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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Bishop Announces New District Superintendent and Assistant

Bishop Announces New District Superintendent and Assistant

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, announced the appointment of Rev. Dr. Robert Lopez as the new District Superintendent of the Coastal Bend District. Lopez will replace retiring District Superintendent Eradio Valverde. Lopez is currently the superintendent of El Valle and Crossroads districts and will continue to serve El Valle in addition to Coastal Bend. Rev. Dr. Marcus Freeman III was earlier announced as the incoming superintendent for Crossroads.

To support Robert in fulfilling his expanded responsibilities, Bishop Schnase also announced the appointment of Rev. Dr. Karen Boehk as the new Assistant to the District Superintendent for the Coastal Bend and El Valle Districts, serving part-time and working in the Corpus Christi area.


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Bishops Call Special Session of General Conference for 2019

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has called for a Special Session of the General Conference. It will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.

According to Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, the session will be "limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward."

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Conference introduces VIM Coordinator

Frank Rojas is the new VIM Coordinator for the Conference

Frank Rojas is the new VIM Coordinator for the Conference

The Office of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center of the Rio Texas Annual Conference is excited to announce and welcomes the service of Frank Rojas as the Rio Texas Conference Volunteer-In-Mission (VIM) Coordinator. Frank is a long-time active member of Bethany UMC, Austin. He has directed United Methodist Army Youth mission teams as well as VIM trips to Cuba. Frank brings to this work a heart and passion for missions, social justice, and great interest in the organizational development of Volunteer-In-Mission ministry in the conference. 

A volunteer position, the VIM Coordinator serves as a focal point for equipping disciples in growing in relationships and partnerships with communities around the world; growing partnerships between UMC and agencies that are active in local communities; and aiding church teams grow “In Mission Together” (50/50) events that leverage assets in local communities and bless all involved by developing strong collaborative partnerships. The vision is that missions are directly linked to each member’s calling and their discipleship walk with God. This work will be carried out by the conference VIM committee composed of VIM coordinators from each district. 

To learn more about the In Mission Together process, see:http://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Partnerships/In-Mission-Together

Frank Rojas can be reached at frankr6591@austin.rr.com / 512.422.0210. 

Texas Conference Representatives meet with El Valle District

The El Valle District recently hosted representatives from six Texas Annual Conference United Methodist churches, their Conference Center, and Center for Missional Excellence.  They came to the Texas/Mexico border to meet with representatives from the El Valle District and the Mexican Methodist Church as part of a new TAC Border Partnership Initiative. 

The March 30-April 1 trip is part of a new mission initiative birthed through the TAC Center for Missional Excellence, the El Valle District and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) Missionary Willie Berman.  The partnership is based on the 50/50 “In Mission Together” program conceived by Global Ministries.  The goal of the partnership is to begin from an asset-based approach rather than a needs-based approach.  Instead of looking to a mission field and asking “what does that community need?”, the partnership asks, “what do I have to share with that community, and what do they have to share with me?” 

In years past, the temptation in mission engagement was to go somewhere and do something FOR someone else.  Now, we are moving to a model of being in ministry WITH another community. 

The 50/50 model looks at both partners as equals and allows both communities to share their gifts and graces together for the Kingdom of God.  Using 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 as a guide, partner churches share their unique talents and callings for ministry.  Ideas for partnerships discussed during this trip were: shared discipleship and training sessions, shared worship experiences, a shared youth camp experience, and assistance with construction of sanctuaries, education buildings, and parsonages.

Churches represented from the Texas Annual Conference included Kirbyville UMC; Faith UMC, Orange; FUMC, Livingston; FUMC, Conroe; FUMC, Humble; and Christ Church UMC, Sugar Land.  Representatives from the Center for Missional Excellence and Lakeview Methodist Conference Center were also in attendance to explore conference-wide partnership possibilities. 

Those from the El Valle District taking part in the visit were Rev. Cindy Layton from El Mesias UMC; Pastor Juanita Martinez from Nueva Vida UMC, Las Milpas and El Paraiso Mission Church; Rev. Amelia Beasley and Cindy Johnson from El Buen Pastor UMC, Brownsville; Rev. J.J. Wicke of First UMC, Weslaco; Roland Pecin, and Susan Hellums the EVD Border Area Mission Coordinator.  Also participating from the Methodist Church of Mexico were Guillermo “Willie” Berman, GBGM Missionary and others, including Pbro. Raul Garcia de Ochoa and Pbro. David Medrano.

Article adapted from TAC article                     


This article was written by Abel Vega, Director of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center, Rio Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Missionaries from Ecuador Visit Conference Office

Missionaries Sara Flores Quinonez and Dakin Cook visited the Rio Texas Conference offices in San Antonio on April 4 to discuss their ministry in Ecuador. The couple has witnessed seven new mission initiatives, including five churches for indigenous peoples and after-school programs for 300 children, as well as a K-10 school.

They are visiting churches in the Hill Country District emphasizing the need for more formal pastoral training. “Our pastors are earning minimum wage, so they usually work more than one job,” said Flores.

The Outreach Vitality Center hopes to hold more luncheons focusing on missionary work in the future.

To donate, please click here.

Missionary Advance #13988Z


Bishop Announces New Conference Staff Member

Bishop Announces New Conference Staff Member

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of Rev. Diana Phillips to the position of Director of Connectional Ministries. The Director of Connectional Ministries serves as a steward of the vision of the conference; leads the process of continual transformation; works to ensure alignment with the conference vision; and ensures the connection between the local churches, districts, annual conference and general church.

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Conference Celebrates UMCOR Sunday

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

UMCOR Sunday is March 26

In the Rio Texas Conference, we have supported UMCOR for many years through One Great Hour of Sharing.  This year the name has been changed to UMCOR Sunday.   

The Methodist Ministry we now call UMCOR was born at the General Conference in 1940.  Ministry to people hurting because of war and conflict continues to be an important part of the UMCOR ministry but it has expanded relief to those impacted by natural disaster and now includes disasters in the United States as well as those around the world. Another important change over the years has been extension of the ministry to include recovery and development, rather than simply relief from the immediate suffering from war and disaster. 

Today, UMCOR operates several interrelated programs. UMCOR's Global Health program's top priorities are water and maternal and child health.  In addition to these top priorities, they address malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. UMCOR works with communities rather than simply “dumping” programs on them without their involvement.    

UMCOR helps communities fix existing water infrastructure as well as help to dig new wells.  Education is also important so the community can develop long-term strategies to meet their water needs. Unfortunately, water is not the only problem. In developing countries, diarrhea kills 2.2 million people each year so sanitation education and infrastructure are also important.  UMCOR builds latrines and hand-washing stations so that people can live healthier lives.

During this time of war and strife, UMCOR is deeply involved in ministry to refugees.  In Syria and in Africa, they are ministering to displaced people just as they did when they started their work in 1940.  UMCOR works closely with Church World Service who has an extensive network of resettlement houses across the United States. They also work with local United Methodist Churches to help them become more welcoming congregations. 

Of special interest today, UMCOR founded JFON in 1999 and, although it is now a separate organization, UMCOR continues to support their programs. 

In the past three years, UMCOR has given $220,000 of grants for refugee programs in the Rio Texas Conference. They have made a $100,000 gift to the Austin Chapter of JFON and have awarded the Rio Texas Conference $120,000 to assist with immigration ministries related to the influx of unaccompanied minors and women and children from Central America. 

UMCOR provides aid to communities all around the world following natural disasters.  Whether it is a tsunami in Japan, an earth quake in China, Ebola in Africa, or Tornadoes in San Antonio, UMCOR can be counted on. In the short run, disaster response relieves human suffering while in the long run they work with community partners to build capacity and to reduce disaster risk.

Most people in the Rio Texas Conference may not know the extent to which UMCOR supports our disaster response effort.  During the past eight years, UMCOR has made 21 grants through the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Conferences totaling $612,500. This is in addition to the $220,000 to immigration programs mentioned earlier.      

Grants are important but they are not the whole story. UMCOR provides many additional services at no cost to the Conference.

  • UMCOR has provided expert consultants to work with Disaster Response leadership as well as pastors and congregations in areas devastated by disasters. 
  • They send subject matter experts to teach courses needed to carry out our disaster relief ministry. 
    • During the past eight years UMCOR has offered Spiritual and Emotional Care workshops on four occasions
    • They have offered Case Management Training ten times.
  • They train and certify Early Response Trainers within the Conference so that more than 500 Early Response team members have been trained and credentialed under UMCOR guidelines.
  • UMCOR supplies flood buckets and health kits when the supply in the Conference is insufficient to meet the demand during a disaster.
  • UMCOR Academy at Sager Brown in Louisiana is held each year and offers advanced training to Disaster Response leadership in the Conference.
  • UMCOR provides assistance to the South Central Jurisdiction to offer an annual Disaster Response academy.  Dozens of United Methodists from the Rio Texas Conference have attended these workshops.
  •  UMCOR has developed tools to assist local churches as they develop their own disaster response plans and has trained coaches in the Conference to assist churches as they develop their plans.

During the past year, UMCOR has impacted Disaster Response in the Rio Texas Conference in the following ways:

  • Two case managers and a construction manager have been working in Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties on a grant from UMCOR.  The case managers are still working with survivors of the devastating Blanco/San Marcos River floods of 2015 while the construction manager is working with volunteers to repair homes damaged by the flood and tornadoes that hit later in that year.  So far, $150,000 in UMCOR grants have supported this effort which is scheduled to be completed in August 2017.
  • A case manager has been working with survivors of the 2015 floods in the Coastal Bend area for the past year.  UMCOR has underwritten this effort with a $100,000 grant which also provides funds for materials used to repair homes.
  • UMCOR has provided Case Management training for case managers hired by the Rio Texas Conference as well as other case managers working with survivors of disasters within the conference.  In addition to the two areas mentioned above, training was provided to case managers working in the Rio Grande Valley and in Travis County.
  • An UMCOR consultant has worked with our case managers to assist them in offering high quality service to clients.
  • A $10,000 emergency grant provided support for the relief work done by the conference following floods in Aransas Pass and Ingleside.
  • Disaster response leaders in the Conference attended training at Mt. Sequoyah that was underwritten by UMCOR.
  • UMCOR designed and supports the Early Response Team program which is active in the Rio Texas Conference.  Although no direct financial support is provided, UMCOR serves in a coordination and advisory capacity. Eleven trainings were held this year with 105 people being trained.  During the past year, ERT teams responded to three disasters in the Rio Texas Conference and were also deployed to floods in Louisiana.     
  • The Martinez Disaster Response Center in Kerrville is a member of the UMCOR Relief Supply Network. UMCOR kits stored in the warehouse are part of the national inventory of kits and are available to be distributed as needed. 
  • UMCOR’s Connecting Neighbors program provides guidance and materials to support churches who develop disaster plans for their local congregations. 

All UMCOR does for and through the Rio Texas Conference and all they do throughout the world is done because United Methodists give special gifts to make it possible.  UMCOR receives no apportionment funds.  They depend upon UMCOR Sunday and gifts designated for specific disasters to fund their work.  


Bishop Appoints Two New District Superintendents

Bishop Appoints Two New District Superintendents

En español    

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of two new district superintendents. Rev. Andy W. Smith will become the new superintendent of the West District. Rev. Smith will replace Rev. Steve Purdy who has taken medical leave. Rev. Dr. Marcus Freeman, III will be the new superintendent of the Crossroads District. He will replace Rev. Robert Lopez who has served both Crossroads and El Valle districts since last fall.

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Bishop Announces Conference Office Changes

Bishop Announces Conference Office Changes

En español

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of Rev. Laura Merrill to the position of Assistant to the Episcopal Office. Merrill will replace Rev. Virgilio Vázquez-Garza, who will retire at this year's annual conference.

Bishop Schnase has also announced the appointment of Rev. Karen Horan as Merrill’s successor in the position of Executive Director of the Mission Vitality Center. While overseeing the work of the Mission Vitality Center, her primary role in the conference will be congregational excellence and new church plants. Her work will include responsibility for the conference’s role in starting new churches and faith communities and in revitalizing existing congregations.

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Bonner Named Representative for SCJ OCUIR

Mr. Byrd Bonner of Travis Park UMC, San Antonio was named lay South Central Jurisdictional representative for the United Methodist Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR) at an Atlanta meeting on Feb. 7-8.

Members of the OCUIR includes one lay or clergy from each jurisdiction in the USA, one lay or clergy from Europe, Africa and Asia, two ecumenical members, and four bishops. Byrd will represent the South Central Jurisdiction.

“The Ecumenical Movement and the Unity of the Body of Christ are at the heart of my walk with Christ,” said Byrd. “Our world and our Church have perhaps never seen a more needful time for interfaith understanding and relationship. I am honored to be asked to be a part of this journey through the coming quadrennium.”

Conference Seeks Coordinator for Volunteers In Mission

April Update: This position has been filled. Thank you for your consideration and your prayers. 

The Office of Outreach Vitality / Mission Vitality Center seeks a volunteer who will coordinate the Volunteers-In-Mission [VIM] ministries of the annual conference in cooperation with the General Board of Global Ministries mission volunteers’ office and the jurisdictional Volunteer-In-Mission office.

The coordinator will work through and receive administrative support from the conference Mission Vitality Center - Office of Outreach Vitality and the Transforming Communities Vision Team. Volunteers-In-Mission is a grassroots movement within the United Methodist Church designed to provide an official channel whereby Christians, both lay and clergy, may offer their skills and talents for Christian service at home and around the world on short term assignments at their own expense.

For more information and an application, please click here

Click here for more information about UMVIM

If you have a question or a comment, please contact Shelly Kennerdell, Outreach Vitality Office, at skennerdell@riotexas.org

Annual Clergy Convocation Focuses on Crossing Borders

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, addresses the gathered clergy at the 2017 Clergy Convocation.

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, addresses the gathered clergy at the 2017 Clergy Convocation.

Over 350 pastors gathered at Mount Wesley last week for the annual Rio Texas Clergy Convocation. Ordained elders, deacons, local pastors and commissioned members were present for two days of worship, teaching and fellowship led by Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference.

Dasub Han, Pastor of Faith United Church in Woodsboro shares his experience of crossing borders.

Dasub Han, Pastor of Faith United Church in Woodsboro shares his experience of crossing borders.


This year's theme was "Border Crossings." It was centered around stories shared by the bishop of his time growing up and working on the border. Pastors also shared their experiences of border crossing ministries and opportunities to cross. Physical borders as well as other boundaries to fruitful ministry were discussed.

When asked about this year's theme, Schnase said "The grace of God is borderless. Border Crossing seemed to offer a great metaphor for the many social, cultural, ethnic, age, and language borders we're called to cross in our following Christ."

Abel Steward, Director of Contemporary Worship at Northern Hills UMC in San Antonio, leads that gathering in song.

Abel Steward, Director of Contemporary Worship at Northern Hills UMC in San Antonio, leads that gathering in song.

It was a time of profound worship led by Abel Stewart, Director of Contemporary Worship at Northern Hills UMC and his group of pastors who have been leading worship together since their seminary days.

Reflecting on the experience, Schnase said, "I thoroughly enjoyed the great conversations, the positive spirit, the excellent worship, and the deep sense of community at this year's convocation.  My thanks to all those who planned, led, and attended."




El Valle District Superintendent, Robert Lopez, shares a moment of fun with Rev. Laura Heikes, Senior Pastor of Bee Creek UMC.

El Valle District Superintendent, Robert Lopez, shares a moment of fun with Rev. Laura Heikes, Senior Pastor of Bee Creek UMC.

An Open Letter from The Bishops of Texas

An Open Letter from The Bishops of Texas

An Open Letter to United Methodists in Texas and All People of Good Will 

We, the United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas, greet you in the love of Christ. We call upon those who claim the title “Christian” to remember that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, began his life as a homeless refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Just as the Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland and seek safety, too many flee for their lives in our violent, terror-plagued world.  

In the face of such human tragedy in our world today, we, the bishops of The United Methodist Church in Texas, call upon all United Methodists to see Christ in the refugees of today, regardless of their nationality and/or social, religious, economic, or political background.

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Volunteers Needed in Laredo Saturday

April Update: Volunteers are not needed at this time. Thank you for your prayers. 

Twenty to 30 volunteers are needed this Saturday, February 4, at the First UMC Laredo to help sort two trailer loads of supplies that have arrived to assist Cuban refugees who are stranded in Nuevo Laredo. The supplies are from Cuban American communities in response to the humanitarian crises that occurred when the special status of Cuban refugees was discontinued by President Obama several weeks ago [CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS ISSUE]. The exact number of people stranded is not known but it is estimated to be between one and two thousand.  

Two churches in Nuevo Laredo are providing kitchens to prepare food.  The items to be sorted will be carried across the border to supply the kitchens as it is needed. 

Volunteers are being asked to come to Laredo on Saturday.  Those from San Antonio and points south will drive down Saturday morning and return Saturday evening.  Space is available at First UMC Laredo for those wishing to spend Friday or Saturday night.  

Volunteers will work in Laredo.  They are not being asked to cross the border so no passport will be required. No training is required.  Youth are welcome.


Eugene Hileman
Disaster Response Coordinator
Rio Texas Conference
United Methodist Church

Conference Offers Community Development Program

April Update: Registration has closed for the Transformational Communities of Praxis program

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 accepted for the first class of the program. The program is looking for church and community resident teams to participate in learning processes in Asset-Based Community Development [ABCD]. Class-size is limited to four teams.

Over a one-year period, participants will gain training, knowledge, and application of asset based community development. The participants will also learn 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 Transformational Communities of Praxis program is designed for a 5 – person church and community resident ministry team to begin the process of community development with the end goal in mind of effecting measurable transformation within a given community. It is hoped that through this program, models of ministries applying community development principles and processes will emerge to serve as reference points and even teaching centers of spiritual transformation within the church and community.

The Ministry Team application deadline is Monday, March 13, 2017. Click here to download PROGRAM INFORMATION & APPLICATION FORM.

For more information or questions, contact the Mission Vitality Center / Outreach Vitality Office at 210.408.4514 or avega@riotexas.org / skennerdell@riotexas.org. Teams accepted into the program will receive notice on April 5, 2017. 

Click Here for additional information about the TCOP program

Mount Wesley Facilities to Receive Upgrades and Renovations

Mount Wesley, the retreat and conference center located in the heart of the Hill Country in Kerrville, will finally be receiving some much-needed renovations and additions to the facilities. 
The first addition will be the creation of the new “welcome” center. It will be located in the what was known as the "old office." The purpose of this space is to house guest relations. It will also hold a new gift shop. 
The Worship Center will be equipped with new chairs and an updated sound system. Some of the original pews have already been repurposed to local churches. For those who have fond memories of the old seating, there will be an opportunity to claim some of the small pews. Between February 15th and June 1 you can claim one for a donation. Contact Christian Moore at cmoore@riotexas.org to claim your pew.

The Wilson building, one of Mount Wesley's most used spaces, is being completely renovated inside with new ADA compliant restrooms. The “slab” will be removed to make room for a new structure, which will be designed at a later time. 

Mount Wesley has faced numerous challenges and changes over the last several years. Over the last several months, the Mount Wesley Advisory Team (with the assistance of Camp Director Christian Moore) has begun a process of finding a path forward that addresses many of the realities that are faced by the camp. These renovations will help address those challenges. 
“As we seek to fulfill God's calling for ministry at Mount Wesley, we recognize that we must be active and fruitful stewards of the resources that we have been gifted to help facilitate that ministry,” said Moore. “This first phase of renovations takes several worship and meeting spaces in the ‘core campus’ and updates them to better meet the needs of our guests.”

Bishop Woodie White to Keynote San Antonio Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Service

A wide cross-section of the religious and civic community of San Antonio will be reflected at the 30th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., City-wide Interfaith Worship Service to be held Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at 4 p.m., at the New Creation Christian Fellowship at 8700 Fourwinds Drive in San Antonio. The event is hosted by the MLK Commission of San Antonio; all are invited and welcomed to attend. The service includes members of the Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha’i communities. 

Guest speaker for the event is United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White, retired bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. An active leader in the Civil Rights Movement, every January he writes a “birthday letter” to Martin Luther King, Jr., chronicling the strides and missteps in matters of race during the previous year. White has also written extensively for both popular and scholarly publications. Each year, White also takes seminary students to Selma, Alabama to participate in the annual march across Edmund Pettus Bridge in commemoration of “Bloody Sunday.” 

The gathering will feature praise and reflective dance from members of the Arathi School of Indian Dance and Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, hymns from the combined choirs of San Antonio Presbyterian churches, Sikh chant, Buddhist chant, and the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) from a representative of Temple Beth-El; among other activities. 

Proceeds from an offertory collected at the gathering will be used to benefit the MLK Scholarship Fund. The event traditionally concludes with the powerful singing of, “We Shall Overcome.” Following the worship service, a reception will be held in the Fellowship gymnasium, where attendees can view an MLK Exhibit from Allee A Wallace and listen to music by the Raindrop Ensemble from Turkish House. The interfaith gathering precedes the city-sponsored MLK, Jr. Commission yearly march and commemorative program, which is held the following day.