A Word from DS Teresa Welborn – 6/21/19

As I settle into these summer months, I am aware of the many transitions taking place. Some of you have experienced the transition of children graduating from high school or college. Next week I will drive to Seguin for my father’s retirement celebration. And while you are reading this, churches and pastors throughout the district and conference are preparing to say “good-bye and hello” as new appointments begin. 


What all transitions have in common is the letting go of something before a new thing begins. Of course what we know is that not all transitions seems happy. In fact, some can feel rather difficult. The closing of Parker Lane UMC and Common Good Community Development’s decision to close the daily operation of The Free Store are among the hard transitions on my mind. These and others might be on your minds, too. I covet your prayers for all those who are living in the midst of difficult transitions. 


I recently picked up an old Henri Nouwen book called “Lifesigns” where he begins by writing about the many questions people had of Jesus in the Gospels. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom? How many times must I forgive? What authority do you have acting like this? Are you the king of the Jews?” He goes on to observe that Jesus didn’t always answer the questions people asked him, especially when the questions came from a place of fear. Instead, Jesus often cleverly transformed a question into an answer by way of a parable. Jesus is intentional about choosing which questions will guide his life. We, too, are invited to consider the questions to which we will give our precious time and attention and energy.


In the world of church work and ministry it is easy to prioritize the questions of fear. At least I will speak for myself as I resonated with Nouwen’s words: “We become anxious, nervous, worrying people caught in the questions of survival: our own survival, the survival of our families, friends, and colleagues, the survival of our church, our country, and our world” (Page 19, Lifesigns). Rather than asking fearful questions of survival – which I will confess is easy for me to do! – I am trying more and more to ask questions rooted in wonder and love about God’s preferred future. Whether in my own life, for the world, or for our beloved denomination, imagine what might be possible if we prioritized questions from a place of love rather than fear. 


The District Strategy Team continues to meet and pray about the future for the Parker Lane UMC site. In the discerning, affordable housing and a new faith community to reach new people are among the dreams being discussed. As our district Lay Leader Brooks Schuelke says, “We continue to believe that fostering relationships between our congregation members and people who are different from us is critically important to our faith journeys.” I’m reminded of what Tom Berlin shared at Annual Conference: “We want our church to look like the elementary school nearby.” In a host of ways, churches throughout our district are leaning into questions of possibility rooted in love. Crestview UMC has made the intentional decision to become a legacy congregation. The decision was sacrificial and mission-minded. While they will continue to meet for worship over the next several months, Rev. Jay Cooper will be networking in the area and gathering with people as he begins his appointment as pastor of the new faith community at Crestview – the faith community to whom Crestview UMC will surrender their resources. In Pflugerville, Rev. Aaron Carter has joined the clergy team as the congregation there made the decision to multiply their witness in the ever growing Pflugerville area. And Rev. Ray Altman begins his appointment to give himself fully to the New Wine Skins Initiative. In these ways and many others, I experience faithful followers of Jesus throughout the district living the questions of love rather than fear. I anticipate transformation in the midst of transition. 


At annual conference, Bishop Schnase reminded us in one of his sermons about the African Proverb that reads, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I am grateful to be on this journey with you!

Be encouraged!