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Somerville UMC MYF Students Connect with Peers in Africa

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
Thanks to the compassion of a computer guru’s heart and the power of technology, youth in a rural United Methodist church are learning to make a real difference in the lives of other children, 12,000 miles away in Africa.
At a Methodist Youth Fellowship ‘lock in,’ Somerville UMC students in 3rd-10th grades enjoyed an unusual late night activity – video chatting with children their age in an orphanage in Kenya, Africa. “Our youth were surprised to see the orphanage had dirt floors and bed sheets for doors,” shares church friend and advocate Tom Dunn. Tom singlehandedly started the “Fruit of God Kenyan Mission” and has been helping the people of Soweto, Africa for years. “The MYF kids in Somerville had a hard time imagining a hole in the ground could serve as a bathroom, that one meal a day meant the African children were “well off” and that most of their peers couldn’t afford to go to school,” adds Tom.
Tom’s heart for helping the people of Africa dates back to his time in the Navy, which paved the way for mission trips he would later take with his daughter. “I fell in love with the people of Africa and spent countless hours there trying to better understand their culture and needs and eventually, even assisted in planting a church,” he says. “Once I saw people living in one of the largest slums in the world,” he adds, “I could not un-see it.”
Tom realized the MYF youth in his church home would be blessed to meet children their age across the globe, and see their joy in spite of great sacrifices they make to survive. “In the first Skype conversation, our youth asked their new African friends about their daily lives, favorite sporting activities and the like,” explains Tom. They also took turns singing great hymns like Jesus Loves Me and reciting their favorite Bible verses to each other. The Texas youth quickly realized their new friends live in a very different world and it inspired them to think of ways to raise funds to help their young peers across the globe.
This compassionate response from the youth melted the heart of Somerville UMC Pastor Vickie Simons. (“Initially, when our kids learned that their African counterparts couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have the $42 necessary for uniforms and books, our kids simply gave from their hearts,” Vickie shares. “One offered part of her birthday money. Another gave out of his savings jar in his bedroom.  That first year the youth’s funds were matched by adult members and our Outreach Ministry Team funds and helped over 25 African kids go to school that year!”
This year, the MYF students have come up with the idea of holding a Saturday morning “Game Fest.” In August, for Somerville UMC’s “Back-to-School Blast”, they will be hosting a series of sporting events for the local youth.  Events will include - “Gaga pit” games, basketball free throw and three-on-three contests, a volleyball tournament, and more. Adds Vickie, “This is so imaginative -- and way beyond the typical car wash or bake sale fundraising event! The adult members of the Outreach Ministry Team, who sponsor the MYF group, have again agreed to help and will sell BBQ and other “grilled goodies” at the event to add to the cause!”   
Bryce Jackson is a member of the MYF group and expects to become an Eagle Scout this year, at age 13. He elected to construct a gaga pit for his project and chose his home church as the beneficiary of this endeavor. “This is an example of how Lakeview Methodist Conference Center extends its reach beyond its geographical borders because Bryce was inspired to do this by his camping experiences in years’ past,” shares Vickie.
Members and youth found it to be great fun to see all of the Jackson family, scouting buddies, friends and the Trustees contribute to building the pit. “What an amazing undertaking that was!” adds Vickie. “Suffice it to say it involves way more than digging a few holes for posts and attaching a few boards to the poles.”
Funds for their Future
The students are excited to see how much their special fundraising bash will bring in for the needs in Africa. Additionally, Tom has funded the start of a sewing industry there. “The women are now making gorgeous men’s shirts,” Vickie says. “Having only recently learned how to sew, the quality of their work is truly amazing!”
As the story unfolds, the congregation is feeling excited to be a part of seeing God at work. Notes Vickie, “Tom is a great Christian! He really listens to the Lord and we are blessed that he has chosen to open a door for all of us to be a part of the extraordinary life-giving events, for some of the poorest people on the planet. It’s a beautiful thing to see the connection at work in our youth. They are literally modeling God’s word in action by choosing to help others in need, not just locally but globally as well!”

South Central Jurisdiction Mission Academy to Train for Mission and Disaster Response

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 00:00
Experienced and novice leaders across the jurisdiction will engage in conversations related to mission and disaster work at the September Academy in Nebraska.
In recent years, the disaster academy trainings have been taking on a new life as missional academies involving a wider range of training session topics that are driven by the participants themselves. While the South Central Jurisdiction Mission Academy is several months away on September 10-13, 2017 in the Great Plains Conference, and interactive forum is already tracking the topic preferences of participants here.
UMVIM Top 3 Topics:
1. Spiritual Growth in Mission
2. Powerful Presentations
3. Equitable Partnerships: The 50/50 Model
Disaster Top 3 Topics::
1. UMCOR/UMVIM Communication in Disaster
2. Disaster: From Relief to Recovery
3. Conference Disaster Coordination
“We have changed the emphasis of the training to engage in other important mission conversations that would be useful to our usual disaster response attendees, while also attracting folks with other mission interests,” shares Audrey Phelps, Director of UMVIM & Disaster Response for the South Central Jurisdiction. “We have more than doubled our attendance by expanding the focus beyond the UMCOR course schedule and offering classes like Understanding Poverty, Spiritual Leadership, Missionary Service in the UMC.”
Rev. Scott Moore, TAC Mission Center Executive Director has attended the academies over a number of years. “Each year more and more topics are offered,” he says. “Every year we identify new missional leaders active in our conference that we didn’t previously know. The Missions Academy is a great place to meet other mission-minded servants, to share new and innovative ideas about missions, and to learn best practices from some of the most respected leaders in our denomination.” Adds Scott, “Between the actual classroom learning and the fellowship opportunities, I believe this is one of the best mission-focused trainings available anywhere. I highly encourage clergy and lay, new and experienced missional servants to attend.”
The 2017 Academy will be held at the Leadership Center in Aurora, Nebraska, which offers a serene, scenic setting, with many activities between sessions. Audrey shares, “It will be an awesome experience of fellowship, worship, and strengthening our missional response!”

Running with the Giants Wiley College Youth Empowerment Summit

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 00:00
Running with the Giants is a two-week summer residential institute for high school juniors and seniors. Students will engage in theological study, worship activities, and service learning projects while discerning their call to ministry and love of service.
It will be hosted by Wiley College July 15-28.
See Flyer A

See Flyer B
Enrollment Form


Texas UM Historical Society Annual Meeting

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 00:00
Crossing Boundaries: Texas United Methodist Historical Society Annual Meeting
Friday, April 28 – Saturday, April 29

This year’s annual meeting will be held at the First United Methodist Church of Richardson, Texas. Although 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the North Texas Annual Conference, presentation themes will cross conference boundaries to include stories of a leading early Texas Methodist family, a famous gospel music singer, a 1920 SMU graduate who served as a missionary in Africa, and former Rio Grande Conference charges in North Texas that did (and did not) join the North Texas Conference.

The keynote address will be given by James A. McMillin, Ph.D., retired Associate Director of Bridwell Library and professor of American Religious History at Southern Methodist University. Additional presenters will include:
· Rev. Ben Anderson David Hensley (Oak Lawn UMC, Dallas)
· Rev. Priscilla Pope-Levison, Ph.D. (Perkins School of Theology)
· Rev. Emily Robnett (student, Perkins School of Theology)
· Rev. Daniel F. Flores, Ph.D. (Tarrant County College)

See Flyer

Trinity UMC Houston Hosts Voter Registration and Census Bureau Trainings

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 00:00
Friday, April 21st VDVR Training
(Volunteer Deputization Voter Registration Training)

Trinity UMC 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
2600 Holman
Houston, TX
See Flyer
Saturday, April 22nd 
10:00-12 noon Census Bureau Training
Trinity UMC 2600 Holman
Houston, TX

A Community Engagement Event Open To All
Come and learn how to get statistics and demographic information on the city of Houston, your neighborhood, surrounding suburbs, and school district feeder patterns. Please share attached flyer and help us advertise this informative event.
Thank you
Dianne Iglehart
Trinity UMC
Church and Society Chairperson
See Flyer

Third Sunday Native American Worship April 23: Rev. J. B. Jackson

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 00:00
Our Third Sunday Fellowship in April is on Sunday April 23; the Sunday after Easter.
We will have an unprecedented experience at Third Sunday Native American Worship. Rev. J. B. Jackson, the pastor of the Dallas Indian Mission United Methodist Church, is coming to preach to us. He will be preaching about the moment of belief of Thomas when he said, "My Lord and My God!"  after seeing that Jesus was raised from the dead. This is a wonderful moment in scripture and a great time for us to be with our brothers and sisters from Dallas.           
Rev. Jackson will also be bringing 25 or so of his congregants to join in our singing, praying and potluck after the service. This is a great opportunity to get to know the members of the only Native American Methodist Church in Texas. 
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
DATE: December 18, 2016
TIME: 4:00pm

2017 Speakers
*April 23 Rev. J.B. Jackson, Pastor Dallas Indian UMC (Ancestry)
May 21 Anna Edwards, Veteran's & N.A. Advocate & Speaker (OhkayOwingeh)
**June 11 Rev. Ross Hyde, Maud UMC, near Texarkana (Mohawk)
July 16 Jim Cochran, Christian Lay Minister (Cherokee)
August 20 Pastor Bryan Jacobs (Seminole, Creek)
September 17 James Stevenson, Lay speaker & Gifted Musician (Lumbee)
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)
 *  - 4th Sunday of April
** -  2nd Sunday of June

Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops Q & A about the Judicial Council

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 00:00
Many in the church are anticipating the upcoming Judicial Council ruling on the Western Jurisdiction’s recent election of a married lesbian bishop, Bishop Karen Oliveto.  Some are hopeful the Judicial Council will rule the election unconstitutional because of the United Methodist Church’s clergy standards.  Others expect the election will be upheld as valid since the nominee was in good standing in her Annual Conference at the time of the election.  Though opinions are being offered from a variety of sources, no one will know with certainty the outcome until after the Judicial Council meets and rules on April 25-28, 2017.  This Q and A is designed to give background to help interpret the meaning of the Judicial Council decision once it is made.   

Who is the Judicial Council? 
The Judicial Council is comprised of nine members elected by the General Conference.  Their role is to ascertain the constitutionality and legality of acts or proposed acts of the General, Jurisdictional, Central and Annual Conferences in light of the most current United Methodist Book of Discipline and previous rulings of the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council rules upon requests for declaratory decisions and appeals of lower court rulings in the United Methodist Church. The 2016-2020 Judicial Council includes a balance of lay and clergy members from all over the world.

How will the Judicial Council’s decision affect the current position of The United Methodist Book of Discipline that does not allow the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals?  
The Judicial Council’s role is to interpret the constitutionality and legality of specific actions in particular circumstances as requested.  It does not have the function or authority to change The United Methodist Book of Discipline.

How will the Judicial Council’s decision affect the way the Board of Ordained Ministry, Cabinet and Bishops oversee the candidacy process, ordination and appointment of clergy here in Southeastern Jurisdiction Annual Conferences?  
The Judicial Council’s decision is about a specific case involving the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto in the Western Jurisdiction.  It will not directly impact decisions about candidacy, ordination and appointments of clergy in Southeastern Jurisdictional Annual Conferences.  

How will the Judicial Council’s decision affect the work of the Commission on a Way Forward?  
The Judicial Council’s decision will not change the mission, vision or scope of the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.   http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward-about-us

Where are the overarching standards for clergypersons defined?  
The United Methodist Book of Discipline is the result of the discernment of the General Conference, the legislative body of the United Methodist Church, which meets every four years.  The General Conference consists of between 600-1000 delegates from every geographic region of the church.  The General Conference determines rules, regulations, positions on social issues, standards for clergy and much more.  Every clergyperson takes vows at ordination to accept and uphold the United Methodist Church’s order, liturgy, doctrine and discipline.  https://gbod-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy/kintera-files/worship/2017-2020_Ordinal-FINAL.pdf

What does it mean for an Annual Conference to approve an “act of nonconformity” with The United Methodist Book of Discipline?  
Since the conclusion of the 2016 General Conference several Annual Conferences have declared they will not comply or conform with The United Methodist Book of Discipline restrictions on same-gender weddings or “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” clergy.  

Why don’t the Council of Bishops, General Conference or other church leaders take action against “nonconformist” Annual Conferences?  
The Council of Bishops and other church leaders have not been given the authority by the General Conference to hold Annual Conferences accountable for “nonconformist” actions. The General Conference has not met since the acts of noncompliance have been declared.   

Do any of my church’s apportionments go to fund the salaries of bishops in the Western Jurisdiction? 
A portion of all local church funds received by your Annual Conference for Ministerial Support are allocated to the General Church Episcopal Fund and forwarded directly to the General Council on Finance and Administration where they are credited to the Episcopal Fund.  The Episcopal Fund provides for the salary and expenses of active bishops as well as the support of retired bishops and surviving spouses and minor children of deceased bishops. 

Will the decision of the Judicial Council have any direct impact on the processing of complaints against other LGBTQ clergy facing charges in the United Methodist Church?  (LGBTQ is an acronym for persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.  Q sometimes refers to questioning).  
A decision by the Judicial Council to uphold or rule invalid the election of one bishop would not change our current procedure for processing charges faced by clergy in the United Methodist Church.  

If the Judicial Council overturns the “nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment” of Bishop Karen Oliveto, what would be the next steps? 
The position would be vacated and the Western Jurisdiction would determine how to fill the vacancy.  

How are positions on social issues determined in the United Methodist Church?
Any individual, church or agency can bring to the General Conference new legislation or proposed changes to The United Methodist Book of Discipline. Legislation is reviewed by delegates within committees during the first week of General Conference.  These committees recommend concurrence or non-concurrence, which is either accepted or rejected during plenary sessions of the General Conference.

The United Methodist church is divided in many ways, especially in our beliefs and understandings related to human sexuality.  Is it possible for us to faithfully live as one united denomination? 
In anticipation of the upcoming Judicial Council’s decision (whatever that may be), we offer the following encouragement:  The Commission on a Way Forward has met twice now and will continue to do so for two to three days approximately every six weeks between now and early 2018. We believe its work will be helpful to the church in our response to this question. The Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops urges the people in the United Methodist Church to 1) focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and 2) give time for the Commission to do its work of bringing recommendations to the proposed 2019 General Conference.   

Thank you for reading this Q & A pamphlet.  We hope it has answered some of your questions.  We encourage you to discuss other questions, concerns or ideas you have with your resident bishop. 

It is an honor to serve as a member of the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops.  Our prayer is that you and your church will continue to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

In Christ,
The Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops

GCFA Offers EZRA BAC Module Training

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 00:00
With Annual Conference season quickly approaching, GCFA is pleased to announce the launch of our Business of the Annual Conference (BAC) Module in Ezra. The new BAC module will allow you to complete the BAC online by populating the form with information populated supplied from your Ezra Database or DataSync. This new program aims to save you and your staff time and reduce duplication of effort. Best of all, there is no fee to use the module.

To help facilitate your use and experience with the BAC and the BAC Module, I will be offering several online training sessions in April.  In addition, I am happy to set up a one-on-one training session with you at a time convenient for you and your staff. 

During the training sessions, I will cover the following items: Introduction to the BAC, Introduction to the 2017-2020 Form, Using the EZRA BAC Module. 
Please click on the links below to register for the 2017 BAC training sessions.  (You can always change/cancel your registration at any time.)  Feel free to forward this to anyone else who you think would benefit from these trainings.
**Note that all sessions are in the Central Time Zone and are scheduled for 1 hour, but I will plan to answer questions for up to 30 minutes after each. 

Introduction to the BAC (Overview of the BAC for Beginners) Introduction to the 2017-2020 Form (What changes have been made this quadrennium) Using the EZRA BAC Module --coming the week of April 25th  and May 15th
Finally, I thought now would be a good time to mention that if there are other data/Ezra questions that you wish to discuss further, or if you desire other Ezra training, such as a refresher course on Ezra core, please contact me directly so we can schedule a time together. I can be reached at lsanchez@gcfa.org or  615-369-2392.   Feel free to forward this to anyone else who you think would benefit from these trainings.  
BAC Instructions 2017-2020 (.pdf)
BAC Form 2017-2020 (.doc)

Easter Resources – 2017

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 00:00
Easter Resources – April 16, 2017 The Easter Season, also known as Eastertide or the Great Fifty Days, begins on Easter Day and ends on Pentecost. Focusing on Christ's resurrection and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), Eastertide is the most joyous and celebrative season of the Christian year. We celebrate the good news that in Christ’s death and resurrection we, and all creation, are continually being made new by God’s love and saving grace.
Rethink Church: Easter and Outreach Resources 
Discipleship Ministries: Easter Resources

Wesley hymn devotions for Lent and Easter

Video: An Easter Prayer for United Methodists
UMCOM: Miracle-themed ads and resources will extend Easter invitation to seekers
Meditation on the Cross: What Do You See?
Frequently Asked Questions: Lent and Easter 
Remembering Holy Week: Celebrating Easter at Home  *Text from UMC.org  


Houston Immigrant Rights Hotline

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 00:00
Please help spread the word in your immigrant communities and organizations working with immigrants about Houston's Immigrant Rights Hotline. The hotline is staffed by volunteer attorneys from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The hotline can answer calls in ANY LANGUAGE! The hotline is a project of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the ACLU of Texas, Tahirih Justice Center, and Vinson & Elkins. 1-888-507-2970.

The goals of this hotline are to provide reliable information to the immigrant communities and to provide referrals to free/low-cost services, as well as information about hiring private attorneys, and warning about notario fraud.  Another goal of this hotline is to help organizations that might be overwhelmed with callers asking for information about family preparedness, DACA updates, and the like. Please refer callers to the hotline! Suggestion: Try transferring the call over while you have the caller on the line! 1-888-507-2970.
The hotline volunteer attorneys:
  • Give information about immigration updates
  • Give Know Your Rights information!
  • Refer callers to attorneys who may be able to help (ie: NGOs and AILA)
  • Explain how to assert one?s rights in case of a home raid
  • Give information about how to prepare a family in case of deportation
  • Help find an individual in detention
  • Explain the detention and deportation processes
  • Give information to refugees/asylees about interviews with DHS/FBI
  • And more!
  • But note: they DO NOT give individualized consultations
SPREAD THE NUMBER! 1-888-507-2970.
And if you are an attorney & want to volunteer, sign up today https://portal.makejusticehappen.org/signups/Hotline.aspx

BMCR Annual Conference Luncheon - 2017

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 00:00

The BMCR Annual Conference Luncheon for 2017 will be held May 30 at Noon in the The Woodlands UMC in The Loft worship center. Register online

See additional information about Texas Annual Conference 2017 including the full list of meals and meetings available at http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017.

2017 Hispanic Ministries Luncheon

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 00:00
2017 Hispanic Ministries Luncheon
When:  Monday, May 29, 2017 at 11:30am—1pm
Where: The Woodlands UMC, Children’s 1st-4th grade
In the LOFT building
2200 Lake Woodlands Drive                                           
The Woodlands, TX 77380 
Cost: $15
On-line registration and payment is required.
Register and pay for this event
See Flyer
2017 Almuerzo del Ministerio Hispano
Cuándo: Lunes 29 de mayo, 2017 11:30am—1:00 pm
Dónde:  The Woodlands UMC, en las aulas de 1er - 4to año del edificio LOFT
2200 Lake Woodlands Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77380 
Costo: $15
Se requiere pago y registración en línea por adelantado. 
Ver registración  
Ver Folleto

See additional information about Texas Annual Conference 2017 including the full list of meals and meetings available at http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017.

Church and Society & Religion and Race Breakfast

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 00:00
Church and Society & Religion and Race Breakfast
When: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Where: The Woodlands UMC
Children’s Activity Center
2nd floor
Cost: $12 (hot buffet breakfast)
On -line registration and payment is required.
Register and pay for this event
See Flyer

See additional information about Texas Annual Conference 2017 including the full list of meals and meetings available at http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017.

Clergy Spouse Luncheon 2017

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 00:00

Clergy Spouse Luncheon

The fee for luncheon is $17 and can be paid on-line (using a checking account, credit or debit card) on the registration site or by sending a check (made out to Heartspring) to Jill Krone at 3308 South Main St., Anahuac TX 77514.
2017 Luncheon will be held on Monday, May 29, 2017 at Asbury Hall (The Woodlands UMC).
Doors open at 11:15 am with lunch served at 11:30 am
Tickets are $17.00 per person. Scholarships are available by confidential request.
Registration and Payment Deadline: April 26, 2017
Contact Jill at 409-267-6494 or jill.krone@gmail.com with questions.

Luncheon Registration

See additional information about Texas Annual Conference 2017 including the full list of meals and meetings available at http://www.txcumc.org/tac2017.

Refugee Welcome Kits

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 00:00
Sisterhood (Congregation Beth Israel, Houston) is organizing to create welcome kits for "Houston Welcomes Refugees" as part of their Mitzvah Day. They will be collecting items in the Sisterhood gift shop until Friday, April 21 or you can bring on Sunday, April 23 and help assemble them.

Kits include basic household items to assist a refugee family in setting up their new home with basic things needed to start again.

Learn more / sign up to donate items

2017 Ignite Retreats Foster Candid "Conversations"

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
Students in 7-12th grade enjoyed February retreats at Lakeview Conference Center and Forest Glen.
What was the highlight of this year’s IGNITE Mid-winter youth camp at Lakeview? Student leader Emily Letulle asked her group and heard a half-dozen different answers. One student from Temple UMC in Port Arthur said, “Everything.” Another enjoyed "field games with Brad,” and yet another youth said, “the game with the weird name!” The “Conversations” theme provided a variety of opportunities for candid discussions, so one of the Port Arthur youth group members said he thought the best part was the “workshop breakouts, particularly the topics covering justice and barriers. It was neat to see the things that hinder our conversations and come between us as building blocks that create walls between us.” As might be expected, youth come to these events from a variety of places and bring a variety of perspectives, and perhaps leave with new ideas and thought processes. One of the girls in the youth group shared that she “really connected with our sermons and with the music.”
Sara Hinshaw Hatten, high school senior, Sunset UMC, Pasadena, shares, “It was an amazing experience in which the whole youth group got to be together. We danced, sang, and laughed all while growing stronger in our faith. It was very different because I was one of the oldest ones and I got to see a lot of people experiencing it for the first time.”
“Several of my youth told me that this year was the first time that they had such meaningful discussions in their small groups,” shares Ruth Ann Person, Youth Director at Conroe FUMC . An attendee from FUMC Pittsburg says, “I am so glad we came to this.  It gets me excited about camp." One high school student says, “I loved the down to earth and heartfelt worship that helped me deepen my faith and connection to my Christian brothers and sisters.”
“We had an incredible time at Ignite retreats this year! It was great to connect with old friends, engage with some new churches, and share this faith journey with youth from New Boston to Beaumont.  It is a privilege to bear witness to students worshiping together, connecting to one another, and the retreat sparking part of their discipleship journey,” says Eddie Erwin, TAC Director of Youth & Young Adults. “Thank you to everyone who helped make the retreat a success through worship, leadership, writing materials, and workshops. I pray that you are having some amazing conversations, especially as Bishop Jones reminded us to, "offer graceful acceptance and listening to others throughout our conversations.”
One of the high school girls describes one of Ignite’s highlight experiences saying, “I loved small group and how we really got to be in fellowship with one another,” she shares. “Connecting with other youth from outside my church is always refreshing.”
Bradley Doherty, Lakeview Director of Program and Ministry says, "Lakeview was so thankful to once again host Ignite for the Texas Annual Conference.  It's always amazing to see so many kids come together from different churches to participate in worship, small groups and make new friendships."

Bishop Jones and Committee on Faith and Order Seek Feedback on a New Resource

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
Bishop Jones encourages clergy and laity to engage in a new small group study and complete feedback forms that will guide next steps toward the 2020 General Conference.
Knowing that the nature of The United Methodist Church is currently a hot topic, The Committee on Faith and Order has developed a resource to facilitate that conversation, entitled, "Wonder, Love, and Praise: Sharing a Vision of the Church." According to Bishop Scott Jones, who chairs the committee, this study seeks to capture how our United Methodist tradition shapes our understanding of the ministry and mission of Christ's body, the Church.
“The General Conference approved a church-wide study of this document and a feedback process to help our committee perfect it.,” shares Bishop Jones. “We are hoping that a large number of clergy and laity will read the paper or engage in the provided small group study and complete our feedback forms. It would be most helpful if we could receive that feedback during 2017. We will be using those responses to prepare a revision for submission to the 2020 General Conference.”
The Committee on Faith and Order is encouraging active bishops to work with each General Conference delegation to conduct such a study with as many participants as possible. Retired bishops have also been asked to convene a group where they are, in order to study the material. Introductory videos, a small group study guide, feedback forms and the document itself can all be found at www.umc.org/CFOWonderLovePraise.
“There is a 4½ minute orientation video that can be shown to explain the process,” adds Bishop Jones. “This is the first video displayed on the website and will also be shown at our annual conference this year to introduce clergy and lay delegates to the document and study process.”
If you have questions, you can contact the Bishop by email, or contact the Ecumenical Staff Officer for Faith and Order, Dr. Kyle R. Tau at ktau@umc-cob.org.

Delegates Prepare to Learn and Share at 2017 Annual Conference

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
“Unified” is the theme for this year’s conference at The Woodlands UMC from May 28-31.
After several years in Downtown Houston, delegates will go to a new location, use a new app that greatly reduces the need for paper, and enjoy “TAC Talks,” similar to the popular corporate “TED talks” by some of our own ministry experts. No worries, however, Wi-Fi is readily available in this year’s location, so if you are not physically attending the 2017 Annual Conference at The Woodlands UMC May 28-31, you can tune in for live streaming of all the main events. This provides a basic introduction to the 2017 conference.
To save over $35,000 on printing costs for the pre-conference journal and worship guides, worship leaders Craig Gilbert and Michael Vaughn have recommended delegates access information before and during the conference via the Guidebook app. It will include maps of the venue, restaurant lists, hotel information, social media links, and even a community photo album. More information on how to access and use this new tool will be given at the pre-conference meetings. 
This year’s conference host church is 30 miles north of Downtown Houston, provides ample parking and convenience to hotels and a number of restaurants within walking distance. Registration is done through district offices; registrations are also needed for childcare and hotels.
“This is our first year to go paperless,” notes TAC Communications Director Paula Arnold, “and our first year to host a session featuring three TAC Talks targeting a specific topic with a 20-minute presentation.” These speakers and topics include Rev. David Dorn on the topic of social media, Pam Fulbright-Scheyer, of Crossroads at Park Place on answering God’s call as a lay person, and Cassandra Nunez of Galena Park UMC, speaking on outreach to the changing mission field.
This year’s ordination speaker is Bishop Scott J. Jones for the worship service Tuesday, May 30 at 7:00 pm. Delegates will be voting on five resolutions from General Conference. The rationale and specific wording can be viewed here.
Youth-Focused Activities
Sunday, May 28 - Youth groups will gather for Food, Fellowship and Worship at "The Loft/Student Ministry" area from 4-6 for meals and merriment and then transition over to the main campus for worship.  
Monday, May 29 - Young Adult (25-35) Dinner at Christ Church UMC from 5-7pm and Younger Adult (12-25) event from 8:15-9:30 at The Woodlands UMC.
Tuesday, May 30 - Youth Worker Lunch at Escalante's (1900 Hughes Landing Blvd. # 100 The Woodlands Texas, 77380) at 11:30. This is a great (self-pay) opportunity to fellowship with other youth workers. RSVP to TAC Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministries Eddie Erwin by 5/28.
“Since some school districts are out by the time of Annual Conference this year, we're inviting some youth to apply to be delegates this year,” adds Eddie. Check out more info and applications.  Activities are also available for the children of delegates. 

Feast of Chocolate Connects Methodists and Muslims

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
Ladies in a Katy FUMC Bible study have found much in common with new friends from a Sugar Land mosque, including the love of chocolate.
After reading a book about Christianity and world religions by Rev. Adam Hamilton, a ladies Bible study group from Katy FUMC thought it would be interesting to tour a local mosque. “We wanted to know more about Islam,” shares Rev. Sandra Smith, retired clergy and former District Superintendent. “Our pastor, Rev. Dick White set up a tour with the ecumenical officer of Maryam Islamic Center and went with us one day to expand our understanding of another religion.” According to Sandra, the group arrived an hour early and wandered in to find a group of young women. “They greeted us like old friends,” she says, “and after our tour, provided us refreshments, , brochures and answers to our questions.”
One of those women was Romana Zaman, who is grateful for the experiences that followed. “Our seemingly accidental meeting one wonderful morning was to become the beginning of a cherished friendship. From that first sweet encounter, the ladies of First United Methodist Church of Katy have, time after time, exuded such warmth and kindness,” she says. “We are friends united by our love for God. What a sweet friendship it is,” adds Nabila Ansari.
When the Methodists invited the Muslim ladies to Katy FUMC for lunch, new friendships were immediately underway. “The more we talked and shared each others’ lives and worship spaces, the more we discovered we have in common,” adds Sandra. The group learned that the two Muslim feasts (Eids) are Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as God commanded him. 
  “After we learned about the Eids,” Sandra explains, “one of the ladies suggested we host an Eid or Feast of Chocolate, a festival we invented to honor something we have in common -- our favorite flavor!” “And after all,” adds Rev. Dick White "Chocolate is the universal language of us all."  
By the time the festival arrived in March, the group had grown to over 50 ladies of all ages. “Thinking of that day puts a smile on my face,” adds Nabila Mansoor. “There is just something so beautiful about joining with other women simply for the love of God and one another. Who knew a scheduling error would lead to such a beautiful friendship with our First Methodist friends? It is blessing I never knew I needed but happy to have bestowed upon me,” shares Fatima Mukhtar.
Notes Sandra, “The Eid of Chocolate was a celebration of universal sisterhood, fun -- and gratitude for chocolate!” Special music, decorations, inspiring words from Rev. Dick White and an array of scrumptious chocolate delights made for a memorable feast. Nishaat Ismail adds, “I am grateful for Katy United Methodist for embracing us with love and chocolate -- truly heartwarming. We Muslim sisters look forward to returning the kind gesture.” Tina Chadha adds, “The Feast of Chocolate was such a sweet treat! Thank you for your gracious hospitality and for always standing up for our community in these turbulent times. Your friendship means the world to us and I hope we continue to learn from each other, promote peace and understanding and work together to serve the less fortunate in our Houston community.”
Promoting Peace
Initial skepticism and fear vanished when the two groups met and mingled. Notes Ellen Hooks, "Sharing in the Feast of Chocolate with our Muslim friends continues to reinforce the fact that we are more alike than different...Praise God for showing us the way to accept and love each other!" The new friendships are impacting Susan Scheck in many positive ways, as well. “Sharing chocolate, our faith stories and our families with these wonderful Muslim women has profoundly changed my life. Each encounter encourages us to realize that even with our differences we can still be friends and help each other,” Susan shares. “This has truly been a blessing from God.”
“We’ve shared meals, held their precious babies and become fast friends,” adds Sandra. This newly formed interfaith sisterhood is now planning a service project together next month. Adds Romana, “We have celebrated our similarities as we have our differences with honor, respect, and curiosity. I believe our meeting was part of God’s greater plan to join women of two faiths in friendship. I am so looking forward to our shared service project, Lunches of Love, where Methodist and Muslim women will join to serve those less fortunate. You have reached out to us in some terribly challenging and heavy times.  Your words and support were peace and ease.  Thank you for being so awesome!”

Ministry Partners Help Churches Stay Vital and Relevant

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 00:00
Some three years ago, Willie and Bernadette Blair creatde the Southwest Glen Mission under the leadership of Covenant Glen UMC. Since then it has been set up as a 501c3 organization that brings ministry to local underserved children and families in apartment complexes in southwest Houston.
When Methodists are involved, ministry is often ‘mobile.’ The leaders behind the launch of Southwest Glen Mission knew the children and families in nearby apartments were at risk in several critical ways, so they have been literally “delivering” life-changing ministry resources to the apartment complexes on a weekly basis for the last several years. While children are the main focus, parents are also served by receiving greater peace of mind knowing their kids are receiving academic support, nutritious food, spiritual education and a great deal of love. Youth and their parents have access to education, counseling and referral services – on site.
All families expressing an interest in further spiritual growth are encouraged to join in worship and Bible study, or to participate in local church activities. Many of the family’s needs are addressed through the children to improve their education, communication, and spiritual direction.
Executive Director and Founder Willie Blair says, “With our supporters, our ministry partnership reaches an estimated 2,000 children in low-income families annually by providing much needed homework assistance and tutoring for multi-cultural, inner-city youth from ages 5 to 18 years old,” he says. Many of these youth are at-risk youth living in single parent homes. In this video, Bernadette Blair admits that her passion for this ministry grows much stronger with each passing year. “It is an incredible blessing to give children and families the resources to do well in life,” she shares.
Bridging to the Community
Ministry partners such as Southwest Glen Mission give churches an opportunity to bridge to the community. This organization blends a cross section of church members and community residents. There are four Covenant Glen UMC members on the board and at least four active member volunteers working alongside leaders from eight area corporations, several dozen from area universities, and several pre-med students. The ministry also benefits from the energetic volunteer service of a dozen or more apartment residents.
The mission’s Board of Directors operates as a hands-on, active group of leaders helping to staff the programs. Southwest Mission benefits from the help of certified teachers from various local ISD’s and trained volunteers from the community.
“Not only do we provide homework and educational assistance, we work to promote literacy via the Children’s Reading Library, and spiritual education,” adds Willie. “The WAM ministry (“What about me”) facilitates physical and emotional health for young women in the area of health awareness.” The “STEM” program reinforces science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and spiritual education is threaded in all that they do, particularly the Kids KLUB (Kids Learning Unity Biblically). 
“Southwest Glen Mission is conscious of the changing demographics in our service area, and is committed to enlarging and adapting our Mission to meet the emerging needs of the youth – right where they are located,” adds Willie. “As a result of Southwest Glen Mission’s involvement on site, participating students’ grades have improved, juvenile criminal activity has been reduced and gang related activities at the complex have decreased. Our overall goal is to have each apartment resident understand their purpose by sharing commonalities through education and friendship to enhance the communities in which they live.”
Recent Activities: Mission in Action
Volunteers took a group of girls to see the movie Hidden Figures and to NASA for an inspiring fun filled day. Adds Bernadette, “I think we have a few up and coming engineers and astronauts among us!”
Pre-Med student volunteers from the Texas Medical Center recently gave back to the community by helping with Homework assistance, Children's Reading Library and the outstanding "STEM" program headed by world-traveled engineers. Also planned for 2017, summer camp in July and a back-to-school backpack drive in August.
“SWGM’s greatest need is to have a central location to address needs in additional apartments in Southwest Houston,” adds Willie, “along with our ongoing need for volunteers and donations for programs and the STEM program.” The ministry’s greatest reward, is to physically see the children’s successes come to fruition. “This is the most exciting and rewarding experience imaginable,” Willie shares, “to witness growth and the uncontainable smiles and enthusiasm of both the child and parent as their children improve in grades and communication. Success on this scale fuels our ambition to expand the growth of Southwest Glen Mission tenfold.”