June 14, 2013
UM Women join the movement to unify

Conference women join together in special worship service
in San Antonio
By Rachel L. Toalson
Managing Editor

Terry Schoenert (right), president of the Southwest Texas Conference UM Women, waits to begin a special UMW Sunday at St. Paul UMC, San Antonio. Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Conference women joined in the special worship service together.

Clad in bright white dresses, United Methodist Women from the Southwest Texas and Río Grande
Conferences joined together May 19 inside the sanctuary of St. Paul UMC, San Antonio, to embrace the ministry of unification.

Raquel Mariscal, president of the Río Grande conference’s United Methodist Women, brought greetings from her conference’s women, who sat near the front of the historical church.

Terry Schoenert, president of the Southwest Texas Conference UMW, spoke during the event, sharing about her time on the Unification Steering Team, which to both annual conferences during last year’s annual conference sessions.

She began her speech by encouraging the women to be the change they want to see in the world.

“We need to learn to show justice and love to those we don’t know, in our neighborhoods and in our lives,” Schoenert said. “Our predecessors and mercy. We are organized as women for change, and we, as the UMW, need to be the change.

United Methodist Women at St. Paul UMC, San Antonio, take an offering during a special joint worship service between the Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conference women.

“We are the catalysts of change in the world.”

She told the audience that a few years ago, just before she became the conference UMW president, she retired from many years of working at the United Methodist Center. Soon after retirement, her husband feel off the roof of their church—she was able to nurse him back to health because of her newly gained time.

While he was in recovery in the hospital, her husband connected with a man who was also in recovery— a man who spoke little English. Her husband spoke little Spanish, but they were able to communicate when Scripture was opened between them. When her husband was discharged, the Spanish man was going around to other rehabilitation patients and talking to them of God’s love and mercy.

“God puts us in places we never knew we’d be, to do things we don’t think we can do,” Schoenert said. “But God can do them.”

She said unification is one of those places.

During her time on the steering team, a friend told her that if the women of the church were not for unification, it would never happen.

“UMW is for this, and we’re bringing it forward,” she said.

Recently, she added, seven women from the Río Grande Conference met with leaders from the Southwest Texas Conference at Mt. Wesley to discuss the unification of the groups and what it might possibly look like in the new Río Texas Conference.

“Unification will lead us into the future, which will allow the Río Texas Conference to serve the community,” Schoenert said. “We have to give up who we are at the conference levels, but from that sorrow and with that change comes new life. We want to create a world of peace, where all are welcome and there’s justice for all. We can move in this new direction.

“We will remember our legacies of the past. Think about the legacies that each conference will bring. Our forefathers gave us great things for the future. We are in this together as we move toward unification. As we work together in mission outside these walls, we work as the Church. We are working for peace and justice and showing God’s love.”

Why I am a United Methodist today

Friends, below you will find the text of the article I wrote for the blog of the Connectional Table. We were each asked to submit an answer to the question, “Why I am a United Methodist today?” This is my response. What would yours be?

I am a United Methodist today for two reasons. I can explain one in fairly short order. The other takes a bit more unpacking.

First, I am a United Methodist today because I’ve been one all my life and I am not about to change now. I was born into a parsonage family. Graduated from high school, went to a United Methodist university, then to a United Methodist seminary, then on to my first full-time appointment. I’ve been at work ever since. I was born a Methodist. I will die a United Methodist. Simplistic and shallow? Perhaps, but true.

Second, I am a United Methodist today because I observe and experience the presence and working of the Holy Spirit among us. Not everywhere, not all the time, but often and unmistakably. In my current corner of the church I see committed faithful persons, lay and clergy, engaged in lifechanging ministries. Their lives are being changed and the lives of those they encounter are being changed. Sacrificial leadership is being offered at every level of the church. Not by everyone, not all the time, not perfectly, but faithfully. I am continually humbled and awed to witness it and experience it. The risen Christ is among us.

Believe it or not, there are United Methodists all over the connection who are urgently seeking the will of the Spirit and are anxiously, expectantly and courageously following after it. There are some individuals, churches and institutions near literal and/or spiritual death. But many of those folks, churches and institutions are earnestly seeking new life, while at the same time being willing to accept death as a part of life. I have even seen large groups of faithful people be willing to offer themselves up for institutional death in order for new life to emerge. Wow!

We United Methodists can be a committed, thoughtful, faithful and Spirit-filled bunch of folks, though not all of us all the time. But many of us some of the time. I have seen it and experienced it myself.

I am not ashamed to say that my United Methodist brothers and sisters have brought me to tears more than once, recently. The United Methodist Church is in the process of transforming itself and the world into Christ’s likeness. It is a work in progress. The Spirit is leading us, I do believe.

To tell you the truth, the Spirit is continuing to transform me, through the United Methodist Church. I want it, I need it, I am a work in progress and I can’t stop now. Thanks be to God for The United Methodist Church.

A ‘Be Still’ moment in the midst of busy, busy times

Rio Grande ConferenceBusy, busy times. Yes—it is time to gather once again for annual conference. As faithful church folk, this is a time of preparation and for some, even transition. For those who have attended many of these conferences, it is a time for connecting with friends, a time for spiritual renewal and a time to receive, discuss and discern church business. For those new to this scene, this “big meeting” might be a bit disorienting, overwhelming and exciting, and it is definitely a learning experience. Whatever it may be, it is time to gather again.

The annual conference perhaps might also be an opportune moment to simply “be still.” Psalms 46:10 says: “Be still, and know that I am God.” For me, this scripture always seems to come to mind when I find myself in the midst of “busy-ness” and life’s challenges. It is a word that calms me and calls me to just be still and remember that God is in control.

As we gather for annual conference, could this be a moment to “be still” and listen intently to what God might say to us through the various movements and moments of annual conference? For those gathering, in “connecting the dots” through the presentations, information and perhaps even inspiration, what picture might emerge before us? What pictures, images or impressions received from this annual conference might be taken back home to share with others in our local church and the communities we are called to serve? Photographs are images of still moments. With every picture, there is a story to tell.

As we gather for annual conference, this one will present pictures, images, or impressions of our possible future as United Methodist servants and stewards of God and his kingdom work here on earth. It may be perplexing, cause awe and wonder, or even fear and trembling, or perhaps all of the above - happening at the same time within us - perhaps a moment to “be still”.

Annual conference is a moment in the life of The United Methodist Church that was founded by John Wesley as noted: During his first five years of itinerancy, from 1739 to 1744, 45 preachers, including three or four clergymen, had gathered round Wesley. The lay preachers maintained themselves by working at their secular callings in the intervals of their journeys. There is no record of the total membership in England, but in London alone there were 2,000 members. The class meeting was fully developed, the Rules of the United Societies printed and enforced, the quarterly visitation of the classes arranged for, lay preaching instituted, places of worship secured and the sacraments administered. And all this had been done apart from Episcopal authority or control. Five years after the formation of the first society class the first Conference was held in London, in 1744. Its purely incidental character is indicated by the quiet record in Wesley’s journal, where “Conference” is spelled with a small “c”: “Monday, August 25, and the five following days, we spent in conference with many of our brethren, come from several parts, who desire nothing but to save their own souls and those that hear them.”

From: http://wesley.nnu.edu/johnwesley/ john-wesley-the-methodist/ chapter-xiii-in-conference-with-thepreachers.

Luke 10 is a passage that excites me. The passage could be seen as a parallel to the ebb and flow of the mission and ministry of the church—being sent out to have presence with those who have yet to hear or personally experience the Gospel message and then coming together to give account of what the workers have experienced in and through those moments.

The account reads: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

One might even interpret the return of the 72 and their reports to Christ as an annual conference “be still” moment. The 72 returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

May these annual conferences be a time that the Lord paints a glorious, awesome picture for us to embrace as we move into the future. Be still!

Vital Congregations provides assessment tool for churches
By Rachel L. Toalson
Managing Editor

In the process of transformation, churches have no shortage of what can help them on their way to reaching communities in more effective ways.

For El Mesias UMC, Floresville, the program that has helped most is Vital Congregations, a program that emerged after the Call to Action by the bishops of The United Methodist Church, which indicated a lack of measures and accountability within the church.

“One of the challenges for churches when they go through processes like this is we want a quick fix, quick results,” said Abel Vega, director of connectional ministries and congregational development for the Río Grande Conference. “So there are many processes that are available that some of the Río Grande churches have engaged in.

“Vital Congregations looks at congregational vitality, so when a congregation begins to ask itself what does it mean to be vital, it really begins to put itself in a learning position. They begin to look in a mirror and examine themselves: what do we look like from the outside looking in? Who is my neighbor? Who is the mission field?”

Eva Ortiz, chairperson of the council at El Mesias UMC, said the program has already had some results in the church, even though it was begun about two years ago— although deep change takes time.

“Everyone is motivated to do more,” Ortiz said. “We’re having prayer in people’s houses. We all witness when we can. We’re growing first spiritually and then we’re growing financially.

“This is not something that’s going to happen in four months; this is maybe five years in the making.”

Ortiz said the congregation has tried a few programs, but Vital Congregations has been the most effective for their particular DNA.

“I can see change,” she said. “We can see the change in us. The people have grown in their faith. People who would never speak in front of others are participating more. There’s growth everywhere.”

Vital Congregations is based on research that says churches experience four primary areas of effectiveness:

Engagement of disciples in small groups (including youth ministries and children)

High percentage of the congregation serving as lay leaders who are effective, demonstrate personal faith and rotate leadership

Lead pastors who focus on developing, coaching and mentoring lay leaders, are influential, goal-setters who inspire the congregation through preaching and have a longer tenure in that congregation

Worship that is contextual, mixed and relevant.

Program leaders say the denomination is in need of more “turn-around” leaders and that it has an “adverse reaction and a fear of metrics as a means of accountability.” The denomination, they say, also harbors a “serious lack of trust across the denomination” and “has not been effective in reaching marginally churched and non-churched people.”

The metrics of the program include setting goals to reach the vision of becoming a more vital and healthy congregation based upon five measurable indicators of vitality: worship attendance, professions of faith, number of small groups, number of disciples doing outreach in the community and the world and amount of financial resources given to the mission.

Vital Congregations begins with an assessment of health of every congregation. Then experts help leaders set goals that will lead to future health and vitality for each individual congregation. The goals are collected and reported by the annual conference.

Leaders with the program encourage churches to know their congregation’s story—a past that affects where they are today. Vital Congregations, according to the program, are “spirit-filled, forward-leaning communities of believers that welcome all people,” “places where disciples of Jesus Christ are made through the power of the holy spirit” and “communities that serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries.”

Vega said the many programs available all have the same goal in mind: to make churches minister more effectively.

“Vital Congregations just serves as an additional resource for churches,” Vega said. “Or a beginning resource, depending on what might be happening in the congregation.”

Vines and Branches Conexión: local church, collegiates
By Debbie Buchanan
SWTX Board of Higher Education

It’s transition time again for college campuses everywhere. Students are graduating and moving out of dorms, making room for freshmen preparing to embark on a new college experience in the 2013-2014 school year. Our United Methodist Campus Ministries are engaged in connecting with students and to be the church visible and welcoming in the midst of the conversion.

Each local congregation is invited to participate in the Vines and Branches Conexión. This initiative encourages congregations to submit the names of their graduating high school seniors to UM campus ministers at that student’s chosen institution of higher learning. Each student is offered a healthy choice in connecting to a new faith community. Each young adult student has the opportunity to be a part of a vibrant, life-giving campus ministry while away at school. Vines and Branches Conexión instructions and forms can be downloaded at http://www.umcswtx. org/highereducation- campus.

We must all strive to work toward the goal of a smooth transition for all young adults while away from their home church family. The church visible and welcoming on each campus is of vital, life-saving importance. The presence of the church through the committed persons who lead our campus ministries is critical to the development of church leaders and followers for the kingdom of God. Through United Methodist presence on the campus, young adult lives will be shaped and molded for Jesus Christ in ways that will affect the future of our world and our church.

Please pray for all college students and for those who lead our campus ministries. Please participate in this simple initiative called Vines and Branches Conexión. Pray that through our church’s presence on the campus, the Spirit of God will be enabled to touch every soul and circumstance, and that the response will be great!

100-year-old man uniquely honored by Texas Senate
By Mike Blackwell
Special Contributor

On the weekend of his 100th birthday, A.B. Perez returns to the Texas StateCapitol, where he courted his wife of 67 years.

A.B. Perez first came to the Texas state Capitol building early in the 20th century, a young man carrying with him hope and energy and determination. And the love of a woman. And on May 20 of this year, long after he strolled the grounds of the Capitol with his future wife of 67 years, the once young man returned as an aged yet able man of 100. He spent the morning on the chamber floor of the Texas Senate, where he heard his daughter give the invocation prior to that day’s Session, and where he heard a senator honor him for all that he has done.

Yet another good day in the long and service-filled life of A.B. Perez.

Perez was uniquely honored after his daughter, the Rev. Margot Perez- Greene, associate pastor of Tarrytown UMC, Austin, received an invitation from Sen. Kirk Watson’s office to give the invocation.

“I was sitting in my bed reading e-mail, and I had just gotten back from a church class,” Perez-Greene recalled. “The Senator’s office asked me if I would do the invocation and By Mike Blackwell Special Contributor I said, ‘Sure, that’s the day after my dad’s 100th birthday.’ They quickly wanted to know more about my dad, and became more interested in my father and his story.”

His story is fascinating, to say the least. He came to Austin with his mother as a boy in the 1920s, following the death of his father at a young age. Soon it was apparent—after gaining about a third grade level education— that he had to work to help his still-young mother. As a young man, dating was not allowed, and so the Capitol grounds became his meeting place when courting Susie Mendez, who someday would become Susie Mendez Perez, his wife of 67 years. One can comfortably assume the two spoke of dreams as they walked among the Capitol trees some 75-80 years ago. Many of those dreams—against long odds—came true.

He became a salad chef, working at various cafeterias in the city and quickly gained a reputation as a hard worker and a dedicated Christian. He first became a member of Emmanuel UMC, where he remains a member some 88 years later, when he was 12 years old. And the man with a third grade education raised five daughters— educated, high achievers, all— and became a living example of the good that comes from hard work coupled with ample doses of faith and generous love.

“Dad has always been enthralled with the Capitol—that’s where he courted my mother—and so it was a very special day for him,” Perez- Greene said of his senate appearance. “This place holds a very special place in his heart, and to be here when he is 100 years old is huge.”

Perez-Greene said the example her father set was planted deep and strong within his daughters.

“We had a tremendous upbringing from my father and my mother,” said Perez-Greene, whose mother died in 1988. “He was destined and determined for us to be contributing members of society. He worked with all kinds of people, and he taught us that all work, no matter what you do, is noble. He taught us to accept all people, to love all people and to realize that all people are made by God.”

Perez still lives in the house he’s always lived in, though his daughters run errands for him and do his driving. And according to Perez-Greene, her dad continues to thrive.

“His humor is still good, and he’s a big baseball fan,” Perez-Greene says. “He can tell you who won the baseball game. He worships every Sunday and still dresses himself. He reads the newspapers. He’s very happy.”

Perez-Greene said the senate appearance was the last of three huge events for the family on that particular weekend, the first two being Pentecost and the second being the baptism of family members.

“I preached the sermon that Sunday, and he was just beaming,” said Perez-Greene, who was beaming herself. “He just kept shaking his head. This is a man who, with a third grade education, taught himself to read and never missed a day of work, educated five women, took us on vacations and here he was in the middle of a huge family, and he didn’t have to say a word.

“For him, this was his goal, his wish, his dreams all coming true. You could tell that he knew that he could go tomorrow and know that the next generation of his Christian family would carry on.”

UM Reporter closes down for financial reasons

Finding no viable plan for reversing financial losses of recent months, UMR Communications ceased operations on May 31.

UMR Communications (UMRC) publishes the United Methodist Reporter in print and digital formats and online, and provides printing and communication services to churches and other nonprofits.

The final Reporter printed June 7.
The UMRC board reluctantly but unanimously voted to close during a tearful meeting at the nonprofit’s Dallas office.

“At one time, our ministry produced nearly 300 separate editions of the newspaper which integrated content created by our news staff with content provided by church and conference partners,” said Tom Palmer, board chair. “That number has decreased over the past 10- 15 years due to changes in publishing technology. The financial crisis of 2008 had a significant impact on both individuals and institutions. Local church and conference finances were also severely affected. As a result, a growing number of churches and conferences either ceased publishing Reporter editions or changed their publishing frequency. We now no longer receive enough revenue from our publishing and printing operations to sustain the overhead needed to maintain the ministry.”

Closure cost the jobs of the 26 remaining employees, including some with more than 40 years of service. Thirteen others were laid off near the end of 2012.

Alan Heath, CEO since August 2011, said the ministry had struggled financially for several years. But the late 2012 loss of a major contract—for printing, as well as for warehousing and shipping curriculum materials—reduced revenue by about 40 percent.

Reporter editions declined to 45, though UMRC has continued to print other newspapers, as well as doing a variety of specialty printing.

Since the beginning of the year, efforts to cut costs while seeking new income could not keep the ministry in the black. Heath noted that UMRC has operated as a fee-for-service ministry, with no strong donor base and no direct support from the United Methodist Church.

In recent days, various organizational alternatives were explored internally and with friends of the ministry, Heath said, but closure became the only realistic step.

“There was no solution that didn’t involve red ink,” he told board members.

CircuitWriter Media LLC announced June 5 that it has entered into an agreement with UMR Communications Inc. to purchase the rights and digital assets of the United Methodist Reporter (UMR) with the intention of continuing the work of UMR on the Internet and through other digital means. This will allow the website UnitedMethodistReporter. com to continue into the future, with the hope of continuing to have independent source for United Methodist- oriented news and commentary.

UnitedMethodistReporter.com had been in danger of shutting down in the wake of last month’s announcement by UMR Communications Inc. that it would cease operations due to the ongoing burden of their overhead and print operations. This announcement spurred CircuitWriter Media partners Charles Harrison, Gavin Richardson, and Jay Voorhees to examine the online presence of the Reporter and to create a plan for allowing the digital side of UMR to continue. This plan was presented to the Executive Committee of UMR Communications Inc., which was charged with closing down the business. The committee approved the decision to sell the rights and digital assets to CircuitWriter Media.

“Once the decision was made for UMR Communications to cease operations, I have been praying that the ministry of the Reporter as an independent entity in service to the church would emerge,” said Alan Heath, UMR CEO, after the Executive Committee decision was made. “The proposal by Circuit- Writer Media was an answer to prayer. I along with the Executive Committee of our Board of Directors applaud these dedicated communicators for taking up the challenge.”

Under their plan, The United Methodist Reporter and The MethoBlog will become divisions of CircuitWriter Media LLC, and will continue to operate with different functions.

Unification was originally Jesus’ idea

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” John 17.20-21 When Jesus speaks, people should listen.

When Jesus tells us what he is praying for, we might want to take notes and write this one down! It makes me think this is kind of important to the church.

In John 17, Jesus prays to his Heavenly Father for unity. Unity for the Church. Unity for all believers. Unity for God’s people to be one with God Himself. Unity among us, just as there is a one-ness between Jesus and the Father.

Our forthcoming unification just happened to come to mind as I was reading this passage. This Scripture, I believe, applies as much to us today as it did 2,000 years ago when Jesus spoke it to his followers. “I pray that they might all be one...so that the world will believe you sent me.”

The purpose of unity isn’t just for unity sake. It’s not so we can all have warm fuzzies and sing our favorite songs around the camp fire. It’s not so we might build bigger churches or even expand our political, social or economic influence. Obviously, unity, according to Jesus in verse 21, is so the world may “believe” in Jesus.

The purpose of unity is so Christ’s mission and message might be made known. Let me say that again. The purpose of unity is so Christ’s mission and message might be made known. It is our aim that our public witness to non-believers might convince them that Christ is the way to abundant and eternal life. The goal of unity is for us to share our stories about Jesus to those who are hurting, that they might find redemptive salvation in Christ alone. Jesus came to seek and save what was lost. He came to heal the sick, redeem the sinners and make God’s name famous once again.

Yet how can we maintain unity if our own purpose is clouded or if our agendas supersede the message of the Gospel? How will the world know Christ if they do not see a unified Church serving, loving and offering grace to a world lost and sin-sick? The truth is, they can’t and they won’t.

In order for us to achieve unity we must be unified in a single purpose and mission of making disciples of Christ and teaching them to obey every teaching of Jesus (Matthew 28). In order to achieve unity we must believe the Bible, hold fast to the Discipline and cling to the Wesleyan mandate of “the world is my parish.”

I love this prayer of unity in John 17 that Jesus prays to his Father because it gives me hope that unity within The “United” Methodist Church might one day come to pass. That we might be a representation of God’s love, power and grace, and that people might find life through the Son and unity among this Body of Believers who bear his name.

Therefore, Church, let’s strive for unity rather than division. Let’s seek the highest call of a disciple of Jesus Christ by letting the whole world about a God who loves all equally and calls all into a saving relationship with His son Jesus Christ.

New missional faith community in San Antonio

By Rachel L. Toalson
Managing Editor

Corredor de Esperanza, a collection of urban San Antonio churches, has launched a new missional faith community. The group meets in public places most often, including Blue Star Brewery on the South side of the city.

Surrounded by vintage bikes suspended from the walls and ceiling, burrowed deep in the hum of restaurant conversations, gathered round a comfortably crowded wooden table sits about a dozen people.

They look much like an ordinary family, come here to the Blue Star Brewery near the art district of San Antonio, the children who could be grandchildren, the young adults who could be parents, the gray-haired who could be grandparents.

But this meeting, in an upper room of a busy San Antonio bistro, represents the church.

The missional faith community is the newest venture under the umbrella of Corredor de Esperanza, a collection of urban San Antonio churches in the South part of town. The Rev. Bob Clark, lead pastor of Corredor de Esperanza, and Wesley Craig, newly appointed community pastor charged with missional community development, credit each other with helping develop the vision for the new faith community, which builds its foundation on small group relationships.

The vision, Clark said, involves planting 30 small missional communities in South San Antonio that will be united as a single church but one without walls.

In the beginning

Clark met Craig while the latter, former mission and outreach coordinator for Baptist Temple, San Antonio, was volunteering at the food pantry at Highland Terrace UMC, one of the Corredor’s churches. In their first conversation, Clark said, the two joked about starting a church together.

“I’m pretty sold on the idea that the only way you can reach people is by forming relationships with them,” Clark said. “You can’t do it through events, and you can’t do it by having the best music or whatever. You gotta get to know people, and the best way you can do that is in small groups.”

They took their proposal for missional communities as a different approach to church to the Rev. Ruben Saenz, director of New Church Development and Transformation for the Southwest Texas Conference.

Saenz agreed that their plan had much promise.

“A lot of people are looking for a community to do life with, to talk about spiritual things,” Saenz said. “They still consider themselves Christian. They are still interested in how God is going to work outside the walls of the church, and they want to partner with God in his redemptive and healing work. But for some reason or another, they’re not ready to engage with an established congregation.”

Clark and Craig have begun the first community, which includes, on any given week, a dozen to 20 people. Clark, ideally, would like to keep the number of each group to 12, and no more than 20, so he anticipates another community starting in the next few months.

The group meets in local restaurants and sometimes houses—although members are committed to meeting in public places, Clark said. Members are encouraged to attend another Corredor de Esperanza church gathering, for the larger body fellowship, at least a few times a month.

“We’re taking a different approach,” Clark said. “If you think of the church as the people, then, yes, we are planting a church. But it’s not going to look the same.”

The practical side
The community is funded by New Church Development, the San Antonio District and a cooperative Baptist fellowship.

Saenz said the community will be expected to meet certain requirements for new church status, including:

Members will be in covenant with one another, and they’ll meet regularly for worship, including the celebration of sacraments.

People will be involved in an intentional system for spiritual formation and discipleship development.

The perspective will be theologically Wesleyan, and members will pour out their energy in mission to and with the community.

It will meet regularly for teaching and practice of Biblical stewardship and remain connected and accountable to The United Methodist Church.

As is expected for all new churches, Saenz said the community within Corredor will be expected to have a plan for financial solvency.

Back to roots
What they’re doing, Clark said, is not anything new. The model comes from John Wesley, as well as many other missional communities throughout the country, and what he established in England.

The missional community comes together around a particular mission, Clark said, and it stays together as long as that mission is viable and needs to be done. The new community does service projects, including attending the First Friday event, a monthly art showcase held on the streets of South San Antonio and handing out flowers and blessings.

Members of a new missional faith community in San Antonio meet for faith discussions in a home for on the South side of the city.

“Even though it seems like nothing, it touched people,” Clark said. “And the people who participated in it want to do it again.”

Picking a missional target is important for those communities, Saenz said.

“Whether it’s a school or a neighborhood or an apartment complex or a cultural group, it’s not just community transformation. It also causes inward spiritual transformation of people. They are, in a way, incarnating the gospel through daily living, so their discipleship is not compartmentalized from life.”

A future model?
Saenz said missional communities will be popping up in the Southwest Texas Conference and others more in the future because they are “an access point to help people not yet engaged with Jesus Christ or the Church to have an experience of Christian community in a setting that is natural to them,” in their “third place.”

“It used to be that the church was the third place,” Saenz said. “There was family and work, and then the third place. Today it’s little league fields and movie theaters. If you’re going to connect with people, you’ve got to connect in their new third places.

“Simply just adapting or repurposing that time to incorporate a spiritual conversation, that is a way to help people take the next steps in their Christian journey, by learning what it is to be a disciple of Christ by being in relationship with other disciples. As people do life together, as they pray together and engage in a mission to a community, people feel a sense of participating in their transformation, not only theirs but the world’s.” 

A new missional faith community is the newest venture undertaken by Corredor de Esperanza, a collection of urban churches in San Antonio. The community meets in public places, including Blue Star Brewery on the South side of the city.

Missional communities are lowcost methods of beginning new churches, too, Saenz said. They’re lay driven, and lay leaders have a whole network of relationships to which pastors don’t always have access—churched and unchurched people.

“Those unchurched maybe not follow them into a building,” Saenz said. “But they will engage with them in a natural setting. Lay people can penetrate the nooks and crannies of the community, through their personal network and relationships, in ways that will help our church extend the witness and influence of the Gospel and reach into communities and people’s hearts and homes in ways that church programs will not.

“But, at the same time, those people, once they have a deeper need for engagement with Jesus Christ, they can find their way back in to our churches. So to be a disciple is to be a missionary.”

One of the most effective practices of missional communities, Saenz said, is that they’re focused on the one instead of the many—which moves them from an “attraction” model to a relationship model.

“Disciples are made one at a time,” Saenz said. “And they normally require long-term relationship building. I think that’s what Wesley’s system was set up to be. People who were not connected with a church, hanging out with a group of people, seeking the welfare of the community. They belonged, oftentimes, before they believed.

“(Missional communities) give people a place to belong as they’re journeying on toward belief.”

Craig said missional communities offer the opportunity for people to find faith and live it. “These groups are where our faith is lived out,” Craig said. “This is where the beauty of faith is nurtured. It’s in (missional communities) and in being out in the community.”

Bishop Fierro Harvey to preach at Rio Grande conference

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey will serve as guest preacher during the Rio Grande Annual Conference session, preaching during the memorial and communion Service on Thursday evening, June 13, at University UMC, San Antonio.

Bishop Fierro Harvey, 53, is the Episcopal leader for the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. She has served in the position since Sept. 1, 2012.

The former Deputy General Secretary for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was elected to the episcopacy during the church’s South Central Jurisdictional Conference held July 18- 21, 2012, in Oklahoma City. She was the first bishop elected by the 256 delegates, an equal number of United Methodist clergy and laity, from the eight states that form the South Central Jurisdiction.

Harvey was endorsed for the episcopacy by the Jurisdictional Conference Women’s Leadership Team and affirmed by MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans), the denomination’s Hispanic caucus. She also was endorsed by the Nebraska Annual Conference delegation.

Before leading UMCOR, she was the director of Missional Excellence for the Texas Annual Conference. In that role, she initiated a partnership with the Côte d’Ivoire Annual Conference.

Harvey previously served as executive associate pastor of Memorial Drive UMC, Houston, and associate pastor of Foundry UMC, Houston.

She has a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. Harvey is also a graduate of the University of Texas, holding a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She was ordained an elder in the Texas Annual Conference in 2001.

She is married to Dean Alan Harvey. Their daughter Elizabeth Grace Harvey, 22, is a senior at Baylor University.

San Antonio District news

129 confirmands recognized at 2013 confirmation celebration
Saturday, April 18, Schertz UMC hosted the San Antonio District’s annual Confirmation Celebration. This year’s event welcomed and celebrated 129 confirmands representing 15 United Methodist congregations from the San Antonio District and surrounding area. Representing the Bishop, the Rev. Virgilio Vazquez- Garza, assistant to the Episcopal Office, shared some of his personal history, including his call to ordained ministry. Music for the service of celebration was provided by the Schertz UMC youth praise band. More than 350 youth, their families and pastors shared in the blessing as each confirmand was symbolically yoked into Christ’s service by the placing a cross, made of olive wood from Israel, around their necks.

Congratulations, Universal City UMC!
On April 21, Universal City UMC celebrated 50 years in ministry by breaking ground for their new building extension. Many former pastors, members and friends gathered for a joy-filled day of celebration and thanksgiving for all that God has done and continues to do in and through UCUMC.

Central District news

Kelsey Memorial UMC, Corpus Christi, TX - Graduates

High School Graduates
• Kristina Banda—Graduate of W.B. Ray High School; plans on attending Texas A & M, Corpus Christi. Parents: Abel and Gina Garcia
• Aric Anthony Benavides—Graduate of Roy Miller High School; plans on attending Texas Lutheran University. Parents: Jay and Laurie Chavarria
• Brittney Contreras—Graduate of Health & Science Academy at Foy H. Moody; plans on attending Texas A & M, Corpus Christi. Parents: Amador (Mandy) and Leti Gonzalez; Nazario Contreras
• Aaron Estrada—Graduate of Gregory-Portland High School; plans on attending University of Texas San Antonio. Parents: Isaac and Ofelia Gonzales
• Vince E. Lopez—Graduate of Mary Carroll High School; plans on attending Del Mar College. Parents: Vince and  Tracie Lopez

University Graduates
• Julia Canales—Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology, Texas A & M Corpus Christi; will be pursuing her Master’s and a Doctorate in Psychology. Parents: Juan and Nancy Canales
• Anna Lisa Gonzalez—Bachelor of Science in Biology, University of Texas San Antonio; diagnostic Medical Sonography with honors from the Baptist Health Systems School of Professions, San Antonio, TX; employed as a Ultra Sound Technician with the Baptist Medical Center Hospital and the Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, TX. Parents: Alejandro and Adela L. Gonzalez
• Stephanie Harlien—Master’s in Counseling from Texas A & M, Corpus Christi; presently in the Biomedical Science program at Texas A & M, Corpus Christi; plans to attend Medical School. Parents: Joseph and Terry Harlien
• Ismael Josue’ Nava—Bachelor in Arts Media Communications, Texas A & M Corpus Christi; presently in Master’s program at School of Arts Media Communication, Texas A & M, Corpus Christi. Parents: Ismael and Gloria Nava
• Leanna Marie Simmons—Associates degree in Liberal Arts from Del Mar College; plans on Attending Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. Parents: Lee and Cindy Simmons
• Alejandra Sanchez—Aveda Institute, Corpus Christi; will be employed as an Aveda licensed stylist. Parents: Alvaro and Mercedes Sanchez
• Cristina Sanchez—Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Texas A & M, College Station; will be pursuing her Master’s in Forensic Anthropology. Parents: Alvaro and Mercedes Sanchez
• Alethea Tamez—Master’s in Social Work from University of Texas, San Antonio; employed by Center for Health Care Services- Children’s Clinic. Parents: Judge Rodolfo and Olga Tamez
• Joe C. Treviño III—Bachelor of Science in Forensic Chemistry from Sam Houston State University; will be pursuing a Master’s of Science in Forensic Science at Pace University in New York City. Parents: Patty Treviño (Eddie) and Joe C. Treviño, Jr.

Children enrolled in Agape Memorial’s NHA/Not Home Alone afterschool program wait in the sanctuary where Pastor Juan Osorio has begun to teach them about church etiquette.

Cada año se celebra el banquete para inspirar y motivar a las mujeres jóvenes para trabajar en misión.
IMU Emanuel: Celebración de madres e hijas
By Hna. Adela Quintanilla

Las Mujeres Metodistas Unidas de la Iglesia Emanuel en San Antonio celebro el programa “Banquete Madre e Hija,” Mayo 11, del 2013, con un programa interesante intitulado “Las Tazas.”
Después hubo un desfile de modas y se les presento un corsage a tres mujeres con los más bonitos vestidos. Se sirvo un lunch de ensaladas

Corpus Christi District news

By the Rev. Linda Morrow
Director of District Ministries

How is the Spirit moving? One of the ways I have seen the Spirit move recently in the Corpus Christi area is through a new group called Youth COOPeration.

It is hard for small churches to form youth groups when they only have a few youth. Because of this fact, El Buen Pastor UMC, Island in the Son UMC, Kelsey Memorial UMC, St. Luke’s UMC, St. Peter’s by the Sea UMC and Wesley UMC have joined together to kick off activities for the upcoming summer.

How exciting it will be to gather the youth groups together for the first time on June 22 as they feast together, play together and get to know each other. The leaders of this group are sharing ways to continue this COOP in the months ahead with Bible Studies, retreats and other programming. We believe the interaction and connection between these churches will grow young leaders in the days ahead and will unite us in the purpose of being disciples so that we can make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Victoria District news

Victoria UMW Prepare Hygiene
Kits for Mexico Mary and Ruth Circles met together May 2l to make personal hygiene kits for Manos Juntas Mission in Rio Bravo, Mexico. Hannah Circle will make kits at the June 10 meeting. This mission in Northern Mexico ministers to the basic needs of the people who live in poverty. Some of their emphases include education, health care and job training. They teach the children to be in mission to their own neighbors through service and work projects. Each kit contains one washcloth and one hand towel, two bars of soap, one toothbrush and one tube of toothpaste, one box of assorted Band Aids, one package of disposable razors and one nail file. While we were working on the kits, members were challenged with a “Secret Search” game involving matching members’ secrets. Prizes were awarded to the most successful detectives.

For our June 4 general meeting, Sandy Wilder from Austin led a program entitled “The Next 150 Years.” Sandy is the communications coordinator for the Southwest Texas Conference UMW and is a consultant for the Major and Planned Giving Program of the national office of United Methodist Women. Her interactive presentation included the Upcoming 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, Christian stewardship, financial and estate planning, planned giving to charitable causes including United Methodist Women’s mission work, and the Legacy Fund to permanently sustain the work of United Methodist Women.

San Angelo District news

Sierra Vista UMC and their Baskets of Blessings
For the fourth consecutive year, Sierra vista UMC, San Angelo, participated in filling baskets of Easter blessings. Members of the congregation were given an empty bushel basket and asked to fill it with bags of beans, rice, pasta, cornbread mix, potatoes, cans of vegetables and fruits, desserts and dried drink mixes, along with Easter eggs, crosses, stuffed animals and Bibles. Each basket is beautifully decorated with ribbons, flowers and stickers. Much imagination and love is poured into each basket. They are then topped off with a spiral cut ham and delivered to Project Dignidad for distribution.

Project Dignidad is an ecumenical ministry that provides food in emergency situations to individuals and families. While many agencies require a lengthy qualification process, Project Dignidad distributes food directly to families who have emergency needs. Families who have lost their bread winner due to lay offs, elderly persons who may have to choose between food and medication, and many families living far below the poverty line benefit from Project Dignidad. Sierra Vista has been a long-time principal supporter of this ministry: financially, through many food drives, and personally through significant personal involvement.

Baskets of Blessings is a way for our congregation to share members’ blessings with a family unable to afford an Easter meal. More than 70 baskets were delivered the Monday of Holy week and then passed out to families in need through Good Friday.

McAllen District news

Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON)
South Texas offers high quality immigration legal services to individuals who live in poverty in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For those of us who are citizens, it may be difficult to understand the pain and suffering that others endure concerning immigration status.

Imagine being separated from your family by a narrow river, knowing that only miles and a wall separate you but you cannot even visit them. Imagine having your child very ill and not being able to tend to their needs. Imagine being abused by your spouse and having nowhere to turn for help. Imagine wanting to be a United States citizen, eligible for citizenship but not able to comprehend the complicated process, having saved the money needed to file the necessary papers but not to afford an attorney to help you.

Individuals meeting income requirements are first seen at monthly clinics at Pharr UMC or at El Buen Pastor Iglesia Metodista Unida in Brownsville. Those who meet United States government criteria for immigration status or change in status begin the long and complicated process of gathering documents, completing applications, paying application fees and continuing education.

Here are the cases our attorney, Manuela Garza, has filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so far this year:

3 Naturalization applications, working on a fourth one
3 DACAs, two have been approved
2 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases, including
3 petitions for adjustment of status
1 Single U-Visa case (for a victim of domestic abuse)
1 U-Visa case, which includes the principal beneficiary and 2 derivatives
1 Cancellation of Removal court trial, judge’s decision will be rendered in October
1 application to re-place a green card (client lost his card)
1 Employment Authorization Card renewal, working on a second one
Numerous requests for files under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
1 response to a Request for Evidence (RFE) and will shortly be filling responses to
3 Requests for Evidence on cases filed by previous attorney

Through the ministry of JFON South Texas, lives of both clients and volunteers are transformed, friends are made for Jesus and the movement of God through it is clearly visible. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of God’s people please give generously to: JFON-South Texas Conference Advance Special #2014

Contacts needed for future United series

Several series are planned for future issues of United Unidos, but we can’t write them without you! Please let us know if you have any contacts for the following themes:

Partnership—We’re looking for Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences that are working together to do ministry in their communities. Please send us contact information for both churches.

Big oil—This series will examine the effects of the Eagle Ford Consortium. If your church/town is affected by Eagle Ford, we would love to hear from you.

Church future—This series will examine the future of the church in areas like Hispanic ministry, family/children’s ministry, youth ministry and others. If your church is engaged in effective ministry with those who will carry the future of the church, please send us the contact information for involved leaders.

Environmentalism—Is your church taking steps to care for the earth? We are in the brainstorming stage of a series that examines the conscious choices churches are making to “clean” up their practices and be better stewards of the planet.

Health and wellness—what does your church do to promote health and wellness (including physical health, financial health, spiritual health)?

Please send all information to Rachel Toalson at rtoalson@umcswtx.org or call (210) 408-4524.

District Calender
23   Last Sunday in pulpits for outgoing pastors
27   Moving Day for pastors

1 Sea City Workshop at District Office – 6:00 p.m.

District Calendar
13-30  Gini Vacation
19-22  Bishop’s Week

1-31  Gini Vacation
4-5    District Office Closed