-on-one spiritual direction, they also help their churches and communities deepen the spiritual life with days of prayer, retreats, classes and studies. Dan Barcus of St. Stephen’s UMC in Houston says, “As a participant of the first class, I began an awakening of my spirit. My eyes and heart were opened to see God and the Holy Spirit as I had never realized.” Dan now teaches classes on spiritual growth subjects at his church, and at retreats.
After her Charis graduation, Lynn Staggs began offering spiritual direction through email. “What I like about this is the slow and gentle pace,” Lynn says. “Since I can’t see the person, I’ve learned to see and hear with the eyes and ears of my heart.” In addition, Lynn has led annual retreats for a church choir, and conducted days of prayer for various churches.Thanks to this training, she’s learned to be a holy listener for a sister with cancer who is facing the end of life. 
While many lay graduates find themselves serving in unexpected ways and places, clergy discover personal and professional enrichment in the Charis training as well. Class IV graduate Rev. Dan Gilliam, who pastors First UMC in Daingerfield, says, “I learned a great deal about preaching and teaching in seminary. The Charis training has taught me about listening – really listening – listening for that still, small voice of God, listening for and to the Holy Spirit directing me in my life and my ministry, and listening to and really hearing my parishioners.”
Charis graduates comprise an excellent resource pool for church leaders who are seeking to deepen spirituality within their congregations. For a list of trained spiritual directors and/or to learn who may be available to assist your church with spiritual formation activities, contact the Gathered Community Coordinator, Rev. Cindy Serio at 832-330-3973 or cserio@m-sfm.org
Class V Begins Next Month
Charis Class V will begin training in August 2017, with an opening retreat at Lakeview and monthly classes to be held at Rosehill UMC in Tomball. To learn more about the program visit the website: www.charis-txcumc.org Or contact Charis Coordinator Becky Oates: 713-562-8637or havenofrest@earthlink.net; or Charis Board Chair Rev. Glynden Bode: 281-222-4385 or glyndenbode@gmail.com

The 1025 Initiative

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 00:00
The inspiration for Perritte Memorial’s 1025 prayer movement came from Flood Gates by Sue Nilson Kibbey, a book handed to each church at Annual Conference in 2017. Interim pastor Barbara Robberson says, “In the 2nd chapter she writes passionately about a Breakthrough Prayer Initiative. Taking her lead  -- and the story of a church which adopted a specific time to pray each day based on their address -- we adopted this initiative, too.”
It started with the Perritte prayer team that meets every Sunday morning with the pastor. Prayer team members recited the book’s "break through prayer" while walking through the church. At various locations, they attached sticky notes bearing only four numbers: 1025. “Folks began to get curious about these notes, but only the prayer team knew their significance initially,” adds Barbara.
As both a church member and church secretary Susan Teekell had a unique vantage point as this unfolded. “On that initial Sunday morning, you couldn't help but notice multicolored sticky notes on windows, walls, doors and anywhere else they would stick! Since I am on staff, people began to ask me about the notes, yet I had no idea.”
During the week, as Susan walked her VBS students through their rotations, the kids asked her over and over what the number meant; church members and non-members, children and adults were mystified for weeks.
One Sunday, members found slips of paper with "1025" written on them sticking out of almost every hymnal in the sanctuary.  Shares Susan, “I decided to insert the number in 16 places in the bulletin, and for covered dish lunch, we printed "1025" paper tents for all the tables in the fellowship hall. It was hard to tune out because there were new incarnations of the number every week.”
 Finally in the third week, Barbara worked the 1025 mystery into the sermon and the secret was out. She challenged the congregation to commit to faithfully praying twice a day for God to break through in new ways so that Perritte could move forward in new and exciting ways to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Susan is in the church office at 10:25 a.m. on weekdays. “When the alarm on my phone rings, we stop whatever is happening in the office and pray. Sometimes it’s just me and other times as many as five are praying together to break through whatever might be holding Perritte Memorial UMC back from becoming the church that God needs us to be.” She adds, “In response to our prayers, God is showing us ways to break through our comfort zones of complacency and better serve Him.”
Prayer ministry member Judy Allensworth knows that the congregation no longer mirrors the multi-ethnic residents in its immediate mission field.
“We have struggled for years with the question of how to best reach out to our neighbors, convinced that God has kept us here for a reason,” Judy explains. Pastor Barbara had 11 people recently commit to accompany the pastor and music director to a local nursing home on the first Sunday of each month to lead worship and communion with residents. Others are beginning to serve meals in the homeless shelter very near the church. “I truly believe God will use this 1025 effort to help us show the love of Christ in our community in ways that will transform all of our lives,” adds Judy.
This creative yet simple idea gleaned from a book is now taking root at 1025 Durst Street and beyond. “It is really exciting for me,” Barbara shares, “when I am in Houston praying at 10:25, in the morning or night, to realize that up in Nacogdoches or a dozen other places, my congregation is praying at the same time for God to break through in new ways for our ministries.” 

Army of Students Renovate Crisis Center

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00

U.M. ARMY volunteers helped out Anderson County Crisis Center recently.

See the article from Palestine Herald Press

Online Course: What it Means to Be United Methodist

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 00:00
An online course offered by UMCOM is designed for new United Methodists and anyone wanting to learn more about what it means to be a United Methodist. The course includes 4 modules that contain many interactive features. Each module takes approximately one hour to complete.

What it Means to be United Methodist is an open enrollment course; students can register for this class at any time. Students will have access to the online course for three months starting from the day of registration.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:
Identify the structure of the United Methodist Church
Identify the historical roots and beliefs of United Methodists
Identify the growth and core principles of Modern Methodism

What can I expect?
You will have access to the online course for three months starting from the day you register.
A course moderator will assist you with questions within the course.

See Additional Course Information