Global Migration Sunday set for First Sunday in Advent, December 3

Global Migration Sunday set for First Sunday in Advent, December 3

Global Migration Sunday has been set for December 3, the first Sunday of Advent. On this date, all United Methodist churches are asked to gather an offering dedicated to responding to human suffering caused by migration. bUnited Methodists will have an opportunity to support millions of displaced people throughout the world, as well as deepen the church’s understanding of the biblical call to welcome and care for the displaced.

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Rio Texas Young Adult Ministry Council Applications Available Now

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This team will consist of young adults, ages 18-30, from across the Rio Texas Conference (¶ 256.3, United Methodist Book of Discipline). 

Together members of this council will work to create a Young Adult Ministry Council (YAMC) for the Rio Texas Conference. 

The purpose of a YAMC is "to strengthen the young adult ministry in the local churches and districts of the annual conference." (Book of Discipline, Paragraph 650.1) 

Interested young adults must have completed high school and be an active member in their local United Methodist Church. 

Feeling called to join this team? Apply now!

or

request a paper application form: 

Rev. Dr. Tanya Campen
16400 Huebner Rd
San Antonio, TX 78248  
tcampen@riotexas.org

Questions? Contact Tanya at the Conference office, tcampen@riotexas.org.

 

Asset-Based Community Development program to begin 2nd year – APPLY NOW

Asset-Based Community Development program to begin 2nd year – APPLY NOW

Through support funding from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc., The Mission Vitality Center / Outreach Vitality Office & Transforming Communities Vision Team announces the Transformational Communities of Praxis program.

Applications are now being received for the 2nd- year class of this program. The program is looking for church and community resident teams to participate in this program of learning processes in Asset-Based Community Development [ABCD]. Class size is limited to four teams.

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Moving On to Recovery

Moving On to Recovery

By Laura Bray

The soggy sheetrock and insulation is removed. The carpet is gone and the mud slopped out. 56,000 feet of tarp are on damaged roofs. The fallen trees are cut and stacked at the curb. Now what?

Once the Early Response Teams (ERT) have completed their work, the next phase begins–recovery. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) sends groups of volunteers to repair home storm damage in affected communities to help residents get back on the way to a normal life. This process can take years: residents of Wimberley, TX still need assistance more than two years after the devastating 2015 Blanco River floods destroyed so much property.

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Harvey Disaster Recovery Leaders to Come Onboard

Harvey Disaster Recovery Leaders to Come Onboard

In response to Hurricane Harvey, the Mission Vitality Center brings on board two key positions to lead the disaster recovery efforts in response to Hurricane Harvey. This is as a result of assessment and consultation with Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference; Cabinet; the Conference Disaster Response Committee and the United Methodist Committee on Relief [UMCOR].

Vicki McCuistion will serve as Disaster Recovery Asset Manager and will begin this work full-time in mid-October. This role will manage the assets offered by partners both within and outside of the Conference through donations and volunteer teams. This role will also gather stories and updates that invite continued support and involvement over the long-term timeline of recovery.

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Youth Ministries Council Now Accepting Applications

This team consists of youth (6th-12th grade) and adults from across the Rio Texas Conference.

These youth are leaders who want to make a difference in the United Methodist Church. Youth are confirmed members in their local church and serve in their local churches, their district, the conference, and beyond. The council consists of youth from each of the seven Rio Texas conference districts and reflects the diversity of our conference.

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Rio Texas Churches Assess Harvey Damage

Rio Texas Churches Assess Harvey Damage

Several churches in the Rio Texas Annual Conference are just beginning to clean up and begin repairs after Hurricane Harvey tore through parts of the Coastal Bend.

So far, 15 churches in Rio Texas have reported damage related to Harvey. Some experienced minor wind or water damage while others faced damage extensive enough to keep them out of their worship space indefinitely.

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La Trinidad IMU de San Antonio ofrece eventos para el Mes de la Hispanidad

La Trinidad IMU de San Antonio ofrece eventos para el Mes de la Hispanidad

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La Iglesia Metodista Unida “La Trinidad” de San Antonio ofrecerá una serie de eventos durante el Mes de la Hispanidad  empezando con el evento "Una Noche Mexicana” (17 de septiembre 5:00 PM, $8.00) una fiesta de comidas regionales y música folklórica.  Luego habrá un Congreso sobre el tema de “La Obra Hispana” y finalmente un Culto Unido.

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Traducción al español de Recurso Para Grupos Pequeños Wesleyanos está ahora disponible

Los pastores de Río Texas se sintieron bendecidos al escuchar a Kevin Watson, Profesor Asistente de Estudios Wesleyanos y Metodistas en la Convocación del Clero 2016. Watson dirigió al clero en un tiempo de aprendizaje sobre el Reunión de Clase Wesleyana (Wesleyan Class Meeting), una pequeña experiencia de grupo esencial a nuestra herencia wesleyana.

El libro de Watson The Class Meeting, Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience (Reunión de Clases, Recuperando una experiencia de grupos pequeños olvidada [y esencial]) expone una visión y una estrategia práctica para el desarrollo de grupos pequeños. Estos grupos son mucho más simples, más productivos y tienen mayor profundidad espiritual.

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Rio Texas Launches New Online Tool for Keeping All Persons safe in our Congregations

En Español

We are excited to announce a new partnership with Safe Gatherings- an online tool for implementing a safety policy in your congregation. This online administration system provides an easy way for churches to screen, train, and track your staff and volunteers.

As children prepare to head back to school and churches plan to start another year of exciting ministries and faith formation opportunities, the screening and training of staff and volunteers should be forefront on every ministry leader’s to-do list. Safe Gatherings and the Rio Texas Conference are ready to assist you in this hard and holy work. 

Safe Gatherings provides screening (references and background checks) and training for the Rio Texas Trusted con Confianza certification process. Staff at Safe Gatherings and the Rio Texas Conference will work with you to make sure all of your staff and volunteers are approved for working with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. This is the first step in implementing the new Rio Texas Annual Conference Safety Policy.

For churches looking for an easy way to ensure your staff and volunteers are screened and trained, please visit riotexas.org/safesteps to set-up your church account and assist your staff and volunteers in their application and training process.  Once your church account set-up is complete, individual staff and volunteers will register online, complete an application, and view online training.

The church’s portion of the the background check fee is $10 per applicant. If you are screening someone who will be driving children, youth, or vulnerable adults, you will want to include a driving record check. The cost is an additional $10.50. Churches can choose to pay this fee for their staff and volunteers, or you can invite the individual applicant to pay the cost for both background check and driving record check. The Rio Texas Conference will cover the rest of the cost. Once Safe Gatherings receives the completed application, they go to work–checking the references and requesting a background check. Safe Gatherings will communicate with the applicant and the church regarding approval and process updates. Once individuals have reviewed the Safe Gathering online training, they are invited to attend a Rio Texas Trusted con Confianza interactive training. These will be offered online and in-person. Training dates and times can be found at: riotexas.org/safetrainings.

You are invited to begin using this tool immediately. Over the next 10 months we will work with interested churches to set-up and manage their accounts as they learn to use this new system. Following Annual Conference in June 2018 all churches will need to be entered into the system. Good news is you have time and can utilize this system as soon as you are ready.

There are videos and tutorials to assist you in this process riotexas.org/safesteps. Additional resources can be found at riotexas.org/safe. You can also contact Safe Gatherings ( 888.241.8258) or Tanya Campen (tcampen@riotexas.org) at the conference office for help.

Do you need resources in Spanish? Please complete this quick survey to let us know.
¿Necesita recursos en español? Por favor complete esta rápida encuesta para hacernos saber.

Mission Breakfast highlights conversation on welcoming the immigrant

The Transforming Communities Vision Team hosted the Mission Breakfast on June 9. The breakfast highlights mission and outreach ministry in the context of the Rio Texas Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries [GBGM]. Approximately 40 people attended this year’s event held at First UMC – Corpus Christi. A presentation was shared by Audra Hudson, a GBGM Mission Fellow US-2, the church’s missionary service program providing two-year assignments in the U.S.

Audra shared of her work at Tacoma Community House http://www.tacomacommunityhouse.org/. Tacoma Community House is a nationally-respected, community-based service center for immigrants, refugees, and long-time South Sound residents seeking enrichment and pathways to self-sufficiency.

The presentation was timely and a relevant word for the church and its’ Biblical mandate to welcome the sojourner.

Welcoming the Stranger, Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Presentation made by Audra Hudson – GBGM Mission Fellow US-2

Audra Hudson of the UMC General Board of Global Ministries spoke with members of the Rio Texas Conference during a luncheon

Audra Hudson of the UMC General Board of Global Ministries spoke with members of the Rio Texas Conference during a luncheon

Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for inviting me here to share this morning. My name is Audra Hudson. I am a Global Mission Fellow US-2 serving on behalf of the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries in Tacoma, Washington. There I worked as a community organizer with Tacoma Community House, a Methodist-founded organization that for 107 years has worked alongside immigrant and refugee communities in Western Washington. I thank you all for joining me this morning to learn about supporting immigrants and refugees.

At Tacoma Community House, I work in our Development and Communications department—the arm of the organization that is charged with communicating with folks about the work we do as an organization and mobilizing communities to stand in solidarity with our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Fundamentally, this department has the privilege of sharing stories and statistics that help our potential supporters answer the question: “Why support immigrants and refugees?” I thought I’d begin today with sharing the ways that we often answer this question.

By the merits of our front-line staff and research communities across the globe, we’re able to share some incredible narratives and facts that testify to the truth that immigrants and refugees are blessings to our communities rather than burdens.

We’re able to share the economic merits of welcoming immigrants and refugees; that foreign-born folks contribute 140 billion dollars annually to the US economy in the form of taxes.  The Texas immigrant community contributes the largest share of that sum. Immigrants and refugees enrich and strengthen our communities as they are more likely to start small businesses than US-born folks. Immigrants and refugees also commit crimes at lower rates. These figures help to reorient perceptions cultivated by misinformation, fear, and racist tropes that wrongly assert that our foreign-born neighbors are lazy, a drain on our economy, and criminal.

These facts—and many others—are certainly powerful, but don’t touch our emotional selves. A coworker of mine—who often measures the success of an appeal by whether she has goosebumps—would say that facts and statistics don’t quite do it for her. So, when answering that question of “why support immigrants and refugees,” we share stories of the lived experiences of our clients—goose bump-inducing narratives, if you will, that highlight the depth of struggle immigrants and refugees experience in their journeys to the US, the joys of finding employment, learning English, or obtaining a green card, and the challenges that these communities face in the time between initial journeys and these successes.

We humanize these facts and figures with stories of our real clients, like Aziz. He served as an interpreter for US armed forces in Afghanistan. He was threatened by the Taliban, forcing him and his wife, Maryam, to flee to the United States. We share his story to illustrate our immigration system’s need for reforms because it took months for Aziz to obtain a US visa, despite his recognized relationship as an ally to the US and his family being in immediate danger. We happily share about how he has resettled in the US with success— Aziz and Maryam are employed, own a house, and are now have two, young, US citizen children.

We share these stories to remind folks that our humanity is shared—that we must look out for one another, lending hands, hearts, and resources to seek justice alongside our immigrant and refugee neighbors. For many folks, this recognition that immigrants and refugees contribute to our nation, states, and neighborhoods in tangible and relational ways is an adequate answer to the question of why support immigrant and refugee communities. Usually, this is where the discussion ends.

My job as a Global Mission Fellow at Tacoma Community House is to push a bit further: to ask people of faith to lean more deeply into that question. I’m not asking you to forsake research or stories that pull at our heart strings, but to consider how seeking immigrant and refugee justice is also tied up in our identity as Christians. I’m asking you to consider how the call to welcome the stranger is both deeply traditional and theological.  This is where I’d like to steer our conversation this morning: examining the teachings and traditions of our faith that illuminate both why and how we are called as followers of Christ to stand in solidarity with our foreign-born neighbors.

The answer to why we are called to walk alongside immigrants and refugees is first woven into the Jewish tradition that underpins Christian faith. The Hebrew Bible—our Old Testament—recounts God’s command to the Israelites to practice radical hospitality, welcoming the sojourner, the foreigner, and stranger into their communities with dignity and justice. They were to do this not out of mercy, but out of remembrance and empathy as they too were once “strangers in a foreign land,” living as exiles in Egypt. The Israelites were to recall their own harsh treatment as Egyptian slaves and respond not with vengeance or anger, but with love as intimate and generous that offered to family.

This tradition of offering deep hospitality is reinforced in the Gospels. Christ—a man who, himself, was denied shelter at birth and who was a refugee fleeing Herod’s tyranny in his first years of life—offers his company and love to all. On countless occasions, Jesus invites folks on the margins, foreigners, and outcasts into shared meals and life, modeling a posture of how to walk alongside our brothers and sisters, no matter how different from us they might be.

These narratives of our religious ancestors and Christ are powerful reminders that the act of loving our immigrant and refugee neighbors is a deeply traditional and holy practice that connects the living church to our sacred history and honors fundamental teachings of our God.

But, this call to welcome radically is not only traditional narrative, it is also profoundly theological. This last Sunday, the global church celebrated Pentecost—a time in our church calendar where we remember the Holy Spirit filling all people on Earth. Where God’s wisdom and power enter into human bodies, giving gifts of dreams, prophesy, visions, and language. We remember on this holiday that the divine who is above in God and walked beside us in Jesus now also works within as the Holy Spirit.

The understanding that we all carry an ounce of the divine in the Holy Spirit within enriches our call to welcome our immigrant and refugee neighbors. It suggests that when we welcome others into our lives—those who might look, act, and think differently—we are welcoming God into our midst. 

Friends, we are called as Christians to recognize the God in our foreign born brothers and sisters, listening for the wisdom the Spirit offers when they share their experiences and affirming their God-given gifts when we invite them into our communities. Truly, what a gift to welcome the Spirit and the many people who accompany Her.

Now that I have given quite the litany of reasons why welcoming immigrants and refugees is of importance to our tradition and identities as Christians, we must ask the much more difficult and complicated question of how to welcome these folks into shared life. The tension of word and world is quite evident in this endeavor. It is seemingly simple to welcome our foreign-born neighbors into community as equals in accordance with Biblical teachings, but very real practical and social hurdles stand in our way.

Most fundamentally, systemic barriers to ensuring that immigrant families can remain together and that undocumented immigrants can have a pathway to citizenship stand in the way of fully incorporating these folks into shared life. These systemic difficulties are compounded by limited opportunities for our foreign-born neighbors to access resources and build self-sufficiency skills—like language—that might ease their ability to navigate these systems. Of course, Dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric deeply rooted in this country’s ugly history of racism complicates and adds layers of difficulty to truly welcoming immigrant and refugee communities.

This is a certainly messy web of barriers, that needs plenty of people—with different experiences, gifts, and skills—to unravel with careful consideration, hard work, and plenty of creativity. We follow the path of a justice-seeking God who on this earth spoke truth to power. Removing and mitigating these obstacles—with the guidance and leadership of immigrant and refugees themselves—is truly central to the answer of how we are called as Christians to stand in solidarity with our newest neighbors.

We also know that alongside those often tedious and difficult paths to justice, we need to tend to the immediate physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our foreign-born brothers and sisters. Ministries that are already lending relief to those in need of housing, sanctuary, food, legal services, and more are in need of the resources and time of supporters to contribute to their welcoming initiatives. And, in communities where these resources are needed but do not yet exist, those called into radical hospitality will stand with immigrants and refugees in new ministries.

There are multiple ways that Christians are and will be working to live out the biblical imperative to welcome—different ways of answering that “how” question, all requiring different knowledge, experience, and skills.

Members of the global Church are gifted by the Holy Spirit in many different and profound ways—ways that can contribute to seeking systemic immigration justice, ways that might create and sustain opportunities to provide relief and training to immigrant and refugee communities, and ways that build peace and reconciliation across difference.

Our Christian tradition affirms that the body of Christ is wonderfully and purposefully diverse—that each part of the body has something to contribute to the community of God. In conclusion, I invite you—if you haven’t already--to discern how your God-given spiritual gifts can contribute to living out our ancient tradition of offering radical hospitality and our deep understanding that welcoming the stranger is an act of welcoming God.

 

First TCOP Class for Church Teams Begins

Four church community teams met to begin their transformational journey on May 19-20. During the course of this year, these teams will gather for three sessions to learn about the application of asset-based community development process to their current ministry engagements with their community mission fields. 

An initiative of the Transforming Communities Vision Team, the Transformational Communities of Praxis [TCOP] program is designed for a church community resident teams to begin (or go deeper in) the application of community development with the end goal of effecting measurable transformation within a given community. 

Over a one-year period, participants will gain training, knowledge, and application of asset-based community development [ABCD] process and methods, facilitation techniques, action planning and application, identifying underlying contradictions and challenges within communities, and the understanding of Missio Dei – the mission or sending of God.   

The churches participating in Class 1 of this program:

  • FUMC / Hope Outreach Center – Brackettville
  • Pollard Memorial UMC – San Antonio
  • Parker Lane UMC – Austin
  • FUMC / Mission Border Hope – Eagle Pass

Each congregation and community is unique. The community contexts of Class 1 reflects two urban areas [population 900,000 to 1.3 million], one small town area [population 25,000], and one rural community [population 3,000]. 

This initiative is made possible due to funding support from Methodist Healthcare Ministries, who likewise is vested in the application of asset-based community development approaches through the Wesley Nurse and Community Health Worker programs.

With continued funding and support, the program hopes to grow a class of four churches every year. The program hopes for models of ministries applying community development principles and processes to emerge for serving as reference points and even teaching centers of spiritual transformation within the church and community.

Contingent upon funding support, the Transforming Communities Vision Team is receiving requests for teams to apply for participation in this program. Teams applying should be composed of no more than 5 persons, with 2 persons being community residents, 2 persons being church members, and 1 person being the pastor or a designated church staff member. Four teams will be selected for each year’s Transformational Communities of Praxis class. The applying team should possess the willingness and readiness for this learning opportunity and the ability to meet the team composition requirement.

Request for 2018 – Class 2 TCOP Team request for applications will be available via riotexas.org by September 24. The deadline for team applications to be received for consideration is November 16.

For a slide show tour Learning Session 1, click here. To learn more about the Transformational Communities of Praxis initiative and / or the Team Application Process, contact Abel Vega - Director of Outreach Vitality at avega@riotexas.org  / 210.408.4514. 

Pastors Get a Head Start for a Right Start

Pastors from across the Rio Texas Annual Conference gathered this week at Coker United Methodist Church in San Antonio for the first annual Right Start event. Pastors who are moving to new appointments in July were invited to the two-day workshop designed to help prepare them for leaving one appointment and beginning a new one.

The event opened with worship and included talks from district superintendents, conference staff, and other conference leaders. Pastors gained information and insight through talks on leaving congregations well, starting well at new congregations, and caring for one’s self and family during transition. Participants also had the opportunity to meet in affinity groups with pastors facing similar transitions.

Laura Merrill, Executive Director of the Mission Vitality Center, was involved in the planning for the event. "This time together was a gift," she said. "As pastors in itinerant ministry, it's important for us to draw wisdom and comfort from each other. I hope our sharing at Right Start will encourage and build up this body for fruitfulness in our communities."

The event concluded with reflections from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference and a time of worship and Holy Communion. 

Peace with Justice Sunday

Peace with Justice Sunday

Moved by Christ’s love to pursue reconciliation and peace, honoring the dignity of every individual made in God’s image, The United Methodist Church is unwilling to turn a blind eye to injustice. Although you, and possibly even your congregation, may lack the resources alone to effect change in a broken world, your giving is vital for the UMC to continue its global ministries of reconciliation.

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Mommy Station at Annual Conference 2017

The 2017 Rio Texas Annual Conference Hospitality Team is proud to announce that our June session will be baby friendly! We are still offering great child care at First UMC, Corpus, but sometimes very little ones do better closer to family. Babies are cute, portable and unlikely to run away, making them perfect attendees during plenary sessions. To make things more comfortable for Rio Texas babies and the moms, dads, and others caring for them, the Hospitality Team is planning a couple of upgrades. 

One is the addition of rocking chairs in the back of the plenary hall. We may have to post bouncers to make sure the chairs do not become napping spots for big people, but hopefully this will be a spot where little ones can be comforted and encouraged to chill out.

A second change is an upgrade to the station provided last year in a separate room for nursing moms. This year the Mommy Station will be located in the plenary hall itself, to allow for more convenience and the ability for moms to still hear the action. The station will include comfortable seating, a microwave and refrigerator. 

Sometimes babies have just had it with conference and need to take a walk outside. (Don't we all?) But while they're in session, we want to make their presence as easy as possible. Your Hospitality Team looks forward to greeting both babies and attendees of all ages on June 7 in Corpus Christi!

Special Message from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference

Special Message from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference

En español

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace of the risen Christ be with you.

As you may have already heard, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church heard arguments this week concerning the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. They will release a decision when they conclude their business, likely later this week. As we await the decision, I would like to share the following thoughts.

It is important to understand the limited reach of the Judicial Council's decision in this case.  The Judicial Council is the church’s highest court, but it does not make church law.   The Book of Discipline will not change because of the Judicial Council’s decision.  Only the General Conference can change The Book of Discipline.

The 2016 General Conference asked for the formation of the Commission on A Way Forward to work on a way by which those who disagree on issues of human sexuality can coexist in the same church. The Commission seeks to maximize the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible. We seek to allow for as much contextual differentiation as possible, balancing different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for unity.  I am a member of this commission and its work is well underway.  The Council of Bishops called a special session of General Conference in 2019 for the sole purpose of hearing the report of the commission.
 

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