Mission Possible

Mission Possible!

That was the theme of the 2024 North Texas Annual Conference, which took place this week in Richardson. It was the final meeting of the North Texas Conference, which, after 150 years or so as an independent conference, will merge with the Central and Northwest Texas Conferences later this year. I love attending annual conference. As a clergy person, this is my church- we are not members of the congregations we serve. This is a chance to participate in worship, rather than plan or preach. It is an opportunity to engage with colleagues, renew relationships, and celebrate what God is going in our midst.

As a member of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, the annual conference gathering is a time to celebrate those who are on the journey to ordination. Deacons and elders are commissioned and ordained. Seeing clergy siblings kneeling at the altar, the bishop laying hands on them, consecrating them for set-apart service in God’s church always sends me back to my own ordination, which took place in 1998 and 2001. When someone I have worked with, whether giving feedback on paperwork, evaluating sermons, or mentoring through various aspects of ministry, arrives at this special moment it is always gratifying.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'You're being invited into the ministry of paying attention. MINISTRY OF PAYING ATTENTION, OF NOTICING BURNING' 

This year’s keynote speaker was Rev Michael Gienger, who serves at Central UMC in Galveston. Michael’s ministry is inspiring. He was appointed there about a decade ago to restart the church- they had about four people attending worship. An historic church, more than a century old, nearly all of its members had moved away or died. It was detached from its neighborhood, which was defined in a “glass half empty” perspective: gang violence, persons experiencing homelessness… you can probably fill in more blanks. But meeting with their neighbors, the congregation discovered that there were many gifts available from people experiencing such challenges; giving them opportunities to use those gifts to serve others led to a renewal no one could have expected. Now the church’s average worship is more than it ever was. Having a glass half full perspective changed everything.

It's a great example of what is possible when churches transition from dealing with internal issues and focus on the mission- the lives of people in the community who need to experience God’s grace. Many people have said it before: the church is the only organization that exists for people who are not yet a part of it.

When the new Horizon Texas Conference is born later this year, ministry will be organized around five guiding principles: 

Multiply Jesus Followers

Champion Children and Youth

Maximize Care and Healing

Pursue and Embrace Diversity

Tell Our Story

While we were discussing the Unification Plan (read if here if you like: https://ntcumc.org/Unification_Plan_-_NTC.pdf) I had an idea: what if we organized ministry at Spring Valley along those same themes? I shared this with the Lay Leadership team last night, and they agreed. Look for lay members who will serve as leaders in these various areas to be announced soon. In January, we will have an all-church volunteer/gifts emphasis, where everyone will be able to find a place to serve underneath these five umbrellas. 

My favorite moment of conference was when my wife and rockstar Christy Drenner was recognized for her 3 ½ years of service as Conference Treasurer. Christy’s last day at the NTC was May 15. She is not looking for employment; she started her own CPA firm seven years ago, and is now fully invested in the work she loves again. She was not in the building, but when Larry Womack, chair of the conference Finance and Administration team, thanked her, the entire sanctuary at FUMC Richardson stood and applauded. Of course I was proud! 

Every time someone asked me about Christy’s future plans, after sharing about her business I mentioned Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: everything has its season under the sun. Christy had her season at the NTC; the North Texas Conference had its season for a century and a half; Central UMC Galveston had one season and transitioned into another. Through it all, God’s Holy Spirit is at work: guiding, teaching, challenging, inspiring, correcting. It is a joy to be a part of the ongoing work of God.

Mission Possible, should we choose to accept it,

Pastor Frank