A Word from DS Teresa Welborn – 4/18/19

It is Holy Week and I think of all the time and energy clergy and laity are giving to worship services and other special events. Thank you for all you do to share the unconditional love of God and hope of our Resurrected Savior! 
 
As I enjoyed a bit of writing and more preaching during the season of Lent, I often leaned on the latest book by Diana Butler Bass entitled Gratitude. She reminds us that Jesus gave the disciples the invitation of a lifetime. And, Jesus extends that same invitation to us today – to follow him in the way that leads to abundant life. 
 
Just this week, my husband and I stumbled on the Netflix series “Our Planet.” Some of you are likely already aware of this program, but I had no idea about it until I was scrolling through to find a show for my daughter. We have only watched two episodes, but I am already hooked. The images are breathtaking as live footage brings us up close with marine life in Antarctica, flamingos in Africa and many other species throughout the world. Of course, the underlining theme of this series is the negative impact humans are making on the environment. I try hard to recycle and make wise choices for the earth, but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. I got to thinking about this. Why is it so challenging to make good choices about how we will care for the earth and the environment – especially when we have significant information about the importance of making good choices? In large part, I think, it is because the urgency of the immediate gets in the way of the importance of the future. In other words, while we know the choices we make will effect the future, it is still hard to prioritize the future. 
 
I am pondering the ways in which I can prioritize the future based on my behavior in the present. It comes in ordinary, daily choices such as healthy eating habits and making plans to visit with long-lost friends. It comes in significant decisions such as how I can prepare now for motherhood with a teenager even though my daughter is only 9 and how I will plan for retirement even though that seems years away. Above all, it is about how I will practice today being the person I want to become. It is one way to practice resurrection. 
 
Stay encouraged!
teresa 


A Word from DS Teresa Welborn – 4/4/19

I’ve just returned from Clergy Convocation in San Antonio. It’s always a joy to see so many colleagues across the conference. Catching up and worshiping together was meaningful. It was also emotionally exhausting at times. This was the first time we were together as clergy in this way following General Conference. Panels of clergy shared at a few different points during our time together. They shared reflections about how they are processing General Conference 2019, how ministry is going in their context and what if anything changed. Hearing different voices can be uncomfortable. At times our words can be hurtful.

As our Lenten journey continues, God continually reminds me to examine my own heart before judging others. I have spoken and written words that have caused harm. And I confess there are times when my silence has caused harm. 

Continuing to step into the unknown future feels heavy and burdensome. In response, I invite us to be intentional about nurturing those relationships that are life giving. Each time colleagues gather, I hear them lament not finding more time to meet for conversation over lunch or coffee. As your district superintendent, I know you work hard and are busy. But I encourage you to practice the discipline of tending to relationship building with one another.  Put yourself in the presence of people who will remind you that you are a beloved child of God. This is not the same thing as surrounding yourself with people who agree with you on everything. This is about being kind to yourself. I am reminded of a song Marcus Briggs-Cloud led us in at a meeting I attended earlier this Spring in Atlanta. Briggs-Cloud is a Native American United Methodist worship leader. We sang over and over, “I’m gonna’ lift my people up, they’re not heavy.” With General Conference 2019 just a couple of weeks behind us, we looked to the future with the powerful reminder that we are not called to go at this work alone. We have one another. During Clergy Convocation I stayed with my parents in Seguin and drove back and forth with my father to our meetings. It was the first time I had seen my parents since Christmas. It was a gift. It lifted me up. How will you continue to nurture relationships with those who lift you up? Who will you lift up?

As I look to the future, there are several things on my mind. I will serve to the best of my ability and I will strive to faithfully serve as District Superintendent to the entire Capital District as long as I am asked to serve in this appointment. I am also led to balance that priestly role with the important prophetic work of walking alongside those seeking a more inclusive church. I renew my commitment to work with our District Strategy Team and other district and conference leaders in multiplying the Wesleyan witness in the district. This includes supporting new faith communities, innovative initiatives and fresh expressions. This work is coupled with the ongoing discernment about how God is calling us to use resources such as property throughout the district. This is incredibly rewarding work. It’s also challenging work, and I want to be at my best for all that’s ahead. This is why I am not seeking election as a delegate to General Conference 2020. It has been an honor and privilege to serve in 2016 and 2019, but I have clarity that I am being called to give my energies more fully here. And perhaps make more trips to places like Seguin! I am hopeful that our clergy and laity will elect a younger delegation as we look to the future. 

At Clergy Convocation, one pastor shared that he finds himself frequently praying The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer these days. I leave you with those words:

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

Be encouraged!

Teresa 



District Conference/Board of Missions 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Saint John’s UMC – 2140 Allandale Rd.

More info soon!



Reflections on General Conference 2019 by Teresa Welborn 2/26/19

Message from St. Louis

 
It is Tuesday of General Conference. I have been thinking and praying about what words to write here as I seek both to inform the best I can and to share my own reflections as your District Superintendent. So much has taken place and there are many unknowns that we are still living with.
 
Several things here:
 
*  Results from votes early on Sunday indicated that the petitions regarding pensions and The Traditional Plan topped the list of priorities for the General Conference. This was good news for those supporting The Traditional Plan and disappointing news for those supporting The One Church Plan and The Simple Plan.
 
*  I am not surprised by these results. The voting reflects the denomination’s history in recent General Conferences of being a divided body leaning further to the right when it comes to matters of inclusivity. We saw several votes resulting in a 55/45 split.
 
*  I have lived with a broken heart for some time. Broken because of my own struggle to lead in a way that builds bridges between people who do not agree. Broken because the struggle to build bridges has left me at times complacent. Broken because I need to repent for the ways in which my complacency has caused harm, by what I have done and what I have left undone.
 
*  As a delegate, I engage in the work of General Conference with a host of people on my mind. Some are saints who surround us as a cloud of witnesses here in St. Louis. But mostly, I am carrying you with me – you, the laity and clergy of the Capital District. I have had the privilege of serving with you for almost six years. In the midst of our differences we are unified in many ways through missional efforts. As your District Superintendent, I give witness to the ways you – who represent a range of theological perspectives – are bearing fruit in your ministry.
 
*  Given the events of the last couple of days, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t share with you that my broken heart is now shattered. Shattered because of what I experience as the General Conference’s disrespect and disregard for the work of The Commission on the Way Forward and the discernment of the Council of Bishops. Shattered because of our deep divisions that continue to do harm to the body we know as The United Methodist Church. Shattered because while I strive to maintain connection to those who think differently than me, I find many have no interest in striving to maintain connection with me. I seek to be faithful to the calling of my office and I want to be District Superintendent to all of you. My heart is shattered as I see the faces of LGBTQI persons I know who continue to hear they are not fully welcome in the church they so faithfully serve. My heart is shattered as the witness of The UMC is once again damaged because of actions at General Conference.
 
*  At the start of General Conference, Bishop Alsted reminded us that while we were meeting on a football field in the St. Louis stadium, we were not playing a game where there would be winners and losers. While the conference is not over and while we cannot know fully what this day holds, many already feel like there are winners and losers. If you feel like this General Conference so far is a win, I want you to know that I have done my very best to be your District Superintendent and I will continue to serve alongside you and support you in your ministries. If you feel like this General Conference has been a tremendous loss, I want you to know that I am so, so sorry for the heart ache and grief. I also want you to know that in the midst of the pain, clarity and perspective can come with time and space. This is a good time to take a deep breath, to call a friend, to tend to your spirit. It is a good time to continue being the church that is moving forward in mission and service. It is a good time to trust in God’s promise that God is not finished with us yet. It is a good time to remember the words of Rev. Brian Adkins, member of Commission on the Way Forward, who shared in their report at General Conference these words: “to LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Churches around the world; you are beloved of God. No matter what happens in this room or anywhere else, there is a place for you at God’s table, and no one can take it away from you!”
 
*  I am also filled with great hope. I find hope in the work of the Holy Spirit that is alive in churches throughout the district. Moreover, as I wrote in my May 2018 district newsletter article, “I am convinced that regardless of the outcome of General Conference 2019, faithful United Methodists will find a way forward that enables an inclusive Wesleyan witness to flourish. I am convinced because such a witness is already thriving.” I look forward to returning to Austin tomorrow and continuing our work together in the Capital District.
 
Yesterday afternoon during a break, I face-timed with my daughter. It was her 9th birthday and other delegates nearby joined me in wishing her a happy birthday. As I saw her bright, joy-filled face, my heart broken open again as I dream a dream for the church of her future. This morning I joined others for a time of praying and singing. One of the songs we sang was “All Creature of Our God and King” and the fifth verse especially spoke to me as I think of all that has been and where we are and all that will be. I leave you with those words:
 
All ye who are of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
O praise ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on him cast your care!
O praise ye! O praise ye!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
 
You encourage me!,
Teresa


Reflections on General Conference 2019 by Teresa Welborn 2/22/19

 

What do we mean when we say diversity?

 
The church gives me the gift of encountering diversity in richer ways than I could ever imagine on my own. The church also teaches me to have a critical eye and speak out when there is a lack of diversity. Certainly General Conference is the time when I experience most fully the diversity of our denomination. But what do we mean when we say “diversity?”
 
As District Superintendent in the greater Austin area, I often hear laity and clergy celebrate and emphasize the importance of diversity. That is a good thing, but what do we mean when we say “diversity?” I remember once hearing Bishop Streiff speak. He is the resident bishop of Central and Southern Europe. He told us the Book of Discipline is translated into 12 different languages in his episcopal area. And here I thought I was doing good adding some Spanish to the bulletin every now and then! When it comes to diversity, The United Methodist General Conference stretches our imagination.
           
The called session this month is centered around the hope of finding a way forward in the midst of ongoing debate and diversity of thought regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion. I am reminded that among the delegates present will be persons from countries where it is illegal to be gay. I am reminded that among the delegates present will be persons who support a United Methodist bishop who is a self identified lesbian. When it comes to diversity, General Conference stretches not just our imagination, but our comfort zone.
           
Many are puzzled at how we remain The United Methodist Church, but of course there are just as many understandings of the word “unity” as there are “diversity.” This past summer I reread Kathleen Norris’ book entitled Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. At one point she writes the following about church:
          
 From the outside, church congregations can look like remarkably contentious places, full of hypocrites who talk about love while fighting each other tooth and nail. This is the reason many people give for avoiding them. On the inside, however, it is a different matter, a matter of struggling to maintain unity as ‘the body of Christ’ give the fact that we have precious little uniformity. I have only to look at the congregation I know best, the one I belong to. We are not individuals who have come together because we are like-minded. That is not a church, but a political party. We are like most healthy churches, I think, in that we can do pretty well when it comes to loving and serving God, each other, and the world; but God help us if we have to agree about things.
          
 Norris goes on to speak about the “things” church members do not agree on from the color of the carpet in the church parlor to more serious matters like divorce and women in ministry. The chapter on church was written over 20 years ago from Norris’ experience as a Presbyterian, but as I read the words it seemed they could be written about The UMC today.
          
 Some people have wondered whether The United Methodist Church will be able to remain unified in mission in the midst of deep theological differences. I don’t just think it’s a possibility, I experience it here and now. It happens when Emergency Response Team members volunteers work alongside one another in flood recovery efforts. It happens when those advocating for immigration reform work together through our Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors.
           
I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve as a delegate at the upcoming General Conference. I will look forward to seeing some of you there. Others can watch live streaming here.
 
Our prayers in all their diversity are gathered together before the one God whose name is Love.
 
Be encouraged!,
teresa 

 



Reflections on General Conference 2019 by Teresa Welborn

Our Prayers Join Together

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. – Philippians 4:6-7

In less than a week, General Conference will be well underway. As I tie up loose ends this week and begin to pack, I’m also taking time to look back through the correspondence I’ve received from United Methodists across the connection. Letters and emails have arrived from all directions reflecting a wide range of theological perspectives. As I read again the letters and emails from people, they more often than not conclude with some reference to prayer. “My prayers are with you…”, “I am praying for all the delegates and for this General Conference…”, “I pray that you may…..”, “My prayer is that General Conference will….”
 
I know I am bolstered by the prayers of many and that’s humbling.
           
Reflecting on the power and mystery of prayer, I remember the prayer beads we received at the 2016 General Conference. We were encouraged to use them in times of worship and prayer.  You can read more about those prayer beads pictured here at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/60-days-of-prayer-for-2016-general-conference
           
One morning, the devotional based on the confessional prayer in The Great Thanksgiving:

            Merciful God,

            We confess that we have not loved you

              with our whole heart.

            We have failed to be an obedient church.

            We have not done your will,

              we have broken your law,

              we have rebelled against your love,

              and we have not loved our neighbors,

              and we have not heard the cry of the needy.

            Forgive us we pray. Free us for joyful obedience,

              through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

During that devotional, the worship leader guided us by beginning a prayer, “As a denomination, we have not done your will when we______” and then she invited us to complete the prayer in silence by adding our own individual petitions. As the worship leader continued guiding us, our individual prayers continued: “We have broken your law by_______”, and “We have not loved our neighbors when _______.”
 
I remember being struck by the great number of conflicting prayers that must have been lifted up to God that morning. The prayers no doubt as disparate as the letters I’ve been receiving.
           
The prayer time left me pondering once again the great mystery of prayer and the great mystery we know as God. Like anyone, I have my own prayers, hopes, and desires for General Conference 2019. But my faith and hope is in God and God alone. God who hears all our prayers, as diverse and conflicting as they are. Bishop Wallace-Padgett has been instrumental in leading the prayer efforts for General Conference says, “Our prayer focus is two-fold: We are praying that God will help us to fulfill the mission of the church, and we are praying to be one in Christ. “ Find prayer resources at https://umcprays.org

Be encouraged!,

teresa

 
 
 

Meet Me in St. Louis

As The United Methodist Church’s special called session of General Conference approaches, my mind moves back and forth from what I’ve experienced in the past to what I anticipate for the future. I do not have extensive General Conference experience, but I have some. I attended the 2008 General Conference as the first reserve delegate from the Southwest Texas Conference. I served as a delegate in 2016 for the Rio Texas Conference and will head to St. Louis later this month as a delegate.

           
In recent days, I find myself reflecting on past experiences and wondering about the future. I know I’m not alone in my thinking back and looking ahead. Here I join the many different people from many different places who are sharing their thoughts and hopes. I will meet some of you face to face in St. Louis. Others of you can meet me right here in this blog where I will share a few of my reflections over the next few weeks.
           
As I write these words, I’m taken back to memories from my childhood. Long before I ever knew what General Conference is, I knew about the beauty and power of worship. I grew up at Ingleside United Methodist Church. Among my many memories of worship is one preacher who loved the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” so much he made us sing a verse every Sunday morning:

                        Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

                        Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;

                        holy, holy holy! merciful and mighty,

                        God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

           
My home church was no grand cathedral, but in my child’s mind it was magnificent. Participating with the community in weekly worship was a discipline I enjoyed. Singing hymns together, approaching the communion rail for bread and cup, reciting affirmations, and passing the peace – I looked forward to it all. I have come to believe that the power of my experience in worship was shaped as much by the people present as the building itself.
           
At General Conference, it is worship that I look forward to the most. When we say we are a global church, it is worship that celebrates some of the best of who we are together. One of my favorite memories from 2016 was when the Danish choir KEFAS sang. You can hear that offering of theirs here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt9N2g28ti4  Look for opportunities to experience some of the worship at General Conference 2019 through UM Communications’ live-streaming services.
           
When leaving worship at Ingelside UMC, one is met with the stained glass image of Jesus shown here. He is so many things to me in this image. He is a peaceful presence. He is open and receptive. He is moving towards me. He is alive, in healed and resurrected form. And He is holy, with halo aglow.
           
While I can’t predict what will happen in St. Louis, I pray God might work within my own hardened heart to make me more like Jesus. A peaceful presence. Open and receptive. Moving towards others. I pray I approach General Conference as the holy work that it is. And I pray I have the eyes to see the resurrected Christ in our midst.
           
Be encouraged!
           
teresa

 




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